Google Says Goodbye to Broad Match Modifier for Its Google Ads Platform


On February 4th, 2021, Google announced that will soon roll out changes to its pay-per-click platform, Google Ads.

The changes to the platform involve the phasing out “broad match modified” keywords while “phrase match” will now cover the broad match modified (BMM) match type.

The updates to “phrase match” and “broad match modifier” match types kicked in somewhere towards the end of February and are critical because they can potentially impact the way pay-per-click campaigns are not only managed but optimized as well.

What do these changes mean for paid search advertisers?

Well, if you are a paid search advertiser, then it’s obviously important that you understand what the phasing out of BMM keywords and subsequent changes to “phrase match” really means. But more importantly, you need to understand how the updates could possibly impact paid search campaigns going forward and how to prepare for the changes.

Do you need to do anything immediately?

You don’t have to rush through with making the necessary adjustments to align with the new changes. Reason being, Google will continue to add BMM keywords till July. Post this period, new BMM keywords will no longer be added.

However, the existing BMM keywords will continue to serve with one key difference – they will be matched to address the changes introduced by the new update. In other words, you do have some time to get used to the new change.

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So what is Phasing out of Broad Match Modifier all about?

Ok now let’s get down to answering the obvious question. Here’s what is going to happen to Broad Match Modifier (BMM).

Google in its effort and continued commitment to provide advertisers with improved control over their search campaigns and also to expand the reach of the campaigns is combining the best of broad match modifier match type with its phrase match type.

This will result in “phrase match” becoming a more comprehensive and robust match type since it will effectively expand to include additional broad match modifier traffic. And while these changes happen, Google also clarifies that word order will be adhered to in cases where it is vital or makes sense to the meaning.

One way to understand the phasing out of the BMM match types is this way – if you remember, when Google made the transition from text ads to expanded text ads, the text ads did continue to serve and stay relevant. However, you could no longer create new text ads.

Why is this Google Update Important?

To put things into perspective and the context in which Google announced this change, it is important that you first have a basic understanding of the different match types “phrase match” and “broad match modifier” and “exact match” and also how they work.

Broad Match Modifier (BMM) Keywords

As the name suggests, BMM keywords include keywords that target a “broad” audience.

BMM keywords that don’t include additional characters such as “+, “-”, [ ],” effectively target searches that are relative to keyword(s). Because they don’t necessarily include all of the components of your keyword(s), your ads will enjoy a wider or “broader” audience reach.

The catch here being that, while BMM keywords expand your ad reach, they also end up targeting a wider range of irrelevant searches.

However, by adding additional characters, for example a “+” into your broad match keyword, you communicate to Google which words must be absolutely included within a search term. Of course, while additional words will still be present within the search term, by conveying to Google that specific words “have to” be included in search queries, you can dictate greater control over searches that are relevant to your keywords – and all this without losing out on the advantage of connecting with a broader audience.

Now here’s what you also need to understand about BMM match type – the added control over relevant searches definitely helps in boosting your click-through rate and conversion rates. However, the word order in a searcher’s query actually holds little value.

Phrase Match

Phrase match obviously offers tighter or highly targeted search results since Google displays an ad only if users include the exact keywords or similar variants that are included in the ad’s exact keyword phrase.

In the last few years, Google’s phrase match has undergone a lot of changes. For one, the introduction of “close variants” enabled Google to serve ads in searches that included close variations such as plurals or even misspellings of a given phrase match keyword. Of course, “close variants” mostly helped with “exact match” type since advertisers were able to communicate to the search engine giant that a particular search query should absolutely include the phrase indicated or included in your keyword.

So for example if your phrase match keyword was “floor cleaning service” – the ads could features on searches for the following queries;

Floor Cleaning Service; Cheap floor cleaning service; Floor cleaning service near me.

Now while close variants did effectively enhance the phrase match type, it also did something else. It enabled Google to make changes to the word order of a given phrase, or even include a similar word – provided the search intent was found to be similar to the primary phrase match keyword.

Exact Match

One more match type to include in this conversation is “exact match.” Now this match type includes [brackets] around a keyword thereby communicating to Google to serve ads for those search queries which have the same meaning or intent as the original keyword used.

While the match types were meant to enhance how Google serves ads to be more relevant to search keywords, the fact is that with the introduction of close variants and intent, the lines between the different match types tend to converge.

Understanding why Google has Expanded Phrase Match to include Broad Match Modifier?

It becomes easier to understand the new update in the context of the above explanation on the different match types and their impact on how ads are served in response to search queries.

According to Google, the expansion of phrase match to include BMM keywords can effectively optimize on the time spent on account management so businesses need not spend excessive amounts of time and energy  managing specific keywords.

Here’s what Google said about the update – “we’re rolling out changes to phrase match and broad match modifier that make it easier for you to reach your customers, no matter how they’re searching. To give you more control and better reach, we’re bringing the best of broad match modifier into phrase match. As a result, phrase match will expand to cover additional broad match modifier traffic, while continuing to respect word order when it’s important to the meaning. This makes it easier to reach customers and manage keywords in your account.

With these improvements, you can reach the searches you want just by using phrase match—without worrying about the searches you don’t want.”

So as specified by Google in the statement, the change is focused on “simplifying the process of reaching the right customers, regardless of how users are searching.”

How will the New Update Appear?

The broad match modifier match type informs Google which keywords should be included in search queries by prefixing the keywords or terms with a plus sign. While the phrase match type informs Google about the word order that has to be maintained when serving ads for relevant search terms.

Although there isn’t a detailed response from Google, the search engine notes that both these requirements will be covered under the updated phrase match. On the issue of word order, as mentioned earlier in the article, Google says it will “continue to respect word order when it’s important to meaning.”

Here’s how Google explains the new changes – “Let’s say you’re a moving company that wants to reach people interested in moving out of New York City. With the updated phrase match, you can reach people looking to move from NYC to Boston, for example, without showing up for people looking to move from Boston to NYC.”

Source: Google

Here are a few more examples provided by Google;

Preparing for the New Update
As a way of preparing for the new changes introduced, Google is advising advertisers to closely observe the “Recommendations section” within their account.

The recommendations provided on duplicate keywords will effectively serve to highlight the new changes. Opting to pause versions could help advertisers lower the number of keywords that are managed within their account.

The possibility of budgets being impacted cannot be ruled out – this is particularly true for those accounts which do budgetary allocation based on match types or those accounts that allocate match types based on Ad Group or Campaign.

Finally, advertisers should know that negative keywords and broad match combined with Smart Bidding can help accounts improve on critical challenges of irrelevant searches or even poor customer or audience reach.

In Conclusion
The new changes introduced by Google simply means one thing – paid search advertisers and marketing will need to start making the necessary adjustments to these changes.

Will the changes lead to fluctuations or inconsistencies? In all likelihood yes – and this will probably be evident across industry types. So while there is nothing you can do except make the necessary adjustments, the good news is that you have time. Remember, Google plans for a global launch of the new update by July 2021 and is most likely to completely phase out BMM by end of the year.
You can use this time and space to navigate your way through the changes. However, it is best that advertisers start making the switch from the current BMM keywords to the newly updated phrase match as soon as possible if they want to be prepared for the complete phasing out the broad match modifier match type.


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