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I think Google made with the Google profit/quality score a simple tool with which they can fairly easy control the profits by asking higher minimum bids to meet they expectations of share holders.
I'm not raising them for all of my clients... for three months
Every business you ever deal with seeks to make a profit, and each one has different pressures at different times, influencing their decisions.
Your decisions about Google should be about how to make your profits, not how to stop them making theirs.
I suggest you rethink your business strategy - or avoid doing business with a company whose actions obsess you. No one forces you to deal with Google; that business decision is yours and yours alone.
The way I see it, using paid search has made me lazy. I can manage my entire spend electronically over just 3 providers and get ROI delivered to my doorstep in realtime. It's an advertiser's dream! When that dream was rattled by the QS in April, I forced myself to hunt for individual advertising opportunities just like in the good old days.
While most of the alternatives I found suck, there are a few golden ones. Individual publishers who are cutting out Adsense and want to do direct PPC deals, old fasioned CPM deals, and some new pay-for-performance (aquisition) networks... Dig around and you'll be surprised. You may not beat Adwords volume, but you can definitely beat Adwords ROI.
Google is in panic mode, levering up price on their only revenue-producing product, which is now a crusty 5+ years old and way beyond its growth years. The future is elsewhere. The best business move now is to go out and find it.
Google got wise to this and figured, hey, why not let these people bid for $.40? No one clicks them anyway, and it will simply jack up the prices of the ads above it.
Since your cost is based on the performance and bid of the ad below you, by putting a higher priced ad below you, they will effectively increase your cpc. It's better for google to show a crappy ad for .50 than no ad at all. People are much more willing to bid high on keywords that never get any clicks.