Adwords Search Query Reports: US Versus The World

The subject of broad match gone wild is a popular one in PPC, and has been since the dawn of search query reports. Search marketers frequently lament the irrelevant and sometimes downright puzzling queries which triggered their ads. In fact, better search query matching was one of my 2007 PPC wishes that still hasn’t come true.

A few weeks ago, I was doing routine search query report reviews for one of our international clients. We use broad match on their branded terms to cast as wide a net as possible, and we use extensive negative keywords to control the wildness.  Anyway, I pulled a SQR for our Germany campaigns, and then pulled one for the US. Again, the task was all typical – but the report results were anything but.

We’ve created ad groups by match type for control and new search query mining, using the SQRs for not only negatives, but new positive keywords to add to our account.  For both Germany and the US, I looked at just 2 keywords this time: the broad match and phrase match of the client’s brand. I noticed that reviewing Germany’s report took a lot less time than reviewing the US report. This came as a surprise, since our branded campaigns are set to “all languages” and I had to pore over German-language keywords in the SQR as a non-German speaker (Google Translate is my best friend for this). So I decided to compare the two reports.

What I discovered stunned me.

Allow me to illustrate with a few visuals.

search queries

Look at the total number of search queries: the US has nearly 3 times as many as Germany. Remember, this is on the same 2 keywords! That’s the stat that got me started on this in the first place.  I find it hard to believe that people in the US are 3 times more creative than people in Germany when it comes to searching for the client’s brand (or searching for anything, for that matter).

This goes a long way towards explaining why our US CPCs are so much higher than other countries for this client. I know that the PPC market in general is more saturated here than elsewhere. If nothing else, there are more US-based advertisers. And our population is 3 times bigger than Germany’s (82 million for Germany vs. 311 million for the US), so I might accept the notion that if every person in each country conducts one unique search related to these 2 keywords, we’d see 3 times as many SQs in the US as in Germany. I think it’s a stretch, but it’s at least plausible.

But let’s look at search query distribution across match types. Remember, we’ve segmented our ad groups by match type, so there are no exact matches. What’s left in the SQR is broad, phrase, and session based broad.

A couple of visuals will make this easier. Let’s look at Germany first.

germany sqr

Half of the queries were broad matched, and the rest were pretty evenly distributed between phrase match and session-based broad match. I’m not thrilled about the high percentage of session-based broad matches, but that’s another post.  Still, the fact that over 1 in 5 matches were phrase match isn’t too bad.

Now let’s look at the US.

us sqr

Are you as speechless as I am? Fully 84% of the matches in the US were broad match (and remember folks, there were 860 of them, compared with 193 in Germany). There were virtually no session-based broad matches, so at least we have that going for us.  But only 15% phrase matches, vs. 22% in Germany? Why, Google, why?

And here’s the kicker – you know this is coming – the US SQR is loaded with totally irrelevant queries.

Methinks something is rotten in the state of Denmark. (It’s close to Germany, right?)

Have you seen similar behavior in your international campaigns? Are we Americans really that much more creative in our searches? Or is Google showing their patriotism by fleecing us? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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New Adwords Sitelinks Policy – An Interview with Jeremy Brown

Adwords sitelinks are a great PPC feature that Google introduced a couple of years ago.  I’ve written about the good and bad in previous Search Engine Watch posts.

As is the way with PPC, last week Google made some tweaks to Sitelinks, which of course sparked discussion on Twitter.  This post was inspired by those discussions.

So, with no further ado, here’s my interview with Jeremy Brown on Sitelinks.

Melissa Mackey: First, introduce yourself!  Tell us a little about your business and the type of clients you work with.
Jeremy Brown:  I’ve been working in online marketing since 2000 and in PPC for the past 10 years.  I’ve recently started Metric Theory with a great team of folks to offer PPC management services to ecommerce and B2B companies with budgets ranging from $10k-$500k per month.  Our team previously built an agency that was managing over $60 million in annual PPC spend, and we have wide experience working with large retailers as well as cutting-edge tech companies.  We are growing quickly and we are looking for new clients so we can apply our data-focused strategies to drive results.

