|Open letter to Google Regarding Changes to The Ad Words Program|
As someone whose companies spend in excess of $300k per year on your Ad Words Program, I thought I would write you this open letter in hopes that someone would respond to it, as I have been unable to get a response from my assigned rep or anyone else at Google. I mentioned my own projects in addition to my own projects I serve as a consultant for several smaller companies which bring addition sums to Google. Why is it that Google treats me like an unwashed vagrant trying to buy a $.10 cup of coffee at Mc Donald’s rather than someone who spends $300k a year with them?
The issue I would like for you to address is of course is the radical rise in the minim bid costs that many of us are seeing. To get at this problem, I spoke to one rep on the phone today as my personal rep is “unavailable” and has been all day. I sent a lengthy email to support early this morning (my rep) and left a voice mail for my rep to contact me immediately. So far the only response I have gotten was from the lower the level rep when I declined to leave another voice mail for my personal rep. She was very apologetic and nice, but didn’t know what was going on. She told me all the reps were told was to expect some changes, but that they were not told what the changes would encompass or whom the changes would affect. She said she had spoken to some customers today that had similar issues, but simply put she doesn’t know what to advise them as she doesn’t know what the new quality system looks for other than the generic stuff from the Google Ad Words page. She looked at my account, and I had her note the same ad had been running in excess of 2 years and had produced a click through rate of 26% in those 2 years, and she agreed it wasn’t really possible to increase the quality the ad itself. She had no idea how often the bot looks at the pages so you can see if changes you make actually improve your quality score.
Your employees have been uninformed and left in the dark about these major changes to your program, and perhaps more importantly your paying customers have been left in the dark as well. The smart thing would have been to come to the community months ago and said hey we are thinking about some major changes, these are how these changes are going to affect you, and here is what you can do to bring your landing pages up to snuff. That way your business partners would not be left holding the bag when they are hit with overnight radical price increases, and are forced to seek immediate answers from your employees who have also been left in the dark, and have no useful information to provide your customers. I would suggest as good business etiquette and professionalism would dictate you roll these changes back immediately and evaluate what you have learned from this. Then come forward and announce what changes you plan to make, describe in detail what accounts it will have a negative impact on, and provide in detail guidelines for producing the type of landing pages that you want. That way your business partners can make a business decision as to if they want to continue to do business with you under the new system.
Mark A. Libbert
Attorney At Law
P.S. If any Overture/Yahoo rep is lurking I have 10-12k a month buy for you.
My firm manages over $250M in ppc spend annual for our clients, >60% of that on Google, and with over 15M keywords. All of that spend is managed tightly to our clients' ROI goals and constraints, with keyword-level tracking de rigeur, geo-targeting in many cases and usually separate bidding for search vs content.
Our clients' ratio of spend between Google and Yahoo has increased from 1.2:1 back in 2004 to upwards of 1.9:1 today. This is another way of saying that Google's traffic is generally converting better than any other search engine and at greater volume than any other search engine.
We've not noticed any significant portion of our client base being affected, nor have those who've been affected been as horrible stories as those many of you are sharing.
I know it's not going to make anyone here feel any better, but Google *is* getting better in general at delivering what users and advertisers are looking for. I cannot see how we would be able to profitably grow our clients' spend as much as we have in the last 3 years if that weren't the case. Moreover, I do think that Google has to try some quality scoring tweaks to improve their marketplace, as overall industry CTR's have not been improving the way they did back from 2003-2005.
I've been in Europe the last 7 weeks for work, and it appears that the majority of Western European ppc advertisers are 12-18 months behind advertisers in the U.S. in terms of tracking/bidding sophistication, ad copy and landing page optimization, and keyword expansion. It also seem like AdWords-to-Overture arbitrage is still rampant. It comes as no surprise to me that Google needs to *try* to nudge their market in the right direction, otherwise the lead they've built for themselves in marketshare will be at risk.
|I read where the top brass of G have stated, they don't mind NOW DAYS losing money/accts/advertisers if it means keeping there surfer/user base happy. They deem that more important now than current profits. |
Sure, because their audience is the product they sell to advertisers. If their audience is unhappy with the Google user experience (whether from clicking on organic SERPs or from AdWords ads), that's a problem.
