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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Google Advertisers Beware – AdWords "Automatic Matching" Expanding

Posted by @ 8:28 pm

In what started as a small beta test in Feb 08, Google’s “Automatic Matching” function is being made available to more AdWords advertisers. The controversial feature is expanding this weekend and you could be one of the lucky (or unlucky) ones without knowing it.

Let’s see what Automatic Matching is before we lay judgment on its effectiveness.

The AdWords Help center describes Google AdWords Automatic Matching like this:

“Automatic matching is an optional feature that helps your ads reach targeted traffic missed by your keyword lists. It works by analyzing the ads, keywords, and landing pages in your ad group. It then shows your ads on search queries relevant to this information.

When automatic matching is first enabled, it dedicates a short period of time to gather information about your campaign. During this period, you won’t see any change to your traffic levels. Once automatic matching has evaluated your campaign, your ads will start to show on additional relevant search queries.”

At face value, Automatic Matching could help advertisers tap into traffic that they are overlooking due to small keyword lists, but there are some potential pitfalls for advertisers to consider:

Relevance of new exposure:
As with any computer generated relevancy, there is significant scope for error. Look at organic search results for example. Advertisers often employ small keyword sets deliberately for testing and targeting purposes, which an Automatic Matching algorithm won’t be able to consider.

Budget Management:
While a campaign budget might not be fully used on a daily or monthly basis, many advertisers factor this performance into their overall campaign budgeting. With Automatic Matching set-up, you’ll need to ensure your spend caps are accurate to avoid budget blowout.

Another concern is how they allocate your budget across all keywords. There is the risk that new terms will potentially steal budget away from your lower clickthrough but better converting terms.

Effectiveness of ads:
When you’ve carefully crafted ads based on a very niche set of keywords, it’s difficult to believe that the Automatic Matching algorithm will only identify additional keywords that exactly match the ad/s. While Google suggests that their terms won’t impact your quality score, they could generate lower converting clicks via keyword-ad mismatch, which the algorithm won’t be able to measure.

Keyword Performance Tracking:
Automatic Matching offers aggregated reporting on Google’s suggested keyword set, which makes monitoring performance (such as CTR and conversion) at a keyword level almost impossible. So how are you expected to expand your defined keywords based on Automatic Matching recommendations?

With the above as serious issues that need to be considered, the most controversial element of the Automatic Matching beta expansion is the auto opt-in approach Google has taken.

While the help center suggests it’s a feature that you can “choose” to implement, they’ve taken it upon themselves to opt advertisers in by default. So for those of you who haven’t checked your accounts over the weekend, you could find a surprise waiting for you on Monday morning. While it wont take effect until June 3rd, make sure to check whether you’re included.

While Google’s approach to rolling out Automatic Matching is questionable, and there are some obvious pitfalls to the feature (as discussed above), for advertisers that are struggling to generate traffic from their Google advertising – there might be merit in testing Automatic Matching on your campaigns.

Rene LeMerle Rene is the marketing manager of - a global search engine marketing company. He also leads the marketing for - a web 2.0 style community for online and digital marketers. Rene has been in the industry since 1997 with much of that time spent helping businesses embrace the best of the internet and digital world.

View Rene LeMerle's profile

Discussion (1 - comment)

That seriously sucks. Seems to me they’re just trying to force people to spend more whilst having to use Google’s own tracking program to figure out what’s happening.

I no longer use their service but this would push me out all by itself. It destroys the only thing I liked about it, ie tracking and comparing, split testing etc.

Sucks big time.

By Anonymous - June 2, 2008

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