Google is contemplating eliminating keyword-based search and advertising results in favor of “just let Google decide who to connect with your ads.”

So reports Rebecca Lieb at from Google AdWords’ team head Nick Fox’s keynote at the recent Search Engines Strategies meeting in San Jose. Fox imagines a world in which “seach ads just…happened. You tell us what you’re selling, we do the rest.” In this world (apparently already under development by Google engineers), Google will not only match your selling proposition with prospects using its search service, it will even create the ads for you. Fine (maybe), but what about my competitors asking to sell the same product or service? Fox promises only that their new technology “will somehow be fair and objective enough to make everyone happy if and when all this comes to pass.”

If you’re an AdWords advertiser, this announcement should be making at least the following hairs stand up on the back of your neck:

  • “Fair and objective treatment” of competition sounds a bit too much like a bit too much like the old visions for a socialist utopia. Online advertisers are inveterate capitalists. They don’t want fairness with competitors; they want to do better than them. I don’t see advertisers willingly releasing their freedom to try to be smarter than their competitors to the Google politburo.
  • Fox seems to put forth a fairly flat vision of why entities advertise on Google. For example, in the same address, while advocating a cost-per-action over cost-per-click payment model, Fox said, “Leads, schmeads. We want to more closely align advertising with performance.” Sounds good, but will Google really be able to precisely define and measure every possible “action” for which advertisers place ads? To some of my clients, generating “leads” is far from “schmeads.”

I do see one positive in this announcement: a recognition that the present keyword system quickly becomes hopelessly complex for anyone but the smallest advertisers. The number of variables that have to be evaluated and managed in a large account quickly approaches impossible levels, at least for hands-on human management. To me, a better thing for Google’s geniuses to be spending their time on would be developing more and better keyword management, reporting, and feedback tools.

The good news is that Google has opened up a feedback forum for advertisers to discuss this idea. I’m betting they’ll get an earful as this becomes more widely known.

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