Google Adwords is a Bad Parent

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As many of you know, I’m the mom of twins. They’re 16 and about to start their junior year of high school. They’re great kids – smart, well-behaved, laid back – but at times they try my patience.

What does this have to do with PPC, you may ask? Stay with me – I’m getting there.

When they were younger, parents of older kids said, “Just wait till they’re teenagers. I thought I’d kill my kids when they were teens.” I was horrified to hear people saying this about their children.

But now, I understand. I don’t want to kill my teenagers, but there are days that I think to myself, “I can’t wait for them to go off to college.” The back-talking, arguing, and laying-about wears thin after a while. Not to mention the stress of having two inexperienced drivers in the household all of a sudden. I won’t even go there.

What keeps me sane is reminding myself that these behaviors are totally normal for teens. It’s part of growing up. Teens naturally challenge their parents on the road to independence – which parents ultimately want, right? We want our children to be ready to leave the nest when it’s time. Although we love having them around, we know that they must strike out on their own one day.

And I believe it works this way not only for the teenagers, but for their parents as well. The fact that they test us on a daily basis eases the blow of them leaving home. I felt the same way when they went to kindergarten. While the emotional part of me was sad that my kids were no longer babies, the rational part of me was tired of all-day daycare. The kids were past that and had gotten squirrely. I knew they were ready for the new challenges and opportunities that school would bring.

It’s the same thing with teens. They challenge parents as a way of teaching us that they’re ready for the next phase in life.

In the PPC world, Google is akin to a parent. They make the rules, and we PPC manager “children” must follow them or else. That’s fine. The absence of rules is chaos, and no one likes chaos.

But if Google makes the rules, why do they treat us like regressing toddlers? I’m sure you can guess that I’m talking about enhanced campaigns and the loss of control we’ve experienced as a result.

Search is a maturing industry. On the industry lifecycle scale, it’s still in growth mode, but it’s not a startup, either. PPC managers are becoming more and more sophisticated with campaign optimization.

So why has Google taken away our car keys?

Instead of truly enhancing things by offering bid multipliers for tablets and search partners, they’ve omitted search partner control (AGAIN) and taken away tablet bidding altogether. What a disaster. Just this week I lamented that one of my clients is paying $1.94 per click for desktop and $5.10 for tablets. Are you kidding me Google??? Why????

The complete lack of control over search partners continues to frustrate me, too. It feels like the times that I ask my children to do something over and over and over and over and they still don’t do it. But with my children, I can enact consequences for their disobedience. The only consequence I can impose on Google is to stop spending money there – which in most cases is cutting off my nose to spite my face. It makes no sense to stop advertising where all the traffic is.

So, I’m stuck with Google and its all-or-nothing setup. Either I advertise on all search partners, or none of them. I have no way to boost bids on high-performing partners and turn off low-performing partners. If search partners as a whole are doing better than Google search, I can’t increase my bids (and pay Google more money). And I’m stuck with tablets – either I accept the (frequently) poor performance or I turn off my campaigns altogether. Can anyone say Bing Ads?

And don’t get me started on the foolishness that is display placements on tablets. Google’s treating us like toddlers in this case. Sean Marshall did a great writeup over at PPC Associates on tablet display lunacy. His post is a must-read.

The kicker of all this is, Google already has Adwords Express for inexperienced advertisers. It’s pretty much a disaster as is, and I don’t recommend it, but if you’re looking to get started in PPC in a simple way, Google offers that. Why not put all the “basic” or “standard” features in Express, and then create an “advanced” version for the rest of us with all the levers and dials? Kind of like video games: there is a simple mode with just a few controls, and there is an advanced mode with lots of options. When I’m playing video games, I want to keep it simple; when I’m managing PPC, I want all the controls.

Google, please stop treating us like children. Many of us are PPC grownups. Please give us the control we’ve earned.

Are you as frustrated as I am with the lack of control in Adwords? Have a teenager that’s trying your patience? Just want to vent? Share in the comments!

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  1. As a parent myself of 2 little ones, I find my parenting is at it’s worst when my kids asks why they can or cannot do something and I reply with the lame “because I said so”. Oofta, just because my parents said that often is no reasonable excuse for using it myself. I usually regret it as soon as it leaves my mouth. Instead I should have a more patient and level headed conversation with them. They are smart and can understand and can often provide me intelligent feedback that I can learn from that helps me become a better parent.

    It’s like Google’s saying to us “You’re getting Enhanced Campaigns whether you like them or not, and you’re going to sit at the table all night until your finished with them because I said so!!!!”.

