Google’s Phrase Match and Broad Match Modifier Keywords Changes + Your PPC Campaign

Stephanie Yuen Feb 09, 2021 Stephanie Yuen Director, Programmatic & Digital Strategy Persona The Tenacious and Supportive Optimist

Changes to Google’s Phrase Match and Broad Match Modifier Keywords: What Does It Mean for Your PPC Campaign?

Google recently announced changes to its phrase and broad match modifier keyword match types starting mid-February. With this change, Google says it will be easier to reach your target audience given they’ve seen that “phrase match and broad match modifier often serve the same use cases.” Since PPC is an integral part of any higher education marketing strategy, it’s important to know how this new change will affect search campaigns moving forward.

Legacy differences between broad match modifier keywords vs. phrase match keywords

Prior to this change, broad match modifier and phrase match keywords functioned in slightly different ways. With a broad match modifier keyword, any keyword designated with a “+” needs to be included in a user’s search for an ad to be eligible to show, no matter the order. However, additional keywords could appear in the search before, after, or in between the “+” modified terms. For example, if we’re targeting the keyword “+undergraduate +degrees,” our ad could appear to a user searching for “undergraduate online degrees.” In contrast, phrase match keywords have historically been a little more specific than broad match modifier keywords in that your ad shows only for your designated phrase and possibly with other terms before or after the phrase. Using the same example as above, if we’re targeting the keyword phrase “undergraduate degrees,” our ad could be eligible to show to a user searching for “best undergraduate degrees” or “undergraduate degrees in MA.”

What is this new match improvement?

The new behavior that’s being rolled out will take the best of both worlds: the reach offered by broad match modifiers and the control of phrase match, all rolled into one. Phrase match keywords will be able to target a broader pool of search queries while still keeping meaning intact. Again, taking the same example as above, if we’re targeting the keyword phrase “undergraduate degrees,” with the keyword improvement, our ad could be eligible to now show for searches including “degrees at undergraduate level” or “degrees online undergraduate.”

Short- and long-term impact

Given this behavior will be applied to both keyword match types initially, there won’t be any immediate action that will need to be taken. Performance data will still be tracked for these keywords and nothing will need to be migrated over. However, we may notice that existing phrase match keywords will start to see an increase in traffic volume, while broad match modifier keywords could see the opposite effect if there aren’t modifiers on all keywords. In the long run, once these changes are rolled out globally starting in July 2021, it will no longer be an option to create new broad match modifier keywords at all. 

Carnegie will be proactive with this keyword match improvement for our partners. Especially in the upcoming months with this new behavior, our Digital team will be closely monitoring all PPC campaign performance by consistently keeping an eye on search query reports and adding more phrase match keywords moving forward to ensure strong performance is maintained. Once the change is rolled out globally, we’ll also work to remove redundant broad match modifier and phrase match keywords that are within the same ad group to avoid competition for our partners.

What’s to come?

This isn’t the first time that Google has rolled out keyword match type changes to improve accuracy and functionality, and it probably won’t be the last. For the past several years, we’ve seen Google continue to strive to provide the most relevant content and best search experience for each user, and we’re sure there is more to come. Let us know if you have any questions or are seeking support on how to handle the upcoming improvements by contacting us today.

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