Google announced in the earlier parts of February that it would be making changes to the phrase match and broad match modified keyword match types.
Now, while this might strike fear into the hearts of PPC specialists and campaign managers everywhere, we’re exploring what this means and what we’ve learned in easily digestible chunks of information.
Phrase match is expanding to include any additional broad match modifier traffic. Therefore, support for the broad match modifier keywords will end.
These changes have started taking place already, so we wanted to put our heads together and consider what we’ve learned in the first few weeks of this change to PPC.
What’s more, although the changes will likely mean that campaigns will need closer management over the next coming months, these changes could potentially save advertisers time managing keywords in the future.
We’ll be looking at:
- What’s Happened To The Broad Match Modified Keywords
- How This Might Impact Existing Campaigns/Advertisers
- Why Does It Matter?
- What We’ve Learned About These Changes
What’s Happening To Broad Match Modified?
During this transition phase, the most important thing for all advertisers is that BMM keywords will still work and will continue to do so using the new phrase matching behaviour.
Advertisers will still be able to create BMM keywords until July. However, there won’t be the option to set up BMM keywords after this date when creating new campaigns, ad groups or updating existing campaigns with new targeting. Any existing BMM keywords will continue to work using the new phrase match behaviour.
The second most important aspect of this change is that, according to Google, there is no need to make any changes or take immediate action.
This is because the ‘new behaviour will be applied to both phrase and BMM’, so existing performance should carry over from current BMM keywords to the new behaviours.
How This Might Impact Campaigns/Advertisers
Now, even though Google suggests that advertisers will not have to take immediate action and change all their current BMM keywords to phrase, these keywords’ change in behaviour is likely to start shifting performance in some ways.
For example, if you’re currently targeting the BMM variant +google +advertising +services, this input will no longer function as a ‘true’ broad match modifier. The changes to this match type mean that Google will treat this keyword as a phrase match type and expand it to cover broad match modifier traffic.
Some professionals have suggested this isn’t a completely ideal change, given that “phrase match isn’t an equivalent replacement for a broad match modifier in all cases.”
There are instances where the BMM keyword refines the search queries that match these keywords more narrowly than phrase match keywords, which may lead to changes in the relevancy scores of advertisers campaigns.
What About Traffic?
Google suggests that for phrase keywords, there might be an increase in traffic and that advertisers are recommended to keep a close eye on search terms reports and account performance.
In contrast, Google announced that there might be a decrease in traffic for current BMM keywords – especially those using the modifiers on some keywords but not all. For example, if you have campaigns targeting +google services.
To combat this, Google suggests:
- Add more relevant phrase match keywords to capture more traffic
- Recover lost traffic with the ‘Add Keywords’ recommendations provided
- Monitor the performance of BMM keywords over time and add phrase match keywords where traffic decreases for specific keywords
As much as Google insists that current BMM keywords will continue to work and that the updated phrase match behaviours will pass seamlessly over to these keywords, their announcement suggests otherwise.
Essentially, BMM is dead. Long live BMM.
Track your current BMM keywords’ performance and monitor any dips in traffic that occur over a sustained period.
If you notice a significant drop in traffic for your broad match modified keywords that seems more than just a fluctuation, consider adding these keywords as phrase match or adding more relevant phrase match keywords to recover this lost traffic.
This will then allow you to compare your recently added phrase match keywords with their relevant BMM counterparts and make educated adjustments based on your performance data.
Why Does It Matter?
Of course, the point of all this is to determine why this change matters to advertisers. And considering that this is the fifth time that Google has changed its keyword match type rules (in 2014, 2017, 2019 and 2021), advertisers need to know precisely how these changes will impact their campaigns.
Following Google’s best practices feels a lot like chasing that attainable utopia or proving the existence of unicorns. There are a lot of sources with reliable and often convincing accounts that suggest that these best practices lead to increased performance and relevance – other times, it seems like everywhere you look there’s a new lead, a new best way to optimise campaigns to reach that pinnacle performance.
Therefore, understanding this newest change is important to ensure that performance is maintained and that advertisers get one step closer to yelling ‘eureka’ once that PPC unicorn is uncovered.
For accounts that rely on BMM keywords for traffic, this change could:
- Mean a slight decrease in impressions – this lead dominoes into the number of clicks, costs and potentially conversions.
This is because the new match type behaviours will restrict keywords from matching to search queries, or gathering traffic, in cases where the word order matters.
The requirement that BMM keywords currently only using the modifiers on some of the words in each keyword will now reduce the potential reach of these keywords unless the advertisers change this.
For accounts that rely mainly on phrase match for traffic, this could:
- Mean a slight increase in ad impressions, clicks, costs and potentially conversions.
With the slightly different match type behaviours, existing phrase match keywords will expand, reaching traffic that they would not have had the flexibility to before.
What We’ve Learned About These Changes
Overall, this seems like another step towards machine learning for Google. Our experience in the numerous campaigns that we run in our Google Advertising Services has reflected the suggested impact that Google announced. Targeted keywords using full BMM match types have seen a decrease in impressions overall.
While this does not apply to all BMM keywords in all our current campaigns, it’s certainly a noticeable trend that has impacted how we’ve been managing our campaigns.
This step towards automation is something we’re taking with a pinch of salt. This latest change reduces the clear delineations that used to exist between match types, leading advertisers more and more down the line of relying on Google’s recommendations and automated learning.
This is, naturally, not a bad thing. However, this can result in less manual control for advertisers. Taking a little of the control and complexity away from more advanced users and PPC advertisers and replacing it with a system that allows more novice users to come in and understand keyword targeting.
We’ve also learned that there are no clear-cut directions to accurately prepare for any implications of this more recent change to keyword match types.
However, we suggest:
- Revisiting your account structure – the traffic changes will likely impact your costs, with phrase match attracting more spend and costs lowering on BMM keywords. We recommend keeping an eye on this and adjust accordingly.
- Negative keywords are your best friend – as Google transitions the match type behaviours, use negative keywords to block irrelevant traffic and keep your relevance high.
- Keep an eye on Google Recommendations – while all advertisers do not always favour automation, these Recommendations will help you navigate the changes, suggesting new keywords and helping you eliminate duplicate keywords.