7 minutes

Farewell Broad Match Modifiers, Hello Expanded Phrase Match

Our second favorite match type isn’t sticking around, come July no more broad match modifiers will be added to Google Ads accounts. PPC managers are mourning and preparing for new changes in paid search advertising.

On February 4th, 2021 Google Announced changes to phrase match and broad match modifiers, resulting in the eventual phasing out of broad match modifiers (BMM). This is a BIG change that will affect almost every Google ads account if their use is beyond exact match keywords or more narrow than sticking to broad match.

With Google reporting 15% of all searches having never been seen before, broad match modifier allows advertisers to focus on searches that include certain keywords keeping tighter control than broad match without requiring the exact order of phrase match. No longer will keywords have + signs, and there are a lot of changes coming to phrase match variation to cover this loss. As shared by Google, “make it easier for you to reach your customers.” We’ll definitely want to make ourselves familiar with these changes and make them work for every brand in the right fashion.

Let’s explore the changes and the best ways to apply improvements to your account.

Google Ads: Match Types Constantly Changing

Broad match modifier keywords were introduced in 2010 to address issues with broad match keywords being too broad for many advertisers when they sold a specific product and that was taken from their search. It quickly became a useful tool for advertisers to include the + in front of every keyword rather than just one, as initially intended. Optmyze reported that 89% of advertisers use BMM with 95% of keywords using a + in front of every keyword. So this change is pretty important to almost every advertiser!

Broad match modifiers were followed with continued tweaking amongst match types, as close variants were added the additional ability to ignore word order and function words, both linked to stories from Search Engine Land for further information. The latest change comes in both phasing out broad match modifiers and phrase match having additional searches added to it.

phrase match google ad changes

Before and after broad and phrase match Google Ads changes.

To counteract the negative implications of phrase match entailing broad match modifiers, Google is adding behavior logic to phrase match to take into account intended meaning of word order and stop the searches that would go against things like moving services, prioritizing moving from one city to another, in a specific order as shown in examples. This logic should remove some of the poor searches that are dealt with in negatives and extend the coverage of phrase match keywords to fill the gap of most modified searches as shown in the below examples:

Screen Shot 2021-02-10 at 12.30.47 PM

Updated broad match modifier behavior.

table 2 - phrase match modifiers

Updated phrase match behavior.

Updates shown by Google make both match types much stronger in the short term with broad match modifiers moving away from a lot of research based searches that have caused spend in accounts while negative keyword lists are expanded ex: “companies that used used daisy wheel printers” or users looking for skills to put on their resume when targeting resume services. All of these implementations should improve account performance, but there are likely to be some negative consequences if left without negative keywords. It's important to take a look how this affects those as well.

As of now, these behaviors will not take place on negative keywords; no need to find an exact keyword for every single search that you are trying to avoid. Advertisers will not have to worry about accidentally removing keywords from serving by utilizing phrase match negative keywords, which is a sigh of relief for those with robust negative lists used across multiple accounts.

Similar to past updates, broad match modifiers will be slowly phased out with July being the time when advertisers will no longer be able to create new keywords and behaviors being applied to accounts in mid-February, 2 weeks from announcement.

PPC Implications

This is both an exciting and scary development for Google Ads. With behavior changes there’s a continued loss of control for serving that continues to be a concern of Google Ads changes, but behavior changes continue to add to smart goals of accounts saving time in micromanagement of keywords. In the early stages BVA will be monitoring the changes to phrase match and ensuring there are no concerns with behavior changes leading to decreased performance.

Looking into past changes of Google Ads we observed large performance improvements when Google moved on from standard ads which were phased out in a similar process. As well as observing early adapters receiving a bonus, achieving Google’s best practices. Focusing on movement towards phrase match over broad match modifiers should give an edge over the competition as well as increased insights once BMM has been phased out. Google is also continuing to optimize and improve all match types which will leave BMM further behind to exact matching on close variants and improvements to broad match which Google has an increased focus on for smart bidding strategies which have led to overall automation improvements from years ago when no agency would give up account control to these strategies. This lends more credence to the thoughts in advertising agencies that Google may be moving towards a “keywordless” search environment.

Your Search Account and the Next Steps to Healthy Keywords

As of now no actions need to be taken for accounts. Google Ads is changing the playing field for everyone and there will be different reactions throughout different verticals and industries. New keywords are going to be receiving competition and the bids on existing keywords are likely to be different.

Monitor fluctuations in account performance and spend as changes are implemented this month for your current keywords. Your old keywords aren’t going to go away anytime soon and the data is still going to be available, but you won’t be able to create new broad match modifiers after July. Work on a plan for a new way of creating accounts and campaigns. Google’s automation strategies and serving algorithms are likely going to prioritize phrase match to deliver improved services. As accounts transition, ensure monitoring of new keywords to understand the changes in behavior. Be mindful of any keywords your phrase match may serve on and proactively add negative keywords as users no longer have access to full search query reports .

What You Need to Know About Expanded Phrase Match

  • No specific actions need to be taken. Monitor spend changes and any changes in serving in accounts that drop performance.

  • Phrase match will incorporate broad match modifier traits and allow new terms to appear within phrases and change orders when the order does not affect meaning. Ex: “long sleeve dress” will serve on “long sleeve lace dress”

  • Broad match modifiers no longer will serve on searches that have different meaning than intended. Ex: +resume +services will no longer serve on “what are some customer service skills to put on a resume”

  • Behavior changes will be applied in mid-February to existing phrase and broad match modifier keywords without affecting negative keywords.

  • After July you will no longer be able to create broad match modified keywords, but your existing keywords will continue to serve.

  • There’s no results yet and we don’t know everything that will change. We’ll be continuing to monitor and following up on this subject!

    • A few subjects to focus on below:
    • Testing BMM vs new phrase match
    • Unexpected search results
    • Performance changes on existing phrase match keywords
  • Get comfortable with phrase match keywords and get to testing before accounts are forced to make the change.

Concluding Thoughts

Want to chat about optimizing your performance media strategy? BVA's got the inside scoop on the latest Google changes and how it can impact your PPC strategy and other digital marketing efforts. Feel free to reach out to us here!

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