    Can’t we do better than this?

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Ha ha, don’t you love it when you open your mouth and your parents come out? 🙂 In all seriousness, I too am striving every day to be a better mom by being consistent and fair.

      Your analogy of Google making us sit at the table is spot on. It didn’t work for us as kids, and it isn’t working in PPC.

    • James is getting to a very core issue. When a parent explains the “why” behind a rule, it makes obedience rational. The “because I said so” implies that the child doesn’t or can’t understand the “why” and should blindly obey.

      That’s my biggest beef about many things AdWords does; a lack of the “why” behind their decisions. Take the tablet issue for example. They just said “tablets are the same as desktop” and that was that. No real data to back up the assertion. Then you go to Google on a tablet and see how they alter search results for the tablet vs. desktop. Can you say hypocrisy? And now we’re seeing different CPCs too? It just becomes too much.

      Here’s hoping that Bing can close the volume gap. (I’ve set Bing as my default browser. Really.)

  2. I’m not a parent myself, but I am a teenage-alumni, so I can totally relate. I grew up in a super lax household where I was free to control my own life. Obviously I have no real points for comparison, but I think it led to me being a more rounded adult who was used to making important decisions because I was able to make them as I grew. Obviously my rents gave me the tools to succeed (e.g. raised me right and taught me well), but let me to make my own mistakes and successes.

    Transition to AdWords metaphor. If a “parent” DOESN’T give their children the tools to succeed, they’re going to fail completely. Tools I’m talking about include transparent training (help center’s usually broken), peers and advisers to reach out to (we don’t have to go into rep issues), and the control to make the right choice. If our “parents” force us into the way they think we should be, we turn into rebels. And nobody wants a rebel teenage advertiser.

    I think that metaphor worked. If it didn’t, whatever Mel’s right just read the post again

  3. My parenting adventures are just beginning – our daughter is 11 months old, so I still have the teenage years way ahead of me…

    As for AdWords, I agree with a lot of your premise Mel, and I have another take on it as well.

    As someone who works in both PPC & SEO, it really seems to me that Google is starting to treat PPC professionals the way they have been treating SEO professionals for years now. That is, they want us all out of the game. With SEO, they have said publicly and repeatedly that they do not want anyone, under any circumstances to be able to game or manipulate what should be their “natural” position in the Google search results. Whether any position is ever truly “natural” is highly debatable, but that is off topic.

    The same seems to be happening for PPC, especially with Enhanced Campaigns. It sure feels an awful lot like Google does not want anyone to have any kind of advantage when it comes to utilizing AdWords. It is like they want everyone to just use AdWords the way Google wants you to = spend as much as possible and who really cares about the quality of the results. This is absolutely short-sighted and frankly, nuts.

    They have the luxury of having the largest market share, so to some extent, they can do what they want (hence my post last week!). Even if that means that thousands of businesses, who might otherwise stick with AdWords, use it briefly (without professional help) and conclude that “AdWords doesn’t work” and stop. If they made it even a little easier for professionals like us to help clients maximize their investment in the platform, their revenue would be ongoing and, I’d guess better than the revenue they generate through the churn they have now.

    I keep hoping Bing will actually gain meaningful market share so that there is a true alternative to AdWords as the center of the PPC universe!

    I live in hope…

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Well said Julie and good point about Google wanting to run the table and keep us out of it. I agree that that’s short-sighted, though, and not in Google’s best interest in the long run. Bing is chipping away – maybe not in our lifetime but I hold hope that someday they can unseat the monopoly that is Google. Enjoy your little one, BTW – they grow so fast and before you know it your 11 month old will be in 11th grade. Sigh.

  4. Great article. Your articles are much better when you’re angry. 🙂

    Yes, Google treats it’s Adwords users like children. But for every PPC manager who knows what they’re doing there are thousands who need to be babysat. I would love to see an advanced version of Adwords with the tools real brands and managers need. Even for an additional fee, more control would be nice.

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Good point, Jesse. I’m sure it’s 20% of us that get it and 80% that need babysitting. An Advanced version is definitely called for.

  5. Affan Laghari says

    en.hanced cam.paign:
    A campaign that forces you to enhance Google’s profits.

  6. Great article, I couldn’t agree more with your recent themes.

    The difference being that even bad parents usually have their child’s best interest at heart, even if the execution is poor.

    If Google is a “bad parent” it’s because it’s placing its own needs ahead of that of its children – whether you consider the “children” to be the searchers OR the advertisers.


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