Call-Only Ads Are Ruining Mobile Results

Adwords call extensions are an invaluable feature for PPC advertisers who want to drive phone calls to their business. Up until a few weeks ago, you could choose how call extensions appeared on mobile devices. The ad could be clickable, driving visitors to your website; or it could be set up as call-only, where the only thing the user could do is place a call to your business from their device.

A few weeks ago, Google rolled out call-only ads and took away the option to have call-only call extensions. Those of us who were successfully using that option were forced to create brand new campaigns, called call-only campaigns, for these extensions.

We have a client whose primary goal is to drive phone calls. They do have responsive landing pages with a lead form, but they’d really prefer that prospects call them. So we were using call-only extensions for mobile, and getting great results from them. When the mandate for Google call-only ads & campaigns came, we created new call-only campaigns for this client. I figured call-only campaigns would be a boon for us, as in many ways we’d now have control over mobile budgets again.

So, we launched our new call-only ads and campaigns – and watched them get virtually no impressions.

mobile impressions 1
It’s clear from the data that most of the mobile impressions were still going to the main campaign, not the call-only campaign. So, on June 30, we excluded mobile from the main campaign with a -100% bid modifier, in an effort to force traffic over to the call-only campaign. You can see in the table that impressions for the week of 6/29 decreased by about 2/3 – and the call-only campaign decreased too, which was the opposite of what I expected.

Well, the week of 6/29 included July 4 and a nice 3-day weekend. We didn’t take action right away, knowing the holiday likely affected search volume. Indeed, impressions were down across the board for the week of 6/29.

But what happened last week, the week of 7/6?

mobile impressions 2
Yikes. Impressions rebounded for the call-only campaign, to their highest point yet. But they’re still nowhere near the levels they were before, when mobile was turned on in the main campaign.

Even worse, conversions are way down:

mobile conversions
This really tells the story. While conversions have steadily increased on the call-only campaign, they’re not coming close to replacing the conversions we were getting from mobile in the main campaign prior to call-only campaigns launching. And impressions are down 70%.


Now, I realize that call-only ads only show on devices that are capable of making calls, and this wasn’t the case before. But you can’t tell me that less than 2/3 of mobile devices aren’t call-capable.

I’m at a loss to explain what’s happening here. It seems like we can’t win: either we turn mobile back on for the main campaign, and then have people clicking through to the website from mobile, which the client doesn’t want; or we lose 70% of our impressions and a bunch of conversions.

Some people are raving about call-only campaigns, but I’m left feeling super frustrated. And I know there’s confusion in the marketplace about exactly how these ads work.

What’s your experience been with call-only campaigns? What am I doing wrong here? I’m open to suggestions – bring it!

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Why The New Adwords Editor Sucks

Recently, Google released Adwords Editor version 11 and sunsetted version 10. Much has been said about how great the new Editor is. It does have many features that the old version lacked, such as support for labels, shared library, and other features.

I think it sucks.

Now, part of the reason I don’t like the new Adwords Editor is because I’m not a fan of forced change. We all get used to a certain workflow, and it’s disruptive and frustrating to change it. But the new Editor has several huge flaws.

It’s crash-prone.

I noticed a few crashes when I first downloaded Editor 11, but others are still having issues.

adwords editor crashing

Yep, 6 hours of work lost due to this thing crashing. I probably would have jumped out the window in frustration. Or at least written a few nasty tweets to Adwords. And note that Theresa said it took 6 hours to do something that would have taken 5 minutes in the old Editor. Wow.

The navigation is all messed up.

The old Adwords Editor had tabs across the top for Campaigns, Ads, Ad Groups, and Keywords, just like the online UI does.

old AWE tabs
The new one moved all that stuff down to the lower left hand corner, below the tree view.

new AWE tabs
Not only has it moved to a totally different location on the page, but it’s now in text only, rather than a picture-like graphic layout. It’s easier to find what you’re looking for in a graphic square, like the old Editor, rather than in a long list of text, like the new one.

The font is dinky.

Speaking of finding stuff, the font in the new Editor is tiny and hard to read. I realize it may be more Google-ish-looking, but it’s so small that my old eyes have trouble, especially when I’m working in Editor all day. I think part of the problem is the font itself – there’s less kerning between the letters – and part is the fact that nothing is graphic, so the eye isn’t drawn to anything.

