Google Match Update Could Yield Website Traffic Fluctuations

Change is part of Google’s ongoing push toward machine learning adoption.

As the saying goes, the only thing constant in life is change. Google should make that their company motto. Once again, the search behemoth is changing its methodologies in pursuit of “driving performance.” The latest update impacts keyword match—phasing out broad match modifier keywords and adjusting how phrase match keywords match search queries. 

Under the new structure, phrase match will expand to cover additional broad match modifier traffic while respecting word order when it is essential to meaning. This change is essential to brands because phrase match is becoming more liberal in matching, presenting information that may not be valuable. 

Why This Change Matters

Google claims broad match is more useful than ever before at driving performance, especially when paired with smart bidding. They also say phrase match and broad match modifiers often serve the same cases, and in combination, can reach more of the right customers.

This claim may be valid, but there’s a flaw.

Let’s say a person searches “holidays in Canada” because they want to know about specific holidays. With Google’s new structure, that search will now match “holiday spots in Canada,” serving up geographical information. That’s undoubtedly a miss, but Google believes that their improved understanding of intent makes it easier to reach customers because keywords can now match the meaning of a search instead of just the exact word. 

It’s About Machine Learning Automation

Only time will tell if Google’s claims prove to be true. But what we do know is this change is part of an ongoing push by the company to expedite machine learning adoption. Like the recent search query update, match updates could force more advertisers to use machine learning automation, which Google has been trying to roll out for more than two years. It’s an attractive venture for Google because machine learning automation allows the company to match more searches, which can drive irrelevant clicks and additional revenue potential for Google.

What Clients Need to Know

By mid-February, both phrase match and broad match modifier keywords will begin to transition to this new matching behavior. And by July, we will no longer be able to create new broad match modifier (BMM) keywords (but existing BMM keywords will continue to serve). We will continue to keep an eye on search queries and traffic volume, but if we experience challenges scaling accounts, we will need to include broad match keywords in combination with extensive negative keyword lists with closely monitored traffic and budget. That will allow us to continue to deliver relevant traffic after the change.

If you have questions regarding Google’s recent changes and your campaigns, contact us.