Welcome to Getting Granular

The podcast where digital marketing experts from the agency Granular talk about the latest trends, tried and true best practices, and share their unfiltered thoughts about the digital marketing industry. Google Match Type Updates


Google is phasing out BMM, are they being evil? Some think so, and some think not. Tune in to this episode to find out what it means for you and what you should do about it. You can also check out our blog post.


What you’ll learn in this episode of Getting Granular:

  • Phasing out broad match modified (BMM) keywords (1:17)
  • Google’s example of how things will change(2:24)
  • The origination of BMM (4:12)
  • Why they are phasing it out (8:21)
  • What it means for advertisers (9:49)
  • What you should do about it (12:35)
  • Is Google being evil? (15:35)


Narrator: Welcome to Getting Granular, the podcast where digital marketing experts from the agency, Granular, talk about the latest trends, tried and true best practices, and share their unfiltered thoughts about the industry. Whether you’re here to learn how to grow your business, improve your digital skills, or just want to hear some Midwest PPC experts rant about digital media, you’ve come to the right place.

Dee: Thanks for listening to Getting Granular. I’m your host, Dee Medrano. And I’m a paid media account manager at Granular. On today’s episode we’ll be discussing yet another change in Google Ads, dun dun dun. Ever since Google used the phrase, don’t be evil, as its motto and in its corporate code of conduct. People have been using the phrase to judge every action they take as evil or not. With the latest change to the advertising platform, people are asking themselves again, is Google being evil? Some think so and some think not. Today, I am talking with my teammate, Mike Fleming, who is the director of paid media at Granular, about this change. Hi Mike, thanks for joining me today.

Mike: Hi, Dee. Thanks. Great to be joining you.

Dee: Awesome. What is this latest, big change people are talking about?

Mike: Okay. The change in question is the announcement that they’re phasing out, broad match modified keywords, and they’re changing how phrase match keywords function. So by July, 2021, you’re no longer going to be able to create broad match modifier terms. You’ll have to use broad or phrase or exact match, just like the olden days before broad match modified came out. What’s different than the olden days of though is that match types don’t work how they used to. As of February 18th of this year, phrase match started to basically work like broad match modifier. Not exactly, but basically. And some are calling this updated phrase match or broader phrase match, in jest, of course. Google is describing it in this way. Phrase match will expand now and it’ll cover additional broad match modifier traffic while continuing to respect word order when it’s important to the meaning. Google’s example of this, of how things will change.

Mike: They gave the phrase, “Moving services from New York City to Boston.” So in this phrase, basically, if you had that keyword search on phrase match, it would cover almost everything that broad match modified covered. Which broad match modified, if you had a plus in front of all the words, then it would cover any query that had those words in it, no matter what order they were in. So broader phrase match will cover almost all of that, except if Google’s AI thinks that the word order matters to what the searcher is looking for. So in the case of this phrase, “Moving from New York City to Boston,” would be totally different than the opposite of moving from Boston to New York City.

Mike: So as long as the ad system thinks the query is about moving from New York City to Boston, it will be eligible to show your ad then. So a query will also be eligible if the ad system deems the word order not to matter. For example, like if someone was searching for chicken dinner recipes. They would get results for chicken dinner recipes. Well, if someone searched for dinner recipes chicken. I’m not sure why someone would want to search for that, in that order, but people do it. If they did, it would mean essentially the same thing, right? And so both would be eligible and you’d receive essentially the same ad results.

Dee: Interesting. That’s very interesting. So why was BMM created in the first place?

Mike: Originally Google created this broad match modified keyword match type as really an unofficial match type. Because informed advertisers wouldn’t use broad match like Google wanted them to. Originally Google positioned this broad match match type as the match type that would boost conversions by basically going out and matching your ads to what the system thought was relevant queries that you haven’t added to your account yet. So if you added chicken dinner recipes, for example, it would go out and it might match you to turkey dinner recipes. Things like that. Because it would say, “Well, it’s not the exact keyword you have in your account, but it’s pretty closely related, so you probably want your ad to show, right? Because that’s going to get you more traffic and more conversions.” And so it’d match your ad to these, what the system thought were relevant queries, that you didn’t have in your account yet.

Mike: But the problem was, it was way too broad in what was considered relevant. So informed advertisers that would analyze their reports and the queries that their ads were showing on, weren’t seeing the best relevance and they were frustrated because you’re paying money for those clicks. And so ultimately what most advertisers came to conclude was the boost to conversions really wasn’t worth the increase in wasted click cost for most campaigns. So Google understand that, or they understood that, so they advertisers a way to control the broadness of broad match, right? So what they did was they allowed them to put pluses in front of specific words in their broad match keyword that absolutely had to be in the query. Right. So if there was one word in your broad match keyword type that you’re like, “This has to be in the query. You can’t change this. Don’t show my ad if this word isn’t there.”

