google ads adwords phrase match bmm keyword change

Changes To Google Ads Phrase Match and BMM Keywords in 2021

Google Ads – sunsetting broad match modifier (BMM) keywords and changes to phrase match behaviour in 2021

Google sent out an update last week to inform advertisers of the planned changes to how phrase match performs, with plans to remove BMM (broad match modifier/modified broad match) from their supported keyword match types this year.

What is happening?

Starting this month (February 2021), phrase match keywords will start to perform similarly to modified broad match/broad match modifier (BMM) in efforts to simplify keyword match types and keyword performance. Google states that it wants to ‘make it easier to reach relevant customers’. Phrase match and BMM keywords will not have the same matching behaviour, and phrase match keywords may show for searches that include the meaning of your word. Word order meaning will also be taken into account.


The phrase match keyword [moving services Surrey to London] will continue to cover searches like ‘cheap moving services Surrey to London’. It will also cover searches such as ‘Surrey home moving services to London’. Luckily, word order will be scrutinised by Google, so keywords won’t show for reversed wording: ‘moving services London to Surrey’ will not trigger ads.


When is it happening?

Starting now! The new matching behaviour is being rolled out for both phrase and BMM keywords in English, Spanish, German, Italian, French, Dutch, Russian and Portuguese. All remaining languages will be finalised by July 2021.

Advertisers can leave existing keywords running in their campaigns, however Google does recommend that new keywords should be created in phrase match, not BMM, going forward.


Why is it happening?

In one word – simplification. This change also aims to help advertisers to streamline keyword management, save time and to make it easier for them to reach their customers, no matter how they’ve searching. Google has invested time and money into understanding the intent behind search queries, so served keywords should match to the meaning of a search.


How can advertisers prepare for the keyword change?

Google reports that no action is required at the moment. Existing modified broad match BMM keywords will still continue to perform in your campaigns. Confusingly, Google also states:

Once the rollout is complete in April 2021, you may wish to convert your BMM keywords to phrase match. Additional tools will be launched to more easily convert BMM keywords throughout the year. To help you remove duplicate BMM and phrase keywords, Google will start to surface recommendations to help remove redundant BMM keywords in the same ad group where the keyword is already present as phrase match.

So don’t act yet, but if you are using the same keywords in phrase and BMM match types, start planning for this change and regularly check Google Ads updates for the latest news and new product/feature roll-outs to help with the transition.


What are the implications of using only phrase match with no BMM?

  • Less control over spend and what terms match too, potentially an increase in bad broad-matching. If you were only using exact and phrase before, and steering clear of BMM keywords, you may notice an increase in impressions so you’ll have to keep on top of search term reports more frequently.
  • Change in CPCs (cost-per-click), with an anticipated average CPC rise. We have experienced BMM keywords achieving lower CPCs, and often lower CPAs (cost-per-acquisition), than phrase match. Advertisers may see some unfavourable shifts in their CPCs and CPAs.
  • Google recommends using full broad match terms to replace BMMs, especially if advertisers are using Smart bidding. This may be a subtle attempt at getting advertisers to increase their spend – not the first attempt by Google, and definitely not the last!

We will be keeping up-to-date with the latest Google Ads news, and will be sure to share any new features or information regarding keyword match types.

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