On May 19, 2021, Brad Geddes, Founder of AdAlysis and Pay-Per-Click Marketing Chair at Simplilearn, conducted a masterclass in dealing with the recent changes in Google match types.

Brad introduced the changes that Google recently made in its match types, phrase match, and modified broad match.

How Modified Broad and Phrase Match Worked in Early 2021

In early May 2021, modified broad match in Google matched to anything considered related. Placing a plus symbol (+) in front of a word in the search term indicated that you wanted the search to match that word closely. For example, the search term “+wedding +cake” matched to:

  • Wedding cake
  • Red wedding cake
  • How to bake wedding cakes
  • ~Wedding cheesecake

In early 2021, phrase match generally forced a match to the keywords in the same order as given in the phrase. A match might add or remove words with low semantic load, that is, words that don’t change the intent of the phrase. Phrase match would also allow misspellings and different word stems, substitute words that Google deemed to have the same meaning as the words in the phrase, and be insensitive to singulars and plurals.

The 2021 Changes in Google Match Types

In 2021, changes will affect each of these Google match types.  

Exact match will require that the user’s search term have the same intent as the keyword term: the wording may be different, but the intent must be the same.

Using the keyword example “NYC hotel,” under exact match, the search terms “New York City hotels” and “hotels in New York City” would match, but “cheap hotels in New York City” would not match: the modifier changes the intent.  

Phrase match will function like the early 2021 modified broad match: word order will no longer matter. User search terms can add modifiers and still match, so long as the intent is the same. Thus with phrase match, now “cheap hotels in New York City” or “NYC hotels that take pets” would match the keyword “NYC hotels”.  

Word order won’t matter in phrase match so long as the change of order doesn’t change the intent: the algorithm still recognizes that “flight from San Francisco to New York” is not the same as “flight from New York to San Francisco”. There are still confusing cases: for example, “deck paint” is something you buy to paint your deck, while “paint deck” is an activity you do. “Deck paint” should not point to how-to videos on painting your deck, while “paint deck” definitely should, and Google struggles with differences like these. You will need to treat these cases with care to ensure you have keywords that reflect your true intent and to interpret ambiguity in the impressions you get.

Still, the phrase match changes will yield more impressions for your keywords (you will catch combinations in different word orders). Your challenge will be to determine if these additional impressions generate conversions.

Another change is that Google will treat modified broad match the same as phrase match and treat each word as if it had the plus prefix. Where “wedding +cake” would match to “birthday cake,” now a modified broad match keyword “wedding +cake” will be treated as “+wedding +cake” and will require both “wedding” and “cake” in the search term. This change will lead to your losing impressions from the keyword: that may be okay, provided that you do not also lose conversions from that keyword. If you sell wedding cakes, losing the impressions for “birthday cake” should not affect your conversions (since people looking for birthday cakes are not interested in buying wedding cakes).

You aren’t required to convert your modified broad match keywords: Google will simply change how it treats them. You could choose to turn all of them into phrase match keywords. Another option is to copy your modified broad match keywords and create corresponding phrase match keywords so you can compare the effects of the changes on the two types.

By July 2021, you will not be able to create modified broad match terms. It’s unclear how much longer after that your existing modified broad match terms will be supported (treated like phrase match).

That was all about Google’s match type.

Do you want to master the essential disciplines in Digital Marketing? Check out the Digital Marketing Specialist course now.

Actionable Advice

As Google continues to make these match types “looser,” you need to look for multiple keywords in your account that will match the same search terms. These become effectively duplicate keywords. If you have different ads with different keywords going to different landing pages, you don’t want keywords for the different ads to duplicate the exact matches to the same search terms.

To compensate, you need to be conscious of how you use negative keywords to maintain the different behavior of your ads. You also need to be careful of using filters to identify search terms that are candidate keywords. For example, if you use a filter that shows search terms with more than 50 clicks and two conversions and decide to turn those into keywords, you can create the same keyword for multiple ads, thus ruining your performance statistics. Your bidding will be wrong, your ad testing will be inaccurate, and your landing pages will not receive the right target traffic.

You will need to monitor how your keywords and ads perform during this transition period to see how your data by match type changes over time. That will give you an indication of when and how you should switch your match types.

Brad ran several demos of finding duplicate search terms and keywords, using negative keywords or pausing keywords to manage the effect of duplicates, using Google reports to analyze match type changes, and bulk changing Google match types. He also discussed available third-party tools for keyword analysis and the use of techniques like N-Grams to analyze clusters of related keywords.

The changes in Google match types are just one example of how digital marketing technologies and techniques constantly evolve. As a digital marketer, you need to continuously refresh and expand your skills to keep up.

Simplilearn can help you with upskilling in digital marketing. Our Post Graduate Program in Digital Marketing in partnership with Purdue University is a comprehensive certification program in all aspects of digital marketing, including PPC, SEO, email marketing, and social media marketing.

Our Digital Marketing Courses Duration And Fees

Digital Marketing Courses typically range from a few weeks to several months, with fees varying based on program and institution.

Program NameDurationFees
Post Graduate Program in Digital Marketing

Cohort Starts: 27 Jun, 2024

8 Months$ 3,000
Digital Marketing Specialist

Cohort Starts: 19 Jun, 2024

8 Months$ 1,649

Learn from Industry Experts with free Masterclasses

  • How to Pivot Your Digital Marketing to the New Normal: Expert Tips and Strategies

    Digital Marketing

    How to Pivot Your Digital Marketing to the New Normal: Expert Tips and Strategies

    25th Aug, Tuesday9:00 PM IST
  • Get the First Mover Advantage with AI in Digital Marketing

    Digital Marketing

    Get the First Mover Advantage with AI in Digital Marketing

    6th Jun, Thursday9:00 PM IST
  • Deep Dive into AI's Impact on Content in Digital Age

    Digital Marketing

    Deep Dive into AI's Impact on Content in Digital Age

    14th Mar, Thursday9:00 PM IST