There has been a lot of recent activity with Google Ads’ keyword match types. These changes, especially the expansion of exact match keyword targeting, seem to hint that Google is gradually blending all match types together — which begs the question, “What is the future of keyword match types, and for that matter, keywords in general?” This post will attempt to unpack this question as simply and elegantly as possible.

A brief history of Google’s targeting changes

  • 2014: Close Variants were introduced to exact match keywords to include plurals and misspellings
  • 2017: Close Variants were expanded to include slight rearrangements and small differences in filler words.
  • 2018: Close Variants expanded again, this time to include intent matching

Each of the above changes was designed to expand the reach of exact match keywords, which in theory, allows advertisers to target the same audience with less keyword granularity than ever before.

Over the same period of time, Google also introduced a number of more robust audience targeting (e.g. in-market audiences, detailed demographics, etc.) and automation (e.g. smart campaigns, dynamic search ads, etc.) features to augment keyword targeting.

Why the changes, and what does the future hold?

The aforementioned changes to Google Ads are a strong signal as to the direction Google plans to steer the platform toward in the future. Yes, these changes can take some control out of your hands, but there are also benefits that can provide you with a more effective, efficient, and manageable ad platform.

With that in mind, it’s reasonable to predict that Google will continue developing audience-centric (contextual and behavioral) targeted solutions. As these solutions continue to roll out, you should anticipate an increased ability to automatically serve ads more effectively to your target audience at the right place and time.

Mix in the fact that Google is pushing advertisers to adopt a data-driven attribution model, and it’s not too difficult to see the full-funnel appeal of all the audience and automation features in combination, where keyword targeting is just a small component.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that keywords (or match types even) will become a thing of the past, but it’s definitely becoming increasingly apparent that Google sees a future in which keyword targeting is less important than ever, and where audience targeting and automation features will be critical in all aspects of Google Ads.

What does this mean for you?

You should continue to embrace the changes that Google is making and find ways to implement new audience targeting and automation into your Google Ads marketing efforts. The earlier you adopt, the better positioned you will be to succeed in the future. And when considering targeting and automation strategies and tactics to implement, make sure that you’re seeing the whole funnel, from top to bottom.

The future of Google Ads definitely looks to be interesting! For further guidance on your PPC campaigns and strategy, contact our team.