MM: Without spilling any trade secrets, how have you used Sitelinks successfully in the past? What best practices have you followed?
JB:  Sitelinks are absolutely great for taking up more space on the page.  That is their number #1 utility.  Second to that, they can be used as additional ad copy.  Google may want you to think of them as navigation (like organic search), but they are ad space and provide opportunities for selling.  They can be used to feature unique selling propositions, special sales, email newsletters, and a whole plethora of detailed information.

It’s important to think about what audience you are reaching with each campaign and model your Sitelinks appropriately.  For example, we often find it quite effective to feature a link to client testimonials as one Sitelink for small retailers on their brand campaign.  This provides additional social proof and a sense of security, and can be just what people need when they are reaching the decision point of the buying cycle.

MM: Google recently updated their Sitelink policy and is about to begin stricter enforcement.  What do you think about this?
JB: I’m definitely not a fan of Google enforcing a unique link for every Sitelink, and I’ve provided feedback to Google through numerous channels that this will result in a worse user experience.  Many, many advertisers do not have 4 relevant pages for a given campaign (much less 6-10).  Also, a good portion of those advertisers do not have the resources to create new pages easily.

What I see happening is that a number of advertisers will stick with current sales-focused Sitelinks and will use whatever pages they have at hand as the actual links.  Non-brand Sitelinks often get a small number of clicks and advertisers won’t fret over taking someone to an unrelated page.  As a Google user, I would much rather have 4 Sitelinks taking me to 1 related page rather than 4 Sitelinks taking me to various, unrelated pages in order to satisfy a Google directive to make paid search look and feel more like organic search.

MM: Google is also recommending that advertisers use 6-10 Sitelinks.  Isn’t it a challenge to come up with 6-10 unique Sitelink landing pages per campaign?
JB: It’s definitely a challenge.  In particular, it’s ridiculous for B2B or B2C advertisers who use dedicated lead forms.  Are they supposed to develop 6 slightly different lead forms so they can use Sitelinks effectively?  That doesn’t make sense.  We’ve worked with some clients who have only a handful of dedicated PPC landing pages and those have been obsessively tested and, in some cases, meticulously combed over by the executive suite.  They want to present a standard brand and image in certain advertising channels.  Having 6+ different landing pages often doesn’t mesh well with certain client goals.

Overall, Google is treating Sitelinks as pure navigation – whereas they should be treating them as part of a paid ad that advertisers can test and use as they see fit.  I don’t see this enforcement change helping advertisers or helping Google users.

MM: There is talk in the PPC community of “Sitelinks 2.0,” with Sitelinks available at the ad group level.  How do you think this will help or hurt advertisers?
JB: As much as I’m criticizing Google for their unique Sitelink policy, I want to heap praise on this move.  Advertisers have long asked for this capability, and it’s good to finally see it happening.  What do advertisers want?  More control so they can better craft their ads to drive strong results.  This definitely provides more control.  Advertisers can now use Sitelinks that are appropriate to each ad group as opposed to being stuck with what’s set at the campaign level.  This is a big improvement, and I do see many advertisers taking advantage of this to tailor more relevant Sitelinks to each high-volume ad group.

Still, this impact could be diminished if Google goes forward with their unique Sitelink policy: it’s much easier to craft relevant Sitelink descriptions for each ad group as opposed to creating different, appropriate landing pages for every ad group.  That’s asking a lot for most advertisers.  Based on Google’s documentation (or lack of) over the years, I’d say even a company of Google’s size has trouble marshaling the resources to quickly generate new pages of website content.

MM: Thanks so much for your insight!  It’s going to be interesting to see how the new sitelinks policy plays out.  How can people get in touch with you if they want to learn more about you and Metric Theory?
I’m easily reachable by email at jeremy@metrictheory.com.  We’ve also been putting up a number of blog posts at the Metric Theory blog.  I’ve been on Twitter for years at @jbguru (seriously, this was supposed to be an ironic name :), and we’ve just started as @MetricTheory on Twitter.  I encourage companies who need help with their PPC to reach out as well as folks in the PPC community.  I’m a big believer in shared knowledge so I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on Sitelinks and similar topics.  Thanks again for hosting, Melissa, and I’ll see you on #PPCchat in the near future!

Wow! Huge thanks to Jeremy for this insightful interview!  So, devoted readers, what do you think about the new sitelink policy? Do you have any questions for Jeremy? Share in the comments?

