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What’s New in AdWords Search Advertising (SEM): Volume 1

As digital marketers, we know so well that Google likes to keep us on our feet with frequent updates to their AdWords platform. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on how vigilant you are when managing accounts. As a glass half full type of guy, I like to look at this as an opportunity to stay ahead of the curve and further optimize campaigns. Let’s take a look at two recent AdWords changes in 2017.

1. Changes to Exact Match

There was once a time when “exact” match keywords meant, well, exact match keywords. This is no longer the case. Back in March, Google announced that these match types will now be eligible to show for close variants including plurals, typos, abbreviations and adverbs. They can also ignore word order and function words such as “the”, “to”, “for” etc.

What This Means to Search Advertisers
This could be good or bad depending on how you look at it. One side might say this change is essentially giving advertisers less control over what search queries they would like to target, and as a result forcing them to be more diligent when checking their search terms report for irrelevant queries, and adding more negative keywords to compensate for the terms that otherwise would not have qualified for exact match.

On the flip side, this change could potentially open the door to missed opportunities. At this point, Google is very good at interpreting a searchers true intent. With that being said, a simple misspelling or word order could have previously hindered your ability to show up for exact match keywords that are highly relevant and match your intent. An example from Google is “men’s dress shirt” and “dress shirt men’s”. The intent of both queries is the same, and will now be treated as such.

The beauty of change in digital marketing is that everything is extremely measurable. As Google continues to roll out new changes, we will begin to see the implications they have on our accounts and how to properly optimize them with data-driven decisions.

2. Ad Rank Thresholds

For those unfamiliar with Ad Rank, it is Google’s method of prioritizing paid search results based on an advertisers maximum bid and quality score. What is a quality score, you ask? A quality score is Google’s algorithm that determines the relevancy of keywords, ads and landing page experiences. It also factors in click-through-rate (CTR), and is scored on a scale of 1-10. The higher your quality score, the lower your CPC. Here’s an easy example we like to reference:

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Source: wordstream.com

So, What’s This New Ad Rank Threshold All About?

The Ad Rank threshold is Google’s way of holding advertisers to a higher standard. As the total number of advertisers using AdWords continues to increase, we can expect continued quality control from Google to ensure they are providing users with the best experience possible. This means advertisers will need to meet minimum quality requirements in order to show on the first page of search results, making your quality score that much more important. Thanks, Google!

Another factor that comes into play when meeting this new Ad Rank threshold is max CPCs. As if increased competition in AdWords was not enough of a battle, there has already been speculation of this change leading to higher CPCs depending on the number of results matching a search query. Thresholds will differ by query type and can be weighted based on the number of keywords with high quality scores.

While Ad Rank thresholds are still rolling out, we can expect to see them take effect going into June. Keep a close eye on quality scores and average CPCs to find out if you’ve been impacted by this change.

Need help making sense of all this AdWords talk? Head over to our Search Advertising page and submit our contact form!