Search Updates: February 2021

Search Updates: February 2021

YouTube receives accreditation from the Media Rating Council

YouTube became the first digital platform to receive accreditation for content-level brand safety from the Media Rating Council. The accreditation is specific to ads sold through Google Ads, Display & Video 360 (DV360), and YouTube Reserve, including in-stream ads and excluding video discovery, masthead, YouTube Kids, and Livestream.

To achieve MRC’s accreditation, YouTube passed an extensive audit that reviewed the policies that determine which videos can be on YouTube and which are eligible to monetize with advertising, the technology that analyzes the videos uploaded to the platform, and the team of human raters that augment Google’s technology’s automated classifications.

There isn’t anything to apply with this accreditation but is more of a categorization and video review before content is allowed to be uploaded. Receiving this accreditation builds upon Google’s commitment to protecting advertisers. Google is committed to remaining at least 99% effective at ensuring brand safety of advertising placements on YouTube.

Google phrase match to include broad match modifier traffic

Changes are coming to Google’s phrase match and broad match modifier keyword match types. Phrase match will expand to include additional broad match modifier traffic and support for broad match modifier will sunset. The changes will start rolling out this month. Google sees that phrase match and broad match modifier often serve the same use cases and that you can reach more of the right customers by combining the two match types.

Here’s an example of how phrase match will change. Currently, an advertiser using broad match modifier for the keywords +moving +services +NYC +to +Boston may show up for the search query ‘moving services NYC to Boston’. However, the ad may also display when someone searches ‘moving services Boston to NYC’ which may not be what the advertiser wants because the searcher is moving in the opposite direction.

In Google’s example below, the updated phrase match will not show ads for search queries in the opposite direction:

The change is happening to both match types so there’s no need to migrate keywords and advertisers will get to keep their performance data. In July 2021, after the new behavior has rolled out worldwide, advertisers will not be able to create new broad match modifier keywords. Existing broad match modifiers keywords will serve under the new behavior.

Google has once again taken away the control that match types once offered in exchange for the promise of more and better automation. The change could, potentially, save advertisers time managing keywords, but there is sure to be a lot of time spent recalibrating campaigns if advertisers are heavy on broad match modifier match type. Additionally, traffic may fluctuate as these changes roll-out, so advertisers should keep an eye on their performance metrics so they can make the necessary adjustments.

Within our accounts, there is little differentiation between broad match modifier and phrase match type. Therefore we don’t anticipate any changes but we’ll continue to monitor traffic in the unlikely that traffic is impacted.

Google adds Black-owned business label to product results

Black-owned businesses can now show a special label in their product and shopping results within Google Search. The label reads “identifies as Black-owned” and shows in the product listing results within Google Shopping. Additionally, advertisers can enable a feature for their ads to potentially appear on pages featuring Black-owned businesses.

The label is available to businesses that identify as Black-owned. This was first launched for the Google local business results in July 2020. Google extended the Black-owned attribute to Google’s Shopping tab, so people can easily identify and buy from Black-owned businesses on Google. This is only launching in the U.S. right now.

Google search interest in the U.S. for Black-owned businesses has spiked 600% in the past year based on Google Trends data comparing January-December 2019 to January-December 2020. According to Google, people have been searching for ‘Black-owned restaurants,’ ‘Black-owned bookstores,’ ‘Black-owned beauty supply’, and more, which shows the diversity within the Black-owned business community.

Google wants to make it easier for people to support and spend dollars with Black-owned businesses they love. Black-owned businesses should consider adding this feature to their Google product results.

Trending Google COVID-19 searches, one year into the pandemic

Search Engine Journal took a look at some popular search terms on Google one year on from the COVID outbreak compared to when it first began.

Below is a snapshot of the most popular U.S.-based coronavirus-related search terms between January 2020 and June 2020. There’s no surprise here as people were actively searching for general information on the coronavirus as well as ways to thank people for helping out during these trying times.

Now one year into the pandemic, people are searching using the below queries ranked from expected to surprising:

Coronavirus Strains

The new impact new strains are having on the world is raising questions about how effective vaccines will be against these new variants.


Searches for ‘vaccines near me’ were five times more common since the start of 2021 and questions are being asked now that you most likely wouldn’t have known the answer to last month.


Fever and sore throats are the most commonly searched symptoms over the past four months which is aligned with flu and cold season.

Looking at fever and sore throat over a considerably longer time frame it’s clear that interest is spiked due to COVID-19 concerns.


Surprisingly sanitizer has flatlined since the beginning of the pandemic whereas we would expect it to be rather stable. This could be due to less panic buying and a shortage of sanitizer.

COVID and Hiccups

While this graph shows the trend for the term ‘COVID and’, searches for ‘COVID and hiccups’ hold a score of 100. There have been studies that have shown that hiccups could be a symptom of COVID. Other related hiccup search queries were:

Are hiccups a sign of COVID? – score of 44
Hiccups symptom of COVID – score of 44
Is hiccups a sign of COVID? – score of 17

As we can see COVID-19 related searches have changed since the beginning of the pandemic and we predict more of the same as new strains are uncovered and more people are vaccinated.