May 202008

Automatic Match: Will More Google Advertisers Be Helped Or Be Harmed?

Recently Google sent an email to agencies about a new beta feature coming down the pike called Automatic Match.


Automatic matching shows ads on relevant search queries not already captured by the account's keywords. It works by analyzing the content of the landing pages, ads, and keywords in an ad group. It then shows ads on search queries relevant to this information.

The system will continually monitor the performance on these queries and adjust its matches accordingly. Automatic matching aims to show ads only on queries that yield a high clickthrough rate (CTR) and a cost-per-click (CPC) comparable to or lower than an ad group's current average CPC. This way, ads receive additional targeted traffic at a similar cost to the current traffic.

The feature will be enabled by default, although it won't begin to affect accounts until June 3, 2008.

See a list of frequently asked questions about automatic matching at

It is great Google continues to innovate and release new features.

It is less great when a new feature

  • has the potential to reduce conversion for advertisers,
  • has the potential to increase Google revenue,
  • and -- most important -- is turned on by default.

Most folks stick with the defaults. This inertia can be put to good use, for example, when companies automatically enroll employees in retirement plans -- participation soars to 90%.

Defaulting people into programs which on average help participants is a Good Thing. The minority for whom the program isn't helpful can always choose to opt-out.

Should Google have made Automatic Match opt-in or opt-out?

I predict most large Google advertisers and smart SEM agencies

  • will quickly test automatic matching,
  • will determine that the feature reduces sales-per-click and campaign profitability (assuming the advertiser/agency is doing a decent job with comprehensive keyword lists and match type testing), and so
  • will turn automatic match off.

So no worries, major advertisers won't be tripped up by this either way.

So let's turn our attention to smaller advertisers, who comprise the bulk of Google's customers.

I predict that many small advertisers won't take the time or the effort to dig into this issue, and so will just leave the automatic match box checked.

Some of these advertisers will benefit from more traffic.

Some of these advertisers be hurt by higher advertising fees and lower quality traffic.

Net net, will defaulting automatic match to "on" help or harm the bulk of Google advertisers?

I have my opinion. What do you think?


a signed blank check for google automatic match


6 Responses to "Automatic Match: Will More Google Advertisers Be Helped Or Be Harmed?"
After thoughts: Though this post may sound like Google-bashing, I do believe that Google from the top tries to do the right thing for its advertisers. From many conversations, I think Google senior management in particular realizes that if the advertiser doesn't win then eventually Google will fail. The top people there get that. That's why I didn't ask, "Will defaulting auto-match to 'on' increase Google's revenue?" because the answer is "of course it will." Rather, the more interesting question is, "Will defaulting auto-match to 'on' help or hurt the bulk of advertisers?" In my opinion the answer is 'hurt' -- basically because I take a direct marketing perspective and care less about traffic than about conversions. But maybe I am missing something that Google knows, perhaps most of the small advertisers only care about site visits, or something else. I wish I could have been a fly on wall listening in to the meeting where they made this decision to default auto-match to on. It will also be interesting to see if there's an advertiser backlash (I predict yes), and whether Google reverses this default when the program comes out of beta (I predict yes). Yes I commented on my own post. Yes I am geek.
Jeremy says:
I agree that it will hurt the small business advertisers. I think G should have let advertisers opt in for auto match. I foresee small business owners wondering why they are spending more and making less in the coming months.
Stephen says:
I agree with you and Jeremy. There is little doubt that small advertisers are going to be confused by the change and not be sure whether to leave it on or turn it off. It will be interesting to read the tone of Google's messaging. There is however another side to this coin. Some small advertisers might benefit if the majority of their keywords generate conversions at a acceptable CPA... Which is probably not likely.
Jim Novo says:
Hasn't worked for the Marketing Productivity Lab Store (yet?) since Google turned it on in Feb, but I didn't allow it into the high volume campaigns (yet?).
Tad Miller says:
Just got the notice for Automatic Matching on our large automotive client. I'm starting to think that the automatic match's will be delivering the same keywords found on the new Google Search Based Keyword Tool. The coincidence of the timing of the notice and introduction of the tool the same week makes me think they could be tied to the same technology. Think I'm going to let it run and monitor the search query reports to see what it turns up, but won't hesitate to shut it down as soon as the junk starts coming in.


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[...] automaticmatch is set to “on”, Google automatically places ads on a webpage based only on the words [...]

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