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I've experienced something fairly since the QBA (is that what we're calling it?) changeover, and strangely enough, it has nothing to do with minimum bids. The institution of the minimum bids had only good effects -- we're actually paying 1-4 cents for traffic that was profitable at 10-15 cents per click. However:
My company advertises using the GoogleCash method, and for those who don't know, that simply means we shell out our own money to run Adwords campaigns for other companies' products, and the only compensation we get is our affiliate commissions. If you know that business, you know that ever since January, Google displays only one affiliate ad per display URL -- and the lucky ad that shows will be from the account with the highest AdRank for that particular keyword. Easy enough so far, right? Right.
Fast forward to August. In the seven months since January, my company carves out a very strong position for three very profitable keywords -- we'll just call them KW1, KW2 and KW3. By "very strong position," I mean seven months of keyword history with average CTR of between 15% and 20%. Because of the AdRank we achieved on those 3 keywords, we were always the one affiliate ad that got served up. And because of Google's rule about showing only one ad per affiliate program, none of our competitors could ever even get an *impression* on these three keywords from January through August. Even maxing out the keyword bid couldn't displace us. It was, in essence, the Holy Grail of Adwords -- owning three very profitable keywords in a position so strong that we were unassailable by competitors. Life's good, right?
It was -- until the QBA switch. On the *very day* the switchover took place, our traffic for all three keywords died. I didn't even notice it until two days later (it was basically on autopilot due to the past six months of success). I searched on KW1, KW2 and KW3, and sure enough -- there was a competitor who was, by all appearances, outranking us on all three keywords. A brand new competitor, who had no chance of even getting an *impression* on these words for the past seven months, is now outranking our company, with our 7 months of 15-20% CTR per keyword, all alone in the blue strip atop Google.
It made absolutely no sense, but there was one way to regain position -- Max CPC. Even if our new competitor had a gargantuan bid, we could match it, and then our performance history would be combined with our new monster bid and we'd get our spot back. Right?
Nope. We raised bids to $20. $50. $75. All the way to $100. And we still didn't get the position back. And I apologize for being repetitive, but let me summarize this just one final time: **Since the QBA switchover, a brand new advertiser can come in and instantly outrank an established advertiser on each of three keywords with 7 months of 15-20% CTR and a $100 Max CPC.** If that makes absolutely no sense to you, then the line forms right behind me.
I did, of course, ask Google to clarify. I suggested one of two things: an internal error in Adrank calculation, or an Adwords employee (one who precisely understands "other relevancy factors" that comprise Quality Score that the rest of us can only guess at) had simply taken his/her proprietary knowledge and set up a shadow account on the side and is cleaning up at our expense. I was assured that neither is true (although I certainly haven't ruled out no. 2 myself). Google's response, boiled down, was this: "Sorry you're frustrated, but yep, you're outranked now. Don't ask why, because we can't talk about other accounts. Just trust us, you're outranked."
I trust 'em, all right -- we're still outranked and not showing for those keywords. But here's the catch-22 that Google won't comment on; in an environment where only one ad per URL will show, how can anyone OTHER than the top-ranked ad make progress toward a higher Adrank, if their ads, by definition, cannot be displayed? The natural answer is, "they can't", right? But that's NOT right, and we're the poster boy for it -- we owned the no. 1 spot for 7 months, and one day, bang -- we're gone.
All I want to know is -- how? The discussion, then, MUST return to these "other relevancy factors." Adwords Advisor has mentioned that AdRank is determined as it always has, based on Max CPC. That may be true -- it may be "based on Max CPC" -- but everything you've just read above (and again, I'm sorry for the length of this thing. I just want some answers), some element(s) of the overall AdRank formula have changed significantly. And the changes are significant enough to do major damage. These were three keywords that were netting us about $100-$150 in daily profit -- not retire-in-South-France money, mind you, but a very nice piece of change for logging into Adwords once a day. The worst thing about it is, we earned that money by following Google's instructions to the letter about tight, relevant advertising -- and now they've swept the rug from under us, and won't tell us why.
OK, there it is. Anyone experiencing anything similar? Comments? AWA?
You can't apply general analogies like that to what is in fact a very unique situation.
My thought however, is that you just don't let employees play in the same system as clients. Although casino employees may be scrutinized while playing in a a casino, they simply don't allow it. It's not just a matter of fairness, but the perception it gives off. How would you feel sitting at a poker table and finding out the guy across from you works in the casino?
