Insights

11th February 2021

Google Ads are going through a phrase…

Broad Match Modifier (BMM) may be Google Ads’ best feature – and it is being retired.

Only coming into play in early 2019, the “+” symbol could be added to Broad Match Keyword phrases to indicate the parts of the keyword that were essential parts of the search. This saved Ad Managers time by being a compromise from the scattershot targeting of pure Broad Match and the overemphasis on the word order of Phrase Match.

Google Ads

So why would Google get rid of this feature? 

Well, as usual, it’s not as simple as that, as some of BMM’s best features are being absorbed into Phrase Match.


The ‘New’ Phrase Match:

  • Goodbye to word order. Now, using the old BMM historical machine learning, Phrase Match will pick out key terms in the overall Keyword Phrase and allow for limited reordering. Google has said that the meaning of the search will be maintained.
  • EG “Rewiring a Plug How-to” = “How to rewire an electrical plug”

  • Close variants will be used in Phrase Match to broaden the number of searches
  • EG “13 Amp Fuse for a Plug” = “13A Fuse Plug” = “13 Amp Electric Fuse Plug”

Broad Match is changing too, to absorb another Smart feature, but the wording from Google is more nebulous than usual. The account will look for signals to better match the broad matches. This means (in theory) if you are an eCommerce website and your campaigns are designed to make sales, you are more likely to see your Broad Match terms match searches with that intent.


  • EG the BM keyword – 13 Amp Fuse –  will match the Search Term – Where to buy 13 Amp fuses – on an eCommerce site with purchase tracking, product landing pages, and other keywords with “Buy” in them.

How Google implements this will be difficult if not impossible to analyse from the outside, but we believe it will push websites for local, non-eCommerce down in Quality Score.

While Google has stressed that no immediate action is needed, at Varn we would definitely recommend a full Keyword Review in the next two to four weeks.

The change means that any account using either Phrase Match or Broad Match Modified or a mixture will see changes. Some of our clients have separate Ad Groups for different match types and these will need a review to avoid duplication. Some accounts use Phrase Match rather than Exact Match for Keywords – and we’d recommend updating these before the change affects the account. Other accounts use BMM keywords to widen searches – which may have to be replaced with pure Broad Match Keywords with additional Negative Keyword Lists.


Things to Do:

  • Download all Keywords in all Active Ad Groups.
  • Review sections to make sure the Phrase Matches will continue to function as needed by the account.
  • If not we would either:
  • Look at changing current Phrase Matches to Exact Matches and add more Exact Matches, or
  • Add new Phrase Matches to phase out BMM
  • Update any Negative Keyword Lists
  • This all may require a few hours of work depending on the complexity of the account, but Google has said that the BMM won’t be phased out until July.

If you want help reviewing your account and to see how you might be affected, please call or email Varn and we will be happy to help out.

Article by: Tom, Managing Director of Varn Digital Marketing More articles by Tom

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