Adwords' New "Automatic Matching" – Don't Fall For This!

A friend just tipped me off to this offer they received from Google Adwords:

I’m excited to tell you that you have been selected to participate in a beta for our new Automatic Matching feature which will be starting on February 28th.

Automatic Matching automatically extends your campaign’s reach by using surplus budget to serve your ads on relevant search queries that are not already triggered by your keyword lists.  By analyzing the structure and content of your website and AdWords campaigns, we deliver more impressions and clicks while maintaining your current CTRs and CPCs.

For example, If you sold Adidas shoes on your website, Automatic Matching would automatically crawl your landing page and target your campaigns to queries such as: "shoes" "adidas" "athletic", etc., and less obvious ones such as "slippers" that our system has determined will benefit you and likely lead to a conversion on your site.

Be assured that automatic matching will try to never exceed your budget. If you’re already meeting your daily budgets, automatic matching will have a minimal effect on your account.

The broad match feature of Adwords is bad enough, folks. Now they’re offering you the exciting opportunity to bleed every penny of your budget every day, advertising against keywords that you didn’t want to bid on. Sure, if I sell Adidas shoes, why wouldn’t I want to get some traffic from people who searched for slippers? I mean, it’s not like I’m trying to turn a profit or anything, right?

This is pathetic. Don’t get sucked in.

90 thoughts on “Adwords' New "Automatic Matching" – Don't Fall For This!

  1. Wow! Nice beta invite…wish I could get invited…not really!

    [quick rant]

    I agree – this looks like a great way for Google to make more money…if I am advertising on ‘adidas shoes’ why the hell would I want somebody to hit my nicely crafted adidas shoes landing page if they are looking for ‘slippers’?

    [/quick rant]

    Thanks for posting this find. There might be some benefit to advertisers if they thoroughly review their exact paid search query terms in analytics and aggressively use negative keywords…unless this new program ignores negative keywords? I doubt it would override negatively matched terms…or would it?

  2. Even worse than I thought – it may be turned on AUTOMATICALLY. My buddy told his rep he didn’t want to be included, and their reply indicated that it could go live automatically.

    We’ll try to clarify whether that rep is poorly informed. It seems unlikely that they’d really do that, since lawyers are standing by waiting for Google to do something that dumb.

  3. James, it sounds like it’s going to override everything else you’ve set up. I would *hope* that it wouldn’t override campaign negatives, but you’d probably have to make sure you had them on every campaign in the account.

    If you have clients who are able to log into their accounts, it sounds like they’ll be one click away from screwing up everything you’ve done on Monday morning.

  4. It gets even worse, I’m afraid. Several months ago I got confirmation from Google that if there are queries on keywords in a campaign that has hit its budget, they’ll display an ad from an alternate campaign that hasn’t hit the budget yet. And if the second budget doesn’t have the same negatives as the first budget, then your ads can be shown on queries you thought you had negatives for. I detailed this in a post with the email I got from Google here.

    Thanks for pointing out the beta. I wasn’t aware of this one.

  5. Dan, this doesn’t smell right. Are you sure about this? Any chance we could see the notes sent by Google?

    It would seem like a huge PR error by Google. I’ve not seen anything about it from my sources.

  6. Scott,

    Wait until Monday, it’ll smell better (or worse) when the invites start showing up in advertisers’ accounts.

    I’ve seen the emails, and I’ve quoted what I’m comfortable with quoting. Look at what Don just posted – and tell me this really surprises you.

    I don’t think they’d really turn it on automatically (that rep is probably misinformed) but it’s definitely going into beta.

    @Don, thanks for the link to your post – excellent work and good advice there.

  7. Thanks for the heads up, Dan. Just what we need to keep us hopping on our toes! Looks like an easy way for Google to generate a nice revenue increase for its shareholders next quarter …

  8. Thanks for the post. I was was about ten minutes away from setting up an adwords campaign. Think I will chill out until next Friday and see what the new week brings.

