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Google’s Match Type Update Explained

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Just yesterday, Google announced an update to the matching behavior of phrase and broad match modifier (BMM) keywords. 

What The Match Type Update Means

The change starts phasing out support for Broad Match Modifier. Most of the Broad Match Modifier traffic will be captured by Phrase Match going forward, while the remaining traffic will be mainly covered by Broad Match (we SEM managers sometimes call Pure Broad to keep the purpose separated from Broad Match Modifier).

Google says, “Starting mid-February, both phrase match and broad match modifier keywords will begin to transition to this new matching behavior. [ …] In July, once the new behavior has been rolled out globally, you’ll no longer be able to create new broad match modifier keywords.”

Below is a quick blurb from Google that helps us understand the change better:

Google's Match Type Update Explained
Image from Google

So essentially, the order of words in the query matching a Phrase keyword will remain unchanged while some new words may find place between two subsequent words. 

Why Is Google Making This Change?

The easy answer is ‘Simplicity’. According to Google, “We’ve seen that phrase match and broad match modifier often serve the same use cases, and that you can reach more of the right customers through a combination of the two.”

The change will save time and efficiently streamline keyword management. Google has been making a lot of changes to get rid of complex account structure for a while now. Be it pushing for hybrid campaigns or using smart bidding for pure Broad, Google prefers simple campaign setups that are aligned with automated bidding solutions. 

“So, Why Do We Use Keywords”?

Advertisers use keywords for reach, relevance, and performance. Based on feedback and data from past few years, Google understood that advertisers would not need multiple options to define an optimal keyword mix when smart bidding, as modern search features and audiences are taking care of better targeting. That’s why Google will now have the following keyword match types for simplicity’s sake: 

  • Exact match for precision
  • Broad match for reach
  • Phrase match and broad match modifier for a balance of both

Customer Experience Is The Top Priority 

Google made an array of changes to all match types to prioritize the intent and semantic match over syntactic match (where words in queries have to match more closely with exact wordings in the keyword). Changes were made not just on the ads side, but on the SEO front as well, starting with Rankbrain and most recently BERT. Google cares about user experience and is the most popular search engine in the world for a reason. To continually improve a user’s experience, such changes are always in the works. Updates are purpose driven to ensure users are finding the most relevant results for their searches. 

Is This A Push For More Smart Bidding Coverage?

Maybe Google wanted to reduce the liberty that advertisers had with using BMM over pure Broad. Advertisers were skeptical about pushing Pure Broad hard while keeping the targeting restricted using BMM. As a result, Google had to roll out Smart Bidding for a Broad Match. Google felt that adoption might remain low as long as advertisers have the option to use BMM over pure Broad. Smart Bidding with Broad will capture more contextual signals including Landing Page, other keywords in the ad groups, etc. to drive better returns. However, we recommend running some experiments before rolling out this bid strategy fully. 

Next Steps 

Google shared a host of match type best practices here. That said, NetElixir has also curated a few important next steps below:

  • Stop using BMM match type for any new keyword.
  • Don’t change the match type of an existing keyword from BMM to Phrase. This would reset history. Google will automatically apply the new behavior to BMM.
  • Keep analyzing search queries to see what queries are now matching phrase matches over BMM. Add or negate queries accordingly. 
  • Remove redundant keywords as suggested in the Recommendations tab.
  • Phrase matches are likely to see an increase in volume while BMM may see a drop. Adjust budgets accordingly. 
  • For tROAS/tCPA smart bidding, targets don’t need to be adjusted if your performance goals are the same. Spend may increase as the strategy drives more volume at your target CPA or ROAS. If you want to optimize within a daily budget instead, you can use Maximize Conversions or Maximize Conversion Value.
  • For Max (conversions or conversion value) smart bidding strategies, increase the daily budgets to accommodate more volume if you see a spike. 

As always, NetElixir is here to help. If you have any questions about this update, please don’t hesitate to contact our experts