Menu navigation requires extra clicks.

Used to be, you’d click on the Ads tab, for instance, and see all the ads for whatever you’d selected in the tree – entire account, campaign, or ad group. Now, the tree is nearly useless. You select a campaign in the tree, then you click the Ads section in the lower left, and sometimes you see ads and sometimes you don’t. Look at this example for a call-only campaign:

call only ads
Clicking on “ads and extensions” doesn’t show all your ads and extensions. It defaults to “Text Ads.” It took me several tries to figure out that I had to then click AGAIN on “Call-Only ads” to see my ads. This is 2-3 extra clicks beyond what was needed in the old Editor.

Now, I’m sure I’ll get used to these lovely new features, just like I got used to Enhanced Campaigns. But right now, I’m not a fan. Especially when the workflow takes so many extra clicks. Even an extra 2-3 clicks adds up when you’re working with hundreds of ad groups.

I do like being able to open multiple accounts at once, among other things about the new Editor. But it leaves a lot to be desired.

What do you think? Is Adwords Editor 11 a godsend, or has it killed your workflow mojo? Share in the comments!

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3 Signs That Google Hates B2B Advertisers

As you probably know, I work for an agency that deals strictly with B2B clients. B2B offers unique challenges for PPC, including lead tracking and pricey CPCs due to competition.

For years, Google Adwords has been our bread and butter. Their sheer market share makes them a must-use for B2B advertisers. But I’ve started to think that Google hates B2B advertisers. Here’s why.

Sitelinks Don’t Always Apply

I’ve written before about why sitelinks can be a worst practice, especially for B2B clients. In mid-2014, Google launched Dynamic Sitelinks – an even bigger nightmare for B2B advertisers than regular sitelinks. At least with regular sitelinks, we could just not add them. But now, it seems we’re stuck with them whether we want them or not.

Granted, Bing Ads also has dynamic sitelinks. I don’t like those any better than Google’s. But I wonder if Bing would have launched them if Google didn’t do it first.

Keyword Planner Suggestions Are B2C-Focused

I’ve long been frustrated with Google’s keyword planner and the crazy suggestions it offers. That’s the case whether you’re B2B or B2C. But what’s even more frustrating to me is that the keywords it suggests tend to be very consumer-focused. Even with something that’s obviously B2B like “business management systems,” it’ll come back with things like “what is a business management system” – not the type of queries an enterprise-level person researching a solution would use.

The Opportunities tab suggestions are even worse. Earlier this week I was reviewing Google’s “optimization” ideas for a client that offers a solution for businesses to sell gift cards to customers. Here are some of the “opportunities” Google wanted us to add to our campaign:

sell unwanted gift cards for cash
sell your gift card for cash
where can i cash gift cards
how to trade gift cards for cash
can i buy gift cards with a gift card
getting cash for gift cards
sell back giftcards for cash

These queries are clearly ones that would be used by consumers looking to offload unwanted gift cards – the exact opposite of what we’d want to bid on!

The only good part about this awful list is I used them for negative keywords instead. I’m sure that’s not what Google had in mind as an “opportunity,” but I took it nonetheless.

 Display Interest Targeting Is All B2C

Google has announced that starting next week, they’re retiring the Other Interests targeting option for Display campaigns. Doesn’t sound like a big deal – unless you’re a B2B advertiser.

Nearly all the B2B-focused targeting options are in the Other Interests category:

other interests
We’re left with affinity audiences, or in-market segments. Check out the fine selection of options in affinity audiences:

affinity audiences
See anything that looks remotely B2B-focused? Me neither.

In-market audiences are a little better, but not much. Here’s a view of the Business Services options:

in market audiences
Not awful – but we have clients who don’t fit into any of these categories. For those clients, we’ll be relegated to keyword or placement targeting, which doesn’t always perform as well. Clearly, Google has a bias toward B2C for display campaigns.

I’m sure there is a reason for this, probably because most of Google’s advertisers are B2C. But B2B advertisers have big bucks to spend. Many of their products and services are big-ticket items, and companies are willing to pay very high CPCs to advertise them. I rarely see CPCs below $20 in search for my clients. You’d think Google would want this money, but maybe not.

