Bing Ads Changes

Close Variants and Negative Keywords

Late last week, Bing Ads shared a few forthcoming changes to how keywords will be matched in Bing PPC programs. The updates, scheduled to take effect starting May 21, could mean taking a look at your campaigns and re-optimizing to ensure proper matching, traffic, and costs.

Let's break down the three upcoming adjustments.

decorative image decorative image


For the past several months, Bing Ads has been brewing enhanced normalization logic. First, relaxed constraints for uploading keywords meant more keywords containing stop words or accented characters could be attached to campaigns without being rejected as duplicates. Now, raw user queries with stop words and accented characters will not be normalized. For example, “steep and cheap” won’t be normalized to “steep cheap.” Hopefully, the relaxation of the last year has revealed some relevant queries that were previously normalized. Regardless, Bing is encouraging account managers to “review your keyword list and add any relevant characters or words into your account to ensure you maximize traffic from your ads.”


Bing professes that close variants (plurals, misspellings, and other relevant keywords with intent) have brought a 2- to 3-percent increase in click volume to advertisers with no change in ROI. Riding this success, Bing Ads will remove the ability to opt-out of close variants. Advertisers worried about controlling traffic and costs should consider adding their own close variants while re-examining their negative keywords for exclusion. Speaking of which…


Small changes to the results of negative keyword matches are aiming to make the bidding and exclusion process a little more intuitive. The relationship between Broad, Phrase, and Exact negatives and keywords will change such that, in a complete conflict, a Phrase negative will no longer override an Exact keyword or matching Phrase keyword. In practice, this should allow for better matching of variants. For example, if you bid on [discount shoes] but exclude “discount shoes,” the exact query discount shoes will no longer be blocked. Instead, you’ll display for that query while being excluded from other variants, like discount shoes in Minneapolis.


“I would recommend account managers check out the ‘Negative Keyword Conflict’ report to find out which negative keywords have the potential to be overridden,” says Clair Wenzel, Paid Search Specialist. “It will be a helpful tool for us as we navigate these changes.”

Paid Search Director Mitchell Mclain cautions businesses to make sure their chosen paid search professionals are prepared for the update. “The upcoming negative keyword changes in Bing Ad Center have the potential to affect a campaign’s performance in a negative way,” he says. “Changes like this showcase how dynamic the paid search industry is and how important it is to have an agency that is on top of product news.”