Dealing with Search Terms Within the New Parameters of the “Close Variants” (Part 1) 


Dealing with Search Terms | Person searching on computer

One of the problems that most specialists performing SEO services face is understanding what an individual searchers’ actual “intent” is with a variety of search terms. This is why we must always try and cover all of our bases by first completing thorough keyword research to find all the long-tail search terms, as well as short-tail keywords that any specific user may use to find information on either a service or purchasing an actual product online.

Once we have this information, we can begin building out Campaigns and Ad Groups with relative search terms using several different “Match Types” that Google Ads offers us. There are Broad Match, Broad Match Modified, Phrase Match, and even Negative Keywords that we can use to negate specific terms that might cover several additional industries outside of a user’s actual “intent”. This can lead to your ad(s) appearing to a searcher that was actually looking for something completely different than what you are offering, leading to a click, and ultimately additional costs that you didn’t need to spend in the first place.

That said, there is one more Match Type Google Ads offers that we have all used, for many years now, that we have relied on to only show our ads when someone searches for that specific term laid out exactly as we proposed it in our Ad Groups. That Match Type is the “Exact Match” type, and it has always done “exactly” what it was meant to do, and that is it shows your ad when someone searches for that EXACT search or search term. That is to say until recently when Google Ads decided to introduce “close variants” into the mix.

Dealing With New Search Terms | Man Angry With computerWith these “close variants” changes already taken place in Google Ads. Strategies regarding keyword management are already being adjusted all over the world by marketers. Many paid search veterans have already reflected on how they feel about the recent changes and shared several examples of how it impacts different accounts, with most marketing experts’ opinions being of the negative variety. My opinion isn’t much different as we have learned to rely on this Match Type on search terms over the years to deliver just what its name promises.


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But that was then, and this is now, and whether we want to or not we need to learn to adapt to the times. Besides, yelling at Google behind our desks isn’t going to change anything except making people look at us funny, which is good for a laugh, but doesn’t change anything regarding “why” we are actually angry. So, for us to move forward we need to better understand people in general and their actual intent. So, let’s start there.

Understanding User Intent

User intent simply tells us what exactly a user is looking for when they perform a search query online with a search engine. Words by themselves can be interpreted in any number of different ways, but it’s the “users’ intent” that actually gives them meaning. So how is Google supposed to understand what it is that any specific user means when they search for a specific thing. The answer is Google’s machine learning.

New Search Terms | Woman Using Magnifying Glass on ComputerMachine learning can have many different meanings by itself as well, depending on what it is you are talking about. In our case, we are talking about Google using its computers to learn what any individual user may mean in a search query based on what that user’s search query is, and what words that search query contains. Search Intent can be broken down into four different primary types including the following:

...yelling at Google behind our desks isn’t going to change anything except making people look at us funny, which is good for a laugh, but doesn’t change anything regarding “why” we are actually angry. Click To Tweet

Informational Search Terms:

Pretty simple one here. This is when a user is simply looking for information. This basically includes questions that can either be of a “short” or “long” format. When a user is looking for a “Who…” or “When…”, the answer is generally always going to be short. For instance, “Who was the first President of the United States”. The answer is “George Washington”. However, when a searcher is looking for a “How…” or “What…”, you can almost always expect a longer answer.

For example, when the search is “How do you jump rope?”, you will find a longer explanation giving you a list of instructions on how to accomplish this action. When talking about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) you can generally find a “Featured Snippet” at the top of the SERP results answering this question. In this instance here is an image of the top result (a featured snippet) for the above question about jumping rope:


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Navigational Search Terms:

This is a type of search where a user is looking for a certain website. Some searchers find it easier to simply use search engines to navigate to where they want to go. There are several different reasons for this, but they basically boil down to two different types. The first being that they simply find it to be easier for them to use the search engine to find their way to a certain site, and the second being that the user simply isn’t technologically savvy and they just don’t know what the address bar is. That said, here are a few different searches that fall into this category:

  • “Facebook.com” or simply “Facebook”
  • “Costco Citi Bank Card Login”
  • “Guide To Using Twitter”
  • “Search Engine Land’s Periodic Tables”

Transactional Search Terms:

With this type of user intent, a user is generally looking to buy something, or make a purchase immediately or sometime soon. It can either be an impulse buy, or a person looking to do some comparison shipping. Either way, they are looking to spend money, and make a purchase. Some search examples include the following:

  •  “Buy Laptop”, or more specifically “Buy Dell Inspiron Laptop”
  • “Cheap Samsung Galaxy M21”
  • “SEMRush Business Pricing”
  • “Trend Micro AntiVirus Coupon Code”

Commercial Investigation:

Google's Search Term Change | Crossroads in a PathPeople that haven’t necessarily made up their minds yet on whether they want to purchase one product over another, or even if they know what product they want to buy but just haven’t been able to pull the trigger to make the purchase yet each fall into this category of search terms. This type of search is generally looking for some type of review or comparison to help them decide about purchasing the product that they are wanting to buy and to help them feel confident about that purchase. Continue reading below for some examples of this type of search:

  • “Best Brand of Laptop”
  • “SEMRush versus SpyFu”
  • “That Company Reviews”
  • “Top Dermatologist In Orlando Florida”

Those performing local SEO tasks may ask themselves, after reading these examples, if “local searches” fall into this category of having “Commercial Investigation” intent. In fact, they do. You can “review” some examples here now:

  • “Online Marketing Agency Near Me”
  • “Best Buffalo Wings In Buffalo New York”
  •  “Cheapest Car Rental Company Near Fiji”

Now that we have a basic understanding of user intent, we can better understand how some searchers may actually mean something different by using the same search query. The next step in the process is “how” to use this information to better adapt to the new world or close variants within Google Ads. Continue reading in Part 2 of this article to learn about close variants.

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