Google has done it again, quietly making a significant change to the way its algorithms process Google AdWords that could be significant challenge for digital marketing if not understood and managed.  At Bluetext, we closely monitor all of updates to how the Google’s search engines returns query results, and we have posted a number of blogs to let our clients know about these changes and how to address them.

This time, it’s a little different because this change, which Google announced on March 17, addresses AdWords, the tool companies use to implement their keyword purchasing strategies, rather than a revision of its organic search functionality. With this change, marketers may need to adjust their spending programs for purchasing the keywords that drive traffic to their sites.

In the past with AdWords, marketers would select a set of short-tail search terms that would be part of their search advertising mix. For example, a hotel chain might include simple key phrases like “best hotels in Nashville,” mirroring the way customers search for a list of places to stay. Up until the latest change, that exact phrase would drive the Adwords results. But Google has decided that people don’t always type their searches as that exact phrase, dropping the “in” by mistake or even misspelling it as “on.” As a result, Google has decided to expand its close variant matching capabilities to include additional rewording and reordering for exact match keywords.

What does that mean? In layman’s terms, Google will now view what it calls “function words” – that is, prepositions (in, to), conjunctions (for, but), articles (a, the) and similar “connectors” as terms that do not actually impact the “intent” behind the query. Instead, it will ignore these function words in Adwords exact match campaigns so that that the intent of the query will be more important that the precise use of these words.

Sounds like a good move, because if you search for “best hotels in Nashville” or “Nashville best hotels,” the result will be the same in AdWords.

But what if the search is for “flights to Nashville,” which isn’t the same as “flights from Nashville”? Ignoring the function words “to” or “from” would change the purpose of the query. Google says not to worry, its algorithm will recognize the difference and not ignore those words since they do impact the intent.

Hopefully, Google will make good on that promise. But advertisers who have been briefed on this revision aren’t too certain. Their carefully constructed AdWords investments might take a hit if the function words are not managed precisely to meet this new approach.

We like the old adage of “Trust but verify.” While we take Google at its word, we know there are always growing pains with these types of revisions. For our clients, we are recommending that they carefully review the terms they are including in their AdWords mix. Our advice: Be as precise as you can and factor in how these functions words might be perceived before pulling the trigger. Losing traffic to your site because of placement of a simple word should be a real concern.

Want to think more about your adWords, search and SEO strategies. Bluetext can help.