Friday, February 29, 2008

Controversy surrounds Google search

On the heels of reports that Google has seen a drop in its paid click business, news has broken that the search giant has quietly unveiled a new program designed to use up unspent search marketing dollars. According to a New York Post story, Google is testing a new feature called Automatic Matching. News of the test program first broke on SEO Fast Start when the blog posted an email from Google to one of its AdWords customers. "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," the email read. "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." While Silicon Valley Insider points out that some SEO experts like SEO Fast Start are being overly harsh with respect to Google's test program, the timing of the news appears to be the big problem, with some marketers accusing the search giant of grasping for every last cent of their ad budgets at a time when overall business may be slumping. "Whether Google's intention is to expand the advertisers' untapped opportunities or not, timing is everything and at this time on the surface it appears that Google's only motive is to monetize additional clicks," said Mark Simon, VP of industry relations for Didit, a search-marketing firm. "My suggestion to Google is to communicate the expanded opportunities to search advertisers and let them decide whether they are willing to invest in them at the risk of potentially reducing their ROI metric." According to Chris Winfield, president of search marketing firm 10e20, ROI, not total budget, is the only real issue. "I would have no problems spending more money if I'm getting more return on my investment," Winfield told the New York Post. "If I'm just spending more money and it's not high-quality traffic, then that's a problem." In its email to AdWords customers, Google cited an example for the search term "adidas." According to Google, the new program would match customers with keywords on its traditional list, which includes terms like "shoes" and "athletic," but it also would match with terms like "slippers." Whether searches for "slippers" will mean anything to those marketing adidas remains to be seen. A quick Google search for "slippers" yielded no natural results for adidas on the first page. However, the search did return one ad for adidas sandals on sale at

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