I really don't the powers-that-be at Google they made their landing-page decision in a vacuum. They probably have all kinds of market-research data from surveys, focus groups, etc. involving users and advertisers (not just current advertisers, but prospective advertisers and media buyers who have been unwilling to use AdWords up till now).
In short, Google's decision wasn't arbitrary; it was a pragmatic decision in response to the question of "What must we do to keep our audience and expand beyond the traditional PPC advertising base?" The fact that Google is willing to sacrifice short-term revenues by driving away unhappy current advertisers shows how important Google thought the decision was.
Perhaps I will pause all my campaigns on Tuesday July 18th in protest of these new changes.
europeforvisitors: do oyu advertise on AdWords, please keep quiet until you understand what is really going on.
I have some damn high quality sites getting effected.
Go be a Google shill somewhere else and deal with the fact they just screwed a ton of people.
|The fact that Google is willing to sacrifice short-term revenues by driving away unhappy current advertisers shows how important Google thought the decision was. |
Before we make Google a hero here, has anyone seen ANY evidence that they are in fact penalizing poor quality? My accounts only show they are penalizing high ROI (or more specifically, cheap clicks in markets with a high profit per sale). I tried fiddling with landing pages, per the guidance of my account rep, to undo the effects of the April 5 'quality score' thrashing and it did absolutely nothing. Has anyone here been able to achieve any effect on minimum bids by manipulating their 'quality'?
My opinion is this is ALL about revenue -- Google is sacrifing nothing, they are simply raising prices under the guise of a more noble cause so they can maintain their 'do no evil' facade. If anyone has any evidence to the contrary, speak up.
What I am finding now is that for that ads that were not affected by the "quality control" factor (whatever that is?) .... my recent sale conversion ratios which were always very good due to being very targeted to the end "customer" has now gone done the tube.
Not only are more broader matched adwords results being delivered to the customer .... my CPC is rising to the point that it is becoming no longer feasible for me to continue advertising.
I am going to give it another week to see what happens .... but if there is no improvement .... I am going to close out my adwords account that I have had since the very beginning of the program.
How do you delete mails?
*I have some damn high quality sites getting effected.*
Somehow I doubt that...
I can't provide you any proof that this is, in fact, about quality this time around, but what I can say with certainty is that the conversion value of Google traffic has gone up consistently (ie for each of the last6-8 quarters) for the $250M+ in Google spend we've managed over the last 2 years.
One other thing that strikes me from this thread - I have yet to hear any well-known brands complain. I'm not saying that well-known brands aren't getting hit, but rather just that I've yet to hear any complain. Anyone?
I also saw my Google ROI steadily increase over two years -- right up until April 5 on the nose. Not exactly sure what that has to do with anything.
Though I haven't seen any "brands" complain here period (only monikers), if big brands weren't getting hit it would only bolster my opinion that this has nothing to do with quality. If you think quality comes with a big brand, search on any ridiculous combination of terms and check out the high quality/relevant ads by a big brand auction site. Is this the 'quality' to which we should all aspire? Seems there's a little quality loophole for major customers, or perhaps this has nothing to do with quality at all.
Still looking for evidence to the contrary.
|Though I haven't seen any "brands" complain here period (only monikers), if big brands weren't getting hit it would only bolster my opinion that this has nothing to do with quality |
You're right. Do a search for "Intel Pentium 2.8", and you'll get an ad for Dell computers which brings you to a page that doesn't even mention the word Pentium on it. There is also another ad that brings you to newegg listings which feature random Intel Pentium chips, or even Intel Celeron chips.
Yea, I was searching for an Intel Pentium chip, so I definitely wanted to see Celerons... that makes sense. Good job Google! You really got rid of those junk, completely irrelevant listings and kept only the quality sites!
|I have some damn high quality sites getting effected. Go be a Google shill somewhere else and deal with the fact they just screwed a ton of people. |
1) Who suggested that Google's algorithm is perfect? Do you seriously believe that nobody here has been affected by collateral damage?
2) It doesn't take a "shill" (it merely takes an impartial observer) to understand that the decisionmakers at Google have reasons for what they're doing--whether or not one agrees with those reasons or the resulting changes to AdWords.
