Today, Google announced that its Broad Match Modifier (BMM) match type will be retired in favor of phrase match. In mid-February, BMM keywords will start to be treated as Google’s new, expanded phrase match, with support for new BMM keyword creation ending in July.
Is It Time to Panic? Not Exactly.
A lot of search marketers will have immediate concerns after hearing this news. When BMM appeared on the scene in 2010, we were thrilled to have an option that was less rigid than phrase match with more control than pure broad match. Advertisers that relied heavily on phrase and exact match could comfortably expand their keyword set to capture more queries. Those with significant pure broad traffic could make broad a bit more efficient. Everyone rejoiced.
While BMM made marketers feel better, the data surrounding its performance versus other match types was not so clear. Analysis of Merkle clients showed that conversion rates across pure phrase match and pure broad match were actually not that different, regardless of the device. Since BMM falls between the two in terms of how tight the match is between the query and keyword, we’d expect that BMM converts similarly.
The main challenge will lie in accounting for the volume difference between BMM and phrase. BMM makes up a significant portion of many advertisers’ Google search traffic, thanks to the query’s words being able to match in any order. Google recognises this, and will be loosening up phrase match a bit to capture more queries than it has historically. According to Google, “phrase match will expand to cover additional broad match modifier traffic, while continuing to respect word order when it’s important to the meaning.” The below diagram helps illustrate how the expanded matching will work:
Image from Google.com
Despite this change, advertisers relying heavily on BMM today, especially those with keywords that combine BMM and pure broad match, may still experience some traffic losses once it sunsets.
What Can Marketers Do to Offset Potential Traffic Losses?
There are a few steps search advertisers should take to make the transition away from BMM as smooth as possible.
- Use bid automation. An automated bidding system (preferably auction-time) will naturally find opportunity across your other match types to efficiently reallocate spend that was going to BMM campaigns.
- Ensure that all BMM keywords have phrase and exact match counterparts. Now is an ideal time to make sure you’re ready to capture as many of the same relevant queries as possible through tighter match types. BMM keywords will automatically start to match like phrase keywords, so you can simply leverage your existing BMM campaigns as phrase campaigns if you’d like. If you already have robust phrase campaigns you want to combine with your BMM keywords, just be sure not to remove any BMM keywords until after the migration completes in July, as that could disrupt your traffic during the transition. You should also check the negatives applied to your existing phrase match campaigns to make sure you’re not blocking any relevant traffic that would be captured with phrase match’s expanded definition.
- Reconsider broad match. Given the conversion rate data highlighted earlier, you may find that pure broad ultimately performs similarly to BMM. If you’ve stopped using pure broad match entirely, consider giving it another shot. A thoughtful keyword set, curated with negatives and bid through automation, could prove useful for recapturing some of the traffic currently funneling through BMM.
- Or, if broad match makes you uneasy, lean into Dynamic Search Ad (DSA) campaigns. Google’s continued to promote DSAs as part of their push toward automation, and we generally find that they perform well for our clients. If you’re not ready to wade back in pure broad match, DSAs can help expand your query eligibility on relevant traffic.
- Monitor search logs. In the case of pure broad or DSAs, keep a close eye on search terms that may be new to those campaigns. Mine search logs for potential new keywords and negatives.
What Happens Next?
The current timeline, as mentioned, suggests that the transition will be completed by July. Note that Microsoft has not yet announced similar plans, so teams that want to continue leveraging BMM there will need to pay careful attention to how they’re managing each platform.
While this change is significant, at the end of the day, it should not knock a strong, well-managed search campaign off its current trajectory. Plus, getting used to change is a good thing - with the push toward automation, who knows what text campaigns will look like five years from now.