Data & Performance

Google expands phrase match and stops support for broad match modifier: what you need to know

Written by Pim van Helten on 19, Feth 2021

It’s no secret that Google’s keyword match types are effective features for online advertising. It’s also no secret that Google constantly tries to improve Google Ads. This time, they’ve released an update for its keyword match types to increase ad relevance.

The update will expand Google’s phrase match with broad match modifier traffic, bringing the best of both worlds together. Broad match modifier as a single feature will no longer be supported. The announcement means an end to broad match modifier as we know it.  

Before getting into what this means for your ad campaigns, let’s take a closer look at how the two match types currently work.

Breaking down broad match modifier & phrase match

Google has three keyword match types: exact match, phrase match, and broad match. This update will affect phrase match and broad match, so let’s focus on them. 

With broad match, ads show up on searches related to your keywords, but don’t necessarily have to include the keyword terms. Let’s say you’re selling women’s belts, your ad can also show up on searches like “women’s pants,” or “women’s accessories”. It’s what Google calls “loose matching”. 

If you’re targeting a more specific audience, phrase match is the better choice. Phrase match displays ads on searches that include the meaning of your keywords. So that same ad selling women’s belts would also show up on searches like “ladies’ belts.” Google names this “moderate matching”. 

Simply put, phrase match is more targeted compared to broad match. It ensures your ads are showing to customers who are most likely to search for your products. 

So, what’s changing?

Phrase match will expand to cover broad match modifier traffic, while broad match will be phased out. At the moment, broad match doesn’t take the word order of search queries into account. But with the update, the new phrase match will continue to respect word order when it’s important to the meaning of the query. 

Let's break it down with an example. 

Say you’re advertising moving services from New York (NYC) to Boston. Right now, your ad will show up in searches for “moving services from NYC to Boston.” But it will also show up on searches for “moving services from Boston to NYC.”

After the update, the same ad will only show up in searches for “moving services from NYC to Boston” and not the opposite direction.

                   Source Google

Why it matters

The update makes it easier to reach the right target audience by giving you more control and improving your reach. It also simplifies the way you manage your keywords. You won't have to spend hours curating long keyword lists, which gives you more time to focus on other aspects of your campaigns.  

But every silver lining has a cloud, and there are bound to be some short-term disruptions. That’s why the changes are being deployed gradually. Google anticipates that the rollout will be completed in July. At that point, you won’t be able to create new broad match keywords anymore. Don’t worry though - your existing broad match keywords will be integrated into the new phrase match. 

Brace for impact

To make the most out of Google’s update, here’s what we recommend: 

1. Create new keywords with phrase match

Support for broad match modifier will end in a few months, so it’s a good idea to start creating new keywords with phrase match. You can continue using negative keywords - they won’t be affected by the update. 

2. Keep an eye on your performance metrics

The new matching behavior may cause short-term traffic fluctuations. Don’t worry if your metrics are a little off at first, but make sure to monitor your ad performance and make the necessary adjustments. 

3. Check your recommendations page

Google Ads has an entire recommendation section devoted to helping you improve your campaigns. Make sure to check in regularly for keyword optimization tips. 

4. Maintain keyword consistency

It’s always important to remember to keep your keywords consistent across your ad copy and landing pages, as this will increase your ad relevancy.

5. Consider smart bidding 

In case you’re worried about maintaining your reach, use broad match together with smart bidding. This combination makes it easier to meet your performance marketing objectives. 

In the short-term, this update might be overwhelming. You’ll need to spend time adjusting your current campaigns, and make a plan to move forward. Over time, however, these changes will work in your favor - saving you time and helping you reach the right customers more easily. One thing is for sure though, Google is certainly trying to simplify its offering. 

Pim van Helten

Pim van Helten


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