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What does the Phrase/BMM merger mean for the future of Paid Search?

It’s a truism that Paid Search is undoubtably a dynamic field, but recently that statement has been truer than ever. The list of recent changes is a long one;


  • The introduction of Auction Time Bidding (ATB) in SA360 bid strategies.
  • The further extension of close variants.
  • The introduction of Smart shopping and Discovery campaigns.
  • The reduction of data available to advertisers in Search Query Reports.
  • Making Responsive Search Ads (RSA’s) the default ad type.
  • The merger of BMM and Phrase match as well as the more general matching update.


The final point is the one I want to focus on.


What does the Broad Match Modified (BMM) and Phrase Match Merger mean to advertisers?


Although headline grabbing, the merger of BMM and Phrase will have minimal impact on most advertisers - with phrase match now being word order sensitive only when Google’s AI suggests that this is important. This new merged match types functionality is very similar to BMM before the change.

Moving forward, account managers will only need to make small changes to how they approach their keyword build to adjust to this new functionality. 


The impact is greater for managers and advertisers using mixed BMM/Broad Match Type keywords (i.e. red +converse), where only half of the keyword was BMM.

Whilst this may not be a common tactic, there is a potential for greater loss of traffic here and advertisers using this approach should consider updating and generating additional keywords to counteract the change.


How does the BMM/Phrase Merger impact the Paid Search Industry?


This catalogue of changes drives us further towards a single goal - a reduction in the number of options, segmentation and control available to advertisers.

Although this sounds like a negative thing, for many advertisers particularly those at the most nascent end of employing automation, this will further empower automated bidding to drive better results by pooling and consolidating account and audience data.

Advertisers who have already started on a journey to greater automation have a significant first mover advantage.


What is Google’s ultimate destination? What’s the end game here?


I think it’s clear that each incremental change pushes us inexorably closer to a fully automated future. One where account managers and advertisers operate more like a gardener. Tending, watering and nurturing automated campaigns and strategies to bloom.

Rather than a 90’s landscaper throwing down reams of rigid beds and decking, forcing the plants (search queries) into many small and specific pots and buckets.

Increasingly, it would appear that Keywords themselves are becoming quite anachronistic.

The way things are going, Paid Search could soon join Paid Social and Programmatic Display in becoming fully audience targeted, likely within the next few years (and certainly by the end of the decade). If you want to place a small wager on this, I will happily take your money!