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Using the Adwords Opportunities Tab

Has this ever happened to you?  You need to quickly increase or decrease PPC spend, and you’ve run out of ideas. You’ve tried everything you can think of, but there’s more work to be done, and you’re starting to panic.

Enter the Adwords Opportunities tab.  The Opportunities Tab is jam-packed with info on how to increase or reduce your spend, including:

  • Telling you if your budget is right for the amount of traffic your keywords are generating
  • Letting you know if any of your keywords bids are too low, or if they can be reduced without major sacrifice
  • Pointing out missed opportunities such as adding sitelinks to campaigns without them
  • Recommending new keywords to add to your account

There are 3 options in the Opportunities tab:

  • Increase traffic
  • Balance spend and traffic
  • Decrease spend

Adwords Opportunities Tab Overview

 Choose the option that’s right for you.  I’ve used all 3, and have gotten good suggestions for each option.

But I’ve also gotten bad suggestions.  Really bad suggestions.  PPC Hero has a good writeup on why you shouldn’t blindly implement the Opportunities Tab suggestions – give it a read.

If you do decide that the suggestions make sense, you have several options for implementation.  You can add keywords or change bids right from the Opportunities tab – very handy if you’re comfortable with the suggestions.

You can also download the recommended changes to Excel.  This is helpful if you need to edit keyword ideas – if you need to add keyword-level URLs, for example, or edit match types.

Finally, you can add the suggestions as an Experiment.  I love this feature.  Let’s say that the keyword recommendations are relevant, but you’re concerned you might get too much traffic and blow your budget.  Or let’s say you’re not sure if the keywords will work for you.  By adding the changes as an experiment, you can monitor results easily.  If the changes perform, you can roll them out to all traffic; but if they don’t, you’ve reduced the risk.

If you don’t like the recommendations in the Opportunities tab, you also have the option to remove them.

Adwords Opportunities Tab

Supposedly, Google will “remember” your choice and not show those suggestions again, although I’m not sure the process is flawless.  I’ve seen some really bad suggestions that I’ve rejected, only to see similarly bad suggestions come up later on.

Wordstream has a thorough post on the Opportunities tab, so check that out for additional information.

What do you think about the Opportunities tab?  Good, bad, or indifferent? Share in the comments!

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Using Call Extensions in PPC

When you think about PPC, you think about the online world:  online searches, online ads, and online websites where a conversion happens.  The offline world often doesn’t factor into the picture of PPC.

Of course, though, the offline world still exists, and business happens there on a daily basis.  Since the dawn of PPC, businesses have tried to find a way to cross the chasm between online and off.

One way to do that is by using call extensions in your PPC ads.  In a nutshell, call extensions are a Google Adwords feature that allows your phone number to appear automatically with your ad copy – without using precious space in the ad copy itself.

The cost for using call extensions depends on the device used to perform the search.  For mobile searches, call extensions appear at no extra charge, and the advertiser pays the normal CPC when the phone number is clicked to call.  On desktop and laptop computers, advertisers need to use a Google phone number, and there is a minimum charge of $1 per call.  You get a lot of cool analytics when you use the Google numbers, though – we’ll talk about that in a minute.

Wordstream has a great post covering all the basics of call extensions, so I won’t repeat all that here.  For a closer look at where call extensions might show up and what they look like, check out this post from PPC Hero.

Let’s talk about where the rubber meets the road with call extensions:  evaluating results.  As with a lot of new and shiny objects in the online world, a lot of advertisers get really excited about the fact that the feature exists, without thinking about whether the feature makes sense for their business and helps them get closer to their goals.

Obviously, if your business isn’t equipped to generate conversions over the phone, you shouldn’t use call extensions.  Even if you are equipped, it’s crucial to think about dayparting:  are you running call extensions at 2am when no one is there to answer the phone?  That’s probably not a good user experience, so daypart your campaigns accordingly.

OK, so you’ve ensured that you can convert over the phone and you’ve dayparted properly.  How do you tell if this is working or not?

Well, there are several considerations.  First off, unless you’ve purchased a system to tie phone orders into your web analytics platform, your phone conversions won’t show up there.  You’ll need another way to track them.  If you have a good phone tracking system already, and you’re using a unique phone number for PPC (which you absolutely should do), then this shouldn’t be an issue.