Not right this minute, because it's still a profitable endeavor. Are you suggesting that if something isn't bad enough to make you quit, then it isn't bad enough to try and change? Business relationships are just like personal relationships; if you want them to work, you've got to work out your problems together. You don't just tell them to get lost if they don't like everything you do -- not if you want to maintain the relationship.
Google is definitely on top of the world right now, but no one stays there forever. It isn't the first company to appear so dominant in its market that it becomes impossible to imagine it ever being dislodged, nor will it be the last. But eventually, they always do. And the beginning of a company's slide out of its superlative position is the point at which it believes it's too big and too powerful to be bothered with treating its customers with the respect they deserve. IMO, that time for Google is approximately... now.
This also ties in neatly to your emphasis on the legality of what Google does as the be-all-end-all that should govern their behavior. Obviously they're not breaking the law (that I know of, but it'd be great if there was Elliot Spitzer light we could shine in the sky a la Batman), but all that means is they're not going to jail. That's not the point.
No company -- ever -- has built market position like Google's by following only the letter of the law and saying ethics be damned. In fact, they've got plenty of competitors who have done just that: they're the low-rent search engines that hijack your browser and drop five spyware programs on your machine... all following the letter of the law. How'd that work out for them? Are they worth $50 billion like Google? No -- they've angered millions and spawned legislation against them. Now that there's good irony!
Google is successful precisely because it *has* behaved so ethically all along, until now. If it were Microsoft, would we even be having this conversation? Doubtful (ok, no we wouldn't, because they don't have a hidden search algo for paid listings -- but you know what I meant).
I must say that with how utterly disgusted and angry I am with this situation, this thread has increased my respect to AWA for at LEAST being honest and not skirting the issue. Thanks AWA for the truth!
You shouldn't base your business on SERPS, PPC or any advertising medium. What is business based off of then? Google has proved in 2005 how utterly unreliable they are in keeping the standards they once held. The Bourbon Update was terrible and although said to improve the quality of SERPS really seemed to do nothing but remove "some" scraper sites and push real companies towards Adwords.
I am an extremely small Adwords customer in the big picture - spend of $3000/mo but I can assure you that I have been trying to find alternatives to Adwords and Google SERPS every waking minute. I found an alternative to the market leader Overture/GoTo/Yahoo and I will find alternatives to Google. I will keep using Google because it would make no business sense to remove myself from working with an industry leader. I will do everything I can to scale back... Haha, Google has helped with it's new super secret AdWords system.
IMHO Google became Microsoft the day it went public. I still use Microsoft every day because it's an industry leader but every time I can find an alternative I do so. Google earnings will go up for the next 2-3 quarters due to highway robbery (which they have the right to do) with their new system. For others that feel as frusterated as I, rest assured Google will lose their dominance in Search Engine and PPC dominance in the next year. They apparently already know this and are trying to crank out any crappy program they can to keep people in their targets.
My immature statement for the day: Google is now a scumbag company that deserves to be knocked off it's pedestal.
P.S. And I thought having a real job was unreliable / unsecure. Hah! Try Google products on for size. Sorry for the long post all... I had to vent!
- don't buy your cars statement by GM, if you work here. Some of you may know when a sale is coming up and take advantage of it? Don't use employee discounts...the rest of the public just learned about them.
- we invented a new gizmo that can make us some money. Don't buy this product and learn everything about it just because you are in customer service and buying it may create a shortage in the market. We all know this drives up the cost.
Step back from the situation people. Google is telling it's employees to use "their" products. Support your own company. <nothing different than any other company and to an extent what some companies want to make mandatory> Training of service reps by encopuraging them to use the product in a controlled enviroment. This is something I wish all companies did make mandatory!
So what do we have here? A comparison of lottery rules to a consumer product. There is a basic assumption here that Google employees can game the system <at our expense>. Sounds to me that AWA has already stated it is a controlled event. I think the risk versus the benefits of this has been looked at and I am sure Google can and does look at how the employee accounts perform. As I noted previously those at Google with the "knowledge" to scam the system are already in an envious position of original share holders.
If you already have a testing simulator to test upgrades, let google emps use that to feel the "ups and downs" of a google adwords advertiser, not the real system. This is not rocket science.
Why put the golden goose at so much risk?
