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Google to Sunset Broad Match Modified Keywords; Changes How Phrase Match Operates

By: Cody Albright    February 26, 2021

If there’s one thing marketers have come to learn in recent years, it’s that the machines are here to take over the world. OK, so that’s probably not true at all (…?), but we are seeing the continued adoption and evolution of machine learning to allow for more targeted and scalable ways for businesses to reach potential customers. So there should be no surprise that Google is making changes to how search keywords operate within Google Ads. Since 2014, the Tech Giant has shifted the focus of showing ads based on specific, well-defined keyword matches (e.g., broad, phrase or exact) and been moving toward a more intent-based approach of looking at search queries.

    A Brief Lesson on Phrase and Broad Match Modified Keywords

For more context, it’ll probably be helpful to understand how phrase and broad match modified keywords operate.
A phrase match keyword, denoted by quotations at the beginning and end of a text string, historically considered what words are in the keyword phrase, as well as the order of these words. This match type is a nice blend of targeting and scale.

Conversely, broad match modified keywords allowed search marketers to add a modifier (e.g., a “+” symbol) to their broad match keywords to tell Google that the word with a “+” behind it shouldn’t be altered to match a particular query. While broad match is the broadest way to match search queries, the modifier gave an element of control.
What Google has noticed is that a lot of search marketers are putting the broad match modifier symbol in front of every word within a keyword, basically turning the keyword into a quasi-phrase match.

    So, What’s Changing?

Given the propensity for the modifier to be applied to all words within a keyword string, Google is simply updating how phrase match works while sunsetting broad match modified keywords.

Basically, we can start to think of phrase match as being able to match to more queries by adding more matched terms within the phrase match string, while still taking into consideration the intent behind the search based on word order.

    How Will This Affect Current Campaigns and What’s Next?

According to Google, these changes have already gone into effect as of mid-February 2021. There is no immediate need to migrate keywords or modify anything within the accounts since current broad match modified and phrase match keywords will behave almost identically to one another; however, come July 2021, search marketers will no longer have the option to create broad match modified keywords.

As with any change from Google, accounts should be closely monitored for any changes or unexpected fluctuations to campaign performance. Thankfully, most businesses shouldn’t see much impact from this update, if any at all, and any fluctuations that do occur should be easily remedied.