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A farewell to ‘broad match modified’ search ads

Here at BMON, we’re not very impressed with yet another move by Google to take away the control we have on our search advertising, in favour of ‘let the machines do it’. We understand that many ‘hands off’ advertisers might get better results from allowing Google itself to decide where and when ads should show. But agencies such as BMON who are paid to monitor and refine campaigns meticulously want more control, not less.

So what’s this latest move? It’s basically the withdrawal of the much loved ‘broad match modified’ keywords, which sat between the longer established ‘phrase match’ and ‘broad match’ types. The ‘broad match modified’ keyword type was introduced ten years ago to fill a gaping hole in Google search advertising. Advertising ‘blue widgets’ as ‘broad match’ might see your ad appearing against almost any search vaguely related to the term. Using ‘phrase match’ would restrict appearances to searches where the words ‘blue widgets’ appeared together, in that order. But neither at the time would allow you to target searches such as ‘blue and red widgets’ or ‘why are widgets blue’.

‘Broad match modified’ would cover those, by allowing the words to be separate, or in a different order. Brilliant. We’ve used it in huge volumes over the years, especially to discover new search terms.

Now Google is folding the ‘broad match modified’ into the ‘phrase match’ strategy, such that ‘phrase match’ won’t be as strict, while apparently “continuing to respect word order when it’s important to the meaning”.

The title of Google’s blog post introducing its latest move – “Making it easier to reach the right customers on Search” – shows that they’re trying to sell it like politicians would. Take your medicine, it’ll do you good.

Of course, this is all just another small step towards the position in which Google wants to end up: tell us the web page or site you want to advertise, give us the money, and we’ll do the rest. They’re convinced that their machine learning can do everything better than humans, and they may be right. But for now, it’s very frustrating for advertisers who want to do things carefully and retain control of their advertising.

This article on Search Engine Land has some good industry reaction.