Weigh Your PPC Options Before Using Google’s Automatic Matching

By now most SEM professionals have either heard of, or are currently opted-in to, Google’s newest campaign optimization feature called Automatic Matching. If you haven’t already heard of this AdWords feature, I recommend checking your accounts’ campaign settings because it’s an opt-out feature.

We discussed Automatic Matching when Google first announced the new feature as a way to gain additional targeted traffic if your keyword inventory isn’t reaching daily budgets. When this feature is enabled, Google matches your ads using an algorithm similar to broad match.

Here’s an example: If you sell Vans skateboard shoes and are bidding on [vans shoes] (exact match), Google could potentially serve your ad on queries like “moving van service” or “rental vans” when Automatic Matching is enabled. Trust me, I’ve seen stranger things happen.

In addition to serving your ads on search queries that loosely match your keyword lists, Google will automatically review your landing pages and display your ad based on keywords pulled from landing page content. If you’ve done a good job of keyword research when building and optimizing your campaigns, Google isn’t going to make any magical keyword discoveries on your landing pages. This additional traffic is very likely to come from unqualified keywords that appear on your landing pages.

Before you consider testing Automatic Matching first consider other, more targeted ways to gain additional exposure in Google’s paid listings. Also, consider expanding your PPC efforts into additional search engines such as Yahoo, Microsoft adCenter or Ask. While these three engines see lower overall volume than Google, they can also be very profitable as well as highly targeted. If you are a B2B marketer check out Business.com. If you are an e-commerce site, do a little research on comparison shopping engines. There are currently more than 150 comparison shopping engines that accept product feeds.

Any of the options listed above could provide more qualified traffic to your site than letting Google choose how to match your ads. Automatic keyword matching and/or automatic keyword list creation will never replace the judgment or logic of a seasoned SEM professional. It’s like competing in auto racing with an automatic transmission.

If anyone has any amazing success stories using Google’s Automatic Matching feature, I’d like to hear about them below.