  9. Dan,

    One take I will have on it that it might finally get rid of some of my stupid competitors in my industry. I can it now…”Dang, our adwords just quadrupled over night, I think we better get out of this for the time being”


  10. Yes I have heard about this and what the story I heard was from a google adwords professional. It goes like this if you were searching for “yachts” they say it would be a good place to rank an ad for “investment property”. What google are doing is Ad Agency stuff placing Ads in relevant categories towards social demographics. If you’re looking for a yacht you would have the money to invest in property to and they just might catch you as the ad would stand out. Lets wait and see how effective it is. I believe ads placed like this once clicked on have a higher conversion rate.

  11. Wait and see if it’s effective???

    If it’s going to be effective, why aren’t you advertising on those keywords already, with RELEVANT landing pages?

    How could it be effective to bring people who searched for investment property to a yacht landing page? That’s nuts.

    Do you advise your clients who sell Adidas tennis shoes to try to get ranked for “slippers?”

  12. No problem. Hedge your account by buying Google stock. The money you lost in your account would be offset by a higher stock price due to Google’s increased profits.

  13. I know the example given is a little crazy, but playing the devil’s advocate for a minute… if an advertiser isn’t on top of his keywords and is missing out on visitors simply because he isn’t bidding on certain (landing-page related) keywords, and Google can show his ad for these same keywords whilst staying within his budget, couldn’t that be a good thing?

  14. @ SE by SEO: Dan is right. If the keywords were effective you should be bidding on them already with targeted landing pages and appropriate ad copy. Which seems more relevant: 1) A searcher typing in something that they are looking for and clicking on a relevant link, or 2) Google’s algorthims assuming it knows what the searcher is looking for because this keyword is somewhat related, but not really.

    The problem is Google is trying to put automation into assumed user intent, instead of the user typing in what the intend to look for.

    If I go to Google and say I want shoes, I wish Google would save me time and sell me shoes. If it tries to sell me slippers, I’ll skip a step and just buy my shoes on

  15. Peter, if the advertiser is already that clueless, this will only make it worse.

    The fact is, broad match is already an option for advertisers, and Google already shows ads on keywords you didn’t bid for with broad matches. It’s called expanded broad match, and you can’t turn it off – they just do it… but at least it’s based on keywords that YOU entered into the account.

    This goes even further, with zero control for the advertiser.

  16. @ Peter: There are better ways of capturing that traffic. The phrase match will combine any additional keywords before or after your keyword so long as the phrase isn’t interrupted (by phrase I mean multiple words that make up your keyword). The keyword tools and search query reports do an excellent job in showing what terms are being searched that deliver your ad. You can add the good ones and get a better relevancy and lower CPC, or you can remove the bad ones with negative terms and save yourself some cash.

  17. @Don, thanks! Picture them doing this with organic results – no way, right?

    The only reason they’d slip an Adidas ad into the paid results is because they can bleed a little more cash from an advertiser.

    With Dynamic Keyword Insertion in the ad creative, it might even look like a “slippers” ad, further screwing the advertiser with a higher CTR.

    What happens when *these* clicks use up budgeted funds, and prevent the real ads from showing?

    There’s nothing good about this, folks.

  18. Does anyone see the irony in this, lol? They won”t hesitate to slap a keyword if it, the ad, and the landing page aren”t tightly focused and related to one another,and in fact have rolled out draconian policies over the past couple of years to try and eliminate this very thing, yet here they are going to show your ad for untargeted keywords that likely aren”t related to the ad or the landing page, against your desires if you aren”t paying attention, lol.

    I wonder if they will then slap those campaigns-keywords because the QS drops due to Google showing the ad for unrelated, untargeted keywords? Do you have any doubt that they will?

    Freaking Google…

  19. I have not put it the full test yet to see if it is effective this is just what a google ad words professional was advising me. I cannot see the CTR being hi enough to get ranked on highly competitive keywords.

  20. …And G tries to exploit its advantage once again. :)

    How can this be helpful for putting our quality scores higher if they will try to show our ads on almost non-related search phrases to us that they think is useful.

    If they will do this on PPC’s theres no doubt they will put this on the organic results.

