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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 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 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?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Best CTR = 92,233,720,368,547,776.00%

From my AdWords MCC screen in the search ctr column...

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