But not all businesses have such a fancy phone system.  While it’s a lot harder to get accurate conversion data without that, you can still tally sales manually.  This requires phone rep cooperation, but it can be done, especially if the reps are incentivized properly.

So you’ve decided to use a Google forwarding number.  What great data do you get in return?

Well, it’s pretty cool, actually.  Go to the Dimensions tab in Adwords and select “Call Details” for your view.

Then, export your report.  You’ll end up with the following fields by default:

•    Start time
•    End time
•    Status
•    Duration (seconds)
•    Caller area code
•    Phone cost
•    Call type
•    Campaign

Pretty cool, huh?  From there, you can analyze whether these calls were worthwhile, at least from a location (area code) and duration standpoint.

By converting seconds to minutes, you can chart the call length for easy analysis, like this:

So if you’re a B2B advertiser with a long sales cycle, and your goal is to generate consultative phone calls, a call duration of less than 1 minute (60 seconds in the report) is probably not good. 

There are many other analyses you can perform with this data – and it gets even more powerful when you marry it with your own call center reports.  The point is, if generating phone contacts is one of your goals, you definitely should be using call extensions.

How have you used call extensions in your campaigns?

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Adwords Support Needs A Better Bra

I know I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record.  Over the past couple weeks, I’ve written about the less-than-optimal changes to Adwords, including near match and the rotate ads fail.

I started this week thinking things couldn’t get any worse.  Surely we’d hit rock bottom and were on our way up.

I was wrong.

Last week, I was hard at work on my first-of-the-month to-do list:  client reporting, and updating ad copy tests.  For as long as I’ve been in agency PPC, I’ve evaluated and updated ad copy tests on at least a monthly basis.  It’s a good practice, right?  Especially in view of the recent “near rotate” fiasco?

Not so fast, bad guy.

We have a global client with campaigns for every country and region of the world.  Although the basic message for their ads is the same, I’m sure it won’t be surprising to hear that minor nuances in ad copy can have different results in different parts of the world.  Anyway, I updated all their ad copy tests and moved on.

Or so I thought.

When I checked the campaigns the next day, I noticed that the US campaign traffic was down a bit.  Well, I didn’t get too worried – after all, we all know that .

A few more days went by, and I checked the campaigns on Monday.  I was in for a shock.

US campaign traffic had screeched to a halt.  Mind you, this is a branded campaign for a long-term advertiser with an average quality score of 10.  At first, I thought the new ads might be stuck in editorial review, which seems to be happening more and more lately.

But alas, the ads were just stuck on the “other” ad position, instead of the top where they had been.  And CTR & traffic tanked as a result.  Quality scores and everything else were still ok, so I figured there must be something else going on.

Well, of course we don’t have an Adwords rep for this client, for whatever reason.  (Eliminating agency reps is yet another tear in the elastic of Google’s support.)  So I called the general support number.

What a nightmare.

I related my story to the rep right off the bat – basically telling her the exact same thing I said here.  She agreed that something was amiss, and promised to get back with me.

Later that day, I got an email reply.  It said, and I paraphrase:  “I took a look at your account, and it looks like your ads are mostly appearing in the Other position, which is why your CTR is down.  Here’s a report illustrating this.  I suggest you raise your bids to get things back on track.”

Seriously?!?!?

One, I told her that I’d already run that report.  I knew that’s what had happened.  But I didn’t know WHY it happened.  Two, how in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks can my quality score drop that much overnight??  The ad changes were very minor – just a tweak to the second description line – and this is a long-standing branded campaign for the brand owner.  I smelled a rat (or something even stinkier).

So I wrote back, basically telling her all that, and also telling her that I’d tripled my bids as soon as I saw the problem (BEFORE I even called Google), and still traffic was nil.

Two days later, I hadn’t heard anything.  So I called support again.  The rep I spoke to that time told me that the original rep had gotten my email and was looking into it further.

Yet another day went by before I heard back.  The reply?  “There might be a temporary drop in quality score due to the ad changes.  Just give it a few more days.”

ARE THEY KIDDING??

Here’s a client whose traffic from their most important region of the world has gone to crap, and they want me to wait?  And does quality score really drop with minor ad changes?  Does that mean that our quality score is reset every time we change ads?  Does historical quality score count for nothing? And how is that going to work now that we have to change our ads every 30 days just to keep them rotating evenly?

