By Ben Cranmer

Increased traffic may be closer than you think.

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Misspellings in Search are rather common

In an attempt to mitigate this issue I imagine you have spent countless weeks building keyword lists to include hundreds of versions of brand and non-brand misspellings that your customers might use to find you in Search.

abc spelling

When you consider that each day 16% of Google searches are unique, having never been searched on before, and over 7% of search queries include misspellings, you start to realise that anticipating the likelihood of a late-night searcher slipping from ‘A’ to ‘S’ and ‘N’ to ‘M’, or indeed any other combination on their keyboard, is no easy task.

This should be no surprise to experienced advertisers. Although not the focus of this article, it’s important to realise there are various approaches one can take to creating keyword lists. Unfortunately we have seen countless clients come to us with ad group keyword lists (if you can call them lists) containing only a handful of keywords in broad match. Whilst such a list may be capable of driving volume, upon analysing Search Query Report (SQR) data it becomes clear just how untargeted this approach can be, often making ads eligible to show on the most irrelevant of searches. At Periscopix we invest heavily at the build stage to ensure we have extensive phrase match variations, which enables us to cast our net to the widest relevant audience, crucially avoiding the somewhat less efficient broad keyword match type.

Why does this matter?

As an AdWords advertiser, keywords are fundamental to the success of a campaign. Having the right keyword selection makes a world of difference. Regardless of the approach taken to keyword selection, there will always be new search queries to add or exclude. You’ll need to accept that this process of analysis of SQRs will never be complete but with the close variantssetting it is no longer necessary to include all of these variations in the initial campaign design. So quit while you’re ahead!

Tell me more about Close Variants already!

This matching behaviour means that Google will compensate for user error. Close Variants, including misspellings, singular/plural forms, stemmings, accents and abbreviations will be eligible to trigger your ads. Google will show your ads based on the assumed intent of the searcher. Organic Google search has made use of a similar feature for a while and therefore the expansion into AdWords seems logical.

Are you enrolled?

Most likely. Accounts were automatically opted into this setting in May 2012. I recommend checking your settings as it could quite easily have been unknowingly turned off since. Navigate to Campaign/Settings/All Settings as shown below.

AdWords All Settings

Then scroll down the page to Advanced Settings and expand Keyword Matching Options. Here you’ll find the option to include plurals, misspellings and other close variants.

Close Variants setting in AdWords

When to use it

There are situations whereby we recommend that most advertisers ensure close variants are turned on. The most obvious situation being within your brand campaign. It goes without saying that people searching for your brand will know how to say your brand name aloud but far fewer will know the spelling. Searchers often assign the same spelling to a particular sound but unfortunately the correct spelling can sometimes be far-removed. In these cases without close variants you might normally have missed this valuable traffic. The searcher clearly tried to engage with your brand but failed to find you. Whilst there is little you can do to improve their spelling, you can ensure that you are easy to find.

Find me

Using close variants means dodgy spelling is no longer a problem, ensuring your ads show for user searches that are closely related to your ad group keywords. It sounds simple yet it was years before this functionality was quietly introduced to AdWords in 2012, with many an advertiser being oblivious to its presence even today.

What do I do if my business shares a name similar to another in a different industry? Good question; best practise would be to exact match exclude the name of the other business as negative keywords will always be obeyed. Monitor SQRs and add or exclude search terms based on their performance. If you find a lot of traffic coming through a particular term and you find that over time it fails to convert it is possible they were looking for the other business. In these situations remove the keyword and ensure your add copy is as clear as possible. Stating who you are and what area of business you are in will help to reduce irrelevant click traffic in all situations.

When not to use it

As we’ve seen, close variants can be a useful tool but there are situations when you may wish to turn them off:

  • If your campaigns are limited by budget turning off this setting can help your budget last slightly longer by preventing your ads from being eligible to show on search queries that are similar to keywords within your ad groups. After all, these search queries may not always be the most relevant for you.
  • If close variants aren’t performing well. You can check this by downloading an SQR report and looking at conversion rates.

Reporting & Optimisation

If the reports show that conversion rates for close variants are well below that of existing keywords then it’s probably safe to turn them off. If nothing else they are a good way to see the types of misspelling that your customers make, which will be useful data to consider when running any future digital advertising campaigns.
If close variants are converting well then add them as a keyword and adjust their bids accordingly.


All things considered, I’m certainly a supporter of the close variants setting and have seen good performance in the majority of client accounts. How are they performing for you?

Need our help?

If you need an outstanding account manager to watch over your keywords and drive success in Search, then give us a call! If you found this topic interesting, take a look at my colleague Liam’s blog linked below, which covers sloppy keyword management… mistakes are, after all, easy to make!

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