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Control of search ads continues to fall

I’ve used this blog to document the increasing sophistication and then gradual dumbing-down of Google search advertising over the years, and I fear the system is going to continue in its descent into oversimplification. Most of us who watch these things have been certain for some time that Google’s ultimate goal is for advertisers to just give the search engine some money and let it get on with things. This would be the same as giving a print publisher a budget and saying: “Make up an advert for us with any message you like, and put it in any of your magazines, at any time.”

And if you think that sounds daft, trust me that Google is big enough – and convinced enough of its own cleverness – to take this route.

A new feature has been offered to some advertisers offering them the chance to specify one set of broad match keywords for an entire campaign. This eliminates the different match type options and goes even further than other changes in recent times. For example, sophisticated advertisers have been up in arms for the past year about Google’s repeated recommendations now to use broad match and ‘smart bidding’.

To be fair, for the largest accounts, handing over control to machine learning systems at Google may be the best way to handle increasing advertising complexity. And for the smallest local businesses, who have little time to manage their accounts manually, it could be attractive (and possibly economic) to let Google manage things too.

However, for the vast number of businesses who either have solid hands-on control of their advertising in-house, or who use one of the thousands of competent specialised agencies worldwide, this is a disturbing trend. We all like the opportunity to be in charge of what we say and where we say it, and the prospect of handing things over to a machine may be a step too far.

I don’t foresee too many changes being forced on this group of advertisers imminently, but it’s a trend that we need to be aware of.