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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Dear AdWords, Please Change These 2 Things

In terms of paid search platforms AdWords is far and away the leader. Tools like the AdWords Editor and the incredible support section are just two of dozens of features and services that separate AdWords from the rest of the paid search crowd.

That said, there are two things about AdWords that really bug me and I think AdWords should change to benefit their advertisers - which in turn will benefit Google in the long run. I know Google cares about the long run as they have proven they are willing to make changes that may impact short term revenue but will likely pay off in the long run.

The two items that in my opinion need to change are:

Item # 1: The quality score column is disabled by default in AdWords accounts.

The AdWords has team has been pounding the importance of the quality score into advertisers heads ever since it was announced. It is an integral part of AdWords advertising and Google has made it nearly impossible for advertisers to ignore it and maintain successful AdWords accounts.

Google's own documentation sums up the importance of the quality score:

"Quality Score influences your ads' position on Google and the Google Network. It also partly determines your keywords' minimum bids. In general, the higher your Quality Score, the better your ad position and the lower your minimum bids.

Quality Score helps ensure that only the most relevant ads appear to users on Google and the Google Network. The AdWords system works best for everybody—advertisers, users, publishers, and Google too—when the ads we display match our users' needs as closely as possible. Relevant ads tend to earn more clicks, appear in a higher position, and bring you the most success."

They have entire sections dedicated to improving quality scores, talk about it extensively on their blog and seeming go out of their way to reiterate it's importance again and again and again. Bloggers and AdWords users all over the world dedicate entire posts to discussing it. If you work in paid search for a living you probably hear the term "quality score" a dozen times a day. I think at this point in the life of AdWords, we the advertisers get it - the quality score is important.

So why on earth is the quality score column disabled by default in new accounts?

Like others, the first response that pops in my head is $$$. If people have low quality scores and don't realize it they may just pay more, at least for awhile. That of course, in the short term, benefits Google. But the reality is that as AdWords advertising costs for those advertisers continue to increase they become less and less profitable and may eventually will reduce their spend or shift to other providers. Long term, I don't see this as a good practice for Google to follow.

Google, put the same effort into making sure all of your advertisers see the quality score from day 1 as you do in preaching it's importance every step of the way and everyone will win. Advertisers will build better campaigns that will lead to increased conversions that will lead to increased spend. Don't be evil, show the quality score from day 1.

Item # 2: Don't enable the content network by default.

This has been a common complaint among advertisers for years. Sure, it takes 2 seconds to uncheck the content network when building a new campaign but that's 2 seconds more than advertisers should have to spend on it.

It's no secret that content advertising is completely different that search advertising. It's not even remotely close to the same thing. Everything from the tactics used to setup a content campaign through the analysis pf the results and campaign performance is different. This is not just an opinion of advertisers, it's Google's stance on the subject as well:

"On the search network, ads are shown to users who are specifically searching for results using one of your keywords. On the content network, ads are shown to users as they research interests and browse sites that are related to your keywords and ad text. Users on the content network are in a different mindset than users on search, so changes to your keywords, ad text and account structure may be necessary to make the most out of your content network advertising."

That's from a January 24, 2008 post on the AdWords blog entitled Google Content Network Tips: Optimizing for a Content Network Audience. You know what the first tip on that post is? How about:

"Create separate search and content campaigns."

Other posts from the AdWords blog that are about working with the content work include suggestions such as "use duplicate keywords for appropriate ad groups, use ad group level urls instead of keyword level urls and measure content performance at the ad group level." All of those are great suggestions for the content network but they are absolutely horrible suggestions for the search network.

Don't get me wrong, I think the content network is great and when used properly can produce phenomenal results but can't for the life of me come up with a reason why you would ever have the same campaign running in both search and content. I would go so far as to say that there is never a case in which that setup would make sense or produce better results than a separate content and search campaigns.

I know Google is making a big push this year to ramp up the content network - I think that's great. I think the practice of enabling the content network by default is working against that effort. From my point of view, here's what happens. New advertiser sets up a new campaign and unknowingly leaves the content network on. Almost without the fail the results will be horrible and when they see how the content network is performing they will shut it off. That experience leaves a bad taste in their mouth and they now consider the content network to not be a viable form of adverting for their business. They miss out, Google misses out and the publishers (AdSense) miss out. Everyone loses.

Google, bombard advertisers with account messages and e-mails asking them to opt in, call whatever you feel you need to do to get people to opt in but make sure you set them up to succeed. If advertisers succeed you succeed. Opting advertisers into the content network by default is not the right way to make that happen.

I think AdWords is a great paid search platform - just hope we can see these two items addressed in 08'.

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