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Close Variants Manager Explained
Close Variants Manager Explained
Updated over a week ago

What are Close Variants?

“Close variants allow keywords to match to searches that are similar, but not identical, to the targeted keyword and help you connect with people who are looking for your business – despite slight variations in the way they search – reducing the need to build out exhaustive keyword lists to reach these customers.” *

Here's a quick example:

Keyword = [budget appliances]

Matched Search Term = cheap appliances near me

How Close Variants can impact performance

Whilst close variant (intent) matching can definitely help you to reach more potential customers, it can also produce some poor quality or even irrelevant search matches that don't align with your business offering.

There is no way to opt out. So we built a tool to control them, and in the process, drive better performance for your accounts.

Introducing: Close Variant Manager

The Adpulse Close Variant Manager is a tool designed to do two things:

  1. Shine a spotlight on close variant performance, good or bad, and

  2. Allow you to expand on successful variants as well as block unwanted ones (automatically if you choose!)

It does this by dividing each ad account's search term report into three categories (Blocked, True Match and Close Variants), then showing you the performance of those categories so you can take action immediately.

Category definitions:

  • "Blocked" = search terms that are blocked by a negative keyword (we check ad group, campaign, shared list or account level negatives)

  • "True Match" = search terms that properly match your keywords (exact match = exact match, phrase match contains your keyword in the correct word order, and broad match searches contains all words in your keyword regardless of word order)

  • "Close Variants" = the search terms that are left over - these are the search terms that have been matched by Google or Microsoft on your behalf (misspellings, plurals, matched by similar intent etc)

1 - Shine The Spotlight

Adpulse reports on the aggregated metrics for Close Variants vs True Match, from the Ad Account level through to the Ad Group level, to make it really easy to see where Close Variants are working well (or not in the case below!)

You would read this as saying "Close Variants spent $65,516.94 whilst True Matches spent only $18,651.01", so the ad platform is spending heavily on search terms that don't actually match the keywords you are bidding on. You may also notice that Close Variants in this account have a CPA of $13.42 vs $6.14 for True Matches, so clearly the poor quality of Close Variant matching in this account warrants action.

Btw - this is a real example of a randomly selected account, and is pretty typical of examples we see across many accounts.

2 - Expand On Success / Block Unwanted Variants

In the Close Variants home page you will a list of all ad accounts that contain search terms (including traditional shopping and dynamic search campaigns) and their Close Variant vs True Match metrics as above. You will also see a counter that shows the number of close variants found for each ad account:

Clicking that number will take you through to a page that displays all campaigns and ad groups that contain search terms, in addition to the Close Match vs True Match performance of each ad group.

Row one shows an example of where Close Variants are doing a great job, with CPA of just $19.83 vs $83.07 for True Matches. This is a wonderful opportunity to add those high performing Close Variants as new keywords (see Taking Action below) to drive even more conversions at a great CPA.

You can also see that the ad groups on row three and four have very poor Close Variant performance compared to True Matches, so you may wish to add some negative keywords to block search terms that are not relevant for those ad groups.

Row five shows an ad group where Close Variants are performing at around the same level as True Matches, meaning Google has found a nice balance between chasing searches that don't actually match your keywords, at a CPA that is in line with the searches you are actually bidding on.

This page also has a Close Variant counter which shows the count of Close Variants for each ad group - clicking this will take you through to a page for the ad group that allows you to take actions like adding negatives, adding keywords, pausing keywords, removing negatives, adding allowed phrases and turning on/off automation.

Taking Action

The action page contains a couple of key elements:

Account / Campaign / Ad Group Selector

Located at the top of the page - use these selectors to switch quickly between accounts, campaigns or ad groups without needing to go back to the main menu first.


Shows your currently enabled keywords for this ad group. You can pause them by clicking the pause icon next to the keyword itself. Dynamic ad groups will not have any keywords displayed here, and shopping campaigns will display the product titles if you have your Merchant Centre connected to Adpulse (Settings > Connections > Merchant Connections).

