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Phrase Match Modifier – What It Is & Why You Should Be Using It

If you use AdWords, you already know about keyword match types.

As keyword match types are a fundamental part of AdWords targeting, there’s not usually a lot of news about big changes because of how widespread the impacts to advertisers can be.

Until now.

There’s a shake up happening that could yield significant improvements for certain campaigns and opportunistic advertisers.

Search Engine Journal recently revealed their findings from some interesting experiments they ran using various syntaxes. They struck gold when they discovered a secret 5th match type, Phrase Match Modifier or PMM!

In this post, I will give a brief outline on match types, what PMM is, how you can use it, and why you should use it.

Why do match types matter?

Match types are applied to keywords, and allow you to control when ads show, whether you want them appearing for only specific searches with exact match, or to widen your reach using broad match. For an advertiser, strategically choosing match types is important as it impacts your:

  1. Reach – depending on your budget and the size of your target market, you’ll generally want to reach as many relevant users as possible
  2. Relevance – depending on the product or service, you might only want to show your ads to really specific searches, or people broadly searching a particular topic
  3. Cost per click – by broadening with match type, you often enter auctions with less competition leading to lower cost per clicks

The power of the Modifier

While broad match will definitely lead to more reach, it can be hard to control which searches your ad will appear for. This is because broad match also includes search terms with synonyms or other similar words, ultimately giving Google a lot more say in when your ads will appear.

This is why advertisers turn to Broad Match Modifier to regain control.

With Broad Match Modifier, each word in the keyword/phrase must be present, but can be in any order and can include other words.

For example: the keyword +red +tennis +shoes could trigger your ad to show for searches such as:

  • Red tennis shoes for sale
  • How to tie red tennis shoes
  • Are tennis shoes available in red?
  • Red laces for tennis shoes

… but you ad won’t show for things like: ‘blue sports trainers’

So what on earth is ‘Phrase Match Modifier’?

Phrase Match Modifier gives Broad Match Modifier users further control, without putting too many limitations on reach. You can now combine Broad Match, or Broad Match Modifier with Phrase Match in a single keyword, allowing you to link certain words together, while others are free to be anywhere in the search.

If that sounds complicated don’t worry, we’ll break it down in a minute.

First, here’s a quick recap on the current match types:

Broad Match: Accepts close variants and synonyms, accepts additional words anywhere in the search.
+Broad +Match +Modifier: Accepts close variants, no synonyms, all words must be in the search, allows additional words anywhere in the search
“Phrase Match”: All words must be in the search, in that order, can include other words before or after the phrase
[Exact Match]: Must exactly match with the exception of word order and function words
-Negative -Match: Ads may show on searches without the term, or phrased another way, stops your ad from showing for searches containing a specific term

How To Use Phrase Match Modifier (PMM)

Phrase Match Modifier is used by combining a string of phrase match words starting with a plus symbol and separated by full stops, with other words added with either a plus symbol if you are using Broad Match Modifier, or no symbol for broad match. For PMM, you will essentially combine a phrase, with additional words not connected to the phrase.

adwords match types infographic

Key takeaways:

  • With PMM, the searchers word order matters
  • With BMM, the searchers word order doesn’t matter

PMM: The Happy Medium

If you are like me and do a lot of AdWords management, you will have seen some pretty wacky search terms! You also know how vital it is to pay close attention and create extensive negative keyword lists to ensure your ads only show for relevant searchers.

While this strategy is effective, using Phrase Match Modifier to add an extra level of relevance will help to further improve key commercial metrics like cost per acquisition (and everyone loves lower CPAs!).

For most direct response advertisers, the best way to manage spend efficiency is to make sure ads are only appearing for the most relevant searches. The balance can be hard to find, while you may see a higher level of irrelevant searches using BMM, Phrase Match and Exact Match could rule out a lot of relevant searches, therefore causing you to lose potential sales or leads.

That’s where PMM comes in, the happy medium, the ultimate match type which maintains high reach without sacrificing relevance.

While Broad Match Modifier and Phrase Match are both powerful match types, they can be extra powerful when used together. Ultimately, if you are currently using Broad or Broad Match Modifier and find that the search terms are triggering lots of irrelevant clicks, Phrase Match Modifier could be your answer.

You now have the freedom to group some words together, while leaving others free to be anywhere in the search. With this being recent news, we will definitely be seeking opportunities to test and apply it, and leverage PMM’s power to improve the overall performance of accounts we manage.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments. Happy optimising!

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