Preparing for Google’s Broad Match Modifier (BMM) & Phrase Match Changes.

Will Smith, 11th March 2021

A Quick Introduction to Google’s BMM & Phrase Match Changes

Huge changes are coming into effect for Google paid search with the recent announcement of the Phrase and BMM match types. In layman’s terms, Google is essentially merging BMM traffic with Phrase Match. This means advertisers will be losing the broad reach of BMM in isolation and instead, Phrase match keywords will expand to show more search terms than the current BMM keyword would reach.

What Does This Mean for Google Ad Accounts?

For advertisers, it means existing BMM keywords will continue to run with the broad match reach until they are permanently phased out. When the Phrase match campaigns are introduced, they will harness the combined reach capabilities of BMM and Phrase match.

Source: Google Ads Help

Google says that these changes will make it easier for advertisers to manage their accounts, saving them time by streamlining the everyday management of keywords and reducing how often they have to look through search query reports. Google also states that the new Phrase match should cover the majority of searches that advertisers want to appear for in the auction. However, within Paid Media, we like to have as much control over keyword data as possible — you could say we’re control freaks. Hence, there’s no surprise over the amount of speculation this change has caused within the industry.

How Will the Impact of These Changes Affect Everyday Practices Advertisers Use?

The good news is that PPC advertisers have time to prepare for these changes and there is no reason to panic. The changes are going to be steadily rolled out from February 2021, with Google providing a deadline of July 2021. So, what will happen to the existing data? Google has decided that performance data will remain. They have also reported that there will be no need to immediately switch from BMMs to Phrase match.

However, when the changes are implemented across Google Ads, advertisers will no longer be able to create new BMM keywords. This means any new keyword structure builds will need to include Phrase match. Additionally, current BMM keywords that are running in accounts will automatically convert into a phrase match type.

 What do Google & Industry Experts Recommend You Should do to Prepare?

Google has said that advertisers may experience issues with the amount of traffic coming through BMM campaigns or incremental increases through existing Phrase match campaigns. With this in mind, advertisers will need to monitor their accounts and may need to adjust budgets to accommodate the shift in search volumes when these changes come into play. Their additional recommendations are to continue to regularly check the Google Ads recommendations tab, consider using the broad only match type with smart bidding and continue to use negative keywords.

According to some industry experts, it would be great practice to export your current data and compare how Phrase match keywords perform compared to existing BMM keywords. This will also enable advertisers to get a sense of what to expect when the changes are fully introduced.

Here at Flaunt Digital, the Paid Media Team has been following this advice to test the difference between BMM and Phrase match types. These tests will enable us to prepare all current client accounts that have running activity across Google Search, and ensure this is done in time for the July 2021 deadline. Currently, like most in the industry, we run BMM search campaigns alongside Exact match campaigns. 

To put this in context, according to Frederick Vallaeys’ (CEO of Optmyzr, PPC Management Software) analysis for the Search Engine Journal, 89% of paid media advertisers use broad match modified keywords. As such, this change in Google keyword match type is going to have an impact on how we — and others in the industry — operate and build future search structures. With this in mind, we thought you would appreciate us showing you the results we gained from comparing the Phrase match type to one of our existing BMM campaigns.

The Recipe Behind Testing Phrase Match Compared to BMM

To test the new match type changes, we converted one of our high search volume BMM campaigns to a Phrase keyword match type. The intention was to compare performance data week-on-week to see what impact it had on the same keywords but with different keyword match types. We accept this test is not completely accurate due to the number of variables we are all used to seeing within paid search. Additionally, when we conducted the test, the broader reach changes had just been implemented across the Phrase match type. 

We hope these results provide you with some clarity but because of these variables, it is important to remember that the results could potentially differ in July 2021. While this may not be the most scientific approach, we believe our method made the most sense for this purpose, as it enabled us to picture what we may expect to see over the coming months when the BMM and Phrase match changes are implemented.

Our Results and Findings So Far

From the test we conducted, the early signs indicate that performance from a BMM keyword match type to a Phrase match type differs in multiple ways — as expected. Most experts within PPC do expect to see a change and Google has also told advertisers to prepare accounts for potential differences across campaigns. 

Our early analysis suggests that the Click-Through-Rate (CTR) and the Conversion Rate (CVR) have increased, and the Cost-Per-Acquisition fell by 3% — this is positive to see from a Paid Search perspective. However, the Average Cost-Per-Click (CPC) did increase, while the number of interactions and impressions also slightly decreased. Therefore, we found that the impression share decreased by 22% over the weekly period. It must be stated that the changes in data will differ as usual, due to factors such as competition, changes to budgets and auction changes to the minimum CPC bid.

When looking at the campaign level within Google Ads, we saw the CTR for this particular campaign increased by 26% when compared to the previous week. In addition to this, when analysing the ad group level, ad groups that did not previously perform as well under a BMM match type saw CTR increases ranging between 10% to 40%. 
This suggests that the new Phrase match might actually make it easier to reach the right customers on search, just as Google has stated. However, not to be premature, only time will tell if Google’s claim is correct and we will know more when these major changes come into force in July 2021. If the first signs of an increase in CTR are proven to be true, we feel confident that performance may improve in the future or at least stay relatively consistent with the existing BMM campaigns.

The CVR also saw an increase after we swapped the BMM campaign to the Phrase match type. From the campaign level, we saw a 14% increase in the overall CVR for the campaign compared to the previous week. Yet again, the ad groups that did not perform as well under a BMM match type also saw increases in the number of conversions, which we believe is likely due to the increase in the CTR. We also noticed a higher number of clicks for certain search queries that we had not seen before. However, the current data is limited and we will be able to see a much clearer picture over time; this will provide more sets of comparable data, allowing us to compare month-on-month or year-on-year.

The first signs suggest that the new Google Phrase match change will contribute to triggering other search terms, by using the same keywords but with a phrase match type. However, it also tells us that users who search query may be considered ‘lazy’ (i.e., by not including all the relevant keywords in their search query), under the new phrase match type a ‘lazy’ search query may not appear compared under the current BMM match type. Hence, as the advertiser, we may find that the number of search queries could decline, resulting in a lower impression share. However, if the new phrase match type can provide PPC campaigns with more relevant search terms, we could see a major boost in conversions within our Google Ads account — but time will tell.

Summary Of Google’s BMM & Phrase Match Changes

In summary, we believe the new Phrase match type will naturally change the way we operate within the Paid Media team. Starting from now, we will have to adapt how we create Google search structures. The first signs from our test campaign tell us that these Phrase match changes have the potential to improve client performance, meaning it will be crucial to learn how to efficiently and fully optimise our search accounts before the deadline. This could help us stay ahead of the competition, or potentially take market share away from competitors in the individual markets in which our clients operate. 

Our results show that failing to prepare for the new Phrase match type changes could substantially affect the performance of search accounts. Therefore, we will be monitoring our Phrase match test campaign very closely — and likewise with our existing BMM campaigns — to see if performance is affected over the coming weeks and months. Overall, we believe preparation is critical and this, along with the ability to make accurate, data-based optimisations, will benefit Google search campaigns when BMM keywords are removed.

This article was brought to you by

Will Smith

Paid Media Executive

Paid media specialist with an eye for conducting relevant research and implementing paid media strategy across search, shopping, display, video, social platforms and various other channels.