The recent change on Match Types introduced by Google is most likely the biggest one in the past few years. If you are living and breathing digital marketing, you probably already read all about it, as this is one of the hottest topics at the moment. That being said, we will be focusing on its pros and cons as well as a more strategic overview on the rollout.
Google’s official announcement included the following:

“Starting in February 2021, phrase match will begin to incorporate behaviors of broad match modifier (BMM) to simplify keywords and make it easier to reach relevant customers. With this change, both phrase and broad match modifier keywords will have the same matching behavior, and may show ads on searches that include the meaning of your keyword. This also means that the new matching behavior will consider word order when relevant to the meaning.”

Meaning that your keywords will now be matching the meaning of the search. And this can be a nice feature long-term. However, you will be facing many challenges moving on forward.

Strategy Evaluation

Even though Google says no action is required at the moment, you will need to revisit your strategy to make sure it is aligned with your client’s business objectives. These questions may help you put things in perspective:
  1. What match types do you currently have on your account?
  2. Are all match types grouped or do you have them split into different ad groups or campaigns?
  3. What is your negative keyword structure? Will it need to be updated?
  4. Do you have your budgets ready for the upcoming change?
  5. What bidding strategy do you use?
  6. Do you need to adjust your ad text?
  7. Are there any rules that need to be adjusted?
Once you have a clear understanding of your account’s structure, you will need to think of the actions and possibly strategy change. Sharing an example with you:

What match types do you currently have on your account? What can you expect?

I have Exact, Phrase, BMM, Broad match types in my account.

In this scenario, you can expect increased traffic on Phrase match and simultaneously decreased traffic on BMM. If there is no Phrase match equivalent to BMM, expect the overall decrease in traffic and sales. Some searches can be caught by the Exact campaign.

Actions: Export all your keywords and make sure you have a Phrase match equivalent to BMM so you can have a smooth transition.

Are all match types grouped together or do you have them split into different ad groups or campaigns?

The strategy had all campaigns split by match type (Exact / Phrase / Broad & BMM). If so, you can expect the shift of traffic from Broad to Phrase on the campaign level.

Actions: Segment your ad groups/keywords by different mediums to see if anything needs to be adjusted – devices, search partners, audiences, ad schedule, demographics.

What is your negative keyword structure? Will it need to be updated?

We have a negative exact keyword list associated with Phrase and Broad campaigns. If you want to maintain a keyword isolation model, you will need to be more strict with Phrase Campaign negations. Pay close attention to this.

Actions: Check your Phrase campaign search terms. You may need to add more negative keywords previously associated only with your BMM & Broad campaign. If you are running a complex account structure with a lot of keywords, you may want to.

Do you have your budgets ready for the upcoming change?

We currently have a 70%-30% split on Broad & BMM and Phrase campaigns respectively. If this is your strategy you can expect more traffic in the Phrase Match campaign and a drop in the Broad and BMM campaigns so you can really soon be limited by budget.

Actions: To avoid being limited by budget, make sure to adjust it accordingly. A 70%-30% ratio may not be such a good idea with this switch happening.

What bidding strategy do you use?

We’ve had Smart Bidding in BMM & Broad campaign and Enhanced CPC on Phrase campaign. If so, it is expected to happen a shift in performance. Some manually set CPCs will be affected in a way that you may lose quality traffic. On the other hand, the learning phase for smart bidding may not be as relevant when Google’s update is finalized. 

Actions: Evaluate your Avg CPC across different bidding strategies and start the learning phase timely.

Do you need to adjust your ad text?

Since we want to match the query to our keyword, we’ve had Keyword Insertion in Headline 1 only added to the Broad and BMM campaigns. You can expect a fluctuation in QS if you have structured your ads to match the keyword and not the meaning of the search

Actions: You will most likely need to add 1 new ad text with the Keyword Insertion function in the Phrase campaign to keep the relevancy at the same level.

Are there any rules that need to be adjusted?

Yes, we generally have rules that would have an effect on a keyword level. Depending on your rules, you may expect to have conflicts in your strategy once the shift is completed.

Actions: Revisit and adjust your rules accordingly.

If you were thinking about when these changes will be implemented, the answer is – it is happening as we speak. As of mid-February, you can track this live on your accounts. If you have all match types in your account (BMM included), you should be able to see the traffic going in this direction.

Timeline of Major Match Type Changes

Google continuously pushes you to change your advertising strategy. If you think about that, a couple of years ago, every Google Representative would encourage you to split your campaigns by device. Almost at the same time with that trend, Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAG) were popular. Also, there were marketers that went a step further and split accounts into campaign types.

However, with every new update, your current strategy seems outdated and you are forced to change it over and over again. That way, you keep losing data and your performance. That is why you should probably need to have a “timeless” strategy – the one that is simple enough to get you the highest return on investment, and yet, complex enough to allow you to manipulate the data and put you on top of your competition.

That being said, let’s remind ourselves of the major keyword changes Google had implemented over the past few years.

  • 2014 – Google requires close variants to be used as separate keywords
  • 2017 – Word order and function were added as close variants for exact match keywords
  • 2018 – Intent was the focus, so Google added same-meaning terms to exact match close variants
  • 2019 – Google further loosens close variants to same-meaning on phrase and broad
  • 2021 – Phrase match replaces BMM

A Word from Experts

If you still haven’t formed an opinion around this topic, there are a couple of perspectives we would like to outline. 


Brad Geddes – Marketing Expert and the author of Advanced Google AdWords

Brad Geddes is the only Advanced AdWords Seminar leader that was selected by Google to conduct seminars for top businesses. Thus, it may be expected that he embraces each update. But we are sharing a couple of viewpoints from the Search Marketing Expo from December 2019.

One of the biggest takeaways was the notion that Google may not respect your keyword hierarchy as it was supposed to. There are 3 main issues that he highlighted:

  • the control that phrase match once offered is gone
  • Google often ignores its own hierarchy rules, resulting in duplicate queries
  • there are often poor intent matches
As a result, marketers that didn’t address close variants in the exact match may see more impressions. 


The query “trademark symbol” triggered the phrase match keyword “trademark logo.” The intent here is quite different. “Trademark symbol” searchers are looking for the symbol to copy and paste into their documents, whereas “trademark logo” searchers are looking to get their logo trademarked, Geddes noted. That’s a big difference.

If you would still like to keep the keyword-to-query relevancy, Geddes laid out the search term workflow that in our opinion depicts work on search terms and keywords still relevant today and that we use daily. 

Digital Excellence Agency

After a thorough evaluation of recent Match Type updates, we believe that it doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing. If you have a “timeless” strategy that won’t be burned to the ground by each Google update, then you have nothing to worry about as you won’t be losing years of valuable data. However, if you shaped your account in a manner that the match type change will seriously affect it, then it is time to reevaluate your decisions. If you need any help with the prioritization of the work that needs to be done, you can take a look at our recent article 2021 Resolutions – Get The Most Of The Google Ads

To conclude, a huge task is in front of you as always!

As a marketing professional, you will need to evaluate data and set a new strategy that will work with the major update Google just launched. If you feel this may be challenging, feel free to reach out to us and schedule a consultation with one of our marketing experts. You will get a better understanding of where to put your effort and make the most out of your investment. 

Peter Crone Nielsen

Tamara Popovic

Digital Marketing Specialist