joined:Feb 3, 2016
I should have seen this coming. These results appeared in limited tests in that same market around April last year, then again in September, then returned to normal after a few days. Each time the adwords clicks and conversions fell notionally 50% in the adwords stats, but in reality his phone and online bookings fell 90%. Which also occurred this time, and now of course it is permanent. Now this client has been spending AUD$25,000 p.a. on his ads, and his quality scores were 10/10 for 11 of his 12 keywords, clicks @15% and conversions @13%. But despite this he lost big time.
Why? Well the answer goes to who is above him. Smaller companies with smaller spends are ahead of him. However (because this is a small industry and everyone knows everyone's business) those companies are being represented by large international agencies, who work by paying google directly and charging the client. Also on a search that includes a geo identifier "this service + this city", now returns results from interstate, which clearly is not the user intent. In a regional market, one client was 1 - 2 and is now 6, with the 5 above her being an hour's drive away in a major city. The other local businesses she shared the top 3 with have disappeared entirely.
My other campaigns are all suffering the same problem, whereas I had them ahead of national advertisers, they are now behind them. This even where their office is 1000km away and the service is best delivered face to face and the search string included a desire to see local results.
So here are my thoughts, based on 7 years as a certified adwords professional (101, 201 & 301), plus having a few extra weeks over most people to analyse the situation. Google have changed the quality score. Previously it was keyword related, so bid + ad relevance + extensions + landing page for that keyword + click rate. All that still holds. However they have now added an additional parameter - campaign spend. Something like:
Ad rank = ((existing quality score)*.1 ) * (campaign spend)
- with campaign spend being a "spend rank" ordinal 1-10.
This is why I am seeing Yellow Pages ads in first place in competitive, commercial verticals in major markets. I do think Google's senior international partners saw this coming. Most of my clients have reported getting calls from these agencies offering a flat fee, usually $15 - $20,000 to cover website AND advertising, with a guarantee of front page inclusion. Those calls became almost daily in the last few weeks. That would make sense, under the new Ad Rank these people would have high "spend rank" and know to get as big as possible before this hits.
The other reason I say that the large partners saw this coming is because one of my client's competitors said yes to one of these telemarketing calls, and was signed up back in December by what turned out to be a major International Adwords Partner, who promised him that events would unfold exactly how they now have. Their strategy was to rank multiple sites for the same business under different names, so he actually has position #1 and #3 this morning. He has been boasting for weeks before the Great Adwords Carnage of 2016 that he was going to "wipe out the competition" in February and he has done just that.
So I don't know how much use re-learning Adwords is going to be if you have a small agency with your faithful band of clients, a spend rank of 1 is useless to your clients. I also wonder if there are any agencies out there that are small but do aggregate? How have your ads fared? I wonder if "spend rank" is in fact more complicated, and has elements for aggregating-vs-individual google billing, perhaps even a payment reliability score.