Google Ads Broad Match Modifier: What is it and What to Use Instead After the 2021 Update You may have heard that Google has updated their AdWords matching policies to promote higher quality traffic.

Posted by Dani ERDEI
· 28th May 2021 · 4 min read

What this means for you is that broad match modifiers will no longer be available after July 2021, and all of your broad match modifier keywords will now default to phrase match.

How do you get ahead of this change? Read on!

Match Types: A Quick Review

You probably know there are three kinds of match types in AdWords. Just so we don't leave anyone behind, though, let's have a quick recap of the three main match types.

Exact Match

Ads may show for searches that match the keyword or have terms with similar meaning. Of the three options, exact match is best because it allows you to target your audience more precisely.

Phrase Match

Advertisements may show for user searches which include the meaning of your keywords. The meaning of the keyword can be implied and user searches can often be a more specific form of this kind. With phrase match, you reach more customers but your advertising will not be shown to those looking for something different. This is more focused than broad match but less targeted than exact match.

Broad Match

Broad match is the default keyword match type, and it allows an ad to show on searches that are related to your keyword. This expands your reach without needing to specify each specific term within search queries.

To provide more relevant matches on Google's advertising platform, broad match includes a broader variety of criteria, such as:

  • The user’s recent search activities
  • The content of the landing page

What is a broad match modifier?

This match type will trigger your ads when the keyword is present in any form (exact or close variant) - including those with/without quotation marks, numbers, punctuation, etc. To add a BMM keyword you need to put “+” sign before it. Doing this tells Google that the keyword must be used in the search.

How do you make a broad match modifier?

Fortunately, Broad Match Modifiers can still be enabled. By adding a plus (+) sign before the broad match words you want to include in search queries, any query with these keywords will trigger your ad. Broad matching and modifiers do not respect the order of words, so the matching words may appear next to each other or appearing separately at different points in the search query.

What is the difference between a broad match and a broad match modifier?

A broad match is broader than an ad using modified broad match because the broad match keyword will trigger ads for synonyms and related searches, even if they do not include the actual keyword or keyword phrase. Broad match modified keywords only trigger ads when the specific words, or close synonyms, are searched.

Broad Match Modifier and Phrase Match Keywords: What Is Changing?

In July 2021, both phrase and broad match modifier keywords will have the same updated matching behavior in order to show ads on searches that include the meaning of your keyword.

In February 2021, Google began to incorporate behaviors of (BMM) into a phrase match. Broad match modifiers are now considered "phrase" instead of an exact search as they were before.

Google plans to roll the phrase matching behaviour out to more languages in the future:

  • As of April 2021, the updated phrase match behavior is available in the following languages: English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Russian
  • Starting in June, the updated phrase match behavior will begin rolling out to all languages, completing in July 2021

You don’t need to change anything about your phrase or broad match keywords in order to see the upcoming changes.

Updated Phrase Match

The broad match modifier (BMM) will be updated to become the phrase match for Google AdWords. The new behavior will be more expansive than phrase match, but slightly more restrictive than BMM.

5 Simple Steps to Take to Be Ready for These Changes

We want to help you prepare for the upcoming changes, so we've put together a set of five steps to follow:

  1. It is important that you begin to only use exact, phrase, or broad match when adding any new keywords. Doing this will help ensure your ads have the most accurate targeting and do not get changed automatically by a future update.
  2. Add negative keywords to your ad group if you wish to exclude specific queries. This can help you retain some of the precision of the broad match modifier keywords across your ad groups.
  3. To prepare for the broad match modifier change, check your campaign budgets and make sure you aren’t budget-limited. It is possible that phrase match keywords will see an increase in volume as a result of these changes.
  4. Review the “Add new keywords” recommendation to see if there are additional keywords you should add to maintain coverage. Because we’re tightening BMM’s reach, there may be some queries you’re no longer reaching using your existing keywords, and we’ve labeled these keywords in the list of recommended keywords.
  5. Consider switching your phrase queries to broad match if you are using Smart Bidding. This will give you the opportunity to reach more people while still honoring your advertising goals.


How will my phrase/BMM keyword traffic change?

We recommend that you closely monitor your Search Terms reports and account performance.

For your phrase keywords, be prepared to see an increase in traffic volumes for those phrases. It’s possible you might also see a decrease in traffic volumes for BMM (broad matched modifier) keywords with some words modified but not all of them (+moving services).

How will the new Google AdWords Matching Policy affect Phrase and Broad Match Modifier Definitions?

As of April 2021, the updated phrase match has gone into effect for English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch and Russian.

Changed phrase match (and legacy broad match modifier): Adwords will show on searches containing the meaning of your keyword. Users can get more specific with their searches and yet still trigger an ad.

For any language not mentioned above, phrase and broad match modifier keywords will continue to use the definitions below until July 2021. In this month they will be fully using the updated phrase match definition.

  • Phrase match, former definition: Matches part or all of a user's search words with the keyword phrase (or close variations) by considering other words before and after. Close variants include terms that have the same meaning.
  • Broad match modifier, former definition: Matches a user's search with any of the keywords designated by a plus sign, or related words in any order.
Should I change my BMM keywords to phrase match?

To avoid a temporary drop in volume, it is best to wait until the update has fully rolled out in your language.

If you need help updating your BMM keywords to, for example, phrase match (or any other matching type), we have two solutions to help you convert your BMM keywords.

Here is a section from Google Support to help you change these keywords quickly: [About changes to phrase match and broad match modifier - Google Ads Help]

Within Google Ads:

  1. In the page menu along the left, click Search Keywords.
  2. Select the keywords you want to change or you can use the checkbox at the top of the table to select all keywords.
  3. Click Edit.
  4. Navigate to the Change match types option.
  5. When you hover, you will see an option to Change broad match modifier keywords.
  6. Select Change broad match modifier keywords.

This solution will only apply the selected match type changes to BMM keywords. Note: This option is expected to be available to all advertisers by the end of May. Within Google Ads Editor, warnings will appear next to BMM keywords. Use the “Fix” prompt to update all selected BMM keywords to any match type. Keep in mind: Whether using these solutions or converting manually, your BMM keywords’ performance statistics will not carry over to the new instances of keywords.

If I have both BMM and phrase keywords in my account, which will be preferably matched to ads?

In order to give all advertisers a fair shake, the updated BMM preference will not differentiate between legacy keywords and phrase match keywords in determining Ad Rank.

What happens to my BMM keywords that use modifiers on some, but not all words?

Adwords broad match modifiers will no longer apply to a subset of the words in your keyword. If you use Keyword +moving services, the operator will now apply to both words "moving services" or "moving services". To offset changes in traffic volume and get more leads, consider updating your keywords and adding relevant ones that have been recommended for recovery of any lost volume.