What do you think? Have your B2B clients struggled with Google’s B2C bias? Found any workarounds? Share in the comments!

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3 PPC Features That Aren’t Ready For Prime Time

There’s an old adage in the car-buying world that advises people never to buy a new model car in its first year. Why? The manufacturer hasn’t worked all of the bugs out yet, so you’re likely to encounter down time while the car is in the shop.

The same thing is true of technology: look at the iPhone 6 and all the gaffes it experienced early on. And Windows 8 is universally hated, to the point that Microsoft skipped Windows 9 and went right on to making Windows 10.

In PPC, we also come across new features that aren’t ready for prime time. Here are the top 3 PPC features that might have benefited from a bit more beta testing.

The New Adwords Editor

Last month, Adwords held yet another “announcement” event. One of the highlights, in addition to one of the speaker’s sweaters, was the rollout of a new Adwords Editor.

The current editor, while a must-have tool for PPC managers, has limitations. It doesn’t support shopping campaigns well. It doesn’t allow copying across accounts. It doesn’t have an “undo” button.

The new Adwords Editor v.11 has all of those features, and more. But it’s missing some key elements, too. And it’s buggy. Here are just some of the issues that PPC Chat users have reported:

•    Won’t load/ freezes
•    Error messages
•    Missing metrics
•    No callout extensions
•    Keyword planner is gone
•    No click data for sitelinks

I was all set to download the new Adwords Editor, and then I started seeing these reports. I decided to hold off. Perhaps Adwords is using the PPC community as one big beta test?

Bing Ads Universal Event Tracking (UET)

I was excited to get started with this much-ballyhooed tracking tool from Bing Ads. It’s called “universal” because it was supposed to be one tracking code for all accounts across an agency: “In Bing Ads, tags are defined at the customer level. This means that you can use the same tag to define and track goals across all your accounts and campaigns. This flexibility allows you to instrument your site just once (when you create your first goal) and keep defining new goals to measure without ever needing to add another tag to your site.”

In reality, while that is technically true, in practice it’s not that simple. First of all, you’ll find the tracking code in different places, depending on whether your client’s account is a “built in” account or a “linked” account.

I’m not even sure what that means, except it means I can’t see the UET code for all my clients when logged in to our agency Bing Ads account. Apparently, for some accounts, I have to log in to the child account. Which I didn’t even know existed for Bing Ads. And I certainly don’t have logins for any of these child accounts.

To make it even more interesting, Bing is retiring the old conversion tracking scripts effective in April. So we’ve all got less than 3 months to figure this out. I’m a little scared.

LinkedIn Ads

I wrote about LinkedIn back in November 2013 and the fact that they didn’t want my money. Merry Morud wrote about their terrible interface back in July 2013.

Here we are 18 months later, and the only thing that’s changed is their timeout – it takes a little longer than 5 minutes now to time out, and it doesn’t log you out when you’re actively working in the interface.

Every other complaint that Merry made about their interface still exists. It’s crazy that LinkedIn, with its $8-10 CPCs, hasn’t done a single thing in a year and a half to improve their UI. Twitter and Facebook have made huge leaps ahead, while LinkedIn sits and languishes with its awful UI and expensive clicks.

One thing that really bugs me about LinkedIn Ads is that there is no way to keep sponsored posts from displaying to people who already follow you, nor from your own employees. We’ve had clients who’ve ended up paying (at $8-10 a crack) for their own employees to “like” their sponsored posts. Crazy. The LinkedIn Ads UI is definitely not ready for prime time.

Found any other PPC features that aren’t ready for prime time? Share in the comments!

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Dynamic Sitelinks Gone Wrong

Back in July, Google launched dynamic sitelinks, which are sitelinks that Google automatically appends to ads.

Google touts dynamic sitelinks as a “(tool) adding value to your ads while saving time and simplifying campaign management.” But for many advertisers, it’s yet another example of the dumbing down of PPC. And for B2B advertisers, dynamic sitelinks often spell disaster.

In B2B, it’s common not to use sitelinks, because there’s one specific landing page you want to drive traffic to. In fact, many times sitelinks are a worst practice for B2B.