After I got this reply, I decided to try a crazy ACE test.  I set the test to 50/50 and set the experimental bids at $108 per click.  Yes, over $100 per click.  And this is for brand terms with an actual CPC of well under $1 prior to this disaster.

Guess what?

Traffic is back!

And no, we’re not actually paying $108 per click, but the average CPC is up about 10x from what it was before.  It’s still early days, and I’m hopeful that I can back the bids down to a more reasonable level in a short period of time.

There’s a nagging voice in the back of my head, though.  And it’s shrieking “MONEY GRAB!”

Postscript:  I just got an email from Adwords Support.  It says “I see that the number of clicks this campaign received today has increased quite a bit from days past.” Nothing like stating the obvious…. Wow.  I’m speechless.

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Two PPC Wins and a Fail

This week brought a flurry of PPC announcements from Google.  Of course, this isn’t unusual – PPC is known for being fast-moving and constantly innovating, with Google leading the way.  Like many of the PPC advances of the past, this week’s list brings both good and bad to the industry.

Win #1:  Adwords Account Labels

On Tuesday, Google rolled out a neat feature called Account Labels.  With Labels, you can organize account elements into custom groupings to facilitating the slicing and dicing of data.

This is basically pivot tables on steroids.  The example Google gives in their blog post is grouping products across geo-targeted campaigns.  Say you sell Nike sneakers, and you replicate campaigns across geographies.  Labels will enable you to group and summarize stats on Nike sneakers across your account so you can evaluate results on a larger set of data.

Labels are a pretty neat feature, and I’m already planning to implement them in one of our international client’s campaigns.

Win #2:  Quality Score Transparency

Ever since it was introduced in 2007, PPC managers have lived and died by quality score.  Countless hours and thousands of blog posts have been devoted to optimizing quality score.

And yet, quality score has been somewhat of a black box.  We all know that click-through rate is the most heavily-weighted factor in quality score, but there were also the ubiquitous “other factors” that Google didn’t specify. 

And furthermore, Google didn’t tell us a lot about what was wrong when we earned poor quality scores.  We were just told keyword relevance is “poor.”

Now, Google’s giving us more transparency into quality score factors.  They’re supplying more detail on what elements need improvement:  CTR, ad relevance, and/or landing page.

Pretty cool – more info is always better!

Fail:  Near Match

For years now, PPC’ers have complained about broad match gone wild.  Just yesterday I was reviewing some search queries for VoIP keywords, and apparently Google thinks that’s the same thing as “voice recognition apps” and “cheap prison telephone voice”. 

But, at least we have phrase and exact match to counteract the silly broad matching.  Right?

Wrong.

From Google’s Inside Adwords blog, “Starting in mid-May, phrase and exact match keywords will match close variants, including misspellings, singular/plural forms, stemmings, accents and abbreviations. Based on our research and testing, we believe these changes will be broadly beneficial for users and advertisers.”

Are they kidding?!?  What research are they doing?  Maybe they’re looking at their own search query reports and deciding the matches are close enough?

This move hasn’t exactly been popular with PPC pros.  An informal and unscientific poll of the PPC Chat group on LinkedIn reveals that 68% of PPC’ers are against the change (registration required).

While I do see the benefit of this change in certain situations, to me it’s yet another money grab by Google.  Like many other default settings in Adwords, this one will slip by the novice PPC managers and mom & pop folks trying to manage their own accounts, and they’ll wonder why they’re not getting the ROI they expected.

The good news is, there’s still time to opt out.  You’ll find the option under campaign settings in the Adwords UI.  The bad news is, there’s no bulk edit, so each campaign has to be opted out manually, one by one.  And there’s no option for this in Adwords Editor yet either.  Coincidence?  Maybe.

What do you think of the recent Adwords announcements?

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3 Unfulfilled PPC Wishes from 2007

Ah, January: the month when everyone makes resolutions and looks at their holiday wish lists to see what gifts people failed to give them. (C’mon, admit it: we all do this!) In the spirit of gifts not received, I got to thinking about my PPC gift list from 5 years ago, and the gifts I still haven’t gotten after all that time. Here are my top 3.

More traffic and search leadership from MSN/Bing.