  21. Let’s face it, Google does what’s best for Google…..NOT what’s best for the advertisers.

    With the millions of advertisers that play the Google game, why would they care about the several thousand advertisers that may not like this new game? For every one of us that are trying to maximize our results there are 10 that spend money foolishly with them.

    On the other hand if they would give the not-so-targeted ads the same placement ranking as the high quality score ads we have created and for the same low cost then that would be a different story.

    For instance it’s hard to get low cost clicks in the recipe/cooking field with a generic “cooking tips” site. There are few words to effectivly target for a high “quality score” to get the best position, therefore resulting in minimal clicks. If the new deal were to allow me to get a broader range for the same positioning and price I would take it in a heartbeat.

    Unfortunately I don’t think it will play out my way! Google is just after more clicks to empty your daily budget.

    After all…..aren’t we all out to empty a few wallets also?
    (as long as we provide value!)

    Chef Brian Ankner

  22. ah, thats nice. I think I know why.. :), beacause its not our fault if our ads show up on a non-related search term which will now show a related/targeted landing page. But this will still affect the Advertisers working on a tight budget for ppc campaigns. this is almost similar to click fraud. people will still click you but they wont convert thus youll end up with a depleted budget. hehehe

  23. Correction:

    ah, thats nice. I think I know why.. :), beacause its not our fault if our ads show up on a non-related search term which will now show a non related/non targeted landing page. But this will still affect the Advertisers working on a tight budget for ppc campaigns. this is almost similar to click fraud. people will still click you but they wont convert thus youll end up with a depleted budget. hehehe

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  25. Great, this is some of the worst news I’ve heard in a long time (actually since the advent of expanded broad matching!).

    Google states that keyword case sensitivity is not an issue yet time and time again keywords that I would expect to trigger on phrase or exact matches are showing up under broad. e.g.
    [hotels dublin]
    “hotels dublin”
    hotels dublin

    If the user types in hotels Dublin (Note the capital D in Dublin) the user is sent through my broad match ad not the exact match ad – as a result I have to have a broad match keyword to act as an overflow.

    If this new approach comes in to play broad matching would be a disaster as it would suck up my advertisers budget needlessly – so either I try and come up with every connotation of upper and lower case keywords for exact and phrase matches or I just lose a lot of traffic by turning off broad matching altogether – so I guess it’s going to add a shed load of extra time to setting up accounts.

    How would you best deal with this?


  26. Another reason you need a professional to handle an AdWords Account.

    * Use tons of negative keywords including (Phrase, Broad, and Exact match negative terms.)
    * Use a third party click tracking tool to see the EXACT keywords your searcher is using.
    * review the AdWords Search Query Report for negative terms, as well as new exact match terms.

    Remember Google has already implemented the feature when a user searched for your keyphrase then searches a second time for another term that you are not bidding on, your ad may appear on both keyphrases even if you did not bid for that second term.

    All these changes…..”In the name of relevancy…” Google would say.

  27. “For example, If you sold Adidas shoes on your website, Automatic Matching would automatically crawl your landing page and target your campaigns to queries such as: “shoes” “adidas” “athletic”, etc., and less obvious ones such as “slippers” that our system has determined will benefit you and likely lead to a conversion on your site.

    This has to be a joke…they’d sooner come out with regex matching for negative keywords before this feature. There is already a lot of waste out there. 10% or more of their revenue is probably wasted ad dollars to some extent (maybe more).

    If it is true, opting out of it better be as simple as disabling content.


  28. I’ll keep an eye on my champaigns, thanks for the warning Dan!

    This sounds like it’s targeted towards big business and other clueless advertisers that has an advertising budget but no tracking of results.

    If Google can help them use all of the budget and they don’t track the results anyway it’s will just pump a bit more cash into Googles pockets.

