Google are making a subtle but important update in September which makes a mockery of their intention to allow you to deliver closely targeted advertising. To many it won’t have an apparent impact, but it certainly could hit some unsuspecting advertisers.

Some time ago Google allowed close match variants. This feature meant that Google AdWords would take care of plurals or silly mistakes even when using phrase matched (the majority matching type) keywords.

So “cleaning cloths” would match
cleaning cloths
car cleaning cloths
cleaning cloths for cars
as you might expect

and handily it might also match
car cleaning cloth
car cleaning clothe
allowing for plurals and typos

So all good? Maybe. However, only Google know what they deem to be a close variant, and judging by the insanely broad interpretation they apply to broad matched terms (never use them please, we once saw Google match video production company against YouTube which stretches all bound of reality), they might cast the net wider than you expect, costing you real money.

So the above example could match
cleaning clothes
cleaning clothes stains
etc etc

Up until September 2014 you could turn this close variant off, from then on you won’t be able to. We don’t always turn this off for all clients but we certainly have needed to in the past when we’ve encountered very clear issues. Not being able to do this could hit your Click Through Rate and cost you real money when people click on you ads by mistake. How will it affect Google? They’ll make more money.

The only way to counter this is an even more detailed Google AdWords optimisation process bolstering negative keywords to counter the close variants that you think Google might throw in. So here we might add

But what about
Because who knows what Google considers a close variant?

Removing this feature is a really unhelpful update from Google which does nothing other than increase their profits. We highly recommend that you use this as a wakeup call to review your AdWords keywords and bolster your negatives greatly.