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Friday, February 13, 2009

Google Using AdWords Search Ads to Promote Sites They Don't Own?

Came across something interesting this afternoon in the paid results. I was signed into my Google account and did a search for "recipes". I noticed a paid ad from Google and thought that was odd... didn't know Google had a recipe site they were promoting.


After I clicked on the ad I was at my iGoogle page (which I have never used) and was kind of surprised at what I was looking at:



It took me a minute to figure out what happened but as you can see a gadget for Simply Recipes was now present on my iGoogle homepage. Outside of the ad copy indicating I could "See easy and delicious recipes on your iGoogle homepage. Free!" I was never asked or prompted to add anything. I know that technically nothing is being "installed" but I would have to venture a guess that this is closer to prohibited than encouraged. When I hit the back button it didn't go "back" either, it just added another gadget. Hit back again and it added another. Don't think it's supposed to be that way...



I did the same thing not signed into my Google account and here's the page I landed on:

That's a little better, at least I'm getting chance to "say yes".

The Simply Recipes gadget and the site have AdSense ads.

I though this experience was interesting...regardless of who's running the ad.

If Simply Recipes is running the ad I would like to know how they were able to get around Google's enforcement of it's own TM rule and the fact that Google does not allow advertisers to use Google.com as as a display/destination url. I've tried in the past and get auto rejected during ad creation. Maybe Google and Simply Recipes struck a deal and Simply Recipes has permission to use the Google TM? That seems like a stretch to me but you never know.

I think what's more likely, and this is pure speculation, is that Google is running the ad themselves to promote the use of iGoogle via gadgets....which in this case is tied into a site that runs a lot of AdSense ads. Now if that's the case it opens a lot more questions like who's paying for that ad? If Google's paying itself to run that ad that raises even more questions. Has Google decided that it's ok to use it's search network to promote sites that it does not own that promote it's revenue generating products (AdSense)? Does Google not have to adhere to it's own policies (functioning back button)?

This is one query and one example but if Google is indeed behind this campaign the implications for other advertisers could be significant. Imagine if Google came knocking in your vertical with a similar campaign. How could you compete against the owner of ad platform on it's own platform? You couldn't, at least not effectively.

Hey it's Friday 13th and maybe this is nothing more than an ad campaign that slid past editorial review. Then again, maybe it's not.


Friday, January 30, 2009

AdWords Ad Serving: Optimize vs Rotate Evenly

I read all sorts of paid search blogs and forums. I have a few hundred in my reader and typically ad at least one or two new ones a week. A lot of those blogs include best practices, common mistakes to avoid and other tips for AdWords advertisers new and seasoned alike. A common tip/best practice that's often included is about ad serving and whether "optimize" or "rotate evenly" is the best setting to start with. By default, Google sets new campaigns to the optimized option.

The optimized ad serving option is typically dismissed by search marketers as a money grab for Google - Google optimizes based on CTR. A higher CTR means more clicks and more money for Google. More and more guides and best practice documents insist that the rotate ads evenly option is the better of the two and only an uniformed amateur would ever use the optimized setting. This is a perfectly logical argument. Search marketers - at least every one that I've ever met, optimizes to conversions and related metrics. A high CTR is nice but it won't pay the bills or bring in new business...unless of course you happen to be Google.

That said, I have to disagree with the assertion that "rotate evenly" is a best practice, should be a default account setting or is only used by the mis or uniformed. I typically start almost every new account/campaign with optimize as my default setting, and I do it on purpose.

I've found that the optimize setting does do a great job of serving the ad with the highest likelihood of receiving a click. In round 1 testing I like to take 2 - 4 ads that test various messaging elements and let the optimized ad serving setting show me with has the best CTR. Serving the ad with the highest CTR helps your quality score which in turn helps reduce your actual CPC which in the long run will have a positive impact on your campaign ROI.

