Going…going…gone. For some time Google has been warning its search ad platform users that they would be removing one of the four keyword match type options: broad match modifier. And it’s finally happened. At the end of the second quarter of 2021, the broad match modified keyword type was removed from the Google Ad system. Three match types remain: broad match, phrase match, and exact match.

To understand the changes at face value, here’s a direct link to Google’s official blog. I encourage anyone who’s interested to review Google’s official notes on this.

But here’s what we see. 

This graphic is Google’s own example. We see that phrase match now incorporates more types of keywords than before. As this change went live I began running my own tests to see how the new “enhanced” phrase match system would perform and whether the number of search terms phrase match keywords allowed ads to appear on, would be more similar to broad match modifier.

Below is a series of results for the phrase match keyword “form builder”.

There are a number of search terms that traditionally would never have allowed an ad to fire an impression under the old phrase match type. These include:

  • plurals
  • misspellings
  • similar word variations (creator, maker)
  • word order

Now, however, we see that the new phrase match has looser settings and parameters to show an ad and is definitely closer in functionality to the old broad match modified match type.

This has obvious implications for how accounts need to be constructed to accommodate this change and are summarized in the below recommendations:

  • The phrase match type should be the primary harvest keyword that prospects for new keywords within your ad group, running alongside your proven exact match keywords from the search term report.
  • Unless you’re an e-commerce business and are able to make use of the automation systems involved in running broad match keywords, I strongly recommend against running broad match keywords in your account. They’re still very volatile and will lead to large sums of budget being spent on irrelevant keywords.
  • It’s currently unclear how inverted word order (for example, “university Vancouver” vs. “Vancouver university”) functions for the new phrase match. Until this is confirmed, I would recommend inverting your keyword order in different phrase match keywords as in a small test the impression volume of an ad set was increased by roughly 25% by adding the inverted word order phrase keywords.

Our Take 

Interested in what we at Wallop think of this change? To start, it’s not an advertiser-friendly decision on Google’s part. The removal of this functionality does not improve an advertiser’s ability to accurately target their desired audience and pushes an advertiser to use less efficient keyword match types. Sadly, this continues the trend of useful features and functionality being removed from the platform—recent examples include their removal of the average position metric, “deprioritization” of click-to-call formats and discontinuation of expanded text ads. 

The broad narrative we see across the primary ad market platforms, such as Google and Facebook, is a push to make traffic more profitable across the board, rather than the platforms getting their revenue from fewer specific keywords and audiences. Examples of this push are:

  • the constant expansion of parameters of broad match keyword criteria;
  • numerous changes to the extension suite, which yield higher click-through-rates but rarely a linear increase in conversions;
  • the move to use a linear conversion model rather than last click, which spreads value across any click involved in a conversion down funnel. If using bidding automation, this will encourage accounts to bid more aggressively on lower value keywords previously not emphasized; 
  • and finally, the inclusion of the Google GMOB app ad exchange into the Google display network, because Google expressed that they felt mobile app ads were now performing at parity with the rest of the Google display network (but ask any advertiser if they agree with this sentiment).

While we’re not thrilled about the ad network’s recent changes, worry not. All is most definitely not lost. Google search campaigns remain some of the best media for driving bookings and sales in this industry. More importantly, it’s where we at Wallop tend to drive the strongest return for our clients.

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss advertising strategy with our team.