In February 2021, Google announced a significant change coming to the structure of its keyword types. The phrase match will expand to include the broad match modifier’s traffic and cease to support the broad match modifier.
What this means and how it will impact your campaigns (and your business) – those are the major questions that we will seek to answer with this blog post. This way, you can be better prepared for the change your business will inevitably face. Remember what Benjamin Franklin said: “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.“
So, let’s prepare wisely by covering everything you should know about this change:
- First, we will do a little recap on how the different keyword match types worked prior to the update and how they will work once the update is implemented.
- Then we will review the new Google update, how it will impact your campaigns, and answer some of your most frequently asked questions.
- Last but not least, we will give you five tips to help you go through this change more smoothly.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
First things first – how keyword match types work?
Before diving into the update and how this will impact your business, let’s recap how the different match types worked (before the update) and how their structure will change afterward.
Existing match types (before February 2021):
Google Ads appears on the search page based on the searcher’s query and its match to keywords that the advertiser used to identify its products.
For example, if you are looking for a purple hat with feathers, the search that you type in Google “purple hat with feathers” should match with the keywords identified by the advertiser selling that product, such as “purple hat,” feathers,” or “hat.”
So, Google ads appear when your query matches keywords that the advertisers identified as relevant to the product they are selling. The way you tell Google how restrictively you want your keywords to match the user’s query in your PPC campaign is known as a keyword match type.
Before February 2021, there were four types of keyword match types that you could choose from when advertising with Google Ads- broad match, modified broad match, phrase match, and exact match.
- Broad match shows your ad whenever someone searches for the exact keyword specified by the advertiser, or a similar keyword, or closed variation of that keyword, or any other relevant variations to the keyword you have specified. Broad match allows you to reach a broad audience, and it’s good for discovery.
So, if you add “hats” as a broad match keyword, then your ad might appear anytime a user searches for winter accessories, summer hats, a hat, and so on.
- An exact match is used for precisions, and it’s the most restrictive of all match types. An exact match allows your ad to be triggered when someone searches for the exact keyword or a close variation of it. So, by using an exact match, your ad will appear on searches with the same meaning or the same intent as the keyword you have defined.
For instance, if your exact keyword is [hats for women], your ad will appear anytime someone is looking for “hats for women,” “hats woman,” “woman hat,” “hat women,” etc., but your ad will not appear if the user is searching for summer hats.
- Phrase match allows ads to show on searches that include the meaning of your keyword. The phrase match is more flexible than the exact match, and it is a little more targeted than the broad match.
For instance, if your phrase match keyword is “summer hats,” then your ad might appear on search results as hats for summer, buy summer hats on sale, red summer hat, comfortable hat protecting from the sun. Still, your ad won’t appear if the user is searching for something like, “can I wear a sombrero during a marathon” or “summer accessories and sombrero hats.”
- Modified broad match (also known as Broad Match Modifier or BMM) allows you to reach a broad audience but with better control. The idea behind modified broad match is that whenever you put a plus sign in front of a keyword, it becomes a modifier, and you can add a plus sign to one or two or all the keywords you want to become modifier.
By including a word as a modifier, you tell Google that you want your modifiers to always appear on the search results no matter what. If we stick with our hats example and suppose that you are bidding on the keyword “red summer hats” on a phrase match type, you might miss some relevant traffic on searches having similar intent but different phrasing.
On the other hand, if you are bidding for this keyword on a broad match, you might be getting too much irrelevant traffic. And this is when the modified broad match comes in handy.
So if you use +red+summer+hat, you are telling Google that you don’t want your ad to appear unless the search query includes all three words. This way, your ad will appear in searches like “can I wear a red summer hat in a party,” but your ad won’t appear if the user searches for a red hat (because the word summer is missing).
A quick note about negative keywords:
As we are getting a lot of questions regarding negative keywords, we would like to underline that you can still be using the negative keywords to exclude your ad from appearing on the search results for certain type/s of keywords.
For instance, if you are selling hats but don’t sell sombrero, you can include sombrero as a negative keyword, and any time a user searches for a sombrero, your ad won’t appear. This way, you are preventing your account from irrelevant traffic.
Google retires the broad match modifier – what this means?
Now that we have a solid foundation of the different types of searches let’s look at what implications the new Google update will bring to your campaigns (and your business).
In February 2021, Google announced that it is retiring the broad match modifier, meaning that when you include keywords to your ad, you will now have three options: phrase match, exact match, and broad match (yup, we have to say goodbye to the broad match modifier). You can read the announcement here.
