Wave Goodbye to BMM; Phrase Match to Take Over

Wave Goodbye to BMM; Phrase Match to Take Over

On 4 February 2021, Google announced that they’re retiring the Broad Match Modifier (BMM) keyword match type, as they intend to merge BMM functionality with Phrase Match (PM). As of July 2021, you’ll no longer be able to create new BMM keywords, but Google will still honour any existing ones in your campaigns.

If you’re not familiar with the keyword match types, our beloved BMM was always a handy way to cast a broad net without getting a deluge of irrelevant search queries. So it’s no surprise that PPC specialists everywhere are mourning the loss of this handy match type.

What does the merger of Phrase & BMM mean?

For those of you who need a match type refresher, you can check out our breakdown of the keyword match types and how they behave.

Essentially, BMM allowed us to put a modifier, or “+” in front of certain words to tell Google that these words are mandatory in a search query. It meant that as long as a search included those words with modifiers, no matter the order of the words, it could trigger your ad to appear for that search.

Phrase match narrowed it further than this. It allowed us to put double quotation marks around groups of words to tell Google that they’re mandatory in a search query. For example, if my phrase match keyword was “wine glasses”, a user would need to have that precise phrase in their search (with the words in that same order) for my ad to appear.

Google will now use phrase match to cover the types of queries that may have previously been caught by BMM. But it goes further than that; Google now cares more about the meaning and intent of a search rather than the exact words you use.

For example, if my campaign targets “lawn mowing services” as a phrase match keyword, my ads could now show for a search such as “get someone to cut my grass”. Google thinks this is basically the same thing with the same intent, even if they didn’t use the words in your keyword.

Google Ads BMM Phrase Match Lawn Mowing Example | Vine Street Digital

(Infographic source)

Why would Google abandon BMM?

Google’s argument is that search has become more about intent and less about the particular words people use. If BMM and phrase match are both about finding reach while still staying on message, then it’s redundant to keep them as two separate match types. Or, as Google puts it;

“With these improvements, we’ve seen that phrase match and broad match modifier often serve the same use cases and that you can reach more of the right customers through a combination of the two.” (Source)

There’s also the argument that this simplifies keyword management and gets you better reach with your campaigns. In the old system, if you put in a keyword with particular words in it and someone searches for something that means the same thing but doesn’t match your words, you wouldn’t show up.

So, intent-based matching helps you to reach the right people, without having to add tonnes of keyword variations (and manage them daily).

This sounds okay, what’s all the fuss about?

While it sounds like Google is acting in your best interest to find the right customers, we need to remember that Google’s objective is to make money. Google has been losing market share since 2016, so it’s not surprising they want to find a way for you to spend more on ad clicks.

Previously, with the traditional match types, if the search didn’t match the exact words, you simply wouldn’t come up – meaning you don’t have to spend unnecessarily. Now, Google can take the liberty to show you whenever they feel the intent is right, creating more chances for clicks and for ad revenue.

This kind of change is part of a series of changes that are broadening up search results and giving advertisers less control.

In 2017, Google announced that exact match was no longer exact; they’d allow all sorts of close variants including a rewording and reordering of words in the search. Then in September 2020, Google announced that instead of showing all search terms from users, they’d only show search terms that had a “significant number of users”. This means advertisers can no longer rule out all irrelevant queries, just the ones Google was willing to show them.

You can see why advertisers are frustrated; we can’t tell Google exactly what we want, and we can’t rule out every irrelevant search. Now Google will take more liberty with showing our ads for even more searches, and we won’t necessarily be able to see what they’re deciding.

Campaigns for the new era

There’s not much we can do except to move on and adjust. With BMM disappearing and keywords matching more on intent, it’s changing the way many PPC specialists structure their campaigns.

Structures like Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAG) and separating out different keywords into their individual ad groups are becoming less useful. These structures used to be about control over what keywords triggered for what searches, and how we bid on them. With that control gone, we now need to control what ads come up for what intent. This will likely mean campaigns will go through a restructure before July, and you’ll see ad groups based on intent rather than keyword. This will likely mean fewer ad groups and fewer ads.

Quality Score will also become an important factor. With several variations of the same keyword now triggering for the same searches, PPC specialists will be on the hunt to find the best one with the best Quality Score. It’s silly that keywords with the same intent would have such different Quality Scores, but it’s one way to play the system. Perhaps Quality Scores will be the next in line to change based on the recent developments.

As we’re quickly approaching July, it’s time to write your final farewell love letters to BMM and move on. Restructuring your campaigns now will give you time to understand how the new intent match types work on your phrase match keywords, how to sculpt your traffic, and how to develop your ads. Don’t be surprised in July, be prepared now.

Contact your PPC Specialist or send us a message if you have any questions and/or want to discuss strategies for your campaigns!

Written by Gemma Renton