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Monday, September 24, 2007

Google Conversion Optimizer vs Manual Optimization

Earlier today Google announced a new AdWords service - the conversion optimizer.

Here's a snippet from the AdWords blog explaining what the conversion optimizer will do:


"Here's how Conversion Optimizer works: simply specify a maximum CPA bid and the Conversion Optimizer does the rest. It uses historical information about your campaign and automatically generates optimal CPC bids for each auction. You still pay per click, but you no longer have to manually adjust your bids to reach your CPA goals. Since the Conversion Optimizer can choose a new bid for each auction, you're provided with the additional benefit of spending money only on the search queries and sites where your ads are likely to convert. You can read more about how the Conversion Optimizer can manage your costs here."

I'm going to put the optimizer to the test. I pulled stats from one of my campaigns for the last 30 days (8/24 - 9/24):

Conversion rate: 38.60%
Cost per conversion: $0.03

This campaign has had in excess of 40,000 conversions during the previous 30 days so there should be plenty of data for the conversion optimizer to work with.

I just flipped on the conversion optimizer for this campaign and will post periodic updates as well as a complete summary when the test concludes. My hunch is good old fashioned manual brain powered optimization will prove more effective although part of me hopes I'm completely wrong and the conversion optimizer blows that conversion rate away.

If you would like to give the AdWords Conversion Optimizer a spin here are the instructions for getting started. Keep in mind for a campaign to be eligible for the conversion optimizer you need to have 300 conversions over the last 30 days in that specific campaign.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Types of Sites Penalized by AdWords

Yesterday a new post was made to the AdWords Blog, websites that may merit a low landing page quality score.

The post talks about two categories of sites - one set that will almost automatically receive a low landing page quality score and may even lead to AdWords account termination, and, another set of sites that will "likely" lead to a low landing page quality score.

Here are the types of sites the AdWords team say will receive a low landing page quality score:

- Data collection sites that offer free gifts, subscription services etc., in order to collect private information

- Arbitrage sites that are designed for the sole purpose of showing ads

- Malware sites that knowingly or unknowingly install software on a visitor's computer.

Interesting list, and obviously it's open to interpretation. Some would argue that services such as Gmail (or a Google account in general) would be classified as "data collection" and Google.com search results pages as "Arbitrage" pages. Google search results pages exist for the sole purpose of serving ads, right?

The post also referenced additional types of sites that "may" lead to a low quality landing page score. Those sites include sites such as:

- eBook sites that show frequent ads or install malware

- 'Get rich quick' sites

- Comparison shopping sites

- Travel aggregators

- Affiliates that don't comply with our affiliate guidelines

The reference to ebook sites seems odd. "Frequent ads" is obviously a relative number and malware sites were covered in the "likely to be penalized" list. I guess there must be a large number of ebook sites that dabble in arbitrage + malware.

The "get rich quick sites" listing is also a bit odd. What's your definition of quick? How about rich? In the past few years people have made significant incomes via AdSense practically overnight. Adsense publishers literally make money while they sleep. Google promotes AdSense over the AdWords network - I'm willing to bet the AdSense landing page does not have poor landing page quality score:-)

Next up is comparison shopping sites. Google has one of those too. Bet it doesn't get a low landing page quality score:-)

Finally the list closes out with travel aggregators and affiliates that don't adhere to Google's affiliate guidelines. I haven't really spent any time in the travel space and off the top of my head would think that some travel sites that pull info (i.e. consolidate) from other sites to help a potential traveler get a good deal or review lots of information from various sources at once would be helpful to the end user. I guess like the ebook sites that show "frequent" ads and/or install malware there must be something in the travel space I'm not aware of. In terms of affiliate sites, I don't think that surprises anyone. Any who's an affiliate and an AdWords users has known about this for quite some time now.

On the bright side the post from the AdWords team will help end some of the speculation about what AdWords is looking for and what they are looking block from their system. On the not so bright side it seems to this marketer that Google is following the "do as we say not as we do" logic and is making exceptions for their products and services that may fall into the site categories they listed in the post.

Feel free to share your thoughts, comments & opinions on Google's landing page quality score post.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Free Search Ads on Google Mobile

I received this earlier today regarding a free trial of AdWords ads on Google mobile search results:


"Hello XXXXXXXX,

We are happy to announce a new feature that will allow you to easily reach additional qualified customers who are searching Google from their mobile phones.

In the next few days, your search ads will be eligible to run on Google Mobile Search pages (like they currently do on Google.com).We are offering this feature - and any resulting clicks - for free through November 18, so you can experiment with the rapidly growing mobile platform while still reaching qualified customers.

Each ad's eligibility will be determined by its landing page and only ads with landing pages that can be adapted for viewing on mobile browsers will be shown. You can monitor each ad's performance via a special performance tracking page within your account called "Performance Data: Search Ads on Google Mobile Search."

Again, you will not be charged for clicks on these ads until November 19, at which time we will begin charging the usual CPC prices. And as always, you may opt-out of this feature at anytime.

We hope you find this new feature helpful and profitable, and we urge you to learn more about it at our AdWords Help Center:

http://adwords.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=72226

Thank you for advertising with Google AdWords.
Sincerely,
The Google AdWords Team "

Looks like you're opted in by default if you meet the standards. If mobile isn't for you make sure to login and opt out

I'm sure a lot of advertisers will try it out while it's free but wonder what the retention rate will be when the trial ends.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

There will be banner ads on the Google homepage and/or web search results pages

Back in late 2005 Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Products & User Experience at Google wrote;

"There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever."

Fast forward to 2007...

At the recent Citigroup Technology conference in New York Nick Fox & Sundar Pichai made some comments in relation to image/video ads being integrated into Google's universal search results;

"Fox says integrating video or image ads into sponsored search results is an option that has come up in internal discussions, since search ads are there to give users information that is most relevant to their query. "In many cases that's a text ad," Fox says. "In some cases, it may be an image, a video, or something else. But the risk is not showing something garish or flashy, because users would become blind to the ads and it would hurt the business long-term."

And Pichai added;

"the images and video ads you see today on content networks are not what will work. They won't carry over well." Any steps Google makes will have to be "incremental and evolutionary."

Personally, I think it's a logical step that needs to be taken with the introduction of Universal Search. There are times when a video or image ad will result in a better user experience when compared to standard text ad. I think Google is taking the correct approach to this - "incremental & evolutionary".

A key element that will need consideration (and I'm sure most would agree) is the current "instant approval" for ads/keywords that run on Google's own search results. I think video/image ads would all have to go through an approval process, similar to site targeted or content network ads do. I could just imagine some of the video/image ads people would try and sneak into Google's results and the outcry that would follow.

I've been in discussions with other search marketers who strongly disagree, for a number of reasons, with the opinion that image and video ads have a place in Google's search results. A few years back I was on that side of the fence as well but with Universal Search staring search marketers in the face it's time to accept that image & video ads will be in the search results in the future. We can either get our video and image assets in line and ready to use or pretend like it won't happen and watch our competitors jump ahead of us in that space.

Thoughts on image and video ads in Google's results? Feel free to comment.

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