Search Community Outrage Builds Over Proposed New Match Types

On the anniversary of Google’s revolutionary PigeonRank enhancement, rumors were flying today about the potential impending launch of three new match types within Google’s flagship advertising platform. Match type is a feature that allows advertisers to control ad delivery based on the relationship to the query string searched by a user. The most common match type is broad match which empowers advertisers to appear in the results of searches that contain any of their keywords. There has been little change in previous years in the way search engines have allowed advertisers to target users based on their keywords lists. The three new match types are designed to give customers advanced methods to help get advertisers vastly expanded reach to their core internet audience.

The new features have apparently been in beta testing with select advertisers since the beginning of the year. In light of today’s impending news, some of those beta testers have come forward in blog posts with their concerns over the new formats. Many of the comments are negative and express both shock and bewilderment. Google has been the industry leader in search marketing for nearly a decade and experts wonder if future search marketers may look back on today as one of the first blemishes on the company’s otherwise perfect record.

Although representatives from Google were not available for comment, a press conference has been set for later in the day to address the new changes. However, there will be a new disclaimer message when advertisers sign into their accounts today that explains the new match types will only affect campaigns that have not consistently hit their budget caps for the previous thirty days. With paid search ads still at a cost-per-click model, customers still will only pay when their ad is clicked, not just shown.

Three new match types

Popular match. Keywords are viral, just like YouTube videos and Facebook applications. Based on current events and seasonal trends, certain keywords get tremendous volume almost spontaneously. A good recent example of this phenomenon is the term “Octomom” which spiked to millions of daily searches in the wake of Nadya Suleman’s California octuplets. Millions of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS) were basically wasted in terms of advertiser potential. This was a very timely subject that marketers could have leveraged for their brand. Popular Match will ensure future viral keywords don’t go underutilized.

As described, the new targeting feature will pull in advertisers’ text ads based on the contextual understanding of these viral terms. For example, “octomom” could have been relevant to advertisers trying to reach parents with multiple births and could have helped to promote diapers, baby furniture, tickets to Jerry Springer, etc.

Random match. Some say this new approach treats paid search ads more like banner ads. Starting today, a few text ads on every SERP will added by randomly picked among all active ads by every advertiser on the platform. The thought is that someone searching for something as specific as “buy used Halo 3″ may also be interested in being exposed to ads for “Himalayan yak fur,” “1950′s chess moves,” or “Jonas Brothers tickets.” Although the search query does provide some insight into the intent of users, there has been a long running debate that the query alone doesn’t always predict the user’s end goal.

This one may be a bit harder for some advertisers to swallow as relevance has always been one of the main forces behind search. Random Match obviously doesn’t follow suit and the initial industry reaction has been largely negative.

And finally, there’s alien match. On the wake of last month’s revelation from Google co-founders that they had in fact been in touch with the ten-arm aliens from Alpha Centauri for the last several years, AdWords will now include an Alien Match type for all advertisers hoping to cash in on the extra-terrestrial commerce explosion. Alpha Centauri’s liaison to Google, who now has since stopped using the holographic suit that has kept his secret for years, showed support for this new match type at a recent search conference. What are some of the biggest exports to the far off galaxy? Ten-arm Snuggies and Amazon Kindles (in related news, has excluded “off planet” deliveries from their free shipping offer).

Some common examples of where alien targeting would appear include “iPhone” ads now showing up for the keyword phrase “hammers,” “country music” ads showing up for “earthling torture,” and “kittens” showing up for “afternoon snack” searches.

Full disclosure: Isn’t April Fool’s day great? In the spirit of the holiday, none of the above is either true or likely. Thanks to Google for setting an April Fool’s day precedent with its hilarious PigeonRank enhancement that it announced on April Fool’s day years ago.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Search Marketing Toolbox


About The Author: has been a search marketer since 2003 with a focus on SEM technology. As a media technologist fluent in the use of leading industry systems, Josh stays abreast of cutting edge digital marketing and measurement tools to maximize the effect of digital media on business goals. He has a deep passion to monitor the constantly evolving intersection between marketing and technology. You can follow him on Twitter at @mediatechguy.

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