Brad Geddes / PPC Geek
Official Google Ads Seminar Leader.
Author of Advanced Google AdWords.
Co-Founder, Adalysis.
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Brad Geddes's Theories on Marketing AdWords Variation Matching is Live: Here’s the Initial Analysis

AdWords Variation Matching is Live: Here’s the Initial Analysis

Google’s near match or close variant match is now live. Some accounts already have it; and others should be seeing it soon.

If you missed the announcement, here’s the gist:

  • The close variant option is a campaign setting
  • The setting is turned on by default
  • Your phrase match or exact match terms can be shown for ‘close variations’ of keywords

This means exact match could be exact match or close variant exact match. Previously, I wrote some initial impressions from a conceptual standpoint; so I’m going to skip that for now.

These new match types are designated in the search query report as:

  • exact (close variant)
  • phrase (close variant)

What is Being Analyzed

I wanted to do some initial analysis to see how this match type variation is performing for a few accounts. As this match type has not been live very long yet; don’t take this as gospel. I only examined $680k in spend (just the last few days of data in a few larger accounts) in creating this analysis.

In addition, I’m comparing the traditional match type to the close variant match type for CPA, conversion rate, and CPC.

I’m not examining the incremental conversions yet. As for that analysis, I need to examine when an exact or phrase match variation also existed in the account; so the close variant wasn’t actually adding additional volume. There is a lot of de-duplication that needs to occur so I want a lot more data to work with before I undertake that huge analysis.

In addition, session-based broad match is not new. But since this was an analysis of a variant match versus the traditional match; I thought it would be useful to include it since its already part of the search query report.

The Analysis

I wanted to make this as easy to read as possible since there are lots of stats. So, what I did was examine the delta between the match type and its variant for:

  • CPA
  • Conversion rate
  • CPC

Then I wanted it to be easy to see what was best. So the deltas are color coded:

  • Green Arrow: The variant is at least 10% better than the traditional match.
    • For CPC, this means its 10% lower
    • For CPA, this means its 10% lower
    • For Conversion rate, this means its at least 10% higher
  • Yellow bar: The variant is between 10% lower and 10% higher. I’m just calling this a push for now
  • Red Arrow: The variant is at least 10% worse than the traditional match
    • For CPC, this means its 10% higher
    • For CPA, this means its 10% higher
    • For Conversion rate, this means its at least 10% lower

The Data

As these accounts have different CPCs & CPAs; I didn’t want to combine the data together, so first I’ll show all the data individually, then sum up the results. You can click on any of these images to see them in a larger size.

As this match variation has only been live for a few days, these stats are only from the past few days.

The first account is for a subscription membership site:


The second account is for a lead generation site:


The third account is for a toolbar installation:


The fourth account is for product samples:


And this is for one of those ridiculously expensive industries:


The Results

In total, this is what the results look like (and remember, its only 5 tests – so its initial data; but not conclusive):


It appears at just a quick glance that exact match is better than the variation of exact match. While the CPC is lower for the variations of exact; the CPA as conversion rates are better for exact match.

However, it looks like phrase match variation might be a push against phrase match. On the CPA side, phrase match variation was the same or better. It appears that the reason the CPA is so similar is because the phrase match CPCs are lower; so even while the conversion rates are better for phrase match, the lower CPCs make the CPA a push. As near match rolls out to everyone, I would anticipate the CPCs will go up and therefore make phrase match better than the variation in the long run, but that has yet to be seen.

I was surprised on the conversion rates of the session based broad match. It had been a long time since I’ve done that analysis. However, as you can’t control if this is on or off; there really isn’t a point in doing a huge analysis other than to present non-actionable data.

Analysis Needs Incremental Conversions

This is an initial analysis; but its not conclusive for a few reasons:

  • This is just a few days of data. More data across more account types will give more accurate results
  • Not all accounts are being shown for variations yet; so I’m assuming CPCs will rise as competition for near match goes up
  • This analysis doesn’t examine incremental conversions

My real question is: If the account has lots of exact and phrase match keywords, are these new conversions or just reassigned conversions?

In examining a few ad groups, I’m seeing a bit of both; but to what extent I don’t know as I really want a solid month of data when every account who will be in the program (assuming you didn’t opt out) has this feature enabled to see the long term results on incremental conversions.

If you want to learn more about how this match type works and learn how to opt out, please take a look at this article: Google Launches Near Match – Should You Use It?

Conclusion For Now

The near match variation is better than I expected; especially for phrase match – so this is not a setting to blindly turn on or off.

If you have a set budget, and the near match is taking budget away from your other keywords at higher CPAs / worse conversion rates – then I’d turn it off.

If you have a set budget, and the near match is a similar CPA; then you might just play a waiting game at the moment.

If you have budget left that you’re not spending; then I’d wait until you have a little bit more data to see the CPA of incremental conversions before making any final decisions.


  1. anthonyreed
    June 14, 2012 at 11:11 am · Reply

    @JasonT I think the same thing. I once saw one of Brad’s accounts that I think he consults for; but doesn’t do all the day-to-day BS that spends $60 million a year.

    I’ve always wondered how much money he influences.

    brad Thanks for sharing as always. I’ll look forward to your follow-up about incremental conversions.

  2. Mary
    June 14, 2012 at 11:15 am · Reply

    jasont anthonyreed I’ve asked Brad a few times about that and he won’t give me a number. He influences our spend as he helps us out every few months and we just passed 1.1 million/month.

  3. JasonT
    June 14, 2012 at 11:08 am · Reply

    Great analysis. Thank you for sharing.

    I must admit that I get jealous sometimes when I look at your spends. If this was just 3 days of spend, then these 5 accounts are spending nearly $7 million each month and I know you work with more than 5 accounts.

  4. tdwhalen
    June 14, 2012 at 11:14 am · Reply

    Brad, thanks for the analysis.

    It seems like close variants account for a smallish amount of spend (10-20%) relative to exact/phrase.

    Lower CPCs might be the result of less auction competition for the near-variants relative to exact match, but this could be a moving target over the next few months. But the lower conversion rates (and higher CPAs) are a concern, albeit not a surprise.

  5. Reva
    June 14, 2012 at 11:21 am · Reply

    What is this the praise Brad hour? I like his writing too (and I’m a member of this site); but don’t you run your own tests and analysis?

  6. Amanda
    June 14, 2012 at 11:22 am · Reply

    You can add our $550,000 to Brad’s influence 🙂

    @reva Brad got jipped yesterday by PPC Hero: so I think everyone is just making sure he feels good 😉

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