With dynamic sitelinks, Google, in their infinite wisdom, is choosing random pages to display as dynamic sitelinks. In fact, even if you are using sitelinks, they may be overridden if “Google thinks it’s best.”

This is disastrous for many B2B advertisers who deliberately aren’t using sitelinks. Often, there is only one relevant landing page for PPC – one that’s been optimized for conversion. Other pages on the website likely are informational in nature and have no way to generate a conversion. So, we deliberately decide not to use sitelinks for these advertisers.

Here’s an example:

dynamic sitelink 1

The destination URL for this ad is a page specifically optimized for conversion. The dynamic sitelink extension goes to neither an e-commerce nor a lead gen page.

Here are a couple more examples:

dynamic sitelink 2

dynamic sitelink 3

The first one is showing the About page. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen many About pages that are designed to drive conversions. The home page would be a better choice in this instance.

The second example is for one product with one relevant page. Google has chosen a page featuring a totally different product – freezers instead of milk coolers. While Google may think that’s relevant, it’s not – this client has asked us to focus on milk coolers only, not freezers.

If you’ve ever worked with B2B clients, you’ll know that for many of them, it’s like pulling teeth to get even one optimized landing page created. Now, your hard work is potentially going to waste by Google deciding to pick random pages to show alongside your carefully crafted landing page.

Granted, we all know that few people click on the sitelink itself – most clicks happen on the actual ad, which goes to the landing page. But the problem I have with these random dynamic sitelinks is that they make the ads look weird. Instead of adding to the experience, dynamic sitelinks potentially detract from it – risking CTR and other key metrics for advertisers.

And what about advertisers who’ve tested sitelinks and found they hurt performance? Yes, it does happen – and now those advertisers are stuck with a “feature” that they know doesn’t work for them.

Google does offer an opt out form for those who don’t want dynamic sitelinks added to their campaigns. You’ll have to fill it out for every single advertiser.

And even then, it may not help.

We filled out the form for the advertisers in the examples above. We heard nothing from Google for nearly 2 weeks. When we finally did hear back, Google’s response was to “just wait.” Not “we’re opting these accounts out,” but “wait.”

That’s unacceptable. Guess what, Google? We paused all these campaigns until we can get the situation sorted out. You’re not getting another dime until we know we can serve relevant, high-performing ads for our clients.

I know that for many advertisers, dynamic sitelinks are a great thing. For ecommerce advertisers, they’re undoubtedly a huge timesaver. But they’re not for everyone. All Google needs to do is give us the explicit choice: let us opt in or opt out at the campaign level. Then everyone would be happy.

What’s your take on dynamic sitelinks? Boon or bust? Share in the comments!

Special thanks to my coworkers, Jessi Link and Mark Herman, for providing the background and screen shots for this post.

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The Adwords Red Bar of Death Is Killing Me

Ever try navigating within your PPC account and seen this?

red bar of death
It’s affectionately called the “red bar of death” by PPC advertisers, and it used to show up relatively infrequently. Starting about a month ago, I noticed more and more tweets on the PPC Chat hashtag from people saying they were seeing the red bar of death. Most of the tweets at that time were from our friends in the UK and Europe, so I figured something was going on over there.

Then I started seeing it myself, more and more. Then I saw this:
adwords down
And this:
adwords down again
Mountain View, we have a problem.

It seems as though everyone is seeing the Adwords red bar of death:
rbod tweets

It’s gone beyond ridiculous at this point. Twitter users point out that the issue happens in nearly every instance of Adwords daily usage: in every browser, navigating from one campaign to another, filtering, segmenting, editing… the list goes on. And nothing we do seems to make it go away for more than a day or so.

Adwords has maintained near-silence the whole time this has been going on. Last week, after the tweet I sent in the image above asking why the silence, they finally sent me a direct message on Twitter.

The DM contained a link to report the problems I was having. Finally! I thought. We can all get a resolution on this, if for no other reason than to bombard Adwords with form fills from the sheer number of PPC pros having this problem. So I tweeted out the link.

I promptly got another DM from Adwords – this time, asking me to delete the tweet. Why? Because apparently they handle these issues on an individual basis, so the form was meant for “specific cases” only.

