Advertisers Peeved with Google's Removal of Function Words in Exact Match
Google recently announced it has changed the behavior of how close variants works in Google AdWords - and advertisers don't appear too happy about it.
Over the next few months Google indicated it will be expanding its close variant matching capabilities to include additional rewording and reordering for exact match keywords. The change is apparently a rather serious problem for advertisers, but I recall a similar response to use of keyword mapping techniques by advertising platforms more than a decade ago, so it's quite likely the anxiety about the change will subside rather quickly.
The change really comes down to how Google treats "function words" - prepositions (in, to), conjunctions (for, but), articles (a, the) and others; the words that do not actually impact the "intent" behind the query.
Essentially what is happening is that Google is now ignoring these function words (and shifting the order or words in other instances) in AdWords exact match campaigns in order to better match them with similar queries (which obviously goes against the point of using exact match at all). Google indicated advertisers could see as much as a 3 percent increase in clicks on average, however, as a result of the change.
Google did suggest that the change "should" only happen when it will not change the meaning of advertisers' keywords, which should provide some relief. The "in" within the keyword phrase "hotels in new york," for example, can be ignored because it does not affect the actual meaning. It is different in every case, of course; the "to" in "flights to new york" would not be ignored according to Google, because a "flight from new york" is not the same.