The Register recently ran an article outlining some critical issues with Adwords. I was quoted in the article, along with Andrew Goodman, Dan Thies, Aaron Wall and others. I thought it was fairly balanced and well-researched. I want to make clear that while I don't consider Google an "evil" company in any sense, I recognize that without sound consultation or education about the Adwords network, advertisers can bleed money by using it. The article above does a good job of outlining the issues. To summarize, here are the major problems with Adwords that every advertiser needs to get a handle on: Automatic Matching
- What it does: uses Google's proprietary technology to match your keywords to related terms.
- Why worry: broad matching has already proven to be problematic for many advertisers. There are usually good reasons to use broad-matched keywords - we often do so for our clients - but always with caution. The ideal set-up is to incorporate embedded match into separate ad groups to separate broad, phrase, and exact matched keywords. Then you can get a pure signal about CPC, CTR, and conversion data by match type.
- More reading: see Automatic Matching: Don't Fall for This! by Dan Thies, and this thread on SEM 2.0 about embedded matching.
- What it does: displays your ads on Google's partner sites as contextual ad placements.
- Why worry: your ads will automatically show on the content network, unless you explicitly opt-out. Best practices are to run your content and search network ads as separate campaigns. Combining them is problematic because it tends to skew keyword data.
- More reading: check out the information Google provides on site targeting before you run a content network campaign. In addition to being useful for improving ad performance on publisher sites, site targeting (which Google also calls placement targeting) can be a dynamite competitive research tool. In this post Aaron Wall outlines some of the pros and cons of using Google's site targeting feature.
- What it does: Google's Quality Score (QS) dictates what your minimum bid will be, and with Ad Rank, where your ad is displayed in the paid search results.
- Why worry: the way Google ranks ad quality and dictates minimum bids has to be opaque. That's not surprising, really. What can be surprising is how unwary advertisers can get burned here. While Google targets so-called "bad actors" by hiking up minimum bids when keywords and landing pages don't match up, sites without knowledge of how QS factors into their costs can become collateral damage.
- More reading: the best place to start is on Google's fantastic Adwords Help Center, for example this section entitled What is Quality Score and how is it calculated? and this topic list on Ad Quality and Performance factors.
- They lose relevance
- Searchers lose faith in the results
- Advertisers get poor results
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