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Waving Goodbye to Broad Match Modified; What Google’s Latest Update will Mean for Advertisers

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By Russell Scott, Performance Director

The week before last Google announced that, from mid-February, the broad match modified (BMM) version of keywords will be phased out – merged together with phrase match, to create a new version that incorporates the behavior of BMM. Phrase match will expand, covering broad match modified instances, however word order will be respected when it is important to the meaning – eg. “london to paris” won’t trigger “paris to london”. 

As with any substantial changes in Google match types, it’s important to monitor the impact it’ll have on the search industry and account structures. Looking forward, Exact Match and Broad Match keywords will still exist largely unchanged, other than slight improvements to the way Exact Match works. Specifically, an Exact Match keyword should always trigger the exact query and not be outranked by a competing close variant or phrase/broad match. So what exactly will this latest match update mean for paid search?

Account Re-Structures

The impact and changes required to paid search accounts will vary depending on current structures and match type usage. If advertisers are currently only using exact and phrase match keywords, they’ll likely begin to see a significant increase in traffic from the updated phrase match type as it expands to cover search terms that previously would have only been captured by BMM. As a result, additional negative keywords, bid management and budget management will likely have to adapt to the increase in traffic to avoid fluctuations in budgets and performance.

If advertisers are using both phrase and BMM keywords, they should be wary of keywords that exist in both phrase and BMM as, post-update, they’ll essentially be duplicates. Although there should be no overall increase in traffic as a result of the changes, all BMM keywords will need to be paused or removed to avoid duplicate keywords competing for the same search terms.

Recommended Practices

As an agency well-versed in the logistics of search marketing, we have historically recommended using a match type segmented campaign structure of predominantly Exact Match and BMM types, with pure broad match used occasionally for expanding reach and testing purposes. 

As the changes will not expand upon the search terms triggered by the current BMM terms, which can be visualised by the example below from Google, we do not expect to see any overall increases in volumes as would be expected from current phrase match keywords.

(image supplied by Google)

We have found that, using the broader of the 2 match types before the merger, our clients have, over time, already added negative keywords to reduce any undesirable terms from being triggered far in advance – many of which were added before Google began limiting search term reports last year. Read Google Ads reduction of Search Term Data to learn more.  

While the new change to do with respecting word order ‘when it’s important to the meaning’ is a positive change, this is something that will need to be monitored to ensure there is no loss of relevant traffic. There is also a possibility that we’ll see increases in both competition and CPC’s on long tail search terms, as advertisers previously only using phrase match will now be opted into more auctions.

For existing campaigns and keywords using BMM match types, Google states that there is no need to manually change these to phrase match types, and these will continue to serve indefinitely in their current state. Welcome news given that changing the match types themselves would have the same effect as deleting the current keywords and creating a new one. A process which, through the loss of keyword history and Quality Score, could have a negative impact on the campaign. 

How to Prepare.

  1. Closely monitor SQR reports and performance in the coming weeks:
    • If currently using phrase match – identify any newly matched search terms that may need to be added as negatives
    • If using BMM match, although a traffic increase is not expected, check for any volume lost through the change related to the word order being respected when deemed important. 
    • Keep an eye out for any increases in CPCs particularly on long tail terms, as advertisers previously only using phrase match are opted into more auctions
  2. Use this SQR review as an opportunity to increase your exact match keyword coverage. Exact match is going to be more predictable going forward, meaning exact match terms will not be outranked by a phrase, broad match or close variant on the exact search term. This should improve bid management and the ability to increase keyword to ad copy relevance 
  3. If currently using BMM keywords as part of a match type segmented structure, switch to phrase match for all new builds going forwards
  4. Leave all current BMM keywords untouched for now. As Google have stated these will continue to serve indefinitely with the same behaviour as the updated phrase match and therefore there is only the potential negative impact of manually changing the match types. We will have to see if there is any auto migration tool released by Google in the coming months to change the format of the keywords themselves from BMM to phrase

For more information on what this update will mean for your campaign performance and how to prepare, get in touch today.