Google Killed Phrase Match The truth

Christian N.By Christian N.

I find it quite amusing when giant companies take things away from their customers then try to convince them that it’s good for them, when it actually isn’t.

Apple is notorious for it, taking away the headphone jack then chargers. So is Google, with continuously blurring the lines between keyword match types.

We remember the loss of a “Pure Exact Match” type that got diluted to include close variants. They’re at it again, taking away the capabilities of Phrase Match, mixing it with Modified Broad, and calling it good news.

It’s not good news.

To the small business owner, here’s a correction of their announcement, I give them a score of 1/10.

Missing in that first paragraph is the need for businesses to reach ONLY the right customers.
We can no longer restrict our reach to just what the old phrase match could do.
We could restrict or expand our reach as desired. That’s now gone.
It’s not Broad Match Modifier that’s going away, it will continue to live under Phrase Match’s name. It’s Phrase Match’s current capabilities that are going away.

What to do

How to react to
this change.

Some will benefit, many won’t.

To understand this change correctly: Phrase Match is essentially becoming Broad Modified Match. A mix-up.

We’ll all need to watch our traffic and conversions for positive or negative fluctuations. This change will impact you more or less depending on your use of Phrase Match.

If you’re a TenScores customer, take a look at your match-type use by going to the Keyword Management tool, in the overview tab, at the very bottom.

Fig 1. Match type coverage from TenScores’ Keyword Management tool.
Scenario #1

You’re not using Phrase
Match at all.

Fig 2. An account getting only 0.3% of its impression from Phrase Match.

When Broad Modified Match was introduced (a good change), many of us started using it over Phrase Match, as the choice to expand reach without resorting to the wild Broad Match was a welcomed one. One that correctly gave the choice to do what was best for our businesses.

For those who don’t use Phrase Match, obviously, this change should not have any impact at all or a very minimal one. Not much to worry about.

Scenario #2

You’re using Phrase Match

Fig 3. An account getting 25.8% of its conversions from Phrase Match.

Keep a good watch for any negative fluctuations in volume and acquisition costs. Particularly, an increase in clicks that isn’t supported by an increase in conversions, and might increase your acquisition costs.

You will also most certainly see an increase in duplicate search terms as we saw it happen frequently as a consequence of Google diluting Exact Match. And you might have to start adding more negative keywords to certain adgroups. Yes, you have work to do.

Scenario #3

You’re using Phrase Match

Fig 4. An account getting 98.7% of its impressions from Phrase Match.

This is the kind of scenario that will see the most change. It will be like turning all your keywords into Broad Modified. First, there’s no reason why anyone should be using Phrase Match this extensively. Second, it can be fixed easily.

If you belong to this group of people, use our restructuring tool (the functionality is not listed on our website, but it’s there) to automatically add Exact Match to any keyword that doesn’t have it as a variation.

This will switch large portions of your current traffic to Exact Match, for which there is a bit more control (for now, until Google kills it completely too). Then, you will find yourself in Scenario #2 above.

All scenarios

Fix rampant search term

You might not be aware of this …. the same search terms often get triggered by multiple keywords in your account, some of which you never intended them to be triggered by.

Close variants are the biggest offenders (another bad change that Google decided to ram down our throats, whether we liked it or not).

Now that Phrase Match is getting the same treatment, search term duplication is going to be even more prevalent, so you’ll need to watch out for it.

As a TenScores customer, we’re already watching out for you, and you have access to a tool that monitors duplication, recommends a fix, and allows you to implement the remedy in a few clicks. Use it.

Fig 5. Duplicate keywords tool in TenScores.

A better way

What Google could have
done instead.

Google didn’t have to do things this way.

They could have simply given us the choice to choose what works for us and decide for ourselves what is better for our businesses.

Solution #1

Enhanced Phrase Match.

Provide it as an option for those who desire to have Phrase Match behave like Broad Modified (while keeping word order when it makes sense).

Fig 6. An “Enhanced” Phrase Match option that still takes word order into consideration when meaning might change.

A meaningless solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, of course, as it can already be accomplished by the Modified Broad (and a few negatives when necessary).

Solution #2

Restricted Broad Modifier.

Provide and option to restrict Broad Modified Match when changing word order changes the meaning of the search.

Fig 7. A “restricted” Broad Modifier option that takes word order into consideration when meaning might change.

Google claims they can figure out when the intent changes as word order changes, I’ll quote Brad on this one:

Unfortunately, in practice, Google can decipher when meanings are similar, but they can’t figure out when the intent is similar or different. ~ Brad Geddes

That really was the only drawback of Broad Modified Match which never takes word order into account. They could have simply improved it if their claim is true, and we know it isn’t.

Real solution

Google, please stop screwing over your real customers.

The bigger picture at hand, and one that I’m sure hasn’t eluded anyone, is the potential additional revenue that it will generate for the giant.

Any advertiser who’s using Phrase Match will get an increase in impressions, and clicks. Google makes money by the click.

As much as Google and Facebook would like the world to believe that their customers are the people who use their platforms β€” a search engine for Google, and a social tool for Facebook β€” those people are actually the product they sell, an audience that we advertisers pay to have access to.

In a better world, this giant would be looking for better ways to bring that product to the remaining millions of businesses that still don’t have an online presence, instead of finding new ways to nickel and dime their actual customer base.

Bing Ads looks a little bit more attractive by the day.

That’s my rant.

Credits: Thanks to Roland for nudging me to write this, and suggesting that I add some practical advice for those who have access to TenScores. Thanks to Maria for her initial feedback on the piece. You rock! πŸ™
Christian N.

About Christian N.

Chris is one of the two-man team that founded, he wrote his first PPC ad in 2007, fell in love and hasn't stopped ever since.
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