    Some advertisers might even like it, at it helps them reach a broader audience with no research (and hardly any profits :)

    Sadly a lot of small business will probably get burned again, like every time Google want’s to “help”


  29. @Damien, the searches shouldn’t be case sensitive:

    The way to take control of that is to use embedded matches. Broad match ad group contains:
    hotels dublin
    -“hotels dublin”
    -“dublin hotels”

    Phrase match ad group contains:
    “hotels dublin”
    “dublin hotels”
    -[hotels dublin]
    -[dublin hotels]

    Exact match ad group contains:
    [hotels dublin]
    [dublin hotels]

  30. @Hans, you don’t necessarily need to hire someone, but whoever is managing the campaign needs to know a *lot* more about the system than the typical advertiser (or consultant) does now.

    You’re right on about mining for negative matches, and in fact you can collect that data with Google Analytics:

    The search query report is OK, but they don’t include all queries in the report. They only show you queries that meet “privacy and volume” requirements:

  31. I’m actually thinking this might be a good thing for those of us who are in the business of improving campaign performance.

    Most of my clients have >5000 keyphrases and everything is run under exact or phrase match with liberal use of negative phrases and thematic adgroups. It takes a lot of work to set them up, but for those who have even a little knowledge of how the system works and are willing to pay one time, they’ll have a competitive advantage for months.

    What I wonder about is if an “automatic matching” rule does come into play (I am still skeptical) what might that do to the quality score system? Will exact match terms on a long tail still enjoy the same quality score boost? Or will Google nudge automatic match scores up?

  32. Scott,

    If you set it up right, yes, there’s usually a competitive advantage for you, every time they screw over the ignorant advertisers.

    I think your last point is a particularly big one though.

    If I have a $3.00 bid for “Nike Air Fidel Castro” (probably not an actual shoe) because they sell for $350, and you have a 30 cent bid for “slippers” because they sell for $25, does my irrelevant ad get shoved into your ad auction and raise your prices? I suspect that it will.

  33. Dan,

    Is this going to be a feature that we can turn off in adwords or is this going to be automatic? And aren’t they testing this with only a few accounts or is this going into full effect for all advertisers?


  34. Once they start screwing with the specificity of advertising it will REALLY loose it’s value. People will be forced to try other networks (google’s competitors). This is a really DUMB move for them in my opinion, they should make it strictly optional and NOT default.

    I agree they’re just trying to bleed people dry. Click fraud is bad enough but when the company itself has a plan to make you pay for less targeted traffic than you’ve bid on….UGH!!!!!

    Ok I’m done, lol. Great e-book by the way, Dan! (SEO Fast Start 2007)

  35. So, if this new “feature” is trying to use up your excess budget, would an over-simplified solution to avoid it be to reduce your daily budgets to just what you’re actually spending and increase only as necessary?

  36. I agree with what Kevin said. It’s very ironic to me that after all of this time of being hardcore about showing only “relevant” ads and jacking up prices to $10 per click… Now they are going to go ahead and show non relevant ads themselves. It really doesnt make any sense to me.

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  38. If they are going to do this, and someone has a page selling very “esoteric” items and they would like a broader audience (say hand grenades and nukes, not just horse shoes) they should “opt in” and it should not be automatic.

  39. I have to agree with Dan – the cynical view of Google often turns out correct in my experience.

    I accepted one of their campaign optimisation proposals once and I spent the next week trying to get it back to the way it was. Enquiries fell and costs increased, I was livid.

    They seem to be happy to keep coming up with innovative new ways to get more spend and higher bid prices from advertisers, and they can afford to as an almost-monopoly. I’d love to see them get slapped for anti-competitive practices like Microsoft.

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  42. Beta, beta, beta…Let’s cut out the hype…unless I’m missing something, this is a beta. There are many products in beta and many beta testing programs. If this were rolled out across all advertisers that would be one thing…but if it’s just a beta, that’s not news. They offer all kinds of wacky stuff in beta. In my experience, with larger advertisers at least, they give plenty of notice for changes like this and are very public about them.

  43. Seth, unless I’m missing something, I don’t think I’m hyping anything:

    – This is a beta, and people will be invited to participate. My take is, don’t accept the invitation.

    – When this rolls out, based on what I’ve seen, I believe that advertisers will be able to opt out. My take is, opt out.