Back in early 2007, in the early days of MSN’s PPC program, I found myself wishing that MSN (now Bing) would catch the big guys of search, but wondering if they ever could. In that post, I observed, with chagrin, the fact that “MSN falls down on volume and ease of use. Traffic and order volumes are about 10% of what we get from Google.” The post goes on to say that “I don’t even know which I’d like MSN to address first: increasing volume, or fixing the UI.”

Sound familiar? While the latest release of the adCenter UI is a HUGE improvement, it still leaves a lot to be desired, especially given the fact that adCenter now includes Yahoo traffic. In fact, I think traffic from adCenter might even be lower in 2012 than it was in 2007. There certainly isn’t any increase in market share – which is pathetic given the fact that market share is now Bing and Yahoo combined. It’s sad, really.

Better Adwords query matching.

Match type issues have plagued PPC advertisers from the beginning. Novice PPC’ers make the mistaken assumption that match types actually work the way Google says they do. News flash: they didn’t work that way in 2007, and still don’t in 2012. One merely needs to run a search query report to see all the crazy query matches to exact and phrase match keywords to realize that match types are more of a suggestion for Google, as opposed to an instruction.

I do have to give Google credit for adding modified broad match to the arsenal, though. I’ve had good results with this, and I know others have as well.

More accurate PPC traffic estimates.

Back in 2007, I was an in-house PPC’er, which meant that part of my job was budgeting and forecasting. On a regular basis, I had to estimate how many orders we’d get from PPC, along with traffic, cost, and profit. This was a huge challenge back in 2007, and it’s still a challenge today.

In fact, it can be an even bigger challenge for search agencies. Not only do we need to forecast revenue for the agency, we need to provide forecasts and estimates for clients. And clients often take the estimates as gospel: “Great, we’re going to get 20,000 visits per month from PPC!” In reality, it’s a crap shoot: you might get your 20,000 visits; or you might only get 2,000; or you might get 200,000.

Estimating traffic outside the US, or for geotargeted campaigns, is even more of a joke. To see a nice analysis of just how big a joke it still is, check out this post from PPC Northern Ireland.

In the search world, 5 years is an eternity. Back in 2007, I was writing a lot about Yahoo Panama, click fraud, and garbitrage – all of which are non-factors in the 2012 PPC world. So it’s a bit of a surprise that some things haven’t changed.

Will 2012 bring the gifts of more Bing PPC traffic, better keyword matching, and accurate traffic estimates? Will I be writing this same article in 2017 (God help me)? I guess only time will tell, but I wouldn’t bid high on it.

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Top 3 PPC Stories from Beyond the Paid

Ah, the end of the year: the time when we all sit back and reflect on our accomplishments over the past 12 months. Or not, because most of us are way too busy. But I digress.

In the PPC world, there’s never a dull moment, so I can’t say that 2011 was the most eventful year ever. But there were definitely a few stories worth reviewing as we head into 2012. With that, here are my top 3 stories from 2011 – a la David Letterman.

#3. 10 PPC Experts to Follow on Twitter

Like Letterman, people seem to love “Top 10” lists. I agree that they’re fun – but usually they’re pointless, too. I wanted to create a list of PPC experts that would actually help the community get connected.

#2. Google’s SSL Change: A Bad Deal for PPC

So much has been written about this huge misstep by Google, you’re probably sick of seeing it. But it continues to annoy people, so it bears repeating. This is a bad, bad deal, and I hope 2012 brings the return of our organic search query data in Google Analytics.

And now, for the top story of 2011…..

#1. Microsoft adCenter Ignores Advertiser Feedback

I’m sure some of you think I love to beat up on adCenter, like they’re my favorite punching bag. Not so. There are many things to love about adCenter: quality traffic, helpful reps, features that Adwords lacks, and more. They even have an online suggestion box for advertiser feedback, unlike Google.

This seemed pretty cool to me, so shortly after it launched, I posted the suggestion to give us separate bids for Yahoo and Bing. After all, we PPC’ers are all about transparency and control.

At the time, this suggestion was the top vote-getter by a landslide. But did adCenter take it to heart?

Nope. They shot it down and put it on the “completed” list. So much for advertiser feedback.

What are your top PPC stories from 2011?