After I let the ads run for bit under the optmized setting I take the top ad (in terms of CTR) and use that as the basis for my next round of testing. In round 2 I switch ad delivery to the rotate evenly option and typically test 1 or 2 ads (building on the ad elements that "worked") vs the "control" ad I established in round 1. I already know that the control ad from round 1 has a great CTR so now I can focus on finding the balance between CTR and cost per conversion, and I'm likely doing so at a lower CPC due to the higher quality score my high CTR ad earned in round 1 of testing. I feel that this method of testing gets my ads to where I want them faster, at a lower costs and with less effort. I might even make the argument that this method, not defaulting to rotate ads evenly, is really the best practice advertisers should follow.

That's my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions.

Have a great weekend.

Side suggestion for Google - you should add an ad serving option to optimize to conversion rate instead of CTR. I think some advertisers would love an option like that and we all know that more conversions at a lower cost = more budget dollars for paid search = more money for Google.


Friday, January 16, 2009

adCenter Display URL Optional?

Came across an interesting adCenter ad this morning that omits the display url. Last I checked it was required element of an ad...wonder if this is a test, glitch or something else all together. I have not been able to recreate an ad like this with any other query.



Sunday, December 21, 2008

AdWords Budget Settings and the Impact on Conversions

AdWords budget settings are one of the most important yet often overlooked settings in an AdWords account. A lot of people write the budget settings off as nothing more than a simple mechanism you can use to make sure you don't spend more than you have available. True, you can use the budget settings in AdWords in that way but I think it's important to understand the implications of those settings. I'll use an account I recently reviewed for an associate of mine (let's call him Jim) as an example of what I mean.

Jim runs a small business and sells a few of his smaller "shipping friendly" products on his website. He's been using AdWords for about a year and half. Jim's self taught and has never been any formal AdWords training or hired any outside help. That said, his AdWords account has steadily grown in terms of importance to his business over the past 12 months as it's continued to bring more and more customers within his target ROI. Jim called me because he felt like he had hit a wall..."no matter how many keywords I add I can't seem to push past X number of sales per month and I know there are more customers out there." Jim asked if I would take a look at his account and see if I could offer any advice that might help. I agreed and he gave me access to his account.

I was shocked, and the folks reading this post that manage campaigns for a living will understand why. Almost all of the accounts I've looked at for friends, associates and small/large businesses over the years have been disasters. No organization or logical campaign/ad group naming, match types all over the place, no negative keywords with broad match, 1 landing page for 5,000 keywords, no ad testing, geo targeting the entire planet, content running with search, etc, etc. If you manage campaigns for a living you know the drill. I was shocked because almost none of that applied to Jim's account.

Jim's spent time - a lot of time - studying AdWords and best practices. He spends as much time as possible reading various resources for ppc practitioners and the time he's spent learning really shows in his account. It's well organized and follows a lot of what are considered best practices. A separate set of eyes never hurts though, and I was able to put together some suggestions for him that should help his accounts performance. Before he implemented any of my suggestions though I asked him to do one thing....

Raise his daily budget from $160 to $5,000 and change ad delivery from standard to accelerated.

Jim, like a lot of small business owners, decided what he was willing to spend each month and did the simple math to arrive at a daily budget. His campaigns were capped at $160 a day and ad delivery was set to "". His account was always hitting the spend cap by the end of the day and it was obvious there was a lot of additional search volume out there he was missing out on. We had some conversations around "what ifs" associated with the budget increase and Jim realized one of those what ifs would be great for his business - what if he could spend $5,000 a day at the same ROI that he was spending $160?

I told him I didn't think his current account would spend $5,000 a day but I was sure it would spend a heck of a lot more than $160. His account setup was solid so I was also confident in the fact that he would see the same/similar conversion rates and ROI at those increased spending levels. He said he would put the budget change in place and we scheduled a follow up two weeks later.

Fast forward two weeks - Jim was ecstatic. He was not spending $5,000 a day but since the change his account was averaging $600 day and his conversion rates and ROI were at the same levels they were when he was spending $160 a day. He use to average about 10 sales a day but since the change was averaging closer to 35 sales a day and one day had even broke 45. He did not change anything else in the account, just the budget settings.

