Google has announced that it will be phasing out broad match modifier keywords, with phrase match keywords taking centre stage. Here’s what the incoming change means for you, and how queries will match to your keywords in future.

What’s Happening to Broad Match Modifier?

Put simply, the remit of phrase match will now expand to cover broad match modified.

Google has previously identified a targeting issue with broad match modifier keywords where it was impossible to specify certain types of keywords.

For example, a broad match modifier keyword like +moving +UK +to +Spain will display ads on both UK -> Spain and Spain -> UK, because in both instances all words were represented.

Naturally, this is highly undesirable for a business if they only offer international moving services to Spain, not the other way around.

To make sure these instances do not happen, Google has integrated broad match modifier keywords into the phrase match type, illustrated by the graph below:

This means phrase match will take over the role that broad match modifier had and will be covering everything to do with specific words and word order search queries outside the reach of exact match keywords.

Regular broad match keywords will, reportedly, remain unaffected by this change.

What Do I Need to Do?

The first thing you need to know is that nothing is changing this minute. The changes are happening over the course of the year, and you’ll be notified when they get rolled out for you.

Moreover, the change is happening for both match types - you will not have to migrate your keywords. You’ll also be able to hold on to the historic performance data of those keywords.

Starting July, you will no longer be able to create or add additional broad match modifier (BMM) keywords but will instead need to add them as either phrase match, standard broad match, or as the newly updated phrase match.

In the more immediate term, starting mid-February both phrase match and broad match modifier keywords will start transitioning to the new matching behaviour. Google has confirmed that there is no immediate need to start migrating your keywords manually and continue to do so indefinitely.

Going forward, Google has recommended creating new keywords in phrase match. Having said that, it’s our opinion that your approach here still largely depends on the campaign KPIs and current strategies.

While it is true that phrase match keywords are taking over the role of BMM, they are also keeping the traditional phrase matching behaviour.

This means that we may start seeing match behaviour changes for both types, possibly generating more irrelevant ad impressions. On the other hand, it may also generate additional reach and start eliminating bottlenecks for certain keywords.

This all largely depends on the campaigns themselves and should still be monitored closely. We recommend taking a fresh look at your campaign strategy - change the keyword setup if needed.

Does This Affect Search Query Matching?

Now that you know what will change and what to expect, here is a quick overview of how keyword matching will work once this change is fully implemented…

While the update limits the number of negative keywords needed to reach a positive starting point for any new campaign, phrase match also poses a new obstacle where it may feel a bit like using regular broad match keywords.

Google will not hold back from showing your ad to people who may already have something very specific in mind that falls under the same category of goods or services that you offer, but just so happens to be something you don’t offer.

Final Thoughts

It is likely that phrase match keyword campaigns will need more keyword optimisation over time, potentially increasing the learning curve of your campaign.

Nevertheless, the fact that every campaign needs a custom strategy and approach has not changed. You still need to have a set of custom KPIs and strategy for every campaign - best practice remains best practice.