New Google Stupidity Tax: "Flaccid Exact Match"

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Google has added another form of stupidity tax to AdWords. You can opt out of this stupid tax, and it is very important that you know what to do and why. If you’re paying close attention, this will work to your advantage. (As with all Google stupidity taxes.)

You really need to pay attention to this.

Google announced that they are “Improving” exact match and phrase match. Here’s what they are doing:

Exact match used to mean that if you bid on [guinea pigs] exact match, the only search that would make your ads show was the precise phrase

guinea pigs

Now they are making “Exact Match” flaccid by loosening the definition of exact match to also include singulars, plurals or mis-spellings:

guinea pig
ginny pigs

Cost Per Click across the board has dropped slightly for Google, and I believe they are compensating. (When the recession began, they opened the kimono on broad match in a similar way, and made their quarterly targets for the shareholders.)

I have no doubt they’ve analyzed this and scientifically determined that it will make them more money. Not only that, the way most people run their AdWords campaigns, it won’t hurt the average advertiser anyway.

But first I want to show you how to opt out of this, then explain how to profit from Google’s latest move. In your Campaign settings you’ll see this menu:

Click on the little plus sign on “Keyword matching options” and opt out:

Now let me explain why you want to do this and why advanced advertisers are going to benefit from this.

First of all, the vast majority of advertisers are dumb and don’t even use matching options anyway. Google employees actually tell people to bid on broad match. Most of the time, broad match is the WORST way to bid on keywords. It gets you the largest amount of low quality traffic. Horrible advice.

Secondly — pay attention, Planet Perry members — most people who do bid on phrase match and exact match treat ’em all the same anyway.

"What should I do next to grow my business this year?" Take my 2-minute quiz and I'll show you where you'll get the most bang for your buck.

A lot of folks generate all kinds of misspellings using various keyword tools and whatnot, so they’re hitting all the bases. Google knows this, and they know they could be serving these ads to mediocre advertisers too.

So in other words, if you’re a typical, average Planet Perry advertiser, you’ve got an ad campaign that looks like this:

guinea pigs
ginny pig
guinea pig
ginny pigs
“guinea pigs”
“ginny pig”
“guinea pig”
“ginny pigs”
[guinea pigs] [ginny pig] [guinea pig] [ginny pigs]

For that campaign, you’ve written some ads and you’ve done a bunch of split testing.

But, if you’re a typical average Planet Perry advertiser, you don’t realize that people who search for “guinea pigs” are 2 weeks away from buying a guinea pig, but people who search for “guinea pig” are going to buy one today. (This is true, by the way. Glenn Livingston figured it out with his market research.)

This is a very common difference between singular and plural. If you’ve been doing Pay Per Click since the beginning, you remember that original Overture (now Yahoo) system made no distinction between singular and plural and it was a HUGE disadvantage.

My advice to you: Opt out of this option, but DON’T STOP THERE. Look at your top 10-30 keywords, pay very close attention to singulars and plurals and start marketing to people differently based on buying cycle. Those singulars and plurals should likely have separate ad groups and go to separate landing pages.

If you do this, Google’s latest changes will play right to your strengths, because even the above-average advertisers are going to start getting lower quality traffic – whether or not they opt out of this new feature!

The water level has risen. Evolve with the changes and you’ll still be in high cotton.

Perry Marshall

P.S.: Last call for 1 remaining seat at Thursday’s 4-Man Intensive. Call Matt Gillogly at +1 (704) 389-0165

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About the Author

Perry Marshall has launched two revolutions in sales and marketing. In Pay-Per-Click advertising, he pioneered best practices and wrote the world's best selling book on Google advertising. And he's driven the 80/20 Principle deeper than any other author, creating a new movement in business.

He is referenced across the Internet and by Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, INC and Forbes Magazine.

45 Comments on “New Google Stupidity Tax: "Flaccid Exact Match"”

  1. I have read, actually studied your book “Ultimate Guide To Google Adwords”, but I haven’t done no ad campaign yet. I’m about to start though. Thanks for all the emails you’ve sent me. I’ve learned a lot. I’m about to enroll for your renaissance course. It’s time to give back. Again, THANKS.

  2. Perry
    Great advice and help as usual and good explanation of Why Google doing it
    Down here in New Zealand I seem to be able to deactivate it fine across accounts.