My firm manages over $250M in ppc spend annual for our clients, 60% of that on Google
How would you characterize your relationship with Google? Would you say it was a close one?
|Let's say someone provides the same boilerplate shop as anyone else on the planet, but he has the best price for a widget. By far. And he knows it. And he wants customers looking for this deal. Now let's assume I am a customer and I know what I want to buy. Do I care about site design or additional information? Hell, no! I am looking for a deal. I know what I want to buy. I do not need additional information. I don't care whether the homepage is ugly or not. If I have the feeling that the shop delivers on time and in quality, I will consider to order. I need an attractive deal. Who is that big guy blocking the shop door? Google, please get out of the way. |
Here is the problem with all of that. The majority of visitors that click on the ad are not looking to buy that product now. So the fact that he has a generic page with the best price is completely irrelevant and still produces a bad experience for MOST visitors.
People have to start understanding that Google Adwords is not a funnel of people with their checkbooks out wanting to buy your product. It is much more involved in that. You need to delvier an experience that is relevant and informative. If you make a sale out of it that is fine and good for you. HOWEVER, whether you make 1 sale or 1 million sales from your page is completely irrelevant as to whether or not your page provided a good experience. I can not emphasize this enough.
You need to provide an on-topic, relvant and informative page and then manage to sell as much product as you can from there. You can't just say, well 3% of the people buy from me so it must be good. If the other 97% were only looking for information about the subject and you gave them none, then you provided a bad experience. 97% bad experience, 3% good experience, is an overall horrible grade.
|aeiouy, my ads clearly state the price of the product. I filter OUT freeloaders who just want to click and browse and not buy. |
I continue to be astounded how so many of you do not get it.
I don't care if your ad says the price or not. While that is a good indicator that something might be for sale, it is not an indicator that "Clicking here voids all your rights as an internet surfer to find relevant information".
I just put keywords into Google that brought up a page with your ad on it. Excuse me for thinking I might get information about it. I love how you call visitors to your site who do not buy freeloaders. I am astounded you have stayed in business this long with that kind of mindset.
|I filter like crazy. My year to date conversion ratio on one ad is 1:24. In my market, that is so good that people simply do not believe it. That is the ratio with 1609 sales. On this landing page, over 95% of the people go several pages deep. It's very clearly a high quality ad and landing page. |
By the way what do you mean you filter? How are you filtering out these "freeloaders"?
|How again does this hint at low quality? |
Without seeing your ads and pages I can't answer that. Perhaps they did not want to buy anything but they went 3 pages deep looking for relevant information? Perhaps you attempt at filtering out the freeloaders created a poor user experience. I have no idea, but there are a lot of potential reasons.
|It's unique, compelling, and clearly informative and sticky enough. Bots can not tell the story based on an algorithm that does not include sales IMHO for an ad that is clearly meant to make sales. |
I don't think anyone said it was pefect or would not need some adjustments or need to be manually reviewed in some cases. You may have the most useful resource on the entire net for your topic, and perhaps they missed it. That does not change the intent of the system Google has implemented, nor its long-term value.
|I dont WANT anyone to click my ads that does not intend to purchase. |
Then you should advertise somewhere else maybe? You need to understand your medium and your methods. In this case you have to understand the way Google works, why people use it and how they use it. If you don't want to pay for clicks from people not interested in buying now, again you are mis-spending your advertising dollars.
You complain your landing pages are all quality yet you consistently say you don't want anyone but people who buy now. You are exactly the kind of vendors that Google wants to weed out. Regardless of how much you don't like it.
|If I did, poof there goes my ROI and there goes my ad. |
that makes no sense.
|Lets not forget that this is paid advertising! I'm not paying to advertise a site so people can begin the process, I'm closing the sale ASAP, and I'm doing it. So it works. An advertisement is successful if it makes sales. |
Yeah but you have to understand the context in which your ads are displayed, and that is in an unobtrusive manner that allows casual browsers to visit your site as part of the Google search experience. Their other option is to put a big red banner around your site that says "PAID ADVERTISING ONLY CLICK HERE IF YOUR CREDIT CARD NUMBER IS READY AT HAND"
See what that does to your ROI. You benefit a great deal from the way Google is able to integrate their ads in the results page. In exchange you need to provide a contributory and informative experience for the keywords you advertise on. If you can't do that, then you lose the benefits that Google brings to the table.
