The end of Google’s Broad Match Modifier and why we care…

March 4, 2021 Jose DeCarvalho

Google’s Search and Shopping platforms are still the bedrock of most retailers’ digital revenue, from both new and existing customers. Like it or not, most shopping journeys start with a search on Google (or Amazon!). Many that start with discovery on social channels also have a search as part of their conversion path. So, even if you’re not a PPC manager, it is worth paying attention because search is now such an integral part of retail overall.

SO! Google just made a major change to how they group keywords. This doesn’t happen often so it’s a big thing. It was announced on the 4th of February that our beloved BMM (broad match modifier) will start being phased out. For those of us who don’t do search every day, here’s a quick summary:

  • Exact match targets the whole keyword: this is about very specific word combinations in a specific order. By choosing exact match, you have tighter control on copy and/or landing page relevance and so can be more competitive in the auction. For this reason we advise over 70% of your spend should be on exact match.
  • Broad match targets ‘keywords that contain…’: as the name suggests, this extends your reach to all searches including particular keywords. However your copy will not be so relevant to every result so CPCs will often be higher.
  • Phrase match and broad match modifier give a balance of both: these allow you to target more precisely within broad match.

Why the change?

Ultimately, Google is always looking for ways to monetise their finite inventory of searches by delivering more relevant results that lead to a sale. Their AI is designed to reconcile two commercial priorities:

1) Google’s need to generate the most advertising revenue from every search
2) The brands’ need to maximise their revenue from that investment

…in that order*! With the huge amounts of data involved, AI is better equipped than humans to do this and this change is another step to give the AI more freedom to find opportunities that the current setup misses.

*Important note: Your brand is probably NOT interested in maximising revenue for Google – you are solely focused on sustainable customer growth within your target economics. More on this later.

What is really going to change?

Honestly, it looks more like a merger plus a rebrand with the Phrase Match. Over the last 6+ years, Phrase Match has been warming the bench watching traffic go by (pun intended) for majority of the campaigns and Google has finally noticed its redundancy.

To put this in context, when we looked at 250,000 keywords across 20 of our accounts, only 0.5% of keywords were phrase. Other sources such as (intelligent automation tool) claim that a mere 2.4% of spend by all the agencies and accounts on their platform comes from phrase keywords.
Here’s an illustration of what the changes will mean for the BMM keyword +best +trainers:

From February 2021 phrase match keywords will take the new form. You can continue to create BMM keywords in your account until July 2021 after which the function will be retired.

There will be traffic changes; there will be an increase to phrase match due to the new variations available and BMM may see a drop in some cases. Once the rollout is complete (by April 2021), users will begin converting BMMs into Phrase and Phrase will rise up again! There are plenty of tools available to make the conversion easier and many, like us, will be building it in-house.

What actions should you be taking?

  • With these changes, there will also be an upgrade to Broad keywords which will be looking at additional signals in your account to deliver more relevant searches
  • Stop the creation of broad match modifier keywords and focus on phrase.
  • Look at creating DSA campaign which are linked to your feed to compensate for the lack of broad reach.
  • Run an extensive SQR and add keywords or remove where needed. We have found that campaigns that become to granule are moving away from the AI Automation Google has focused on and will spread data too thin for decision making.
  • Ensure you are taking advantage of all AI opportunities Google has available such as DDA for attribution, RSA for creative, Smart bidding and Audiences at observation level.
  • This is a perfect opportunity to clean up negative keywords and take advantage of shared libraries if you’re not doing so already.

What is the bigger picture here?

If you leave everything up to Google’s AI, you get the balancing act mentioned above. When you introduce human oversight, you can adjust the emphasis and apply insight that Google may not have. For example, some products are more profitable than others or certain keywords deliver customers with greater lifetime value. This, combined with your 1st party audience data, can give you the edge in the auctions. That’s why we have a dedicated digital team here at more2, to help our clients tilt the auctions in their favour.

The recent changes are likely to give more control to the AI which should lead to better outcomes overall. We’re only interested in better outcomes for our brands though so we’ll continue to use a healthy blend of automation and human intervention to plot a path through it. We believe that this change will save us time in the long run but we’ll always maintain a backup for keyword mining such as DSA (dynamic search ads) linked to product feed for more control and keyword growth. Some of our teams use this method simultaneously with BMMs so this will probably become more valuable in the next months.

If you would like to get in touch to find out how we could help, drop us a line at

Thanks for reading,
Jose, Head of Search at more2

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