Fair enough. But newsflash, Adwords: TONS of users are having the same problem, and it’s gone on for weeks! Why create a form meant for single users when this is a nearly universal problem? It almost seems like you’re underestimating the extent of the issue.

To their credit, Adwords did send me a public link to contact support, and I deleted my earlier tweet and sent this out instead. But this is just a link to their general support options. We all know how well that works (i.e., it doesn’t). Meanwhile, we’re still getting the red bar of death and other errors on a daily basis.

Hey Google, in case you haven’t noticed, the holidays are fast approaching. PPC advertisers need to get all their holiday campaigns teed up, launched, and managed. We don’t have time for continual outages and errors. Several people said they couldn’t access their shopping campaigns at all yesterday. That’s a major problem.

This fiasco is yet another indication that Google may be getting too big to fail. And it’s not the first time we’ve gotten terrible support from Adwords. But this goes beyond silly feature announcements and uneducated reps. This is a system-wide, worldwide outage that’s been going on for at least a month.

Adwords, it’s time to step up and fix the platform that’s your bread and butter. Now.

What about you? What have you done when you’ve gotten the red bar of death? Has Adwords reached out to you individually? Are you noticing any patterns in when it happens? Share in the comments!

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Tablets = Desktops, and Other Google Fibs

On a recent PPCChat, the PPC world scored a coup – an interview with an Adwords representative. This was something we’d been asking for for a long time, and the members of PPCChat waited with anticipation for the chance to ask Google some hard questions.

While I was ecstatic that our fearless PPCChat leader Matt Umbro was able to get Matt Lawson (ML) from Google onto the chat, I was less than ecstatic with the answers ML gave.

(Let me be clear – Matt Umbro did a stellar job preparing the questions for ML and managing the chat. He rocked the house as always!)

One of the first questions was whether we’d ever get a tablet bid modifier. Bing Ads is adding a tablet modifier later this year, so one might think that Google would wise up and do the same. Alas, no such luck. ML toed the party line and maintained that “Our data suggests tablet and desktop behavior are closely aligned, but if that changes we’ll revisit in the future.”

Well, I don’t know what data he’s looking at, but it ain’t the same data I’m looking at. I don’t have a single client who gets the same results from tablets as they do from desktops. Most of our clients see about 1 conversion from tablets for every 4 from desktop. I tweeted as much – and got more favorites on that tweet than I think I’ve gotten from any other tweet:

my tweet about tablets

While I was (and am) frustrated by Google’s continued insistence that tablets and desktop are the same, I was excited for the rest of the chat. Sadly, it didn’t get better.

Matt asked “Do you believe AdWords will ever enter the account management market and charge like an agency would?” ML’s reply? “I don’t believe so. I have former agency folks on my team, so I know how complicated that world can be. We want to focus on delivering a great product, and expanding to include direct account management would distract from that.”

Well, this is just plain BS. Maybe Google isn’t charging for account management, but they’re definitely doing it. I have heard from several people whom I trust that Google has approached their clients asking to manage their accounts, and is actually doing so in some cases.

Lest I paint too negative a picture, not all of the chat was bad. ML indicated that Google might actually consider separate bids or modifiers for search partners: “We’re always balancing simplicity with control. We have such a large customer base that we often bias toward simplicity, but we get that there are always going to be sophisticates (like you PPCChatters) who want more control. Despite the fact that it’s unlikely to change soon, it’s a valid request and one which we will continue to evaluate.” While this comment validates my claim that Adwords has been dumbed down, it’s good to know that some type of control over search partners is at least still on the table.

In fact, ML said that Google pays attention to PPCChat, and that our feedback gets passed on to the powers that be at Adwords. I was encouraged by this news.

ML also liked the idea of creating an advisory council comprised of PPCChat members:

adwords council

They’d be wise to do so – after all, Bing Ads has had an advisory council for a while, and they share news, updates, features, betas, and more with the group. Having an advisory council goes a long way toward creating client goodwill. I’d be happy to be a part of a Google council.