|I unpaused a campaign last evening that does well on weekends. 1:22 of the people who clicked made a purchase. |
I bet you 15 of those 22 had no intent of purchasing anything at all... and at least 10 of them no itent on buying the product in the next 5 years. Maybe they were just looking for information. Did you provide good and detailed information and links for the other 21 people? If you did not then you provide a low quality experience for almost all your visitors.
|Having only spent $8 and made $45 I'd say it's a good ad. 43 out of 44 of those clicks went 3 pages deep. I'd say thats sticky, informative and high quality. |
Without seeing your site, I can not judge that or not. Simple page views alone is not enough to determine if the site is quality.
And I am not attacking you or your site. I have never seen your site, so I can not judge its quality. It very may well do all the things you say. However, as so many here, you continue to confuse with your ability to close with having a good page.
It is a good page for you, it has nothing to do with you selling anything though. A quality and informative site with nothing to sell might make 0 sales, but may rank at the top end of quality in terms of a landing page. A site that sells 10% of its visitors but really offers nothing else, is going to score on the very low end.
You really have to stop trying to include your conversion rates and such when worrying about this. That is simply irrelevant to providing a quality user experience for most visitors.
|The majority of the people who click on an ad are not looking to buy that product now. |
That opinion is confirmed by DoubleClick's "Research Before the Purchase" study, which is easy to find with a Google search.
|The majority of the people who click on an ad are not looking to buy that product now. |
So, perhaps the majority are not looking to buy the product now.
But some are.
Some are, some aren't. There are people in every phase of the buying process.
And let's not forget that not every ad is trying to sell a product. Some are simply trying to draw an audience to a website. Some are non-profit organizations trying to reach either donors or those in need of information or services.
And there's the rub (or one of them) with "quality score". How does Google know just what the user is really looking for?
One can certainly look for consistency between keywords, ads, and landing pages. i.e. user searchs for "widget price", ad gives the price, says "we have the cheapest widgets", "buy now!", landing page is sufficient description to identify the widget, gives the price, buy button, and link to store policies.
But that seems to have gone out the window now. Google has one notion and one notion only of what people are looking for. You, (the searcher/end user) don't get to make the choice - Google will make that choice for you, thank you!
And there isn't always enough information in the keywords to know just what the user really IS looking for. Users can be pretty vague in the search terms. There is additional information potentially available if the user logs-in to Google, or is tracked by IP address or cookie, and then Google could consider their search history. I have no idea if this is done - I'd bet not.
So, it would seem that in many cases the user would be best served by being presented with a variety of clearly-written ads, that would appeal to users in various phases of the buying (or whatever decision) process. If ads are clearly-written, the user can quickly spot those that are relevant to them.
Is this update providing greater variety, or less?
I don't understand the cries about "95% of bad user experience". What "bad experience" are we talking about? This is PAID ADVERTISING. People pay money to make money, not to give money to g$$gle. So it is about conversion. It is about the 5% that converts. IT HAS NEVER BEEN ABOUT MAKING 95% OF FREELOADERS HAPPY. Why, and on my dollar? I DON'T THINK SO, G$$GLE, YOU MAKE OTHER 95% HAPPY ON YOUR OWN DIME.
Arrogant bunch of geeks.
Part of a longterm plan to blur the distinction between organic and paid serps maybe.
Early G had no ads, then ads on the side, then ads on the top.
Now do a search for 'city' real estate, or certain travel destinations. What do you see on top of the 'organic serps'. LOL
If the quality score is a strawman, it's working; Google implemented a price hike, called it a 'quality score', and left the webmaster community to fight amongst itself regarding issues of user experience. Again, have we seen ANYTHING -- aside from what our Adwords reps are telling us -- to suggest that this isn't just a simple price hike? As much as they like to think of themselves as revolutionaries, Google is a publicly traded company with an obligation to maximize shareholder value just like the rest of them. That means, if they get a chance to boost long-term profit growth, they'll take it. Could it be that they just crunched the stats and determined they could make more money by jacking up minimum bids on certain keywords for certain customers?
Once again, has anyone seen any evidence of a quality score? All I'm seeing is a price increase.
aeiouy, you might like spending money to bring in surfers who just want to browse on your page and never buy anything, but I think you're in the vast minority there :)
I want to spend my advertising dollars advertising a product/service. WITH the intention of selling it, not MERELY having an informative set of pages.
