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The Tug Take – Preparing for Google sunsetting BMM Keywords

by David Shonoiki | 12.02.2021

Google Ads are changing Match Types

From February 2021, Google will be phasing out Broad Match Modifier keywords. This will affect the keywords that PPC accounts currently have, and the keywords that can be created going forward. For a reminder of what keyword Match Types are, please see below ‘What are Match Types?’. However, if you are familiar with match types, please skip to ‘What are the changes to Match Types & when will they happen?’.

What are Match Types?

Keywords in PPC accounts pick up searches based on the match types that are selected when the keywords are added. Prior to the upcoming changes, match types were as follows:

Broad Match Modifier (BMM) – denoted by pluses in front of words e.g. +running +trainers. This could be used to trigger ads with searches that contain the same words in any order. For instance, ads may have shown for “where can I buy trainers for running”.

Broad Match – catches the same searches as Broad Match Modifier keywords, but also covers searches containing words with similar meanings, which BMM may not. This is a ‘catch all’ tool. It can help pick up large volumes of searches but can be less precise. It picked up the searches you wanted to reach as well as searches you were not interested in (machine learning is improving its precision).

Phrase Match – denoted by quotation marks e.g. “running trainers”, could be used to pick up searches containing the phrase, but the order previously had to remain the same. For instance, ads may have shown for “order running trainers” but may not have shown for “where can I buy trainers for running”. This is changing.

Exact Match – denoted by square brackets e.g. [running trainers] is used for picking up searches of those exact words or close variations where the meaning is identical.

What are the changes to Match Types and when will they happen?

From July 2021, you will no longer be able to create BMM keywords. There will be a transition. From 18th February 2021, BMM Keywords will automatically mirror Phrase Match without making any changes. Phrase Match will also pick up more searches, accounting for some of the gaps created by the sunsetting of BMM.

What will the end of BMM mean for BMM keywords in your account?

BMM keywords currently in your account will continue to be, but will begin to pick up searches that Phrase Match would. That said, many search terms were already captured by both Phrase Match and BMM (please see diagram above), however, not all were.

Therefore, as always, stay on top of search terms reports to better understand any new searches that are triggering your ads. Using this information to build on and optimise the performance of your keywords could positively impact performance. Furthermore, make sure that additional negative keywords are added to your accounts where any unwanted searches begin to come through.

Why is Google removing BMM?

Google aims to simplify account management. This may just be another update, but it is not isolated. The timeline of recent updates to match types are well documented*, which may reflect a trend. Over the years, Exact Match has become looser, meaning it could show for more search queries that were not the exact keyword, but still closely matched.  BMM becoming Phrase Match is now more indicative of a road to fewer match types.

The simplification extends to the amount of search terms you see in the search terms report. In 2020, Google limited the list of search terms you can see to “significant searches” – this reduced the amount of information you saw in search terms reports.

The simplification can also mean less visibility. For instance, you may not see the infrequent search terms anymore, which previously came through and could spark keyword ideas. However, as with previous changes, we’ll adapt.

What can we do about the changes to Match Types?

With things becoming more uniform in terms of account management, how can we get or stay ahead of competition? There is and will continue to be an increasing reliance on other levers in order to get ahead of competition, for instance, utilising audiences and Smart Bidding. Google have called out improvements in machine learning, which will facilitate the transition from BMM to Phrase Match.

What about searches that were captured by BMM, but not by Phrase Match?

It may be useful to test some Broad Match keywords. Broad Match keywords were often infrequently used due to the array of potential searches that could previously trigger ads; however, this is changing. With Smart Bidding and improvements in machine learning, bid strategies are becoming better at identifying intent. This also applies to Broad Match keywords which could help account for gaps not covered by Phrase Match. 

Thus, if reviewing performance and search terms reports suggests you’re missing out on searches, consider testing some Broad Match keywords. If current trends continue, adding more broad keywords may even prepare your account for a future with fewer match types.

How can we prepare for changes to BMM and Phrase Match?

Look at your BMM keywords, consider areas you may need to expand on e.g. where word order may reflect different intent, but you provide products or services that satisfy the alternative meanings. Using Google’s example, when BMM transitions to Phrase Match, the BMM keywords +moving +services +boston +to +nyc, may no longer trigger ads for the search “moving services nyc to boston”. However, you may wish to show for both. Therefore, where word order may change the meaning of your keywords, consider including variations that you still want your ads to appear for.

What are the key take-outs?

What can we do now?

Speak with your agency team to discuss next steps best suited for your account. This may be moving away from segmentation by match type, testing some new Broad Match keywords, or being even more watchful over search terms reports and assessing the initial impact, if any. This change will affect different accounts differently, so stay vigilant and prepare for change.