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Google Phases Out Broad Match Modifiers

4 MINUTE READ | February 4, 2021

Google Phases Out Broad Match Modifiers

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Jason Hartley, Head of Search & Shopping

This article was written by Jason Hartley. As Head of Search and Shopping, Jason oversees PMG’s holistic approach to search across their client portfolio. A senior member of PMG’s Center of Excellence (COEs), he consults on media strategies across clients like Nike and Gap brands. He also leads PMG’s holistic approach to privacy. Alongside his work at PMG, Jason is a member of the Google Performance Council and ANA Ethics Policy Committee.

broad match modifiers

Today Google announced a change to match types, including broad match modifiers (BMM) and phrase match, in another step toward consolidating tactics to simplify account management and create new opportunities for growth. Google will soon blend two of its match types to operate with the same backend matching logic. Specifically, starting in February, phrase match will begin to exhibit behaviors that have long powered broad match modifier (BMM), while BMM will no longer be an option for new builds starting in July. 

The initial roll-out will impact match types in eight languages: English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Russian. All other languages will be included in the second wave of updates, scheduled for June 2021. Any instances of BMM that exist before July will continue to run, and Google doesn’t recommend taking any actions until April when there should be enough data to make informed decisions. If you delete BMM keywords or convert them to phrase before April, it’ll likely result in a greater loss of volume versus if you wait.

Significantly, Google has advised that smart bidding strategies will automatically adjust to optimize performance for the new keyword behavior, which suggests that the switch from BMM to phrase is not as radical as it may seem. Still, it will be important to monitor your account carefully, especially if you rely heavily on BMM today because you may lose some volume — especially for partial BMM instances — as the algorithm optimizes for quality. 

Of course, “quality” can mean different things to different brands, so this reduction could require additional build-outs to close the gap. Accounts that are more phrase heavy could see additional traffic, as the looser controls could result in you appearing in new auctions.

While this can feel like another instance of losing control of your account, Google reports that many advertisers have blurred the line between BMM and phrase, with even the most sophisticated using the match types for identical use cases. And as natural language processing evolves, word order and true intent are more easily understood, reducing the need for the two options. 

It’s important to add that while we’re losing some control here, the same advancements that have led to the loss of BMM have made it possible to ensure that exact match keywords will always be preferred over other keywords or DSA, even if the latter options have higher bids. Finally, there is no change to negative match, so there will be no need to change methodology there, which will be helpful if you turn to true broad match to help close some gaps from any loss of BMM volume. 

Another subtle announcement includes updates to exact match, which old school SEM managers are cheering for as it gives back a bit more control. Google is updating the matching algorithm for exact match to ensure that if an account contains a keyword that is the exact text as the search query then that keyword will always be the one shown for an auction. This will increase the value of exact match terms to get data insights and have better control over the user’s experience.

The flip side of this update is that if your ad rank is too low for that exact match keyword (read: bidding too low), you may not be eligible for an auction you would’ve been eligible for on a different match type. It’ll be important to monitor exact match impressions to keep an eye out for entities that could be bid too low, adjusting methods accordingly.

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The good news is that we can let our accounts essentially run as-is until April, and likely longer as search managers get a handle on the effects of these changes. That said, it looks like we’ll have one more thing to add to our list for spring cleaning.

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