My overall takeaways from the chat were these:

  • I’m happy that Google agreed to the chat. This is a huge step in the right direction.
  • I’m also happy about the possibility of search partner bid modifiers. I’ve been begging for this for years.
  • However, overall it felt like ML was just restating the Google party line. That was disappointing.
  • Finally, I’m not sure he was totally honest – and I’m not the only one:


Did you follow the Adwords PPCChat? What did you think – was it great to hear from Google, or were you frustrated with the answers? Share in the comments!

Postscript: Minutes after I finished writing this post, Adwords announced they were getting rid of the option to not include close variants of keywords. This is yet another blow to PPC managers who want and need more control over their PPC traffic. I don’t think Google is listening, do you?

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Google: Too Big To Fail?

On Tuesday, Google made what was played up to be a huge announcement of new features. Search marketers feared they were in for another Enhanced Campaigns-type of blow; it turned out to be pretty benign.

Talk on Twitter during the announcement was interesting, though. Google led off with a “history of radio ads” narrative that was boring and, frankly, off-topic – which drew jeers from the Twitter crowd.  Then they talked about promoting apps – another underwhelming feature. Finally, they talked about some new bulk editing, experimenting, and reporting enhancements that look cool and truly useful. The final reactions on Twitter? Meh.

twitter reaction to google announcement

Much has been said about what ended up being an overreaction by search marketers prior to the announcement. Some of it rubbed us the wrong way. I maintain that our fears were warranted, given the disruption caused by Enhanced Campaigns last year.

But what struck me about the announcement is the fact that Google led with apps, as though this was the big thing that advertisers really cared about.

Based on my own needs and the chatter on Twitter, they’re wrong. I don’t have a single client who wants to advertise apps – in fact, I don’t think I have a single client who HAS an app. So why was Google pushing apps so hard?

Ever heard of Google Play?

Google is creating products that will serve their interests – not their customers’ needs. They’re headed towards a slippery slope.

The new reporting features also indicate that Google thinks they are bigger and better than the bid management and reporting platforms. Yet another slippery slope.

When companies start to believe they’re above the rules, they start walking into “too big to fail” territory. When companies think that “all your data are belong to us,” they start walking into “too big to fail” territory. When companies tout a huge “announcement,” only to push something that 90% of their customers don’t’ need, they start walking into “too big to fail” territory.

So what do you think? Is Google too big to fail? Are they oblivious to the needs of their customers, the advertisers? Were we fools for being concerned and worried about the announcement? Or did the announcement give you pause? Share in the comments!

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PPC In A Not-Provided World

not providedEarlier this week, Google dropped the bomb that we were expecting, but hoped wouldn’t come: Google will no longer pass search query strings in the referrer URL string. What this means is that the “search query” reports in Google Analytics and other packages will no longer contain data from Google.

First, let’s quell the still-persistent rumor that Adwords search query reports are going away. That’s false. Google has stated that SQRs will remain intact. Using search query reports for PPC keyword research is still an option.

Some are saying that the “not provided” announcement is no big deal because we can still get data from SQRs, or from the Google API. Even George Michie of RKG, normally a skeptic, isn’t too worried about not provided.

Others, though, are more upset.  Brad Geddes of Certified Knowledge is rightfully concerned with the dwindling amount of transparency coming from Google. He goes so far as to say that “all new hires should start working in Bing before AdWords so that they can learn how different users react per device so new marketers can be trained properly about setting up and managing campaigns and site flows by device.” That’s a pretty bold statement.

Bryant Garvin shares Brad’s concern, and surfaces another problem: advertisers with long sales cycles, or those who are using the search query in dynamic landing pages, are now out of luck. They won’t get as clear a picture into what queries are ultimately driving sales, and they’ll be forced to use keywords, rather than search queries, on dynamic landing pages. Anyone who’s done PPC for a while knows that search queries and keywords are often very different.

We knew this was coming eventually. As soon as Google took away search query data from SEO, we knew it was only a matter of time before they made the same move for PPC. At the time, some were unconcerned, saying we were relying too much on search queries to begin with.

And yet others lamented the fact that keyword research had already taken a hit with the new Keyword Planner – “not provided” was yet another blow to good search marketing.

The fact remains that we’re stuck with this whether we like it or not, just like we’re stuck bidding on tablets and lacking separate bids for search partners. For better or for worse, Google is the market leader and can do whatever they want.

