The Progression of Google Ads Match Types in 2021

Published: February 23, 2021

Brady Heid


At the beginning of February, Google announced a new update to keyword match types that will change how we structure Google Ads campaigns in the future. 

While Google announced updates to exact and broad match keywords, the most relevant update is the consolidation of phrase match keywords and broad match modifier (BMM) keywords. 

Below, we’ll explain the changes with the Google Ads match types and how marketers should adjust their campaigns as a result. 

Google Ads Match Types: Updates for 2021

Here are the most important changes to be aware of regarding Google Ads match types this year:

  1. Phrase match keywords will replace BMM keywords.
    • BMM and phrase match often serve ads to the same search queries.
  2. Broad match keywords will utilize signals with AI to deliver more relevant searches.
    • Signals (landing pages, keywords, and ad copy) combine to deliver ads to the most relevant searches.
  3. Exact match keywords will become more powerful.
    • Search queries that mirror an exact match keyword take precedence over related queries.

Phrase match and BMM will combine for improved control and reach.

The goal in most well-constructed campaigns is to show ads to the most relevant, highest intent audiences in the most efficient way possible. Through phrase match and BMM keywords, advertisers captured searches based on a combination of words or phrases. 

While this has proven to be successful in attracting high-intent search queries, it can also be redundant, as phrase match and BMM keywords often enter the same auction and serve ads to the same user searches. Essentially, this means you may be competing against keywords in your own Ads account, driving the cost per click higher than necessary.

What These Changes Will Look Like

Google is incorporating the behaviors of BMM keywords into phrase match, essentially ridding the “+” syntax used in front of words that MUST be in the user search to trigger an ad. The purpose of this is to minimize the chance of missing out on relevant searches while simultaneously excluding as many irrelevant searches as possible.

For example, if an advertiser had a campaign set up for blue running shoes, we would have wanted the keywords to look something like this:

“blue running shoes”
+running +shoes
+blue running +shoes

In the past, if the phrase “blue running shoes” was not typed out exactly in that order somewhere in the search, an ad would never show an impression, which is why having BMM keywords in the account as well was so important. 

Moving forward, however, when setting up a campaign for blue running shoes, having a phrase match keyword (such as “blue running shoes”) will not only trigger ads with that phrase typed out somewhere in the query, but it will also trigger ads for searches showing a strong intent to purchase or look for blue running shoes. 

This means that we have to rely on Google’s AI capabilities to interpret when the word order matters, rather than relying only on our campaigns’  keyword structures. 

The merging of phrase match and BMM keywords can help marketers more efficiently manage keywords in Ads accounts while improving the query quality. 

When to Expect These Changes

According to Google, the first rollout of the new Google Ads match types will begin in mid-February. Once the changes take place, both phrase match and BMM keywords will function as the new phrase match keywords.

With that being said, any new campaigns created after mid-February should be structured with phrase match keywords as well as exact and broad match keywords. Marketers should also note that once July hits, Google won’t allow keywords in the broad modified match structure.

Broad match keywords will deliver more relevant impressions.

Although this update is not as dramatic as the update to consolidate BMM and phrase match, it’s still important to understand. According to Google, broad match will begin to look at more than just the queries typed into the Google search bar. 

Before, marketers stayed away from broad match keywords, but this could be a good time to test out the new features. Google will now utilize other signals, such as landing pages, other keywords, ad copy, and more. This should help increase your keyword search quality.

Exact match keywords will become more powerful.

Finally, the last update to match types in Google Ads comes in the form of exact match keywords.  Most experienced marketers understand the purpose of exact match keywords but often found they were still outbid by competitor phrase match or BMM keywords in the past. 

Possible reasons for this included the quality score, landing page experience, and ad rank. These factors will no longer take precedence over a search that matches one of your exact match keywords. This means that the utilization of exact keywords are even more important after Google’s most recent update.


To summarize, Google is making a pretty extreme update to Google Ads match types that will roll out in February and won’t be final until the end of July. During this process, as conversion-focused marketers, we must be aware of how these changes affect our performance. 

As with most Google updates, data-minded marketers should closely monitor how keywords were performing before this update and understand why they’re performing differently after the update to make the most efficient changes within our accounts.

It’s important to note that, while these changes are drastic, PPC marketers will still need to have a full-picture campaign strategy and rely on smart bidding strategies to successfully utilize these recent updates from Google.

Need a strong marketing team who can put together your company’s Google Adwords match type strategy? BrandCraft is here for you. Contact us today to learn more. 

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