Skip to content

Do You Need Negative Keywords with Exact Match?

Google Ads Exact Match is not exact anymore. In fact, Exact Match is as broad as ever.

Back in the day, Exact Match lived up to its name. Over the years it has become more broad. None more so than the past 12 months. To the point that numerous irrelevant queries are appearing.

What is Exact Match?

Google’s official definition of Exact Match, as of 12 January 2023 is as follows:

“A keyword match type that allows you to show your ads on searches that have the same meaning or same intent as your keyword. This allows you to reach only users who make searches with the same meaning as your keywords, including:

  • Misspellings
  • Singular or plural forms
  • Stemmings (for example, floor and flooring)
  • Abbreviations
  • Accents”

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Last year I inherited an account targeting brand new, custom-built pianos. The agency had setup the account and let it run for 3 months without a single change (no exaggeration!).

When I audited the account, the new client’s ads had been appearing for, and wasting budget on, completely irrelevant keywords, including:

  • Cheap pianos
  • Fazioli pianos
  • Pianos amazon
  • Pianos ebay
  • Second hand pianos

My first task was to go through three months’ worth of Search Term reports. That took many, many hours.

Do you need Negative Keywords with Exact Match terms?

Yes, you absolutely need negative keywords in your campaigns/ad groups with Exact Match terms. Every account I have been managing over the past 12 months or so require lots of work to eliminate irrelevant traffic.

In fact, I find myself spending more times trawling through Search Term Reports than I ever have previously.

What are Close Variants?

Google’s definition of close variants is as follows:

“Close variants allow keywords to match to searches that are similar, but not identical to the targeted keyword, and help you connect with people who are looking for your business – despite slight variations in the way they search – reducing the need to build out exhaustive keyword lists to reach these customers.”

In preparing for this article, I went through client data from select accounts for the whole of 2022.

Of the 8,462 Exact Match keywords within the accounts, 83% of the impressions were from search terms that were not the exact keyword. In all, there were a staggering 144,740 different search terms generated by these Exact Match keywords. That’s 16 unique search terms per keyword.

To say you need negative keywords with your exact match terms would be an understatement…