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Google Ads Expands Match Type Modifiers

At the end of July, Google announced a change to the match type targeting available in Google Ads. On the one hand, the changes help to broaden the potential search market for advertisers, but on the other, this will change the way that more advanced advertisers can control the focus and relevancy of their keywords and ads.

As Google says, people are often searching for the same answers but in many different ways, using a variety of words which may be constantly changing. They say that 15% of searches made on Google every day are new (although a lot of these will relate to trending news stories). As a result of this, Google started allowing exact match keywords to match to close variants at the end of 2018.

Now, Google is expanding the use of variants to broad match modifier and phrase match keywords so that words within the search query that share the same meaning as the keyword will be matched and so ads will be shown for other searches that Google’s systems deems as similar or related. As a result Google estimates that most advertisers using these match types will see 3-4% more clicks and conversions on these keywords, plus of those new clicks, 85% are expected to be net new on average—meaning that are not covered by existing keywords.

Broad match modifier keywords match to queries that include the same words as the keyword or their close variants. The matched words can be in any order, without requiring them to be next to each other. Broad match modifier close variants have historically only included misspellings, singular or plural, stemmings, abbreviations, and accents. Moving forward, close variants will also include words with the same meaning as the keyword.

So an example Google uses is for a landscaper using +lawn +mowing +service as a keyword. Previously, queries like “services to mow my lawn” or “lawn mowing and edging service” may have triggered ads. Now, the ads can trigger when people search for things like “grass cutting and gardening services” or “rates for services that cut your grass.”

Phrase match keywords allow ads to show when the query includes the chosen keyword or close variants of the exact phrase of the keyword, with additional words before or after. Like the update to broad match modifier keywords, this now includes queries that contain words that share the same meaning as the keyword so that the example of the phrase match keyword “lawn mowing service” would previously show for queries like “lawn mowing service prices” or “seasonal lawn mowing service rates” will now also trigger ads when people search for things like “grass cutting service near me” or “local lawn cutting services.”

For advertisers, these updates can be significant and need to be monitored, and it will still be important to maintain the control and flexibility the business requires. Therefore Google is also making a change to keyword selection preferences so that if a query currently matches to an exact, phrase, or broad match modifier keyword that exists in the Ads account, Google will prevent that query from matching to a different phrase or broad match modifier keyword that’s now eligible for the same auction as a result of this update.

For example, if an advertiser is targeting the phrase keywords “lawn mowing service” and “grass cutting service” and the query “lawn mowing service near me” is used, it will currently match with the keyword “lawn mowing service.” This will continue to match with that keyword and Google will prevent the keyword “grass cutting service” from triggering an ad on the query “lawn mowing service near me,” even though “grass cutting service” is now eligible to match to the query.

This may seem complicated and relies on Google’s system to make the decision on which keyword is triggered by which search query, but it remains important for advertisers to still follow these best practices:

  • Monitor performance: Traffic may fluctuate due to these changes, so make adjustments as needed—like changing bids or pausing keywords.
  • Consider negative keywords: Keep checking the search terms report periodically and use negative keywords to exclude matches you don’t want. Note that this update does not impact your negative keywords, which do not match to close variants.
  • Deploy Smart Bidding: Consider using Google’s machine learning technology, Smart Bidding, which optimizes bids in real time for every auction. This should lower bids in auctions where ads are less relevant or aren’t expected to perform well.

If you’d like to know more about how this change may impact your Google Ads campaigns, please contact us for further details.