Close Variants or Nearby Variations: Google’s new move to agglomerate demand on its searches

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Gerard Hoogeveen González

SEM · 15 / 06 / 2017

Google returns to the rescue of its abandoned users and offers them a functionality that they really needed, the close variants (nearby variations). In order to “help you find people who are looking for your business” According to Google itself, one cannot but be surprised at how long it took to put it into motion.

What are the ‘ variations close ‘ you ask? They are a new functionality of the search engine that will allow Google to activate the ads of multiple companies although the search and the keyword that activate it are not really similar. This change focuses on the exact concordances so essentially they are going to stop being. Moreover, more than “allow”, the correct phrase would be “will make obligatory”, since it is not voluntary and over the next few months will be activated in the accounts of all advertisers.

It Seems that the situation should be understood as follows:

Everyone knows that Google users don’t really know what they are looking for… And they write what they write without knowing exactly why… And that advertisers have not spent years investing in adjusting the CPCs of their keywords in exact agreement…

So, thinking only of your customers and with the certainty that this change can only be positive (increases by 3% clicks to exact keywords), the exact keywords are going to be the ´ not so exact keywords ´. And, with this fundamental change to the main segmentation strategies, we can say that we go into a new era for the SEM In AdWords.

Close variants: Explanation and exceptions

Oversimplifying to the maximum, the nearby variations strip the search for specific meaning and it is fixed only in the differential terms regardless of order. So the new way to segment the exact keywords will cause the order of the terms in the keyword to not matter. Nor will they count the ‘ words of function ‘ that have been put in the search, such as prepositions, conjunctions, articles and pronouns.

There are exceptions, as in the travel industry where you search as “Flight a” and “Flight of” where prepositions are very important.

But we can also glimpse situations (peculiar but existing) in which the change of order can generate problems as with the searches “installation of doors for business” and “business of installation of doors”, or “virtual reality glasses compatible with Android “and” Android compatible with virtual reality goggles “.

We will have to see case by case what impact the change has, anyway it will be Google who decides what ‘ words of function ‘ ignore. If you are interested in more opinions on the subject, the first criticisms have already been made here and here.

Examples of Exact Keywords and their results with Close Variations enabled

To better understand the impact of this change, let’s look at some examples in action to guide the conversation. In order to simplify the analysis, we will assume that all the keywords are in the same group of announcements, and that the Rank is determined by adding the Quality Note (QS) and the CPC to equal parts.

When a search can activate several different keywords:

From here on, when we add an exact keyword we will no longer be able to know exactly what searches are activating only by seeing it. This was actually already the case since in 2014 Google made the variation of plurals obligatory in all the keywords of exact concordance, but now it will be more complex.

Here’s an example *:

* Notice: The QS and CPCs notes below are purely fictitious and the activation results are only a qualitative impression of what can happen with the new changes.


Search Keyword Qs Cpc Probability of activation
buy swimwear [Buying Swimwear] 9.5 0,32 Very High (Superior)
Buy Swimwear [Buy Swimwear] 9 0,34 Very High
Swimwear buy [Buy swimsuits] 8,5 0,42 High
Buy Swimwear [Buy bathing suit] 8,5 0,38 Considerable
Buying swimwear [Buy Swimwear] 8 0,36 Low


Search Keyword Qs Cpc Probability of activation
buy swimwear [Buying Swimwear] 9.5 0,34 Very High (Superior)
Buy Swimwear [Buy Swimwear] 9 0,34 Very High
Swimwear buy [Buy swimsuits] 0,42 No
Buy Swimwear [Buy bathing suit] 0,38 No
Buying swimwear [Buy Swimwear] 0,36 No

As seen in the tables, with nearby variations it is conceivable that key words with less relevance win the auction. This implies an inefficiency of management with a high probability of affecting the return to the investment (ROAS).

What is more obvious is that with the old system it was much easier to know which keywords were capturing what searches. With the new changes, the manager of an old account with a good shoot and hundreds of exact keywords will realize that, suddenly, is unable to guarantee that when you adjust an exact keyword CPC that adjustment will apply only to a reduced profile of searches.

In fact, you will not be able to guarantee that during the next month that Keyword will capture exactly the same searches that were provided by the data that you now optimize.

What do these trends mean for AdWords?

With this new change, AdWords will be in territory so far unknown to all SEM professionals, but already started to enter it long ago. It is only necessary to remember the deactivation of the plural variation for the exact concordances, or the ease with which a keyword appears as “Not having enough volume” even if you found it in a search REPORT (SQR).

In this new field, SEM campaigns strategies should be flexible to assume the variation of the flow of searches but sufficiently systematic to provide structure and efficiency to its management. The most elaborate strategies should be reserved for the moments of greater volume, complexity and potential benefit, without ever forgetting that this is only the beginning and that the Machine Learning (whether Google or other) is here to stay.


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