It's ridiculous to suggest that this is necessary for their learning about the system. If they didn't have their own accounts, they could do what all good companies do - listen to their own customers instead! Maybe even improve the traditionally lousy Google customer service as a result of this.
Just some quick thoughts on this post:This is such a stupid comparison, it's hard to justify answering it, but I like pointing out stupidity. GM employees getting a deal on a car will not significantly raise the price of those cars for everyone else. Nor will it take food off my table. There is no "insider information" here and even if there was, I doubt seriously it will influence my decission to purchace the car.
- don't buy your cars statement by GM, if you work here. Some of you may know when a sale is coming up and take advantage of it? Don't use employee discounts...the rest of the public just learned about them.
- we invented a new gizmo that can make us some money. Don't buy this product and learn everything about it just because you are in customer service and buying it may create a shortage in the market. We all know this drives up the cost.This is also just silly. If a companies employees can create the shortage, they're doing somthing wrong. There would have been a shortage no matter what.
Googler's using the adword system causeing keywords that I bid on to increase in price is like artificially inflating the price just because they can, and not because of supply and demand.
But they can do that anyway, even if google prohibited it.
1. Adwords employee sees that he/she can make WAY more being an Adwords advertiser than he/she can make working for Google.
2. Adwords employee has complete access to some accounts and can see what Adwords advertiser is bidding on.
3. Adwords employee decides to "practice" with Adwords by bidding on finance related terms, just like that client. He/she can only personally come up with 1000 keyword variations. They are not having success.
4. Bingo, how about Adwords employee looks at client account to "scalp" additional 20,000 high profit keywords. Why put in the work? The info and keywords are there for the grabbing.
5. Guess what? Said Adwords client also has that handy dandy conversion code. Now Adwords Employee can bid a little higher on only those keywords that convert really well.
6. Adwords employee does all of this using Uncle Bill as an alias. Adwords employeed rakes in the dough (thousands per day) all the while hurting the Adword client's campaign. But oh well, they're just testing the Adwords system to "see how it works".
Open your eyes people. Morals aside you should see that this is clearly abuse of information and power and a clear conflict of interest. How could Google possibly monitor what ALL of it's employees do? Come on, give me a break.
And NO, we cannot just step away from Google Adwords right now. We've got businesses to run and families to feed. Just because we know/think that something bad is happening doesn't mean we can just up and walk away. Get real.
Just my two cents. Really, think about it.
BTW: To AWA / AWA2 and all - I'm in for an Adwords Simulator for Google employees. It clearly makes perfect sense and in fact could even work with the "real" system without changing it on the production environment. It's really not that complicated all, it just takes a step in the right direction on Google's watch.
I'm editing this post to add this simple explanation to others that have no programming background (not that you should need one to understand the simplicity or the solution!). I personally have a BS in Computer Information Systems and I want it to be clear that this is not a matter of complication for Google to add a simulator, it's just a matter of a business ethics decision before this gets out of hand.
IF Adwords account is Google employee THEN LIVE ads will not be posted.
IF Adwords account is Google employee THEN impression and click data will be obtained from averages of all similar ranking ads instead of the unobtainable live production environment metrics specific to an unshowing ad.
I know, I know, it's not THAT easy, but GEESH, they are reissuing IPO shares and have enough money to throw $250,000 towards a better relationship with billions in business. While you're at it, quit fixing things that are not broke! (ie. AdWords)
Now lets discuss the original post...dominating a keyword for a number of months...no one could touch it based on the "old" system. Low bid prices. From Google's perspectibve this means their algo is "not" working when looking at revenues. They revise the algo...competators come in at a higher price...read higher revenues...competition is again in their sales. Seems like a good change from their prospective. Going to shut out the low paying adwords...possibly...however the market will stabalize to the current conditions.
Well time to leave my "stupid analogies and opinions" and go back to making some money.
Perhaps the analogies were stupid...perhaps they are not any different than the earlier ones that were drawn to the lotteries?The difference is, the state lottery does not want to give the "impression" a scam is afoot. Something that this thread is a perfect example of. I kinda' like the analogy of the card game I saw somewhere in here. They get to see all our cards. Might as well since adwords amounts to nothing less than leagalized global gambling. :-P
However the fact remains that in publically traded companies, employees are encouraged to use their companies products and services.Unless it poses a direct conflict of interests such as in this case.
