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Have you seen a dip in impressions in your search campaigns recently? Blame Google and its abandonment of broad match modifier.

The Paradigm Shift Away From Broad Match Modifier

Google’s recent changes will bring sweeping adjustments to many Google Ads accounts—changes that will require a full understanding of the new paradigm Google is using. You may have already experienced fewer impressions on keywords that have not been updated with these new rules in mind. Let’s dig into it.

After years of loosening the meanings of each match type, Google is finally retiring one of them. Broad match modifier is ending its run this year with Google currently saying the switch will occur in June. It is a change that makes sense considering the adjustments Google has made to match types in recent years.

Some Google Match Type Background

For years Google has been tweaking keyword match types in ways that keep paid media teams on their toes. From making exact match not so exact to their latest change: removing a match type all together. During that time, we have had access to four different keywords options:

  • Broad Match: A free for all that historically has been able to match with almost any remotely similar search
  • +Broad +Match +Modifier: Like broad match but the words with the “+” next to them need to be present in some form. “Running shoes” could trigger phrases like “shoes for running” or “best running shoes.”
  • “Phrase Match”: Matches searches with the phrase appearing in it. This usually takes into account order and words more than broad match modifier. “Running shoes” would not match “shoes for running” but would “best running shoes”
  • [Exact Match]: Loosened over the years but is still intended to find people searching exactly or as close as possible to the terms they type.

For a while now, phrase match was a stricter version of broad match modifier that resulted in adding more keyword variants.

Google Match Type Latest Update

With the new update, phrase match will retain its more focused search term matching rules but be able to match your phrase in more ways. This removes the instances where broad match modifier would jumble words around and potentially result in a less relevant search. If you say you want flights from Rochester to Boston, the new phrase match should not show you flights from Boston to Rochester while the current broad match modifier would without adding the search as a negative keyword. Because of this, the new phrase match will now trigger from most searches that broad match modifier used to but not all.

How Will Broad Match Elimination Affect Me?

“So, what about my current broad match modifier keywords?” I can hear you saying right now. Well they will continue to work but their function will change. Keywords using the broad match modifier will begin to work the same as the new phrase match. They will encompass a larger audience like they always have without being totally broad but will now respect the order you place the keywords in when relevant. The when relevant part being determined by Google. Starting in July you will no longer be able to make keywords using broad match modifier and will have to use phrase match when you want to balance between broad and exact match.

Conversations with Google indicate that it is best to start using all new phrase match keywords. Despite broad match modifier having its function changed to match the new phrase match, Google will favor keywords using phrase match modifier in auctions.

What Should I Do About My Keywords?

You can keep using your broad match modifier keywords if you want, but their function will change. These changes could result in changes to the performance of your keywords since they will not necessarily reach the same audiences.

The transition to the new phrase and broad match modifier began in February and is supposed to be completed by July. There is no specific notice as to when the rollout will affect your keywords. So, if your keywords have been acting funny, your transition may have begun. Now is the time to start thinking with the new phrase match. In some cases, this will make no difference to performance, but it is worth keeping an eye on.

One component that will not be changing, at least until Google decides otherwise, is how match types work on negative keywords. So those are safe. For now. Negative keywords are keywords you do not want to show for. You can exclude entire phrases or just certain words. For example, colleges may want to exclude the word free from showing alongside their degrees.

If you do not want to miss the small group of people that the new phrase match will miss when broad match modifier captured, Google recommends using broad match to catch a wide audience. The search giant is saying that broad match keywords will look for signals from your Ad account and landing pages to rein in broad match. Our own early testing on this has found broad match to be triggering with more relevant search terms, but still resulting in inefficiencies. It has worked best as a way to mine for further keywords to use with phrase or exact match.


Larry Harrington