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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Others have indicated that Google is expanding Auto Match, which only affects accounts in the US and Canada. And in response to Pitts, the company seemed to say that further expansion is on the way.

"We only just started expanding Auto Match," said senior vice president for product management Jonathan Rosenberg. "It was in beta. We only expanded it to a slightly bigger group of advertisers this quarter."

Rosenberg downplayed the effect of Auto Match on Google's overall coverage - though he couldn't help but acknowledge it's a great way to rake in some extra cash. "I do think the impact on revenue would be positive," he said.

When Pitts asked what percentage of Google's advertisers would be "helped" by Auto Match, Rosenberg hesitated - "Wow," he said - before he was interrupted by CEO Eric Schmidt. "It’s really too early to - the answer is it should apply to everybody," Schmidt said, before asking Google co-founder Sergey Brin to change the subject. "Serge, do you want to talk a little bit about coverage?"

At which point, Brin contradicted Rosenberg, indicating that Google is interested in expanding coverage. In recent months, the company has seen coverage shrink, though it claims this is part of its master plan to improve the "quality "of Google search ads.

Google Auto Match

Auto Match: On by default

Many of the listening press reported Brin's comments about coverage, guessing that Google will juice its paid click rate this quarter. But not a single news outlet touched on Auto Match. Typically, the press doesn't talk about what Google doesn't talk about.

We asked the company for some more talk, but this is all it would say: "As part of our ongoing commitment to provide advertisers with innovative ways to reach users online, Google is currently testing a feature known as 'Automatic Matching.' This feature is currently in a limited beta with a small number of advertisers. We have no news to announce at this time regarding developments in our AdWords product offering."

So, Google prefers to call this blatant revenue grab "part of our ongoing commitment to provide advertisers with innovative ways to reach users online." Even with Google threatening to rule 90 per cent of the search ad market, we're guessing the masses will take this talk at face value. But we do not.

The issue here - and this is typical of AdWords - is that Auto Match is turned on by default. Newbie users won't know any better. In its AdWords help pages, Google indicates there will be cases where the Automatic Matching box isn't automatically checked, but Dan Thies tells us he's yet to speak with a tester who can verify this.

Yes, Auto Match is a beta. But that means nothing coming from Google, which slaps a beta tag wherever it likes. And as Mr. Schmidt let slip, he believes that Auto Match "should apply to everybody." ®

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