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Digital Marketing News & Best Practices - Adlucent Search Pros(e)

Google's Recent Change From Broad Match Modifiers to Phrase Match

Posted by Jackie Krus on February 17, 2021

Google announced a major change to the keyword world: the deprecation of Broad Match Modifier (BMM) keywords in favor of (an updated) Phrase Match type. With this change, the functionality of Phrase Match keywords will be adjusted to do the following:

  • To better catch the relevant queries that would have matched to BMM keywords &
  • To not match to the irrelevant queries that would have matched to BMM keywords. 

Ultimately, this aligns with many of Google’s recent changes to improve how keywords match to search queries. No immediate action is needed at this time, and national rollout is expected to be complete by April.


What Exactly is Changing?

As a reminder, see below for definitions of Phrase Match & BMM Keywords:

  • Broad Match Modifier: BMM Keywords match to queries that contain all of the words within the initial keyword, in any order, plus additional words at the beginning, middle and/or end of the query. BMM keywords are designated with +’s at the beginning of each word within the keyword (e.g. +red +dresses).

  • Phrase Match: Historically, Phrase Match Keywords have been used to match queries containing an exact phrase, with the possibility for additional words at the beginning or end of the keyword phrase. Phrase match keywords are designated by using quotation marks around the keyword (e.g. “red dresses”).

The New Phrase Match: From now on, Phrase Match keywords will match to searches that share the same meaning of your keyword (e.g. cardinal dresses, red sweater dresses, red dresses from Nordstrom, etc). Additionally, the meaning of the keyword can be implied (e.g. grass cutting vs. lawn mowing), and matched queries can be a more specific form of the meaning (e.g. red gowns vs. red dresses). 

  • Phrase Match Keywords can now match to:
    • Queries containing all the words within the keyword phrase, with additional words or phrases before, after or between, so long as the meaning of the keyword is intact
    • Queries containing all of the words within the keyword phrase rearranged, so long as the meaning of the keyword is intact.
    • Queries substituting words within the keyword phrase, so long as the meaning of the keyword is intact.
  • Phrase Match Keywords will not match to queries that do not share the same implicit meaning as the keyword. This typically means Phrase Match keywords won’t match to queries that include additional, irrelevant items in the query, as well as queries that imply a different meaning than the original keyword.

With this update, there will be 3 remaining available match types: Exact, Broad & Phrase Match. 


When Will This Change Take Effect?

Google’s change will begin in mid-February. During this time, both Phrase Match & BMM keywords will begin to transition to this new matching behavior, so immediate actions do not need to be made. The rollout of this functionality will be completed in the US by April. By July, once the changes are rolled out globally, accounts will no longer be able to create new BMM Keywords. However, existing BMM Keywords will continue to run. 

What Other Changes Have Happened Recently in the Keyword World?

  • Google has also made changes to how search queries will preferentially match to keywords within your account, preferring exact match keywords (that are exactly the same as the query) over Phrase & Broad Match types.

  • Broad match keywords now look at additional signals within an account to match to more relevant queries.

Adlucent's Analysis

  • Aligns with other keyword updates. Over the past few years, Google has made other changes to the way that queries can match to keywords, including expanding the searches that exact match keywords can match to. This change is of a similar nature; it streamlines the match type options and expands the overall ability for keywords to match to queries.

  • Monitor to ensure quality. Although the new Phrase Match capabilities will exclude queries that do not share the same implicit meaning, it will still be imperative to make sure that’s the case. Our team will be closely monitoring search queries post-transition to check for relevant and irrelevant novel queries, as well as, for the loss of previously valuable queries. And, we recommend that you do the same.

  • Another Step Toward Automation. At face value, this update simply combines the best of both worlds between BMM & Phrase Match keywords. However, this change also takes some control away from advertisers, by increasing Google’s ability to select which queries match to which keywords. This builds upon other recent updates; for example, Google’s announcement from last September (that search term reports now exclude low volume queries). Together, these updates indicate that advertisers will have less control over which queries they are matching to and less insight into those queries. By chipping away at the control that an advertiser has over query matching, Google is increasing the black box nature of search and strengthening the appeal of Smart Bidding.

  • Other Ways To Capture Long-Tail Queries. As Google shifts toward less visibility and control in keyword performance, we recommend incorporating alternative campaign types into your program to capture additional qualified search volume. Our approach to DSA campaigns is a proven method of accomplishing this.


Topics: Featured Post, Google, paid search, paid search strategy, broad match modifier, keyword match type


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