What The Latest Phrase Match Update Means For Search Engine Marketing

One of Google Ad’s core principles is to connect a business with their targeted audience at the right moment, through relevant search results.  A searcher’s need and intent changes over time and for this reason, the need to evolve advertising capabilities is imperative. 

Below is a brief history of how Google Ads has made changes to match types over the years to maintain their central value.

  • 2014: Google ended support for the “pure” exact match type when it started requiring all campaigns to use close variants. At the time, close variants included plurals, misspellings and other variations of exact match and phrase match keywords.
  • 2017: Word order and function words were added to close variants for exact match.
  • 2018: Google began matching search terms that have the same intent as the given keyword when it added same-meaning words to exact match close variants. This included implied words and paraphrases.
  • 2019: Same-meaning close variants were extended to phrase match and broad match modifiers.

The most recent match type announcement is all about how “phrase match” will be incorporating the behaviours of broad match modified (BMM) keywords, to simplify keywords and make it easier to reach relevant customers. This change means that both phrase and broad match keywords will have the same functionality and may show searches that include the meaning of your keyword and consider the order of words typed when relevant to the meaning. This update will be less restrictive and allow synonymous terms to show on the updated version.

With broad match modifier making its departure, you are still able to create keywords that apply the BMM notation. Broad match modifiers will no longer operate on a word within the keyword. If you use a keyword such as +moving services, the operator will now apply to both words, similar to +moving +services or “moving services”. 

As we near July 2021, the creation of broad match modifier keywords will no longer be available. It is therefore recommended to start making the transition to phrase.

What are the challenges and opportunities we may face as this change happens?

  • Accounts that are heavily reliant on broad match modifier should anticipate a drop in traffic.
  • Keep a close eye on search term reports to ensure keywords are relevant 
  • Add additional relevant phrase match keywords to ensure traffic remains relatively stable
  • Add broad match keywords paired with a Smart Bidding strategy
  • Explore “Add keywords” recommendations to recover traffic volume
  • Compare your BMM keywords’ performance over time to see which search queries show decreased traffic.
  • Add new phrase match keywords where you notice a decline

Additional keyword changes

Google announced that broad match now looks at additional signals in your account to deliver more relevant searches. These signals include landing pages and keywords in your ad group.  Additionally, keyword matching is now more predictable, an exact match keyword that is identical to the query will always take priority as long as it is eligible to match.

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