According to a recent announcement, by mid-February Google will begin the rollout of changes to phrase match and broad match modifier in an effort to make it easier for brands to reach customers, no matter how they’re searching.
The update is in response to advertisers who were using phrase match and potentially missing relevant queries due to the specific restrictions for phrase match. Additionally, advertisers using the broad match modifier were potentially reaching queries that were not actually relevant to their business.
In the following article, we outline how match types work, what Google is changing (as it relates to phrase and broad match), and how our experts anticipate this will impact advertisers in 2021.
Google Match Types 101
Before we dive into Google’s recent match type update, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of how match types work.
Google ads appear on search pages based on a searcher’s query (e.g. red cowboy boots) and its match to keywords advertisers identified as relevant to their products (e.g. cowboy boots).
For example, if someone is searching for red cowboy boots, the search they use – such as ‘red cowboy boots’ should correlate to keywords identified to advertisers who sell related products, such as ‘cowboy boots’. Google ads appear when searchers search something that matches keywords advertisers have identified are relevant to their products. For example, an advertiser who sells cowboy boots might include ‘boot’ as a keyword for an Google ad campaign.
Today, you’re able to reach people with the following keyword match types:
- Exact match for precision – Exact match targeting is a keyword setting that allows an ad to show only when someone searches for the exact phrase of a keyword or close variations of the exact phrase of the keyword.
- Broad match for reach – Broad match is good for discovery and overall diversity of search queries.
- Phrase match and broad match modifier for a balance of both
How will Google’s update to broad match and phrase match make it easier to reach the right customers on Search?
According to Google’s announcement on Wednesday:
To give you more control and better reach, we’re bringing the best of broad match modifier into phrase match. As a result, phrase match will expand to cover additional broad match modifier traffic, while continuing to respect word order when it’s important to the meaning. This makes it easier to reach customers and manage keywords in your account.
With these improvements, you can reach the searches you want just by using phrase match—without worrying about the searches you don’t want. Let’s say you’re a moving company that wants to reach people interested in moving out of New York City. With the updated phrase match, you can reach people looking to move from NYC to Boston, for example, without showing up for people looking to move from Boston to NYC.
We asked our leading experts how they anticipate this change will impact advertisers:
“We are excited about the opportunities improved keyword matching technology will bring to our clients. These changes will help advertisers continue to scale their messages to the right individuals with a greater emphasis on the desired meaning of the query occurring.”
– Pat Hayden, Group VP, Acquisition Media at Tinuiti
Google provided examples to illustrate how matching behavior will change after this update:
Is the broad match modifier going away completely?
No, not right away. According to Google, the changes will begin to roll out in two weeks (mid-February) and will continue over several months (through July).
Here’s a closer look at the timeline:
Mid-February 2021 – Both phrase match and broad match modifier keywords will begin to transition to this new matching behavior. Because this behavior will be applied to both match types, you won’t have to take any immediate action—you’ll keep your performance data and have no need to migrate your keywords.
By July 2021 – Once the new behavior has been rolled out globally, you’ll no longer be able to create new broad match modifier keywords. However, existing broad match modifier keywords will continue to serve under the new behavior.
Pro-tip: Starting now, Google recommends creating new keywords in phrase match going forward. Negative keyword matching will not be impacted by this change.
Google’s provided a list of best practices for advertisers, as they prepare for the shift in matching behavior. You can check it out here.
Will current broad match keywords convert to phrase match or continue running as they currently are?
According to Google, broad match keywords will continue as they are. If desired, after the full launch in April, if they wish to convert broad match modifier keywords to another match type like phrase or broad, you can bulk update the match type in the Google Ads UI or use Editor.
Pro-tip: It is important to wait until the changes have fully rolled out before you convert or remove broad match modifier keywords or you might experience a loss in volume.