Google opens up keyword bidding

LONDON - Google has announced that it will allow keyword bidding on all terms typed into its search engine, in a controversial move that will draw criticism from agencies and advertisers.

The internet giant announced that from May 5 its trademark complaint investigations will no longer monitor or restrict keywords for ads served to users in the UK and Ireland.

The move brings the UK and Ireland into line with the US and Canada, where Google has been operating the policy since 2004.

The move means that a user who types a trademarked brand name into the Google search engine, alongside its associated service, will now see ads in the search results from rival brands in addition to those for the brand they were searching for. For example, this would affect a Google user who enters a carmaker's brand name alongside the word 'car'.

The decision to introduce broad matching technology will increase advertising revenue and comes hot on the heels of a decline in paid-advertising clicks on Google over the last two months.

Advertisers and agencies in the UK have long argued that opening up Google's search engine to show ads from advertisers bidding against keywords allows rival companies to profit from decades of investment in building up brand names.

Google has argued that it can present its users with more ads in the sponsored links section, giving them greater choice.

Matt Brittin, director of Google UK, said: "We are making this change because we want to give users greater choices to help them make informed decisions.

"Advertisers are accustomed to the fact that users searching for their trademarked terms as part of a phrase may see ads from competitors."

However, Gavin Sinden, a director at digital agency Equi=Media, attacked the move. He said: "Putting all this together with the fact that Google's paid advertising clicks have shown decline over the last two months for the first time ever, a more cynical interpretation begins to emerge.

"This seems like an attempt by Google to increase bid values and volume of bids on a huge range of terms. This is very difficult to justify in terms of Google's avowed policy of trying to serve the consumer by increasing relevance."

Sinden warned advertisers that "you could type in a search for a particular brand and be confronted with nothing but a sea of competitors".

He added: "This is going to have a major effect on digital marketing budgets over the rest of 2008. The speed of introducing this change and the lack of consultancy make it difficult for clients to realign their budgets to ensure money is available for the increased spend on brand keywords that this will undoubtedly require."

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