I would go after organic #1's with purely informative and light selling pages. I wouldnt spend $1 per click.
It seems like you feel that only pages that have a good shot at high organic placements are what google is considering high quality adwords landing pages. While that may be true, it's um... mentally challenged thinking on their part IMHO.
By "filtering" it means weeding out (Oh my "weeding out"! GASP what a phrase! lol) anyone who would NOT be served by landing on my page. That is a very good thing. If I sell red widgets and get tons of clicks looking for green widgets, then I have not done proper filtering. It is a "wasted" click. It is a misserved user. It is a user who had a poor experience with google adwords. And incidently it is wasted money on my part.
I just dont see your argument that a page that gets good ctr, is specific to the exact terms bid on, is compelling enough with it's information and "stickiness" to draw people to the purchase page, and which GETS sales at a very good ratio is NOT a quality advertisement.
I bid on red widgets, my pages give as much information on red widgets as I can find, and my page sells red widgets. How was that user misserved again? What bad experience did they have? Did I give them too exactly what they searched for?
"This is PAID ADVERTISING. People pay money to make money, not to give money to g$$gle. So it is about conversion. It is about the 5% that converts. IT HAS NEVER BEEN ABOUT MAKING 95% OF FREELOADERS HAPPY."
Hi, guys, first time poster.
Boy, I sure have to agree with the above. This is advertising: My clients are in the product sales business. I send them traffic with Adwords so that users will buy their products...my clients are e'commerce retailers. They are not information providers. Google gives us tools to watch the conversion rate and cost per conversion. For a retailer, there is only one type of conversion: a sale! That's all that matters. That's what we pay for.
|One other thing that strikes me from this thread - I have yet to hear any well-known brands complain. I'm not saying that well-known brands aren't getting hit, but rather just that I've yet to hear any complain. Anyone? |
Only Laser-targeted ads leading to beautiful user experiences, I'm sure.
[edited by: eWhisper at 6:30 pm (utc) on July 16, 2006]
[edit reason] Please don't copy other people's ads. See TOS. [/edit] [/edit][/1]
MrCritic, of course that is exactly correct.
If it was paid inclusion in the organic SERPS, I could completely agree that the page should be laid out differently. But it's paid advertising.
Many here seem to have a clearly defined view of what it is joe average surfer wants from their browsing experience. It is important to remember that there is no one right answer to this question. Every visitor is unique.
Putting my browser hat on for a moment, my feeling is that affiliates (and yes I'm one) have destroyed the serps. That's my view maybe others disagree, but I've always had an idealistic notion of the web as a medium for the free exchange of ideas and information.
Adwords results on the other hand are about commerce and are identified as such. If I click on an ad re. flight info, I want a quick overview, itinerary and price comparison of available flights, not an essay on the origins of flight from da Vinci to the Wright brothers or even some pretty pics of airplanes. Quick, in and out, hassle free transaction. That to me is a quality experience.
Some here seem to think that we as advertisers should be expected to pay for the priviledge of providing casual browsers with an action packed, informative and fun filled journey through our 30,000 pages of unique, content rich pages. Yea right, "sorry kids I can't feed you this month but don't worry, Daddy's making the web a better place".
It is Google who continues to blur the lines between free and paid results with their page layout changes. I for one would be happy to see sponsored results more clearly defined and an attempt made at educating rather than deceiving/ manipulating users. Maybe then Google can get on with the business of cleaning up the serps, though this may entail a loss in adsense revenue.
|2) It doesn't take a "shill" (it merely takes an impartial observer) to understand that the decisionmakers at Google have reasons for what they're doing--whether or not one agrees with those reasons or the resulting changes to AdWords. |
Let me know when you are impartial and *maybe* I'll listen to you. All you do is defend google all day long, go name oyur kid Google, maybe they'll rank you better.
And yes, some of my sites being effected are good, some suck. I know the difference, google can't seem to get it.
This bit above about "big name" retailers not being affected may be true, but it's early yet. All of you who act like Google is God and can do no wrong because your site hasn't been affected are just lucky I guess. I bet you aren't e'commerce sites selling stuff.
