Google Ads Phrase Match Keyword Changes – What You Need To Know

Recently Google announced a change to its keyword match types. As of February 2021, Google updated phrase match and broad match modified (BMM) to behave in the same way and is sunsetting broad match modified keywords in the future; these changes are now live.

What are phrase match keywords and how are they changing?

Previously, phrase match keywords had to include the entire phrase in question in order to match with a search term, and word order was important. For example, the keyword “lawn mowing service” would serve ads to all search terms which included this phrase. Such as “lawn moving service in lincoln” or “how to find a lawn mowing service”. However, it would not match search terms where the word order differed, such as “services for lawn mowing”.

Now, however, phrase match keywords are more akin to the previous broad match modified keyword type. As such, any phrase match keywords will now begin matching search terms which include the keyword terms (or words with similar meanings), regardless of word order but taking into account search intent. Using the same example, “lawn mowing service”, this phrase match keyword will now match to search terms such as “cheap service for lawn mowing”. Previously this would not have been a phrase match.

An example of phrase match keywords can be found on Google’s official support website:

Broad match modified keywords are still being supported by Google for the time being and will behave the same way as the new phrase match types, but advertisers will not be able to add more BMM keywords to their accounts as of July 2021. 

In addition to the phrase match changes, Google also announced that it will begin using contextual signals to better match broad match keywords to search terms. As announced, “Broad match now looks at additional signals in your account (such as landing pages) to deliver more relevant searches.”

How will this impact campaigns?

This is the latest in a long line of changes from Google that make its Ads platform more automated, and streamlined. It can be difficult to predict how these kinds of changes will impact your account, so the best advice for now is to keep a close eye on existing campaigns and watch out for any unexpected changes in performance.

While these changes may result in increased impressions, clicks and spend for some – particularly those that use a lot of phrase match keywords. If your account has made heavy use of broad match modified keywords you may notice a reduction in these metrics because of these changes. Because Google is now accounting for user search intent when matching keywords to search terms, your ads may not show for searches that they previously might have.

Key points

  • BMM keywords will no longer be an option from July 2021 onwards. Make sure you understand what has changed and what alternatives you can use after that time.
  • Keep a close eye on any campaigns that are already using phrase match or broad match modified keywords. You may notice fluctuations in performance.
  • Consider whether the new phrase match may be right for your campaigns. If you haven’t used this match type previously, consider testing it out.
  • Take another look at your account structure. Fluctuations in spend, particularly if you have made heavy use of phrase match or BMM keywords, may mean that you need to revisit some campaign budgets.

If you’re looking for advice on an existing campaign or if you’d like to know more about how Forward & Thinking can help you to achieve your goals by leveraging Google Search, don’t hesitate to drop us a line at