As part of its effort to make search results more relevant for users, yesterday Google announced major changes to keyword match type functionality. The changes are sweeping but do not require immediate campaign updates. That said, brands must revisit campaign set up over the next two to three months to ensure optimal performance.
Starting in mid-February, phrase match keywords on a small percent of Google traffic will serve on queries relevant not just to the specific word order of the phrase match, but to the keyword’s meaning.
Simultaneously, Google will change the broad match modifier (BMM) match type to adhere to the same methodology as phrase match, removing the need to have both match types live in an account. Google will phase out new BMM keywords in July 2021, although existing BMM keywords will remain functional for the foreseeable future.
Last, Google will update exact match keywords to ensure that literal matches to the keyword or misspellings will only match to the exact match keyword. These types of queries will no longer match to another keyword or different match type (phrase or broad) with a higher ad rank or bid. This means advertisers will no longer need to create complex constraints using campaign structure or negative keywords for search traffic to funnel appropriately.
Negative keyword match types will remain unchanged.
Google is prioritizing eight languages for initial rollout, including English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Russian. Changes will be implemented in every language by July.
Impact for advertisers
Updates to match types will not change smart bidding functionality or capabilities and should not require changes to KPI targets.
However, search accounts that heavily rely on BMM keywords should expect a decrease in traffic as a result of these more restrictive matching rules.
Campaigns that fully modify BMM keywords (e.g., “+Kitchen +Sink” instead of “+Kitchen Sink”) can expect single digit percent declines in impressions & clicks. However, campaigns using only partially modified BMM keywords can expect a larger decrease in traffic, as today, any non-modified words in a BMM keyword string act as full broad match and can serve on queries that do not contain every word in the keyword string. Once the BMM changes are live, this will no longer be the case.
But there’s some good news. The decrease in BMM volume will likely be offset by improved relevance in query matching. The changes should also increase phrase match keyword volume, but likely not to the scale of current BMM keyword volume. That additional volume will be driven by phrase match keywords becoming eligible to serve on queries that are relevant to the meaning of the keyword, not just ones that contain the keyword string in its exact order. BMM keywords historically would match into any query that contained all words in the keyword string, regardless of the desired intent of the keyword.
What to do next
As brands revise campaign setup in preparation for these changes, Kepler recommends that new keyword or campaign builds include phrase match instead of BMM. Existing BMM keywords should not be deprecated or transitioned to phrase match prior to Google’s full transition.
Until then, brands should closely monitor performance and search query reports to evaluate any changes resulting from new match type behaviors. Spend, impression and click volume can vary across phrase and BMM match types, so it will be crucial to adjust budgets accordingly.
After the full transition, and once brands understand how these changes have impacted campaign performance, they should assess whether exact and phrase match types drive the scale they need. If not, brands should consider testing into broad match keywords across select high performing terms.
To note, Bing has not communicated any changes to its match types. As Kepler learns more, we’ll share details and recommended actions.