Surely you are not separated from reality that far to realize that safeguards are in place to protect the paying customers from employees.I think you need to re-think who's living in a dream land Visi. No I'm not paranoid. I try to use common sense. Here's some for ya. Since we're playing adwords, we're all gamblers here, so you should understand this quite well. What percentage of all people are 'bad'? Let's use a nice simple number like 1%. Now, how many employees are there at google? One percent of them are bad people using our nice simple number. Those people have access to your account. They don't need your password to see your data. I never had to give mine for the rep to look at the keywords I was using. It's that simple. If my adwords rep will be looking at my account, I dont' wan't to have to be in competition with him for those same positions on googles pages. It's just not right no matter what spin you put on it.
But I say again, there is absolutly nothing google can do about it. The reps must be able to look at your account, and if google prohibited them from participating in the adwords program, then that imaginary* one percent are still bad and they would do it some other way (get a new account as Aunt Margerett for one). The only way you can play this game is to know full well that there are 'googlers' also playing and some will use nitros oxide while you use a stock mustang. Good luck to us all. :o)
*i say imaginary because surely 1% is low balling it quite a bit. The pecentage of 'bad people' in the world is probably more like in the thirties, IMO.
PS: Oh, and I'm not paranoid, they really ARE after me! :-D
Customers are gold. Hmmm…I’ve never heard SO many people say “I can’t wait until there’s another game in town” as I have on this forum.
Granted Google customers owe some of their success to Google. Some Google customers maybe so successful, they don’t want to rock the boat.
It may not be entirely correct to say Google almost has a monopoly in the search engines, but by reading hundreds of posts in this forum, it leads me to think that is the case. Only a corporation with such a stranglehold on their customers would ever compete with them. This competition may be miniscule, or massive. The insider competition may concentrate on only certain (profitable) sectors. We have no idea, who do you believe?
Of course, at this time the “Google Corporation” may not think of insider bidding as unethical or even a conflict of interest, or that Google has a monopoly in some way. Would Ebay allow insider bidding?
“eBay Company employees who have access rights on the eBay system to reserve bid pages can not bid on reserve price items, until the reserve has been met, unless they choose to purchase via Buy It Now or other fixed price solutions.”
In other words an employee has NO INFORMATIONAL ADVANTAGE over a customer and the process and rules are out in the open.
Ebay Insider Trading Policy is published here: [pages.ebay.in...]
G is on a roll, but times change, business changes, governments change, and so does USA federal and EU law, and court rulings, and I would hold on to all those invoices just in case. But with all these successful customers, who would want to open a can of worms like that? Not me…but somebody might…right Bill?
Some Google customers maybe so successful, they don’t want to rock the boat.
Man am I guilty of this. Good observation keno, I would have to say that my acceptance of this issue does bank slightly on the amount of capital I throw towards Adwords.
Seems that if they are going to have a policy allowing it, the least they could do is disclose the restrictions they have in place to protect their customers.
Good point, although even if the restrictions were disclosed there is no real way to tell if these are enforced or even investigated.
Are you suggesting that if something isn't bad enough to make you quit, then it isn't bad enough to try and change?
I wasn't really trying to suggest anything in particular with this question. I was really more curious than trying to imply something. I guess if the question had a point behind it it would be to say that for every advertiser that decides to withdraw due to ethical interpretations, there is another right behind it willing to take their spot, without hesitation.
BTW, Slam, thanks for being open-minded regarding my post, you handled it with great composure. I kinda felt I was being a bit harsh on everyone. To be sure the only reason I am siding with Google is because their system treats our company pretty well. What you say regarding Microsoft is true, and honestly I think it somewhat makes my point. For some of us to be outraged at Google because of this is insignificant to them. The reason we are so upset is because we BELIEVED them to be a "good guy" company, whereas if Microsoft did this, we would chalk it up to their devious ways and move on. Which is why, for me, discussing business ethics with a multi-billion corporation involved will get you next to nowhere. As long as they aren't in the wrong legally, I dare to say they could care less. I will admit though that regarding other matters I think Google has had their ear bent to us more than most companies their size would (with exception to e-mailing Google Support, I've never had any luck with that)
I agree with someone's post that this has a lot to do with the infancy of the online marketing medium. Take affiliate programs for instance: I've seen several programs where the webmaster, affiliate manager or other employee is among the most successful affiliates.
It is heavily regulated and monitored, so there is no funny business going on with any of these accounts.