My philosophy on account management has always been to build accounts out to the point where I'm setting spending caps to stay within client budgets. This allows for quick growth when the client is ready. If I'm capping spend at $500 a day and a client wants to increase their budget there's no mad dash to build out keyword lists and expand the account, I just up the budget and let the system do the rest.

The AdWords budget settings are important...don't let artificially low settings limit your accounts potential.

Here are a few other AdWords budget related posts & pages that are worth a read:

AdWords Monthly Budget Now in Expanded Beta, Pros and Cons

AdWords Daily Budget is Actually Monthly Budget: False Advertising Claim Proceeds

AdWords Help Center - Budget

How You Control Costs - AdWords Learning Center


Friday, November 21, 2008

11% of AdWords Clicks are Wasted on Dead Pages

Over the past 60 days I have been keeping track of all of the AdWords ads I have clicked on. As of today I've reached 1,000 clicks. There's a ton of interesting data in my spreadsheet but one thing really jumped out at me - the amount of clicks that advertisers pay for that resulted in me seeing an error/dead page.

Out of my tracked 1,000 clicks 110 of them landed me on a dead page. A dead page could be a 404, site down, broken redirect, typo in the destination url, etc. Basically it means I (or anyone else) could load the page if they clicked on the advertisers ad. Of course this small sampling of clicks doesn't mean that 11% are wasted across the entire AdWords platform but to me it did validate something I've felt for quite some time...website/web page uptime is a pretty big deal for AdWords users.

If you're a paid search account manager who works with clients/departments and are not the one in control of the server that hosts the landing pages or sites you have likely dealt with this issue a number of times already. You notice that your campaign that's converted at 10% for 2 years converted at 0% yesterday. You do a quick check of the landing page and it's loading so slow unless you're willing to wait 10 minutes for a partially loaded page you're out of luck. You contact who ever is in charge of your server/site and sometime thereafter (shortly thereafter if you have a good team) things are back to normal. Great...but what about all the $$$ you essentially pitched into the trash yesterday sending people to a "dead" page? That one day could have a big impact on your overall campaign numbers for the month and no one wants to hear "the server was down" as an excuse....especially when you can't prove it.

What's even worse that having a server/site down for a period of time is having an intermittent problem that makes it hard to identify site performance as an issue. Spread a few dozen "dead" clicks across a few hundred total clicks and it impacts the numbers, and not in the way it should. I've seen problems like this continue for months and months. The impact on the paid search campaign(s) can be disastrous.

I would love to see AdWords jump in and help advertisers with this issue. They could do something as simple as creating a report that advertisers can run that would show clicks that resulted in "dead pages" and the costs associated with those clicks. This would help advertisers:

1) Make more informed decisions - they would not shut down keywords/ad groups that were producing a poor return on investment due to server issues.

2) Provide more accurate reports to clients. The paid search manager should not be penalized due to site performance issues. If the landing page won't load 11% of time that needs to be taken into consideration when looking at campaign performance.

3) Work with their host/IT group to identify and correct the issue. If your page or site isn't loading for 11% of AdWords clicks you're paying for odds are it's not loading for other traffic sources as well. This could be huge...imagine an 11% lift for your business without altering your advertising at all.

I'm not saying or implying that Google shouldn't charge for clicks that lead to dead pages...our server uptime is not their concern. What I am saying is that when Google can help advertisers be more effective (and this type of reporting would help) those advertisers can produce a higher ROI for clients which will likely result in increased spending with the AdWords platform.

Since Google AdWords doesn't offer this type of reporting at the present time my advice is to set up your own site monitoring if you think there may be availability issues with some sites you're working with. You won't get the same level of detail that an AdWords based service could provide but the right service will allow you to estimate downtime with a fairly significant degree of accuracy - not to mention the fact that if you knew a site was down you could pause a campaign until the issue was resolved and avoid paying to send people to an unresponsive page. I use http://www.dotcom-monitor.com/ and would estimate that over the years it's saved the businesses I've done paid search management work for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Anyone else using a site monitoring service or product in conjunction with paid search they would recommend?


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