But I’m dismayed at this recent turn of events. While I’m glad we’ll still have our search query reports, and I understand that there are privacy (and therefore, legal) issues at stake, I am not excited about the trend toward less, rather than more, transparency.

Bing, on the other hand, just keeps chipping away at the Google behemoth. They still allow mobile-only and tablet-only campaigns. They pass search query data in the referrer. They have visitors who never use Google and can’t be reached by Adwords. And they cost less – a lot less in many cases.

Is it time to give Bing Ads more of our money? I’m thinking yes.

For a nice roundup of articles about not-provided in PPC, check out Bryant Garvin’s blog or this post by Luke Alley over at Avalaunch Media.

What’s your take on “not provided”? Is your life ruined by it, or will it be business as usual for you? Are you thinking about moving money to Bing? Share in the comments!

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Preparing For The Adwords Certification Exams

3 years ago, I wrote a post about preparing for the Adwords Fundamentals exam. Looking back, it’s amazing how much has changed in 3 years. So, I figured I’d update my recommendations for preparing for the Adwords Certification Exams.

What’s Changed:

  • The exams are now free, but are associated with Google Partners. You need to sign up for Google Partners to take the tests – which is also new. Badges for individual qualifications have gone the way of the dinosaur. That said, free exams are a nice benefit for companies with multiple PPC managers, or for those who want to take more than one exam (there are 3 Adwords certification exams: Fundamentals, Advanced Search, and Advanced Display).
  • > Recommendation: If you’re an experienced PPC manager, take each Adwords Certification exam once without studying. Chances are, you’ll pass; and if you don’t, you can take them again for free, knowing which sections you need to bone up on.
  • The test runs in a browser, but it no longer locks your computer – leaving you free to open another browser for an “open book” test. The test is still timed, though, so if you’re very new to Adwords or are unsure of your test-taking skills, don’t expect to be able to look up the answer to every question.
  • > Recommendation: Have 2 different browsers open when you start the exam. As with most things Google, the test runs well in Chrome, so use that for the test, and either Firefox or Internet Explorer for the help files.
  • There is no way to mark questions you’re unsure about for further review. This one frustrates me. One of the most effective ways to take standardized tests is to complete the questions you’re certain about, mark those you’re not, and then go back and work those questions until time runs out. With a test using paper and pencil, that’s easy. Online, it’s tougher.
  • > Recommendation: Have a piece of scratch paper handy to write down the numbers of questions you’re not sure about. Then go back and review them.

What’s The Same:

  • The test is still timed, although you now have 120 minutes to complete it. While experienced PPC managers can easily finish much quicker (I think it took me 45 minutes tops), if you’re fairly new to PPC it might take you the whole time.
  • >Recommendation: Use your time wisely. Dredge up your ACT and SAT test-taking skills and don’t dwell too long on any one question, and don’t look up all the questions in the help files. Trust your knowledge!
  • Newer PPC managers will want to study for the exam, using Google’s study materials.
  • > Recommendation: Unless you’re brand-new to PPC, don’t review every section. Skip topics you already know and focus on those you’re not familiar with.
  • Standardized test-taking best practices still apply!
  • > Recommendation:
  • >> Skip questions you’re not sure of and come back to them
  • >> Your first impression is usually correct
  • >> On true/false questions, you have a 50/50 chance of getting the answer right
  • >> And so on

You’re now up to date on the latest and greatest on preparing for the Adwords Certification exams. So are the exams worthwhile?

Caleb Hutchins over at WordStream wrote a great post this week pointing out the flaws with the Adwords Certification exams. It’s a must-read: the post itself and the comments are fascinating and discuss the pros and cons of the exams.

I tend to agree with Caleb that the exams are poorly-designed, biased toward Google, and a poor predictor of actual PPC management success. That said, being certified is a big deal for prospective clients. I’ve had countless prospects ask me if I’m certified – although I’d been doing PPC successfully for several years before the exams even existed! Still, it’s really all we have to say that we actually know what we’re doing.

Do you have any tips for passing the Adwords Certification exams? Got a beef with them you want to air out? Share in the comments!

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