  3. I cannot open the keyword matching options. I’ve tried several times. Is there a direct Google URL I can go to & will it have the opt out on the keyword options? Help

  4. Perry I continue to get inspiration from your mastery of the subject of adwords, even though I haven’t tried to master it myself. Being in the junk and clutter removal business I’ve come to understand that limiting yourself in different areas is the key to success in everything. One thing that I do know is that I’m one skill away from creating a business that runs without me. That skill is raising capital, so that I can sit in the room with you guy’s and the people you work, stratigize together, but have you guy’s do it for me. I’ll focus on what i do best… Thanks for the inspiration

  5. Perry,
    Our online business has tripled this year over the same period last year. I have followed your advise for the past 12 months and are delighted with the results. We have not changed anything since the first of the year and are afraid to change anything right now. I don’t want to screw anything up. Should I make this change?

  6. Hi Perry,

    Thanks for this great advice. Can you point me in the direction of your latest and up to date product on getting the best out of Google Adwords.



  7. I think this is a subtle reminder (ok, not so subtle) that Big G is not a search company, but an advertising company. So they will do what they can, including manipulate their algorithms, to ensure their advertising revenues increase. Google sells ads. Full stop. So if it’s in their best interest to quietly change something that will drive more revenue and make Wall Street happy, then they will do it.

    BIG thanks to Perry for keeping us informed!

    P.S. If you haven’t done so, please buy Perry’s AdWords book. It’s a very valuable toolkit that I refer to regularly. Highly recommended.

  8. Another great and timely update Perry and genius differentiation on the plurals.

    I have always had the range of KW variants you suggested but, until reading this post, had not considered the subtle but important difference between “Guinea Pigs” and “Guinea Pig”.

    Off to double check my funnels and start re-tweaking ;)

  9. Perry, Great post and information. I was wanting to get more info about this ever since I saw the Google AdWords “announcement” on my AdWords accounts. And here it is explained with advice. Thanks Perry!

  10. Perry sees everything…I like your casual observation that when Google needs to show improved revenues, they just improve (manipulate) the Adwords system a bit, and..surprise!!…they show better earnings.

  11. Wow, Perry! You are the King of Valuable Content!

    This is possible one of the best pieces of information ever given. Thanks for this, and I have to rebuke myself for not looking this up sooner in the Adwords dashboard.

  12. Its actually even worse than mentioned…you need to keep checking your campaigns as well. I’ve heard reports from others that the option gets flipped back to include variants sometimes. I found several cases of that today myself. I went through and made my changes a week ago and some are back to include variants. Grrr…

  13. Sucker that I was, when I saw that change I thought “nice feature, thanks google”. Being busy with my work like everyone else I didn’t think it through like you guys do. Thank You for keeping us up with the real bottom line!

  14. Thanks Planet Perry! I saw that in my MCC, thought “Crap, what are they up to know and how much time will I spend dealing with it??”

    Now, thanks to you guys, It’s a simple flip of the switch!

  15. I see they’re not stopping with this. Just got a new notification: “In a few weeks, the Rotate option will change to rotate ads evenly for 30 days after an ad is enabled or edited, and then optimize for clicks.”

    Now they’re disabling our ability to split test properly?!

  16. Also, google is changing the “rotate evenly” option for ad rotation. Rotate evenly will automatically change to “optimize for clicks” after 30 days. This could be bad for me because I require longer than 30 days to collect enough statistically valid data to determine a split test winner.

    1. … their argument being that they want to show their customers more relevant ads. But they already have quality score to take care of that. And I want to optimise for conversions (which is to my advantage), not clicks (which is to theirs).


  17. Evolve…evolve…evolve. When I dust myself off after throwing another dramatic tantrum over changes like this…I always remind myself that it is announcements like this that keep me in business and ahead of the pack!

  18. Perry I really appreciate these updates. I don’t have time to stay on top of all changes, all the time. Membership in your Mastermind group is like a stupid tax insurance policy.

    This one tip will save us more money in a week than the annual price of admission to Planet Perry.

    Mahalo !

  19. I think most of us knew this was bad news..unfortunately
    It’s too bad Google opted us all in by default..creating extra work, for advertisers.
    I alway use Glenn Livingstons “Headache” vr “Headaches” as my plural example.

    A Headache means I want an aspirin.
    “Headaches” means I a sufferer of Migraines.

    Pretty important depending on what your product is!


  20. Don’t I still want that traffic though, even if it’s of lower quality? Is’t a plural or misspelling still better in terms of exactness than a broad match?

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