Sure, people are complaining about how Google gave $20MM to charities on our behalf, instead of giving us trinkets this year– whether they be a photo viewer, Flip video, or whatever.  But Google gave us some stuff that was far better than something you could just buy yourself at Best Buy. Look at these campaign features:
  • Sitelinks in PPC ads: I won’t cover the ins and outs of AdWords sitelinks, but suffice it to say that this feature increases your CTR.  You can specify up to 10 links, but how many they actually show is usually just 3 or 4.
  • Automatic matching: Scary, but Google will choose other keywords for you to show up on. Do you remember a couple years ago when Yahoo! just started tweaking people’s campaigns without telling them, causing advertisers to piss away money on irrelevant keywords– then get irate? Yahoo had the right idea, but was perhaps premature in the game of trying to simplify life for advertisers, as it was too big a step at once and didn’t actually improve performance.  The same naysayers of “expanded broad match” are complaining about Google’s move here. However, I don’t think it’s all that bad. 

Some considerations on Automatic Matching:

Yes, it encourages laziness. And will put in crappy words if your landing pages (which they crawl for keywords) stink.  If you have a great campaign already with tight ad groups and strong negatives, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to add much traffic. Otherwise, there is risk that your budget will get maxed out quickly.

You can still run keyword performance reports to determine exactly what keyword triggered your ad.  So in the same way that you run placement reports for content to weed out junky sites you’re showing ads on, you run a keyword performance report to see what new keywords you’re matching on, so you can then stick them in your campaigns or just negative them out. At the bottom of the ad group, they even break out the automatic match traffic, which is incremental to your regular traffic and doesn’t affect the rest of your bids, positions, or Quality Scores.

They do take into account location: Yes, so if you’ve got a franchised account with multiple locations, they will be smart enough to choose geo-modified keywords and pair them with the right ad and landing page. However, in Google’s semi-helpful FAQ on automatic matching, they caveat this by saying it works only when ALL the keywords in an ad groups are geo-modified.

You should try it-– but don’t just assume Google’s recommendations are going to automatically improve your campaigns.  It will certainly improve Google’s profitability, but not your conversions.  Unlike most tin foil hatters, I consider this feature– and anything else they roll out– good, if you watch carefully what you’re doing.  It’s effectively like the keyword opportunities tool, where they propose new keywords for you– except they’re automatically jammed into your campaigns.  Note that for this to work, every keyword in your ad group must be location-specific.

So between the improvements in Conversion Optimizer, sitelinks (beta only), automatic matching (beta only), mobile ads (who knows), and new local options, Google has given us a ton of new gifts for Christmas.  I’m surprised so few people are talking about it– perhaps because Google themselves doesn’t talk about it, instead just quietly releasing new features into the wild.