    There’s plenty of stuff going on with Adwords where you can’t just opt out. For an example, you can read Don’s post on how they shift money between campaigns:

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  51. @ Joshua: I have to respectfully disagree with your comment. It’s not always easy to have every relevant keyword in your ad groups, because relevancy is not determined by the advertiser, or even by Google. It’s determined by the searcher when she runs a search and clicks on the links she thinks will get her the desired information quickly. This could be a product type, or it could be a problem that she is looking for the answer to.

    As for as my campaigns are concerned,I’d Ideally like to have every product name, brand name, and product number being bid on in different word orders, and in both phrase and exact matches, along with all appropriate misspells. The only problem is with over 2 million products, that would add up to more than 300 million keywords. I already oversee a million+ keywords in Google alone, not to mention other engines and shopping feed accounts, and I don’t exactly have a lot of spare time on my hands.

    As a full-time search engine marketer, I know how, where and why I’m missing certain opportunities, and can prioritize the little down time to address those in order of importance. However, I’m the exception. Most of Google’s marketers are busy running their own companies or doing other job duties, and only check in on their accounts when something goes wrong. Advertisers like them need to know that their vendor is not going to take advantage of them. With the stunt Dan talks about in this post, and the one I talk about on my post (see my link at the 4th comment from top), Google is showing that they are seeking ways to take advantage of the lack of knowledge and understanding their advertisers have about the Google system. And that’s why this post–and others like it–are so important to the community.

  52. Google is trying to increase their adwords sales and this is so obvious.

    I like to suggest Google to fight click fraud more aggressively because cash is king for small businesses and they can’t waste it on adwords campaign that don’t convert!

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  55. Google will surely provide an option to disable Automatic Keywork matching. they are no so dumb! Lets wait, it is in the beta phase only. It may be good for big corpotates funnelling a lot money in Google Ad campaigns.

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  60. Google is now fraudulently stealing money from people. I just found out today that this month’s campaign was $300 more than any previous months. I turned the feature off after having been mugged and robbed.

  61. Well our company just got dragged into this…
    When we spoke to the girl at Google UK, she claimed it’s to enhance the users search results…

    Ok, agree with that – but why charge us for clicks we didn’t want in the first place??!

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  63. Yeah, I agree Google always tends to find a way to squeeze every last dollar out of a budget. But, do you blame them? There is a reason why they are such a huge company…they have a great product that works. From an ROI perspective (depending on the vertical) Google Adwords provides the best ROI then the other top tier and 2nd tier ppc networks.

  64. Nick, it sounds like we agree on one thing: Adwords is far and away the best PPC ad network, from an ROI perspective.

    But yes, I do blame them when they automatically enable something that kills your ROI, with little or no warning to the advertiser. I do blame them for what appears to be deceptive advertising.

  65. It’s all about the return on investment, you might say that paying $2.50 per click is relatively high for certain keywords but when it’s valuable and making money you won’t hear the advertiser complain.

  66. I don’t see what kind of users this feature is supposed to help – noobs generally start with expensive over broadly targeted campaigns anyways and pros aren’t going to use it to turn their highly targeted campaigns into sloppy ones.

  67. You would seriously think that at some point the advertisers would wise up and the backlash from these kinds of “improvements” would have negative ramifications. My bank just sent me a “Great News” letter. They are going to remove my checking fee of $3.00 a month! Whoo hoo that is great news. All I have to do is maintain a $5,000 a month minimum balance at ZERO percent interest! Otherwise this “Good News” is going to set me back the new fee of $15 a month. I guess I’m just a stupid consumer who doesn’t realize how the bank is watching after my best interests? Eventually the Google machine will slow and how they treat customers now will have a lot to do with their revenues in the future. I for one am voting for Bing to be a smashing success. Not because I like Microsoft, but because I am getting so tired of the Google Intrusion. Google Voice? Sure go for it. Give them all your private work and home conversations. Where is the common sense? I quit using Adwords because the amount of effort required to manage the campaigns got to be so large compared to the return for what I’m doing. And yes that is my real name “Cinco Ocho”. :)

  68. Great read because I don’t want to be wasting my money on this garbage from google. Yet another reason to look for adwords alternatives.

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