Mike: You had more control by putting a plus in front of that. And it would tell the system to do that. So they figured that this would encourage more informed advertisers to expand their targeting beyond phrase and exact match, because that’s what people were now using. And it would get them to get on more relevant queries that those match types would cover, that that phrase and exact wouldn’t cover. Of course, because Google wants you to add more traffic and get more clicks and get more revenue. So ultimately what happened is advertisers jumped on this, but it wasn’t in the way that Google intended. So instead of just putting pluses in front of the essential words like Google thought people might do, or they were hoping people would do, most advertisers put them in front of every word.

Mike: This gave the highest level of control, because by restricting query matching to only those that had every word of the keyword in the query, regardless of word order, it gave the advertiser more control over where their ads were matching. And so, basically informed advertisers just still didn’t trust the system. They didn’t think the relevancy of the matching technology that Google had with broad match was good enough, even with like partially modifying their keyword choices. So BMM ended up being what I thought was a great solution. Because advertisers had all the options they needed to decide for themselves. How conservative or aggressive do I want to be with my keyword matching?

Dee: Absolutely. BMM was a great solution. So if it was so great, why are they switching back?

Mike: Yeah. There’s a couple of reasons for this. Number one, Google is claiming that the broadness of broad match isn’t as broad as it used to be. They’re saying their system has improved to truly only match broad match keywords with queries that have a fairly similar meaning. Now, the irony of this whole thing is that’s the same thing they said 10 years ago when people didn’t want to use broad match. So the question still remains, okay, you’re saying it’s gotten better, it’s gotten better, it’s gotten better. Is that true or not? And not only is that true across the board, is that going to be true in my account specifically? And then number two, Google has loosened their matching rules on phrase and exact match. So essentially there’s little that separates broad match modified from phrase match anymore. Because again, Google is saying their ability to decipher similar meaning between keywords and the queries they match them to has drastically improved. So instead of having two match types that do essentially the same thing, they’re saying they’re simplifying account management by using one match type instead.

Dee: Got it. That makes a lot of sense. What does that mean for us as advertisers that use the Google Ad system?

Mike: Yeah. So if you’re an advertiser, it means a few things. Number one, if you used broad match modified to put your pluses in front of some words and not others, you’re going to lose that more aggressive approach to gaining additional traffic because in July you won’t be able to add the pluses anymore. So you’ll have a choice of either going phrase match and using, if you already have phrase match keywords, you can just use those, because they’re matching has expanded. Or you can add new phrase match keywords, or you can go full broad match, if you want to try broad match out. And of course, broad match is going to be broader than modified broad was. So you’ll have to be paying attention to that. And then it also means you’ll see an increase on the phrase match keywords. And a decrease on the broad match, modified keywords.

Mike: As I said in the Google example about the moving services from New York City to Boston, phrase match will likely cover almost all of the previous broad match modified queries, but not all of them. And so that’s something to remember. And I think the third thing is you’ll likely see more duplicate search terms and irrelevant search terms if you use both match types. So if you’re using broad match modified and phrase match that are essentially behaving the same way, then it makes them both eligible to match to people’s queries. If that happens, and you have duplicate search terms matching to different ad groups throughout your account, you don’t get a consolidated view of the search term and its performance. So this can cause you to come to wrong conclusions with things like ad testing or bidding on keywords, ad groups and campaigns.

Mike: If you’re running an ad test that includes a keyword that’s matching to a certain query, but some of that data is matching in another campaign that you’re not doing a test in, then you’re not getting the full view of what’s going on.

Dee: Right.

Mike: And so with phrase mass expanding its reach, you’ll also likely see some new irrelevant search terms start to appear in your reports because it’s going to be matching to things that it didn’t match to before. So you want to make sure you keep your eye on new queries that might be coming in.

Dee: Absolutely. July is literally right around the corner. What should advertisers be doing about this change?

Mike: Yeah. I think because the two match types have started behaving the same way, I know initially when I read the news, my mind automatically went to, “I’ve got to go change all my broad match, modified keywords to phrase match.”

Dee: Right.

Mike: Because it’s going to happen anyways or whatever. But actually the truth is that you don’t need to do anything. If you have broad match, modifier keywords running and phrase match keywords running, you actually don’t need to do anything. In fact, Google is saying that additional tools will probably be rolled out for conversion in the future, if you wish to convert your keywords. If you want a cleaner account structure, you want to have consistent match types across an account. And then if traffic decreased too much and you want to get some of it back, you’ll have to use broad match.

