Over the last few years, Google has been tinkering with match types. In July 2019, Google announced that Phrase match and Broad Match Modified would start matching queries with the same meaning (rather than words) as your keywords. Then in February 2020, Exact Match and Phrase Match were expanded to cover plurals, misspellings, and abbreviations.
What is happening this time?
On February 4th 2021, Google announced that the matching of Phrase match will be further expanded, and more closely resemble the behavior of Broad Match Modified, and they therefore will be sunsetting the ability to add modifiers (+) to broad match keywords. Current Broad Match Modified keywords will continue to serve, with slightly different matching, but from July 2021 you will no longer be able to create new broad keywords with modifiers (+) in the string.
Why is this happening?
As mentioned above, Google says it has been getting better at learning the intent behind a query, and is therefore more confident it can correctly map advertisements to queries. As that ability improves, the differences between Phrase Match and Broad Match Modified diminishes.
Moving forward, there will be three match types, each with specific benefits:
- Exact match: for precision
- Broad match: for reach
- Phrase match: in Google’s words, to combine the best of both
Your Phrase Match keywords can start matching against queries in a different word order, meaning that if you are currently bidding on keywords in Phrase Match, you can expect an increase in impressions, clicks, and hopefully conversions.
Conversely, if you are bidding on Broad Match Modified keywords, expect a decrease in volume, as Google will now take into account word order. For example, the BMM keyword +train +London +to +Paris will now no longer match against the query ‘train Paris to London’, as the search engine understands the direction of travel is different.
What do you have to do?
While the move signals Google’s confidence in correctly matching query and ads, there’s still a couple of things you need to do. We list some of them below, but definitely get in touch with your account representative for more tailored recommendations.
If you currently have phrase match keywords
Your keywords will now be eligible to cover much more queries, and so you can expect an increase in volume. Consider the following:
- Review your negative keywords: as Phrase match keywords can cover more searches, you might want to review your negative keywords to avoid appearing against queries you do not want to cover. Remember Marin One Insights provide you with performance based negative keyword recommendations, so keep an eye on those!
- Review campaign budgets: if you split out campaigns by match type, and you have specific campaigns for Phrase Match, review the budgets of those campaigns as they can now cover more ground. Again, Marin One insights will automatically flag campaigns limited by budgets, so the Marin One insights tab is here to help you with the transition.
- Create alerts to keep track of spend increases: if you are currently bidding on Phrase match keywords, consider setting up an alert for keywords with strong changes in volume, as those may highlight opportunities for negative keywords, or for expansion!
- Bidding on Phrase match: with regards to bidding, three things are important:
- More volume on Phrase Match will allow the bidding engine to react quickly to this change. If required, the algorithm will leverage data from Broad Match Modified keywords to further improve bid calculations.
- Keep an eye on your cost per click: we expect advertisers to quickly start adding Phrase Match keywords, meaning that competition and hence CPCs could increase. Negative keywords (see above) and high quality creatives (see below) will be paramount, but also consider adding an Impression Share cap to avoid CPCs increasing too much. An Impression Share cap stops the algorithm from increasing bids, even if from a CPL/ROAS perspective that may make sense, and is a great way of limiting CPCs.
- Marin allows you to set match type specific boosts. Consider switching these off in the short term while figuring out if additional negatives are required with the wider matching
- Review Dynamic Keyword Insertion: dynamic keyword insertion allows you to insert the user query in your ad copy, which usually results in higher CTR and better quality score. While you adjust to the additional matching, and potentially add negative keywords, carefully consider if you want Dynamic Keyword Insertion creatives to be live.
If you are currently predominantly using Exact and Broad Match Modified
The good news is, your Broad Match Modified keywords will continue to serve, even after the creation of new Broad Match Modified keywords is no longer possible after July.
- Create alerts: opposite to the alert for your Phrase Match, set up alerts for volume decreases on your Broad Match Modifier keywords. This will allow you to identify where the new matching is impacting your spend, and take action accordingly. Also keep an eye on the MarinOne history tab, where you can see account wide performance over time filtered by match type. A great place to see the impact of these changes.
- Start adding phrase match keywords: your Broad Match Modified keywords will continue to run, but might match against fewer queries. Consider adding Phrase Match keywords to maintain volume. The Marin One insights provide performance based recommendations of well performing Broad Match Modified keywords you are not currently buying in Phrase Match.
If you are using Marin Bidding
Marin Bidding will adapt automatically: it’ll see volume and performance shift from match types, and automatically adjust your bids to account for that. There’s a couple of nuances to be aware of though:
- If you are using Awareness Targeting for Phrase Match, keep in mind that volume and competition may increase, so keep an eye on your average cost per click. To limit fluctuations, either widen your target Impression Share, or consider setting up a bid cap. Especially when using Awareness Targeting, reviewing your budgets will be important.
- If you have match type specific bid strategies, consider adjusting the targets and settings of your Phrase Match bid strategies closer to those of your BMM/Broad Bid Strategies, as they’ll start picking up volume from those match types. Also consider setting an Impression Share cap to limit the increase of CPCs.
- Consider removing match type boosts in the short term. While match type specific boosts offer great flexibility, with search volumes shifting between match types, we’d recommend switching them off, or limiting their values, in the short term.
As usual, we expect other publishers to follow suit. The continuous changes to match types also makes you wonder what is next, and for how long we will continue to have three different match types. Whatever changes Google throws at advertisers, we’re here for you. Click here if you need help with this change.