Google is constantly moving the goalposts for ads, but who does it really benefit?

By Ryan Potts / Marketing , PPC / 12th February 2021

Google is always telling us it is making it “easier for advertisers to reach their customers”, but what does that really mean?

Before we start, we should smash the jargon…

Let’s get the technicalities out the way before moving on to the changes. Currently, Google has three different match types for its keywords:

Broad Match Modifiers (BMM): Ads may show on searches that relate to your keywords.

  • e.g. if your BMM keywords are +red +men’s +shoes you could show for “red and white secondhand men’s shoes”.

Phrase Match: Ads may show on searches that include the meaning of your keyword.

  • e.g. if your phrase match keywords are “red men’s shoes” you could show for “cheap men’s red shoes” but not “red and white men’s shoes” because “red men’s shoes” must stay in that order, with only text being allowed to be added before or after.

Exact Match: Ads may show on searches that are the same meaning as your keyword.

  • e.g. if your exact match keywords are [red men’s shoes] you will only show for that search term/meaning. Google has recently introduced changes to exact match whereby search terms that have the same meaning could trigger your keywords. In this instance, you could also show for “red male shoes”.

What is changing

With the latest keyword update starting on February 18th 2021, it could spell the end for campaign structuring as we know it, and with that, Broad Match Modifiers (BMM) are soon to be dead. BMM and phrase match keywords are merging, with the option of creating BMM keywords being made redundant in July.

What the impact will be

So how will this really affect the accounts day to day? There will be fluctuations in spend and traffic within any existing phrase and BMM match campaigns as any existing BMM keywords will serve under the new phrase match behaviours and long-tail search terms will no longer be triggered by a BMM keyword.

"how will this really affect the accounts day to day? "

As mentioned on the Google site, it is supposed to “streamline your keyword management and save you time” whilst improving your performance using Google’s automated machine learning. Similar reasons were given for rolling out close variant and same meaning changes to exact match, which initially blurred the lines between exact and broad match keywords.

Our approach

Historically, account structure was key to good performance, with different match types set up across different campaigns, making the account easy to manage. In short, a PPC expert could instantly tell the difference between an account set up professionally and by someone who was “just having a go”. A good account structure, clear guidance for keywords and full visibility of search terms meant that optimising a campaign was a manual but effective job for the user running the account and fully educated and informed decisions could be made.

"Account structure is slowly becoming more and more irrelevant."

Account structure is slowly becoming more and more irrelevant. With these small tweaks to keywords, limiting the number of search terms it shows you, it’s slowly taking the control away from the PPC specialist and putting it into the hands of Google itself.

Handing over the control to Google could and hopefully would lead to improved performances, however, the pushing of their recommendations tab, and blurring of the keywords will no doubt lead to an increased overall cost for users. If you don’t have full access to data or the ability to have full control, how can you possibly fully optimise?

At Focus on Media, our paid search approach takes a considered combination of relevant data, insightful understanding of audience context and constant testing and learning. We embrace the match type targeting update by Google but we upweight our optimisation efforts to understand the variable levels of PPC success moving forward.

If you want to speak to me or any of our PPC experts about how this is going to affect your paid search campaign, please get in touch!

In summary…

So, does it mean the end of the PPC agency as we know it? Not quite, whilst the changes to keywords are significant, it is one of many targeting options, and it starts to put more of an emphasis on the use of all areas of an account, such as audience lists. Utilising all areas of the platform will mean that any Google updates won’t have too much of a change to an account.

"does it mean the end of the PPC agency as we know it?"

Using the platform, and using it effectively are worlds apart, but heading in the direction of taking everything away from the experienced user will directly cause a lot more users who are keen to “have a go”. Because how hard can it really be if Google does most of it for you? More people having a go themselves, and not running it effectively, will lead to more money being driven through the platform.

The real winner here, as always, is Google.

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Ryan Potts

Written by

Ryan Potts

Ryan Potts is the PPC Manager for Focus on Media. He has over 6 years’ experience in running Paid Media Campaigns, both agency and client-side, in a variety of sectors including property and the legal industry. Ryan has a particular interest in paid search and enjoys creating strategies to get the best out of the Google platforms. A self-titled red wine connoisseur, he spends his free time socialising with friends and attempting to play football.