08 February 2021

The end of phrase match type as we know it

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Google Ads announced on Friday changes to the phrase match type characteristics starting this February 2021.

This news aims at preparing advertisers and search experts to the sunsetting of the Broad Match Modifier (BMM) match type, which users won’t be able to create as soon as July 2021.

The remaining BMM keywords will continue to serve with the same targeting characteristics as the new phrase match type keywords.

What is happening?

In short, our beloved BMM match type will cease to exist, but really only in name as advertisers will be able to rely on the new version of the phrase match type, which will become a combination of phrase and BMM as we know them.

From this month onwards, phrase match type keywords will incorporate characteristics of BMM keywords, taking into consideration the “meaning” of the query which may disregard the order of the words or even allow for word insertion in particular instances.

Whilst Google doesn’t provide details as to how they identify the “meaning”, this change follows suit with recent modifications we have been seeing in close variants and the looser pairing of queries to keywords.

Google uses the below examples to illustrate the changes that will occur:

Broad match modifier keyword Queries that will no longer match after the update
+resume +services what are some customer service skills to put on a resume
+best +sneakers best prices on sneakers for toddler
+used +printers companies that used daisy wheel printers
Phrase match keyword Queries that will match after the update
“holidays in zambia” holiday spots in zambia
“long sleeve dress” long sleeve lace dress
“womens boots” new womens size 37 boot

What are the implications for my account?

  • Accounts who have been heavily reliant on BMM or phrase match type for their keywords and for which their Exact match traffic share is low may be the ones most affected by the change:

    • If phrase heavy: accounts may see increase in eligible impressions

    • If BMM heavy: accounts may see no changes at short term, but potential decrease in eligible impressions past July 2021.

  • BMM keywords and phrase match type keywords will ultimately become duplicates. For advertisers with match type segmented structures (Campaigns or Ad groups), it might be necessary to monitor the performance changes and make cuts to now similarly behaving keywords to ensure volumes are not diluted unnecessarily.

  • Accounts for which keyword order was strategic (Travel for example with origin and destination), will need to monitor closely their search terms. Which is not ideal given that Google removed access to some low volume search terms back in September 2020.

  • Advertisers snubbing phrase match type until now will probably be the ones the least impacted. We anticipate however that the new phrase match type will be more restrictive than the BMM and advertisers may see decreases in volume.

  • As a general rule of thumb, it may be safe to consider testing the new version of phrase keywords to get a general understanding of their behaviour before July 2021.

  • Those changes do not apply to negative match types.

Google is once again forcing advertisers further into the “predictive” era, decreasing control over search queries from advertisers. Whilst this should simplify keyword targeting on paper, when coupled with the September update on search terms new limitations, it is hard to see the benefits for advertisers who have been fine tuning their craft and their accounts to gain control over their budget and performance.

For any advice on navigating this new challenge, please contact your Louder account lead or get in touch with us.