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Are you doing keyword research right?

Are you doing keyword research right?

Recently, a client came to us asking the following:

I’ve noticed that Keyword Planner is no longer differentiating between plural and singular keywords and provides the same search volume for both (example below). Additionally, when looking at minor keyword variations (e.g ‘printed t-shirts’ vs ‘print t-shirts’ or ‘flared jeans’ vs ‘flare jeans’), the search volumes are identical. This may have been occurring for a while but today is the first time I’ve noticed it! Is this new to you?

Matter of fact is that Google announced this back in 2014, with the change happening later in the year. What that meant was that instead of exact and phrase match, close variants would be used: “The close variants is a nifty feature set forth by Google that allows matching to occur on misspellings and very close iterations to the keywords that exist within a campaign.”

A passage from Google Adwords underlines it better:


“Close keyword variations

So that you don’t miss out on potential customers, we’ll show your ads for close variations of your phrase and exact match keywords to maximise the potential for your ads to show on relevant searches. Close variations include misspellings, singular forms, plural forms, acronyms, stemmings (such as floor and flooring), abbreviations and accents. So there’s no need to separately add close variations as keywords.

For example, if your phrase match keyword is “kid’s scooter”, you’d still want to show your ad when someone searches for “kids scooter” or “kid scooters”.

Bear in mind that even though we show close variations of your phrase and exact match keywords, these match types still give you more control than broad match. That’s because broad match keywords also show for synonyms and related searches, which aren’t considered close variations.”

What does this mean?

  • When doing keywords research, don’t add close variants as separate keywords (that would skew the traffic numbers and/or forecasting)
  • Think about user intent, rather than specific a keyword when creating new content or optimising old one

Example of close keyword variations:

  • london +plumbing +help
  • london +plumber +help
  • london +plumbers +help

Close variants of “plumber” would include “plumbing” and “plumbers“. Below the search volume for all of them:

close variant keywords


If you decide to just use one keyword to cover all variations I would review eventually review which one better matches the semantics and purpose of the content/phrase.

The concept of exact match targeting was a 15+ year old concept. We’ve moved towards user intent and Google repeatedly emphasised that. Now the online tool has also reflected this when it comes to performing keyword discovery.

Although the change is more pertinent to paid ads and the way campaigns are created and budgets managed, this is also related to our SEO tasks, especially when evaluating the traffic, based on number/type of keywords and their search volume.

This way, instead of going nuts about huge/endless keyword lists, you can better spend your energies into being relevant to user intent, reducing account complexity and expanding reach.

Note: This is not always the case, especially on other languages where Google might find it difficult to grammatically make sense or understand the differences. As usual, double-check the results.

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