Allowed Phrases:

An “Allowed Phrase” is similar to a Keyword, but it’s not saved as a keyword within the ad platform itself. Examples of Allowed Phrases could be misspellings or plurals, or any phrases that you are happy for search terms to include. They can only be added as phrase match.

For example, if you were bidding on a keyword "emergency dentist in colorado" and you had the word "denture" as an allowed phrase, the search term "emergency denture clinic near me" would be marked in Adpulse as "True Match" because an allowed phrase (in this case, "denture") was in the search term.

Search Terms:

Use the filter to look for specific search terms, metrics or status (eg. "show me all Close Variants"). Multi-select search terms or click the triple dot to the right of a single search term to select actions:

  • add keyword

  • add negative

  • add as allowed phrase

  • remove negative (if status is blocked)

If a search term is blocked by a negative keyword, the blocking negative keyword and its location are displayed in the "Blocked By / Location" column.

Once you have queued up a number of actions and are ready to process them all, click the "Submit" button in the top right of your screen.


When you are comfortable that your keyword list combined with allowed phrases is adequately covering the potential search terms you want a given ad group to actually target, you can turn on automation to block (daily) any search terms that don't match (ie any search terms that are still classified as Close Variant).

Enabling automation will add an exact match negative keyword every day for every search term that's classified by Adpulse as a Close Variant. In addition to this, if your Ad Group contains only exact match keywords, Adpulse will also add single word phrase match negative keywords for any single words that are not part of your keyword list or allowed phrases.

Two examples:

For simplicity of explanation, let's assume each of the following ad groups contain only one keyword.

Ad Group 1 contains the keyword "mens walking shoes" and a CV appeared for mens joggers. Adpulse would add [mens joggers] as a negative keyword.

Ad Group 2 contains the keyword [mens walking shoes] and a CV appeared for mens joggers. Adpulse would add [mens joggers] as an exact match negative keyword, but would also add "joggers" as a phrase match negative word since the word joggers is not part of the keyword set in that ad group.

Suggested pathway to automation

Whilst there will be many ways in which to leverage the power of search term cleansing, here's a suggested pathway that should help you get the most from automation.

Step 1:

Filter for True Match search terms. Add negative keywords for any that shouldn't be in the ad group, leaving only True Matches that are highly relevant for that ad group.

Step 2:

Filter for Close Variants. Sort by #Conv to look for search terms that potentially should be added to the ad group as new keywords (or a different campaign/ad group if this isn't the right ad group for them).

Step 3:

Sort your Close Variants by Cost. Knowing that your current keyword set does not directly target any of these search terms, look for any new keyword opportunities and add them to the ad group. Remember, you can take a search term from one ad group and add it as a keyword to a different ad group.

Step 4:

Add Allowed Phrases. We generally scan through our keyword set and Close Variant search terms to try and identify common words or phrases that you might want as Allowed Phrases (see above for examples). Also great for DSA or Shopping ad groups as you can stipulate words or phrases that should be allowed for the ad group.

Step 5:

Check remaining Close Variants. If you've added your keywords and Allowed Phrases correctly, the remaining Close Variants should all be good candidates to be added as negative keywords to the ad group. If not, keep working through steps 3 and 4 until they are.

Final Step:

If you feel that your keyword set and Allowed Phrases are sufficiently robust to target the full range of search terms you will accept for the ad group, you're ready to enable automation. If you are not confident that this is the case, do not enable automation until you've been through Steps 1-5 over a period of time and through enough iterations where you found yourself constantly adding the whole Close Variants list as negatives.

The Final Final Step :)

Once you turn on automation, best practice would be to check the Blocked list and double check that you've not inadvertently added any negatives that should be removed. Clicking the triple dot menu next to these will allow you to remove them if needed.

Pro Tip: Don't forget to click the "Refresh" link after submitting changes to tell Adpulse to recategorize the search term list with your latest keywords/negatives/allowed phrase changes.

The End Result

Keeping your search term report clean of unwanted searches will help your account performance in a number of ways. It will help to teach the algorithm what to bid on, improve your performance, and help to ensure that the right searches are triggering against the right ad groups and ad copy.

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