See How Losing Broad Match Modified Will Impact Your Google Ads

How will the retirement of Broad Match Modified keywords affect your Google Ads performance? A former Googler shares his script for measuring the impact.

In today’s volatile world, few things are certain, but a change in Google Ads is one thing we can reliably predict.

And so Google announced last week that another change is coming to keyword match types.

Broad match modified keywords will cease to exist, and their functionality will be absorbed into phrase match keywords.

As a big advocate of using technology to keep your sanity when Google makes changes that would otherwise take up a lot of time to adapt to, I am sharing another free Google Ads script—this one to help predict the impact that Google’s latest change will have on your accounts.

You’ll find a single account and MCC version of the script at the end of this post.

What Is the Broad Match Modified Keyword Match Type?

There are four types of match types: exact, phrase, broad, and negative.

Each is designed to help advertisers specify how closely a user’s query should match their chosen keyword before an ad is triggered.

Google has long maintained that about 15% of all searches done by users are unique enough that it would be impossible for advertisers to have an exact match keyword (where the keyword has to be an almost exact match to the search query).

This is why match types like phrase and broad exist: to show ads when the search query is related to the keyword but maybe uses additional or slightly different words.

But while advertisers often enjoy the additional conversions they can get by giving Google some flexibility with match types, there are instances where advertisers want a hybrid keyword match type approach.

They want to specify certain words in the keyword critical to the business while being less strict about other words.

For example, with the keyword [hotels in Miami], a boutique hotel that only has a location in Miami probably will be pretty strict about wanting the word “Miami” to be part of the search.

But they might be okay with changing the word “hotel” to “lodging” because they could satisfy either user's needs.

This advertiser could specify this preference by adding a plus symbol “+” in front of the critical words in a broad match keyword: [hotels in +Miami].

This modified version of a broad match keyword is called a broad match modified (BMM) keyword.

Taking the same example but considering an advertiser representing a global hotel chain with hundreds of locations, they may be more strict about wanting the word “hotels” to be preserved. They find that when their ads show for searches that include the word “motels,” their conversion rate is lower because their properties tend to be higher-end and more expensive.

They would have the BMM keyword [+hotels in Miami].

Full vs Partial BMM

In gauging the impact of Google’s change on your accounts, it’s useful to understand two types of BMM keywords: full BMM and partial BMM.

The examples I gave above where only some words have a “+” in front of them are both examples of a partial BMM.

When I worked at Google, we believed that this was what advertisers wanted, as it gave them more control. It was similar to their exact match, with the added benefit of additional search volume afforded from some words being a broad match.

But as it turned out, BMM was never really made into a distinct match type or given a proper interface to guide advertisers in using it as intended.

As a result of this second-rate treatment, it was used unexpectedly.

Advertisers, always short on time and looking for a shortcut, started adding a plus in front of every word of every keyword.

And so, BMM effectively became full BMM for most advertisers.

Surprisingly, even people at Google didn’t know that the [+] didn’t have to go in front of every word.

At Optmyzr, my current company, we analyzed a sample of 162 million keywords at the start of February 2021 and found that:
  • 89% of advertisers use broad match modified keywords.
  • 55% of advertisers who use broad match modified always put a plus in front of every term in their BMM queries, i.e. [+video +games +for +xbox].
  • 95% of all broad match modified keywords have a plus in every term of the keyword and are full BMM.
  • Only 5% of keywords are more selective in adding the [+] to words and are partial BMMs, like.

As you can see, the vast majority of BMM usage is full BMM.

Partial BMM seems more indicative of advertisers simply forgetting to add a [+] before every word rather than intentional usage.

Phrase Match Is Absorbing BMM

Starting in mid-February, Google says:

“…phrase match will expand to cover additional broad match modifier traffic, while continuing to respect word order when it’s important to the meaning.”

Phrase match was originally designed to keep the keyword's exact words in the same order while allowing extra words to be put before or after it.

This will no longer be the case.

Phrase match is becoming more like a full BMM with a preference to keep the word order.

This is actually good news because, as I showed, the vast majority of BMMs are full BMMs.

Now, phrase match will be taking over the role of full BMMs.

If you were in the group of advertisers using almost exclusively full BMMs, your phrase match keywords will now take over that role, and you will lose only a bit of traffic.

This is because the word order will be preserved when Google feels that makes a difference to the meaning.

What Advertisers Should Expect

The big question will always happen to volume and relevance since those lead to more or fewer conversions down the line.

The expected impact is well summed up by David Wihl from the Google API team in his post for the Google Ads API blog:

  • Advertisers predominantly using phrase match are expected to see an incremental increase in clicks and conversions.
    • This is due to the additional queries to which these keywords will now be eligible to match. For example, [holidays in Zambia] as a phrase keyword will now begin to match to [holiday spots in Zambia], previously only eligible for BMM.
  • Advertisers predominantly using BMM are expected to see a slight decrease in clicks and conversions.
    • The majority of this loss is from BMMs, where the modifier was only applied to part of the keyword, e.g., [tennis +shoes].
    • Besides, we are now considering word order when it’s important to the keyword's meaning, so some matches that previously matched to BMM will be filtered out.
I like to add the partial vs full BMM component to it, so for me, here’s how it should work out:
  • Phrase match will gain some traffic because extra words may be put in between the phrase.
  • Full BMMs will lose some traffic because word order will have to be preserved in some cases.
  • Partial BMMs will lose more traffic because, without the ability to selectively [+] words, partial BMMs will no longer work; they will become more like full BMMs, more restrictive.

What Advertisers Can Do

As always, advertisers must monitor their search terms reports.

Yes, I know that Google recently restricted that data, but there are still some insights to help monitor the impact.

With the script in this post, you can get a report about your keyword match type breakdown, including full vs partial BMM.

Use that in combination with the predicted impact by match type shown above to gauge how important this change may be to your accounts.

Match Type report with BMM

The script also calculates how many keywords will be duplicates once BMM has been fully absorbed into phrase match.

It does this by looking for keywords with the same text in both BMM and phrase match inside the same campaign.

Duplicate keyword count after phrase and BMM merge

For account hygiene, it is recommended to remove the BMM keyword.

The sooner you remove duplicates, the sooner you will get metrics to accrue towards the keyword that will not be retired later this year.

Finally, the script checks what percentage of clicks are coming from campaigns using Smart Bidding.

It is recommended that advertisers leverage the power of auction-time bidding so that Google can avoid overspending on related but possibly lower quality queries that may start to garner traffic.

Smart Bidding's argument is similar to one I made related to close variant matches in section one of this earlier post here on SEJ.

Preparing for Broad Match Modified Retiring: A Script

Copy and paste the full code of the script you can find here on GitHub into a new script in your Google Ads account.

If you want the MCC version of the code, you can find that here.

In either case, find the line that refers to a spreadsheet URL and enters the URL of your own copy of this template spreadsheet.

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