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I’m Dreaming Of Separate Bids for Search Partners

Seems like everybody has a PPC wishlist at this time of year. Earlier this week, my good friend Matt Van Wagner published a great post on Search Engine Land called 7 Things On My Google AdWords Wishlist For Santa. I agree with everything on his list, and hope that all of us PPCers find those fine gifts under our tree next weekend.

Yesterday, there was another fun SEL post from Conrad Saam called A Letter from Santa To The Search Community, which was also fun. Give both of these posts a read, if you haven’t already.

All these wishes are fine and good, but the one thing I’m wishing for this holiday is the ability to set separate bids for Google Search Partners. Why this hasn’t rolled out already is a mystery to me. If I had to guess, I’d say that Google doesn’t want to lose the revenue from search partners when people bid less for them. But partners don’t always perform worse than Google – in fact, I’ve seen many instances with our clients where partners actually perform better than Google.

We already have the ability to opt out of partners entirely – why not give us a chance to opt back in with separate bids? C’mon, Google – you quit sending out great holiday gifts years ago; can’t you at least grant us this one wish?

What’s on your PPC wish list this year?

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Is Adwords Turning Into Big Brother?

Over the past few weeks, Google has rolled out a few changes that seem to imply that they know what’s best for all of us. (I know this isn’t new, but bear with me…) There’s Google Plus, with its +1 boxes on search results & ads that you can’t opt out of; and the SSL fail that’s masking as much as 20% of organic search query data.

Earlier this week, there was a post on the Inside Adwords blog, announcing that all Adwords campaigns using Enhanced CPC and Conversion Optimizer would have ad rotation automatically switched from “optimize for clicks” to “optimize for conversions” – unless you opt out by filling out a form.


Thing was, the link to the form went to a 404 page.

And then the post was pulled down shortly after it went live.

It’s back up now, and the form actually works. But what the heck was that all about?

Let’s set aside the fact that Adwords obviously jumped the gun on a blog post that wasn’t ready for prime time. Anyone who blogs has probably done that once or twice.

The bigger issue is that Google is once again taking choice out of the hands of marketers and advertisers, opting instead to decide what they think is best for us.

In some ways, this makes sense. The whole point of using Enhanced CPC and Conversion Optimizer is to try to improve the conversion rate and cost per conversion of your campaigns. Therefore, using the “optimize for clicks” setting is at odds with the Enhanced CPC/Conversion Optimizer algorithm. In fact, it’s likely that this factor alone has led to less-than-stellar performance for campaigns with these settings – leading advertisers to say that Enhanced CPC and Conversion Optimizer don’t work. That’s bad for Google.

Also, remember that Optimize for Clicks is the default campaign setting. This means that many novice advertisers are using this setting unwittingly. Consider a scenario in which these same novice advertisers read a blog post touting the benefits of Enhanced CPC or Conversion Optimizer – so the novice says, “Hey, let’s try that,” and then sees poor results because their campaign is still set to “optimize for clicks.” That isn’t good for Google either.

But here’s the thing: The blog post said that all campaigns would be switched over unless you opt out by filling out a form. This implies that advertisers won’t even have the option of choosing “optimize for clicks” for Enhanced CPC and Conversion Optimizer campaigns.

And this is why I have a problem with it.

I’m fine with changing the default for these campaigns to Optimize for Conversions. That’s totally ok. What I’m not fine with is taking the choice out of the hands of the advertiser and putting it in the hands of Google. That’s akin to the fox guarding the hen house.

I find this move even more puzzling in light of the flap over the SSL thing. Ever since that announcement, SEMs have been raising holy hell, asking for more data and transparency. It seems like a bad move to decide to make this change now, on the heels of all the furor – and right before the holidays to boot.

I recently spoke with our Adwords reps about some of our client campaigns. It was one of those “let us make optimization suggestions for you” conversations, so I always take those with a grain of salt. They actually had several good suggestions, so it wasn’t all bad. But they really pushed me to switch all of our client campaigns from “rotate” to “optimize for conversions.”

Bad move.

I good-naturedly told them that they just hit a hot button (and they obviously don’t read my blog and have never heard me speak at conferences), and they quickly backpedaled. But still – why is Google all of a sudden pushing “optimize for conversions” rather than letting us make the choice ourselves?

Has 1984 arrived a couple decades late?

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