Another Match Bites the Dust: Google Ads to Kill Broad Match Modified

Under the guise of making things easier for businesses to reach searchers, Google is folding Broad Match Modified (BMM) into Phrase Match around the middle of February, effectively killing BMM.

But, to be honest, they have so completely changed their match types’ intent over the last couple of years that none of them really have any meaning anymore. Exact Match hasn’t been exact, in fact, for years. 

And that upsets me. Because while Google says it’s in the best interest of their advertisers, that’s not what I’m seeing. Clients who we’ve spent a lot of time and effort on optimizing the keywords that produced the results they needed — based on cost per acquisition or return on ad spend — are seeing those efforts slide away as unprofitable keywords leach back into their accounts.

If you manage ad campaigns, you know that sometimes plurals of terms don’t perform as well as the singular (or vice versa). The same can be true with word order variations of keywords. As a result, you include those keywords in your account with lower bids that reflect the decreased performance. But Google doesn’t follow those bidding signals — they can, and will, match to whatever keyword they want, even within the same ad group. 

And please don’t tell me that Smart Bidding solves this problem. I’m not a Smart Bidding hater — I do use it, where it makes sense. But Smart Bidding doesn’t solve the issue of the match type blurring — not when you see a click costing $60 or $100 because the algorithm is so convinced that the searcher will convert.

But back to the change Google just announced. BMM is going away but will live on, in a modified form, within Phrase Match.

Of all the match type changes they’ve made, this one is probably the one that I’m most okay with (at least right now, without seeing the results of the change). Why?

I don’t rely on BMM terms, anyway. I may use them when an account is new to me, or for clients who continually bring in new search terms. But I feel very strongly that part of a well set up account is doing extensive keyword research before building any new campaigns, by using the existing account search queries, Google’s Keyword Planner, and Microsoft Advertising Intelligence tool. In other words, I generate a comprehensive list of keywords for each campaign rather than relying on BMM.

And within those keyword lists, I use BMM judiciously — for instance, when an ad group is predominately made up of Exact and Phrase Match terms. I also run BMM to mine search term data for keywords (as we do with Dynamic Search Ads campaigns), but when the efficiency is gone or we see Google getting a bit wild with their mapping, I pause them or reduce the bid so that it’s in line with account goals.

Folding BMM into Phrase Match just simplifies things a bit. 

We may lose a bit of volume because Phrase Match will continue to respect word order –when it’s “important to the meaning” — while BMM shows words in any order. But the tradeoff of not having to maintain another match type — especially one that tends to step all over existing keywords that already live within the same ad group, campaign, or account — is well worth it, in my opinion.

This leads me to one other reason why I’m slightly hopeful about the change. The Exact Match changes that we’ve dealt with so far have had profound effects on my clients. Google has changed word order or dropped critical words from the keyword, such as:

  • Dropping the term “light” from the keyword [light pole banner];
  • Replacing “school” with “student” in the keyword [school discounts];
  • Dropping “equipment” from [school equipment supplies];
  • Dropping “pond” from the term [pond water pump].

I am hopeful based on this line at the bottom of the announcement: “In addition, keyword matching is now more predictable: an exact match keyword that is identical to a query is now always preferred as long as it’s eligible to match.” 

How does that relate to the examples I gave above? I am already advertising on [pole banner] and [school supplies], yet I see those terms pop up in a number of my ad groups due to Google’s habit of dropping keywords. I’m hoping that this will help prevent that issue. The challenge with modifying keywords — such as mapping [student discounts] to [school discounts] — that will still be a problem, as will dropping the word “pond” so that they show on [water pump]. 

However, it could mean that my team and I can spend less time chasing negatives and more time on other improvements.

Now, if they would only make Exact Match exact again, I’d be really happy.

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