Goodbye Modified Broad Match Type

Google is Phasing Out Modified Broad Match Type

Yet another questionable change to Google Ads is coming our way. Could this be a push to influence PPC marketers to use broad match keywords combined with smart bidding?

What Is Happening?

Google is phasing out the beloved and most useful keyword matching option: modified broad match (such as “+why +google”).

The most important aspect of this matching type is that the keyword terms do not have to be in the same order in the search query in order for an ad to be triggered. Actually, Google says it best here:

Legacy Broad Match Modifier behavior

BMM terms that you designate with “+” can match to any part of a search. Additional words may appear in the search before, after, or in between your “+” terms. For example, the broad match modified keywords +red +shoes can match a search for “shoes for sale that are red” or “red men’s shoes,” but not for “blue shoes” or “red hiking boots.” This extra degree of specificity can help increase how relevant searches are to your ads, and improve your clickthrough (CTR) and conversion rates. The instructions below will help you set up BMM.”

Say Goodbye to Modified Broad Match and Hello to the New Phrase Match

From Google: “To give you more control and better reach, we’re bringing the best of broad match modifier into phrase match. As a result, phrase match will expand to cover additional broad match modifier traffic, while continuing to respect word order when it’s important to the meaning.”

If you’ve been trying to keep up with the changes that Google has been making with match types, you might have realized that match type functionality has become more and more ambiguous. The exact mechanisms of the match types have been blurred, and seem to be trending toward reliance upon artificial intelligence.

Phrases like “while continuing to respect word order when it’s important to the meaning” obviously leave questions as to whether the new phrase match will trigger ads when the keyword terms are out of order in the search query. To ad confusion, read the below passage from Google:

“For example, the phrase match keyword “moving services NYC to Boston.” will continue to cover searches like “affordable moving services NYC to Boston.” It will also cover searches that traditionally only matched under broad match modifier, such as “NYC corporate moving services to Boston.” Phrase match won’t show ads for searches where the direction is reversed (for example, people looking to move from “Boston to New York City”).”

We plan to reach out for more clarification. Google does say that “Both phrase match and broad match modifier keywords will (in 2 weeks) now match user searches that include the meaning of your keyword.”

Timeline of the Changes

The transition will begin 2 weeks from February 4, 2021 for English ads.

  • “During the transition, you will still be able to create BMM keywords using the BMM notation (+keyword). BMM keywords will behave the same as the updated phrase match using the quotation marks (“keyword”). Therefore, it’s recommended to only create phrase match keywords going forward.
  • Broad match modifiers will no longer operate on a word within the keyword. If you use a keyword such as +moving services, the operator will now apply to both words, similar to +moving +services or “moving services”.
  • In July 2021, you’ll no longer be able to create new broad match modifier keywords. However, your existing BMM keywords will continue to serve using the new matching behavior.
  • You will still be able to edit your keyword bids and URL, however, if you try to edit the keyword text the keyword match type will be updated to phrase.”

First a Decrease in Transparency with Search Queries, and Now a Push to Use Broad Match

On September 20, 2020 Search Engine Land reported that Google had begun limiting the search term information available to marketers to “only include terms that were searched by a significant number of users.” We’ve already experienced this happening.

Going forward, we might need to use broad match keywords to capture relevant traffic depending upon the expansion capabilities of the new phrase match. Broad match keywords are the most expansive of the match types and will likely trigger ads for numerous irrelevant search queries. This was not really much of an issue in the past because we could simply filter out irrelevant words and phrases by examining the Search Terms page.

Now however, we have greatly lost the ability to do that.


The transition will begin 2 weeks from February 4, 2021 for English ads, and starting in July 2021 modified broad match keywords and phrase match keywords will use the same matching functionality.

The biggest question we have is whether the new phrase match keywords will trigger ads for search queries that use the keyword terms out of order. If not, then it might be necessary to either a) add permutations of the phrase match keywords such as “denver lawyer” and “lawyer denver,” or, use broad match keywords.



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