Google Ads Expands Same-Meaning Close Variants

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Google recently announced that it will be expanding close variants to include words that have the same meaning as the original word. This change will impact Broad Match Modifier (BMM) and Phrase Match keywords and will roll out in English speaking markets first, with more languages to follow.

Details and Implications:

Google has been loosening the definitions of keyword Match Types, and therefore broadening the number of queries that keywords can match to, for several years now. To help accelerate these changes, machine learning is now widely used to target search queries from keywords that are close variants of, or have the same meaning to, the keyword you are looking to target.

Google said that “In the coming weeks broad match modifier and phrase match keywords will also begin matching to words within the search query that share the same meaning as the keyword”. For example, the keyword “lawn mowing service” might now match to the search query “grass cutting service”. These are different, however have the same meaning.

Changes are also being made to Keyword Selection Preferences to keep keywords that match to a query from competing against each other. This means that if a query currently matches to an exact, phrase or broad match modifier keyword that exists in your account, Google Ads will prevent that query from matching to a different phrase or broad match modifier keyword that is now eligible for the same auction. For example, the phrase match “lawn mowing service” will not match for the query “grass cutting service” if both of those phrases match keywords exist in an advertiser’s account.

The changes to ‘Keyword Selection Preferences’ will help with some cannibalisation issues of keywords, but there may still be cases where query cannibalization could occur e.g. if campaigns are ‘Limited by budget’.

Advertisers and brands could see an increase in traffic and therefore cost. Google has said that they expect advertisers to see between 3-4% more clicks and conversions on these keywords. Of these new queries matched, 85% of them are not currently covered by current keyword coverage. Google’s argument is that they are helping advertisers target more of the queries that matter.


The future of search is about understanding signals, context and intent to better understand and target people to help drive better business performance for clients. To help advertisers adapt to these changes, Google Ads is supporting advertisers leverage its machine learning and artificial intelligence to make decisions in every single search query. The aim is to help advertisers and users get more value from Search. As a result, this trend just might find advertisers further investing their marketing dollars into Search.

Further Reading:

Google Ads | Search Engine Journal | Mindshare