Google Update to Phrase Match and BMM phasing out

Google Update to Phrase Match and BMM phasing out

ROAST • 05/02/2021

Yesterday, Google announced changes to BMM and Phrase Match. Starting mid-February, BMM match type is phasing out and from July 2021 the creation of BMM keywords will no longer be available.
Phrase Match will start including behaviours of broad match modifier so both BMM and Phrase Match will have the same matching behaviours. It is important to note that Google’s update will still consider the search query order when relevant to the meaning.

‘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”).’


Google’s change to broad match modifier keywords intends to ‘simplify keywords and make it easier to reach relevant customers’. This update does not come as a big surprise as Google was already encouraging advertisers to use Broad Match towards the end of last year. With the developments of machine learning and Smart Bidding, Broad match keywords can give additional auction-time signals and therefore may present higher performance when compared to BMM.

It is important to clarify the difference between Broad Match and the old Broad Match Modifier.

Broad Match: Ads may show on searches that are related to your keyword, which can include searches that don’t contain the keyword terms.

Broad Match Modifier:  Ads used to be triggered if the keywords were presented in the search query in the exact or close variant form. BMM keywords have a + sign to show that that term needs to be part of the search query.

Illustration on the match types differences before the recent changes in BMM and Phrase Match

As a consequence of this specific update, advertisers might initially see a reduction in impressions coming through their campaigns. It is highly advisable to keep an eye on performance, search query terms, and monitor budgets across the account during the transition period.

Google is constantly changing match types and advertisers need to adapt. Historically, Exact Match was the focus for Google, with many updates being made since 2012

  • 2012 – Google automatically matched misspellings
  • 2014 – Exact Match close variants were included
  • 2017 – Exact Match started ignoring word order and function words
  • 2018 – Exact match close variants expanded even further

With the developments in automation and machine learning becoming more refined, it was time to update BMM and Phrase Match. These changes encourage advertisers to review their current Paid Search strategies and it is the right opportunity to review account structure. Testing new match types, such as adding broad match keywords to your ad groups when using smart bidding, might be a good idea to improve performance.

The simplification in keyword match type also further reflects changes in the “best practice” account structure we have all seen over the last year. Google’s most recent account structure recommendation contains a mix of broad and exact match keywords in the same ad group. This allows automation to optimise campaigns based on the advertiser’s goal and does not restrict auction-time signals. Simply, the more centralised the data in search accounts, the easier it is for Google’s algorithms to optimise from (or that’s the logic anyway).

Significant platform updates can often be a source of trepidation for PPC advertisers. However, Google’s journey to simplification is showing some very positive signs. Since carefully rolling out these structural changes over the last year, ROAST has seen some notable upticks in performance – for some PPC clients conversion rates have jumped as high as +221%.