Mike: Another thing that they should be doing is really be checking your search term reports for any newly poor matches to your phrase match keywords and add them as negative keywords. That’s another thing you can do. And then there are also scripts out there or different tools you can use to monitor what’s called N-grams, which looks across all your search terms and finds unique combinations of words. One word or two word or three word strings that are popular throughout all of your search terms and then analyzes how they perform. And you’ll probably want to do that as well if new types of phrases are showing up in your account because of the new match type and how it behaves. You’ll definitely want to monitor budgets if you segment campaigns by match type. If you had a certain budget on your phrase match keywords in a certain budget on your broad match modified. Like I said earlier, phrase match might go up and broad match might go down.

Mike: And so that might be something you want to keep in mind. And then you want to review Google’s keyword recommendations in the UI. In the Google Ads UI, they have recommendations tab that sometimes surfaces possible keywords you might want to add or it will also surface duplicate search terms as well. So keep your eyes on that. And then lastly, I would say test broad match. If Google is saying that broad matches now less broad, why not test it? If they’re using more signals, why not test it and see if you can discover some new keyword opportunities you might not be targeting yet?

Dee: Absolutely. These are all really great tips and things that we can implement as advertisers are right away. So what kinds of opinions have you heard from people around the digital advertising industry about this change? Are they shouting, Google is evil? Are they not? What are you hearing?

Mike: Yeah. The opinions vary. Like you said in the open, ever since Google came out with the, don’t be evil motto, everyone judges their behavior.

Dee: Yeah.

Mike: It’s like, they make a change, and people are like, “That’s evil.” And other people are like, “That’s not evil.” So there’s definitely been some different opinions thrown out there. I know one by Optmyzr’s, Frederick Vallaeys, he said, “There’s no such thing as a bad keyword, only bad bids.” So basically the idea that advertisers really shouldn’t care what queries their ads are shown for, so long as they get clicks at a price that makes sense. Considering what the conversion rate will be or the sales-per-click. And so advertisers really don’t care about keywords, they care about business growth and they want profits. So if the system is able to put the right bid on the right keyword and adjust those according to how they perform, then you really shouldn’t care about keywords.

Mike: And so the philosophy or what he’s proposing is that smart bidding can take care of this by setting a profitable bid for any query, no matter how weird it is. And so that’s kind of one angle is like be patient with the system, let it learn, let it do its thing and don’t worry so much. Now, for me, that opinion sounds really good in theory. But like I mentioned earlier, how well will the Google Ads system really be able to pull this off in a particular account? Maybe it’s gotten better in general on average, but that doesn’t mean in your account it’s better. It really still depends on factors like click volume, conversion volume, and semantic understanding by the system and stuff like that.

Mike: Ultimately we can’t just set it and forget it. We, humans, must really still work with and really how to use the machines appropriately to deliver our best results. And then I also saw a quote by Matt van Wagner, who spoke to Search Engine Land. And he said this, “Google controls the economics of the auction with its quality score and ranking calculations. If it controls everything, it can just sort of turn a dial and profitability goes up. And so I do think that Google is getting closer and closer to that point. And by pushing less control and more machine automation, that means they’re choosing who wins auctions. It’s a rigged game.” That’s a pretty intense opinion there on the other side.

Dee: Yes.

Mike: Right?

Dee: Yeah.

Mike: Yeah. I don’t know, ultimately, I don’t know if I fall on either side fully. I’m not one to say Google’s just always trying to be profitable necessarily, even though that is a business goal of theirs.

Dee: Yeah.

Mike: Ultimately, a lot of times these conversations of control and non-control are hard to deal with because on the one side Google is saying, “Hey, if we take more control, it’s going to help you may make less mistakes.” Especially the non-informed advertiser, the one that doesn’t have a professional managing their account, is just kind of trying to do it themselves on the weekends. They’re saying, “Hey, we’re helping by requiring less of you, the advertiser or the account manager.” And yeah, you might give up some efficiency with that, but ultimately that’s worth it if we save you time. And then on the other side, the less control people, give us the control, let us have freedom to decide how we want to use your system.

Mike: Yeah. It makes a lot of sense for those that are more educated and more informed and know the tricks of the trade and can get better results on their own with certain things. And so I see the arguments on both sides. Ultimately, whether the change seems be advantageous or not, it’s going to happen. So basically, hey, we need to start preparing each account appropriately. We need to monitor how these things affect performance. And doing that is going to allow us to make the right adjustments and just keep driving profitability in our accounts.

Dee: Absolutely. I just want to thank you, Mike, for enlightening us with this topic. I think it’s important for our jobs and for us to stay up to date with what’s happening in our industries. I think you provided some great tips. You gave us some great history of what happened in the past, why this is changing and how we can prepare for it. You’re definitely a genius. So I really appreciate your time.

Mike: Stop.

Dee: Stop it. I really appreciate your time and sitting down with us and discussing this today. Don’t miss any of our PPC tips, tricks and news on what’s happening in the digital marketing world. Don’t forget to subscribe. And thank you very much all for listening. Have a great day.