Paid Media (SEM) / Digital Marketing

Google Ads BMM: Death By Voice Search

Winnie Chan

11 Feb 2021

What happened?

On February 4, 2021, Google announced that it would be changing broad match modifier (BMM) keywords and rolling their functionality into phrase match targeting.

From mid-February onwards, BMM and phrase match types will start functioning in a new way (the update itself doesn’t impact negative keywords).

If you are using Phrase and BMM in your accounts, it is expected to see less traffic coming through from your BMM keywords, and more from your phrase match. And by July 2021, you will no longer be able to create new BMM keywords on Google Ads.

Official answer from Google is to aim to save time by streamlining keyword management, as these two match types should already be covering the majority of searches that most advertisers would like to show for.

Our search behaviour has changed
My understanding of Google’s switch of focus from BMM to Phrase match is that it has a lot to do with the rise of voice search. I know, it’s an “old prediction”. However, in 2021, this is more of a reality than prediction.

We are now searching more via voice than before!

Just think about how Siri was blended into our everyday lives in recent years. For me personally, I use voice search for everything from checking on the weather, to playing music, to broadcasting a message to my partner in another room. I’d probably say “OK, Google” at least 10 times a day. 

Long tail keywords’ role in voice search
We search very differently via Voice when compared to Text. For example, we type “Weather Melbourne” on Google to look for weather forecasts. But we say “OK, Google, What’s the weather like in Melbourne today?” or “Hey Siri, where is my nearest Kmart?”

Naturally, voice search queries are based on phrase matches. With the switch of search behaviour in favour of voice search, I can only imagine how important it is for digital marketers to focus on long-tail keywords moving forward.

New Phrase Match in an Existing Customer Journey
We must carefully identify user intent and pair the correct phrase match keywords to different stages of a customer journey. 

For example, What, Who, How would apply that a searcher is at the awareness / research stage. When, Where, Near me / Find Me..’, would be applied if a searcher is nearer the end of the buyer journey. 

Your new keywords spread should look something like this:

In the example above, recommended phrase match keywords are highlighted in bold.

What’s on in Melbourne” will match the query What’s on this weekend in Melbourne?

“Ticket at Aus Open” will match How much are the tickets at Aus Open this weekend?

“Seat at the Aus Open” will match Find me the best available seat at the Aus Open this Saturday.

It is important to understand this new change as phrase matches will slowly dictate on your overall keyword strategy as voice search becomes more popular!

What are your next steps?

  1. Migrate BMM over to Phrase

Agencies should review and evaluate the best performing BMM in their existing portfolio to see what search queries are triggering those keywords. Continue to add new variants to make sure they won’t miss out.

However, this should be done gradually and with great care. For example, don’t change the entire portfolio at once to avoid extreme data fluctuation.

  1. Give Broad Match a second chance

Goodbye “too broad” broad match and say hello to the “targeted” broad match. The new update will insert additional signals for broad matches to improve overall relevance. So give it a go, don’t be afraid to use Broad match again!

  1. Keep an eye on Search Term reports

If you haven’t already, it is always good to make check-in on your Search Term reports as part of an optimisation routine. Keep a close eye on how the removal of BMM change is having an impact on your campaigns’ performance. Assess the impact individually at a campaign or ad group level, and make relevant changes when necessary.  

This is just a general guideline to help you navigate through this unprecedented time. Every client is different. Some accounts are naturally very straight forward, but some are not. At the end of the day, only adapt a strategy you think is best for your client. Good luck! 

By Winnie Chan, Paid Media Director at GrowthOps Digital

GrowthOps Digital is a full-service digital agency that offers end to end digital marketing services such as Google Ads, Social Media, Partnership Marketing, and more. Speak to us about your growth needs today.