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Keeping Up With Google: Google Sunsets Modified Broad Match

Google announced in early 2021 changes to its match types in paid search, expanding phrase match and eliminating modified broad match. The changes reflect Google’s commitment to serving paid search ads based on search query intent. It also marks a shift away from building extensive lists of long-tail keywords.

In this installment of Keeping Up With Google–a series that helps you stay up-to-date on the latest changes shaking up Google Ads–we explain these match type changes and what they mean for your Google paid search strategy.

Release Date:

Google announced the update on February 4, 2021. It took effect on February 18, 2021.

What It Is:

For context, let’s review what match types are. Match types help retail marketers narrow or widen the reach of their paid search ads.

Exact match is the most targeted match type and targets exact keywords. Phrase match delivers ads to queries that include a specific phrase. Broad match is the most open match type, targeting a phrase or contextually similar search queries. Modified broad match allowed retailers to narrow the reach of broad match queries by adding specific words with a “+”. For example, “+luxury +women’s +shoes” would appear for “luxury women’s shoes on sale” or “high-end women’s shoes,” but not “cheap women’s shoes.”

With the update, phrase match will expand its reach to include traffic that broad match modified keywords previously captured. Google will leverage its natural language processing technology to better match search queries to the most appropriate phrase match keywords. The benefit, Google claims, is that retailers will need to spend less time managing their accounts with overly specific keywords.

Which Channels:

This update impacts Google paid search ads specifically.

What It Means for Your Business:

The match type changes mean that retailers will have less control over what their paid search ads appear for, and phrase match ads will receive greater traffic than before. Retailers will need to rely on different targeting methods, in particular retargeting lists for search ads (RLSAs) and Customer Match, to pinpoint specific audiences, as opposed to relying on keyword targeting.

Negative keywords will be an  important tool for limiting the expanded reach of phrase match ads.

The match type update aligns with a larger automation trend in Google Ads. Retailers must increasingly rely on Google’s technology to serve their ads to  shoppers who have appropriate intent. The changes may drive less targeted traffic and increased ad spend.

On the other hand, the end of modified broad match means that retail marketers will spend less time and energy building exhaustive keywords lists for their campaigns. That could free up time to build more comprehensive audience targeting strategies and react more quickly to market and shopper behavior changes.

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