Prior to this change, if you used a broad match modifier like +transportation+services+Alabama+Michigan, your ad might show up in search results like transportation services from Alabama to Michigan but also might show up in search result like transportation services from Michigan to Alabama (which is probably the opposite to what you intended). So, with the new update coming in, your ads will not show up in the opposite direction.
The implications to your business
…the bad news
The bad news that brings a lot of concerns to many businesses comes with the ambiguity around this update. Since 2014, this is the fifth time Google has updated its keyword match types and has brought a lot of questions and unpredictability to PPC advertisers and businesses. The biggest challenge with this update is how exactly it might impact the advertisers.
Some of the previous changes to the Google keyword match type resulted in more traffic to some keywords. However, the biggest concern with this update is that it might not be the case, and the accounts that are getting high traffic from the broad match modifier can see some decrease in their clicks and conversions.
…the good news
On the other hand, accounts that get more of their traffic from phrase match might expect an increase in their traffic. However, this would also mean that you should keep a close eye on your budget because more clicks might also increase your cost.
This change can be good for many (especially advertisers that are just starting out), but it will take the complexity and control of the advanced users and make it hard to fine-tune for others.
Frequently asked questions
As with any updates, this one also brought more questions than answers. Here we will answer some of the questions we get a lot:
- Is the broad match modifier going away completely? The short answer is yes and no. The broad match modifier is not going away completely until July 2021. The change is ongoing and will continue for several months until it is completely implemented in July 2021.
And once the update is implemented, you will no longer be able to create broad match modifier keywords. However, all exciting broad match modifier keywords will serve the new behavior. So, it’s advisable to start creating any new keywords using the phrase match going forward.
- Are negative keywords affected? No, negative keyword matching will not be affected by this change.
- Should I remove my broad match modifier keywords? No, Google advises against removing the broad match modifier keywords. It’s advisable to wait until the change is fully implemented before removing or converting broad match modifiers; otherwise, you might see a decrease in your traffic.
- Now that I am aware of this update, what actions should I take? According to Google, no specific actions are required from you.
- Will this change impact my quality score? According to Google, this change does not impact your quality score. You can read more information here.
How to manage this change as smoothly as possible?
Due to the ambiguity that comes with this change, there are no clear instructions on what needs to be done in order to prepare your business for this change better. Still, there are five tips that, if you take into consideration, will enable you to navigate and go through this change more smoothly:
- Keep a close eye on your account structure.
The most important implication that the new update would bring is the amount of traffic coming in and its spending. It’s expected that the keywords on the modified broad will see less traffic, and keywords that are on a phrase match will see higher traffic.
Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on your budget and adjust accordingly (where necessary). This is really important to accounts structuring their campaigns by match types. Like with any new update, fluctuations in the traffic are normal and expected, and you should monitor your budget closely.
- Take a look at the recommendations.
Now more than ever, it’s highly advisable to monitor your Google’s recommendations (especially to add new and remove duplicate keywords feature). To expand your reach, you should consider adding new keywords. Also, due to the fact the phrase match and the broad modifier are going to pick up the same traffic, you might end up with some duplicate keywords.
So, monitoring your account for duplicate keywords is highly recommended, especially true if you have an account that is biding on the same keyword but using different match types. That’s why it’s worth it to pay close attention to your recommendations.
- Evaluate your keywords and block the unwanted traffic
Keep using negative keywords to exclude traffic that you don’t want. The new update gives the phrase match the opportunity for greater traffic coming in, so evaluating your keywords and adding negative keywords that block the traffic that you don’t want to receive is of high importance. Remember – after the update, the negative phrase match will stay the same.
- Consider using broad match with Smart bidding.
If you are concerned that you are losing traffic, you can consider testing out the broad match with smart bidding. This way, you will be able to reach your performance goals with more relevant searches. However, you have to be very careful not to overlap traffic with other groups/campaigns. You can read more information here.
- Stay up-to-date.
As with any update, nothing is set in stone. So, we should wait to see and evaluate how the new update will affect our accounts and businesses as a whole. With that being said, the best advice we can provide is to stay up-to-date – reading any new information that Google and other reputable sources release and closely monitor your account performance.
As you can see, the real impact on the new update that retires the broad match modifier will be visible once the change is fully incorporated (which is scheduled to be completed by July).
Although the change is major, if you have strong and well-managed campaigns, you should not be worried as the impact on your account won’t be dramatic. Plus, change is a good thing – it helps us stay flexible and incline us to evaluate and hence improve our campaigns.
Although there is not much that you should do right now, it’s always a good idea to be prepared. And to better prepare for the upcoming change, we would highly advise considering the five tips that we have shared in this blog post.
We would be glad to hear back from you if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions on how this impact is going to affect your ads. Seriously, drop us a message – we are here to help.