9th February 2021

Googles latest match type update

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Eleanor Hourston
Search Manager
Read time: 5min
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Long Story Short:

  • Google are continuing to blur the lines between match types in paid search, following on from previous changes such as exact match and “close variants”.
  • Google are phasing out Broad Match Modifier (BMM), bringing the benefits of it to their “new and improved” Phrase Match.
  • Phrase match keywords will be eligible to show for more searches, while existing BMM will see fewer impressions, as well as no longer being able to be added to an account.

What do we think?

Ultimately, this move from Google is not unexpected.

In the last few years there has been a real push for automation. This initially started with data-driven attribution models, smart bidding and smart shopping initiatives and in the last year, Google has shifted their keyword recommendation towards fewer, broader keywords, ad groups and campaigns.

This less segmented structure allows a greater amount of data to feed smart bidding strategies and ultimately drive stronger, more efficient results. Google’s update to Phrase Match means that keywords are still able to match the various ways users make a search (backed up numerous times by the stat of 15% additional search queries every day) but it brings about a tighter control on the meaning of search terms which Broad Match Modifier (BMM) wasn’t able to offer. This means advertisers can be more confident in applying the automated bidding and targeting technologies as they are safe in the knowledge of strong relevancy.

In short, we see this as a positive change from Google, and one that is likely to bring better performance for advertisers.


What is the full story?

On Thursday 4th February 2021, Google released an announcement regarding plans to update how paid search match types are categorised. They will be phasing out Broad Match Modifier (BMM)along with expanding what is classed as  Phrase Match.

Their aim is to give “greater control and better reach”, as they use Phrase Match to cover the additional traffic that would have come from a BMM keyword but now with greater consideration for word order when it is important to the meaning of the search. This is being rolled out in the next 2 weeks for the core Languages with the aim of full adoption across all language settings by June 2021.

Using Google’s example, currently if a BMM keyword such as +moving +services +NYC +to +Boston is live in an advertiser’s account, this would also trigger an ad for someone searching “moving services Boston to NYC”. Whilst this is only a small change of word order, the moving company may not be able to provide this meaning irrelevant matching and a potential waste of ad spend.

However, with the new parameters for Phrase Match, only searches considering the order of keywords will be included:

Google Match Type Update

The current rule of additional words being added in the search term still applies, but only if this does not change the meaning of the query. For example:

Table 1

Table 2

This will change how we view PPC keywords and the categorising of data into the “new” match types as part of the latest update to Google’s matching history. It started with phasing out “pure” match types back in 2014, with more recent years seeing “word orders” and “same-meaning” being added to close variants for exact match and then later, Phrase and Broad Match.

What does this mean for advertisers and their paid search accounts?

Once this feature has fully rolled out, advertisers will no longer be able to create BMM keywords and Google is expecting this to be as of July. Having said that, any existing BMM keywords will still work in the account. This means that in the short term there is no requirement for full-scale restructures of accounts that currently have the adoption of Exact, Phrase and BMM keywords. However, it is likely that we will start to see a shift as the Phrase Match keywords begin to pick up more searches and BMM keywords have less data attributed to them.

If an advertiser’s account is predominantly utilising Phrase Match then we are expecting to see an incremental increase in clicks and conversions due to the additional queries they will be matching to. For an account that is predominately utilising BMM, we may see a slight reduction in traffic as they start to act like the new Phrase Match and consider the word order when it is important to the meaning. However, when combined with smart bidding, this is only likely to enhance the quality of traffic through the keywords as the queries more closely match the intention of the keywords.

What are the key things advertisers need to do at this time?

  • It will be important to monitor changes in the account’s traffic and shift budget as Phrase Match takes on a greater share of matches.
  • Monitor the traffic for any current BMM keywords and add in additional keywords with respect to word order as required.
  • Google says it is not essential to switch over your current BMM keywords to Phrase Match (especially as doing so essentially delete the old one and create a new keyword meaning losing historic data) as these will simply behave in the new way.
  • After the rollout in the account’s language, begin to structure any new campaigns using the new Phrase Match rather than BMM – this will not be possible from July.
  • Ensure smart bidding is being fully utilised in the account to complement the broader matching and ensure the strongest chance of conversions and ROI.

If you have any concerns about the latest Google updates or would like us to take a look at your Google Ads account then get in touch.