Anyone trying to take advantage of their knowledge is going to do so outside this program. Which they would do if there was no program tro begin with.. So all these boogeymen you people are seeing with google employees taking all your business away because they allow employees to have monitored accounts is beyond extreme over-reaction.
You know that nobody enrolled in this program is using their monitored adsense account to do anything ill-gotten. If you don't believe that, then I suggest you terminate your relationship with Google. If you can't trust that a program for employees to know more about their product and that is being monitored is not being abused, then you really should go elsewhere, because you can't possibly trust them on anything else.
Have there been Adwords employees who have capitalized on their knowledge and information? Surely. Will there be more in the future? Absolutely. Are any of them capitalizing on them through this policy that allows employees to have an adword account, extremly unlikely.
Why is it that if someone doesn't agree with policies or behavior of Google you want them to leave? I don't get that. It is perfectly OK to question the things Google does. It might even help them to make a better product. It helps other publishers to deal with Adsense issues. Criticizing and scrutinizing is perfectly normal in any business relation. So does Google to us by telling/warning us if they think we don't act according the TOS. Actually I believe our scrutiny towards Google is one of the main reasons this forum can exist. Who would ever come to read or write in a halle-google-lujah forum?
Now I'm new here and just learning the system so all of these things dont effect me that much but the complete disregard for advertisers on their part to allow these things to happen are absurd.
And for the ones who blow this off as if it were no big deal, wait until your valued revenue sources are exploited without just cause and see how you feel then.
An outsider looking in, this is rediculous.
And what exactly are they learning and when are they required to stop?
No employee advertising on AdWords, regardless of level, is able to 'beat the system' in some way. They advertise on the very same system, and are subject to the very same guidelines and policies.
The very same system = not good
Let them play with the same data but in their own, isolated system.
the very same guidelines and policies = not good
AWA, are you implying that G employees know nothing about the "Quality Score", and so cannot possibly use that info in their personal accounts?
It would seem that inserting ringer bidders into a live auction is a bad idea on many fronts. "But they're learning" is no answer. "It's their own money" is no answer.
The fact is that in any interactive program of this type where the advertising public is aggressively involved with (a) maintaining their market share and (b) working to compete against all comers, "learning" by the staff that creates and maintains (and modifies) the system should be prohibited. Period.
If my CPC went up even a penny as the result of some Google employee "learning" how the system works, that's theft. They used insider information to cost me money.
Google employees shouldn't "learn" on live systems that others depend on. Google employees should "learn" in a "learning environment" where their mistakes or developing insights cannot directly affect the market. They then use that information to help those who use the system. Period.
As far as "depending" on AdWords ... enough with the MBA BS. Our company picks up over 65% of our clients frlom online sources, 72% of those from AdWords. It's not the whole nut, but it's a huge opportunity to draw traffic, and without it we would be a dinky little law firm instead of a national powerhouse. Yeah, we diversify, but AdWords works despite its issues.
"You don't like it, stop using it" is a non-answer uttered by those who have chosen to stop thinking about these issues but still choose to post messages about them.
[edited by: StupidScript at 8:31 pm (utc) on Sep. 6, 2005]
Not a bad point on the face of it…in a perfect world.
You could also encourage employees to buy stock in Google to have an appreciation why Google is so successful, or track the ups and downs of the business, or simply profit from Google’s success. I’m sure employees do buy Google stock, but not using an informational advantage due to their status as an employee.
There is something wrong with profiting from insider knowledge when it comes to buying equity in a public company. In fact it’s illegal as we all know, and Martha went to jail for it. Was this practice always illegal? Probably not.
What if I put on my shareholder’s hat…
Now I want Google employees to be successful and to make me successful as a shareholder. Are they damaging Google credibility by engaging in insider bidding? Where does Google stand in its philosophy to ethical conduct? We know Ebay allows NO INFORMATIONAL ADVANTAGE with its employees, and publishes the Ebay standard of ethics on the Web. Is this the highest standard?
Should the employee place their profit needs above mine as a shareholder or yours as a customer? And I’m only getting started… The Federal Government in the USA is very sensitive to practices, which artificially inflate or manipulate consumer prices.
I really don’t begrudge an employee their extra bennies. Maybe only 5 employees engage in this bidding or maybe 500, I have no idea. However, there is a legitimate concern for customers and shareholders with company-approved insider bidding. If I were Mister Google I would take a closer look at the business risk to business reward ratio in this case.