Let me tell you about my client an online catalog (e'commerce) which has been selling products to pilots online for 10 years. They've recently suffered the $.10 to $5.00 and even $10.00 minimum bid issue.
I know, I know...they're not the best looking E'commerce site on the planet. But I'm not their webmaster: I'm their Adwords contractor. They don't hire me to write their copy, but just to drive traffic. And I do it with very high CTRs and good conversions. That's my job.
Let me show you just ONE example of what has happened.
I was right where I like to be, around #3.5, at a CPC of $.10 for my keywords. Suddenly, the minimum went up to $.50 and $1.00, which is unprofitable for a video game.
Note that I registered the display URL and use it because it pulls better than theirs. Go to the product page...it's a product called <theirproduct>, right?
So, Google's algo is telling me that when...
1. Users search for <theirproduct>
2. See an ad that mentions it, including the price (one of only two which aren't Amazon, Ebay, etc.), an ad which uses the keyword in the display URL, for petesakes
3. The user clicks the ad and goes to a page that sells the very item they searched on, landing on a page titled <theirproduct> with tons of text that describes it, and which sells only one product, <theirproduct>
this is resulting in an irrelevant search for the USER? He wanted the product, he searched for the product, he found the product. How on earth is that irrelevant?
Another example: They have a broad category (most competitive keywords) for what my client sells. They are something like #6 in natural search for the term. The landing page is the front page of their site. Google just raised my minimums from $.10 to $5.00 and $10.00. Huh? MY CLIENT HAS BEEN SELLING THESE SUPPLIES FOR 10 YEARS! I won't say what their sales are today, but in 2000, they sold $1.7 million in THESE SUPPLIES.
If their site is irrelevant for this keyword according to Google, then Amazon's should be irrelevant when you search for "books". Ridiculous.
I have, and recommend to all of you who have suffered this, complained to G. They have escalated my complaint to live people who will go check the landing pages. I sure hope I win this battle. But meanwhile, I gotta take my client's business to Yahoo and MSN and just live with the lower traffic and conversions.
[edited by: jatar_k at 3:37 am (utc) on July 16, 2006]
[edit reason] no specifics, no email quotes thanks [/edit] [/edit][/1]
You have to laugh at Marco-from-Google's use of the word 'improvements'. Depending.
MrCritic, I really feel for your clients. I just did a search for 'pilot supplies' and had a friend in the US do the same. UK citizens are offered the online catalog version of Walmart and my US friend's second organic result was a site offering nothing but Adsense type ads. All of which are for 'pilot' brand clothes.
I feel bad for your clients, but I feel even worse for any pilots.
|You really have to stop trying to include your conversion rates and such when worrying about this. That is simply irrelevant to providing a quality user experience for most visitors. |
Aeiouy, most, if not all, advertisers bid keywords to sell products or services, directly or indirectly. Bottomline is sale conversion. Few people, if any, use PPC just to provide good information or user-experience and not need to focus on ROI. In essence, paid ad listings are primarily for ready-to-buy shoppers and non-sponsored listings are for and the remaining universe including pre-research shoppers.
Quality level of Google's keyword search result pages boils down to whether various types of audience can effectively get what they are looking for. On top of a robust search algorithm, a quality search result page may be achieved by a well-balanced proportion of sponsored vs non-sponsored listings, and making the two types of listings clear to their different targeted audience, etc. As to the so-called ad/landing page quality, Google does not possess knowledge of the ad's sale conversion, hence does not have the ground to judge the quality as long as the ad has decent click throughs and is in compliance with Google's ad content guideline.
I believe this says it all. Follow the money. Quality seems to be a red herring.
[edited by: eWhisper at 6:31 pm (utc) on July 16, 2006]
[edit reason] Please don't copy ads - See TOS. [/edit] [/edit][/1]
|Let me know when you are impartial and *maybe* I'll listen to you. All you do is defend google all day long, |
Nope. You've got a selective memory. I'm not even "defending" Google in this case--I'm merely pointing out that Google obviously made its decision for what it thought were good reasons. You may not agree with Google's decision--or with the rationale for the new landing-page policy--but, as I said earlier, the decision clearly wasn't made in a vacuum. From Google's point of view, the new policy makes sense. That's the reality, and it demands a realistic response.