In early February 2021, Google announced its plan to merge phrase and broad match modifier keywords beginning February 18, 2021. In this post, we examine what the change means for paid advertisers who use Google Ads and for eCommerce advertisers using the Finch Advertising Management Platform.

What Are Broad Match Modifier Keywords?

Broad match modifier (BMM) are one of several keyword match types available in ad platforms, such as Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, and Amazon Advertising. Keyword match types generally include:

  • Phrase match that triggers a search for all the terms in the phrase, sometimes in the same order (Amazon Advertising), but not always (Microsoft Advertising).
  • Broad match (Amazon and Microsoft) and/or broad match modifier (Google and Microsoft).
    • Broad match triggers a search for the words in your keyword in any order and for words related to your keyword.
    • Broad match modifier lets you ensure that specific words are included in the search by adding the + sign to a word.
  • Exact match triggers searches only on your exact keyword — theoretically. Google Ads includes synonyms, plurals, or other close variations of a keyword in exact match results.

The example Microsoft Advertising gives for broad match modifier keywords is:

  • Hawaii Hotels as the broad match.
  • Hawaii +Hotels as the broad match modifier keyword.

By using the “+ Hotels,” a search for Hawaii rentals won’t come up in ad results for a broad match modifier search for Hawaii hotels. This gives the advertiser control over results and ad spend.

What Is Google Doing with Broad Match Modifier Keywords in Google Ads?

Until the change announced this month, Google offered exact match, broad match modifier (BMM), and phrase match keyword match types. With the change, it will phase out support for broad match modifier keywords and combine those keywords into the phrase match keyword match type. The change will happen in two phases.

Phase 1 kicks off February 18, 2021, and will affect accounts in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. During this phase, Google will begin to roll the best attributes of broad match modifier keywords into phrase match keywords.

You’ll still be able to create both types of keywords in your Google Ads account. You’ll also continue to see data on both keyword match types. Both types will start to behave similarly however and deliver similar results.

Phase 2 will happen in July 2021. In July, you’ll no longer be able to create broad match modifier keywords. You will still have access to previously created broad match modifier keywords and data on them though. At this time Google will also roll the change out to all languages supported in Google Ads.

The updated phrase match queries will include previous broad match modifier traffic. Google will focus on the order of the words in a phrase match when the order matters to search intent.

The examples Google gives are that:

  • A search for the phrase match keyword of “womens boots” will match a query for “new womens size 37 boot.”
  • A phrase match keyword for “moving services Boston to NYC”won’t show up on a query for “moving services NYC to Boston.”

What Does the Change Mean for Paid Advertisers Using Google Ads?

Google is promoting the overall change as a win-win for Google Ads clients. Google writes on its announcement that the changes will, “make it easier for you to reach your customers, no matter how they’re searching.”

According to Google, with the phase 1 change, “ads may show on searches that include the same or more specific meaning as your keyword. This should lead to an increase in traffic on any phrase match keywords and a slight decrease in traffic on any BMM keywords.”

Because of the possible shifts in traffic, Google recommends that advertisers monitor their accounts and budgets and make adjustments if needed.

Google also recommends starting to use phrase match instead of broad match modifier keywords now instead of later.

You can do that by using Google Ads’ search term report to identify your BMM keywords that convert well. Once you identify them, turn them into either phrase match keywords or — even better — add them to your campaign as exact match keywords. This way you won’t lose those keywords or conversions.

Word Order More Important for the “New” Phrase Match

Word order in the “new” phrase match will be more important and give you more control over your search terms. So as you transition BMM keywords into phrase match, consider word order and add new phrases if needed.

If you look at Google’s “moving services Boston to NYC” example again. Say you’re a moving company and run campaigns that target anyone who’s moving anywhere. You likely want to add more granular phrases, such as “moving services Boston to NYC” and “moving services NYC to Boston.”

Remove Duplicates

You also want to watch for duplicate keywords — especially duplicate BMM and phrase match keywords in the next few months. To keep your data clean, you want as few keywords as possible for your goals. And you want the right keywords where they convert the best and cost the least.

You can use the Recommendation page in your Google Ads account to check for duplicate keywords. You also want to continue using negative keywords to exclude matches you don’t want to attract or pay for.

What Does the Change Mean for the Finch Platform and Finch Clients?

The Finch Advertising Management Platform optimizes campaigns across platforms, including Google Ads, Amazon Advertising, Microsoft Advertising, and more. It consolidates cross-platform data into a single interface in Insights reporting. Finch clients who use the Finch Platform also have the ongoing support of the Finch Strategic Services team.

Finch doesn’t foresee any negative impact to Finch clients or the Finch Platform with Google combining BMM keywords with phrase match keywords. Finch’s strategic approach is to give advertisers as much control over a campaign and its conversions as possible by using single keywords ad groups (SKAGs), which channel traffic to an exact match keyword.

Google’s announcement supports this approach, “…an exact match keyword that is identical to a query is now always preferred as long as it’s eligible to match.”

The Finch Platform makes using exact match keywords an automatic process for clients with dynamic search term insertion (DSTI). DSTI automatically converts phrase match or BMM keywords that are driving conversions into exact match keywords. Finch clients won’t have to worry about turning BMM keywords into phrase match keywords. DSTI continually and automatically does it for them.

Another positive outcome for Finch clients will come from the Finch Platform’s ability to share data from and across different keyword match types. That means Finch clients won’t lose any conversion data on BMM keywords in phase 2 of Google’s change.

Bottom Line

Google’s move to combine BMM keywords and phrase match keywords is a good thing for both advertisers and shoppers. Overall impacts will be minimal — especially for Finch clients.

The key takeaways for advertisers:

  • Two match types will be more than enough to cover advertising needs.
  • Word order will be a little more important for phase match keywords than it was when both BMM and phrase match keyword match types existed.
  • Data will be consolidated into fewer keywords, enabling advertisers to make better decisions faster from fewer data points.
  • With the long window between phases 1 and 2, advertisers will have more than enough time to migrate keywords and budgets.