Google wants more of your money: showing AdWords ads for related searches

Tonight’s the semi-final of the World Cup, where the Netherlands will compete against Uruguay. As a true SEO I decided to check out the Google SERP for the query ‘uruguay’. There I found Google showing Adwords ads for the related search query ‘uruguay real estate’. I just bumped into this today. I don’t know if it’s really new, but I hadn’t noticed it before.

I’d say it’s a smart move from Google to make more money. This search query normally would show me just one ad from Google itself. So there’s not a chance Google’s making any money from me using this query. So why not show some other ads anyway? They don’t know if I’m interested in real estate in Uruguay, so it ‘s a long shot. Heck, they’re advertising for something completely different themselves. But even with the small chance of me clicking on it, chances are higher than with no other ads at all.

With the query [uruguay] used 301,000 times a month in and the average CPC for [Uruguay real estate] estimated on € 0.35 this could produce a nice little revenue for Google (especially when you keep in mind that this query by itself would not produce any direct revenue for Google).

Google mentioned that showing ads for related queries is part of an experiment. I don’t know whether Google uses advertisers for this experiment who gave their permission. But when they don’t, I don’t think advertisers will like this at all. They’ve chosen not to advertise on a generic query but Google shows their ads anyway. Google has always told advertisers to be relevant, hence the quality score. This doesn’t match that vision.

A little research for other queries showed Google showing related ads for the following queries:

Given search query Search volume Ads shown for related query Estimated CPC related query
spain 1,000,000 spain travel € 3.26
world cup 386,000 world cup tickets € 0.89
german 368,000 learn german € 1.68
parking 3,350,000 domain parking € 2.60
airport parking € 3.52

What’s your note on this? Should Google do this? Is it a good experiment to improve AdWords’ quality. Or are they making a big mistake here?

Note: I don’t know if Google uses different pricing for these related ads or if they price them at all because they’re part of an experiment. For this article I assumed that they price them according to the bids for the related search query. If anyone knows more about this, please let us know!

About Jeroen van Eck

Jeroen van Eck is a consultant search engine marketing at the online marketing company E-Focus in the Netherlands.

11 thoughts on “Google wants more of your money: showing AdWords ads for related searches

  1. Hey Jeroen,

    I don’t think there would be only one ad. I think the ads under related are broad matches of the term “Uruguay”. The advertisers probably have chosen to appear on a generic query, because they booked the term as a broad match….that’s why Google can do this test without asking. Pricing would be just like always.

    If it’s good or bad is difficult to say. I don’t like broad match, so I hate this too 😀

    Bye Evert

  2. Of course Google is doing this. As you said it means extra income for them, and as upwards of 97% of Google’s revenue comes from its advertising platforms, Google needs to ensure this revenue stream keeps growing.

    Is it good for advertisers? Maybe – if the CPC is adjusted accordingly I think Google can get away with it. I.e. an advertiser pays a lower CPC for these type of related ads. If however Google charges the same CPC as for the term the advertiser is actually bidding on, then it’s a rip-off as the traffic thus generated is less relevant.

    Is it good for users? No. Google is quickly turning from a search engine with advertising in to an advertising platform with a search function. is looking more and more attractive every day.

  3. @Evert I don’t know if it’s true what you are saying. But it could be a valid explanation. Instead of presenting te broad matched ads they would be grouping the ads according to related topics. Still I’m guessing that’s not what they are doing because they talk about “additional advertisements for related queries or refinements of the user’s original query”.

  4. Hi Jeroen,

    they say: “This beta experiment provides users with a diverse set of relevant ads, and offers advertisers with relevant broad match keywords another opportunity to reach their target audience.”
    Google can’t show these ads without asking in this way when the advertiser booked an exact match.
    Just my 2 cents…..


  5. I don’t know, maybe they would show related ads “Uruguay house for sale” or something like that. Or they show just the normal results like today, because the term isn’t thát generic.
    I think they are just grouping the broad match results and that could be in the interest of the user. And maybe they give the advertiser better targeting options?

  6. I have been seeing this for quite some time too on my own ads. Google does not ask advertisers permission and I suppose they can say that in some cases it does improve the user experience, e.g. users are often inclined to search on something more generic than what they are really looking for, however, it is unfair to the businesses listed.

    I think you are probably right that the advertisers listed under a related search are broad matching however this is ultimately just filling Google’s coffers – e.g. you are an Insurance provider with several domains such as and TravelInsurancecom. If you advertise broad match on your brand + home insurance and your brand + travel insurance, it is possible that a users query for your brand + home insurance could generate a Google related search result for your brand + travel insurance and vice versa (the reason why I specified separate domains is because I imagine Google’s one domain URL per search results page still applies with related searches). This means that any clicks you receive on the travel insurance ad are likely to be irrelevant. Even if you have negative matched ‘home insurance’ in the travel insurance campaign you would still appear as Google is not listing the travel insurance ad under ‘your brand + home insurance’ but pulling the result for ‘your brand + travel insurance’. This negates the use of negative matching,

    In fact, I am not sure that you need to be broad matched, perhaps Google could even do this under exact match. Especially if Google are using some kind of relevance algorithm which displays these related searches based on Google relevancy factors.

    This is unfortunate and I hope it is not fully rolled out. It is appears to be used in cases where all 11 Google ad spaces are not used up.

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