Appearances Are Deceptive: Checking Your Ads on Google

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In my opinion, Google AdWords has the most user-friendly campaign management system in the pay-per-click marketing space. Whether setting up a new campaign, adding unique tracking URLs to individual keywords, optimizing keyword dynamics through its keyword tool, creating new ads or fine-tuning bids, AdWords is far more intuitive and easy-to-use than its closet competitors Yahoo and Microsoft AdCenter.

Yet appearances can be deceptive. Such is the case with AdWords’ Ad Group “status” data. In most cases, the status column should show “active” (although a status of Disapproved, Paused, or Deleted is also possible) which can quickly lull a marketer into assuming that their ad is showing for intended keyword search queries. Ah – but beware. This assumption could be wrong.

Google states that, ” A keyword can also have a performance status of active, meaning that the keyword (pending approval) is eligible to trigger your ad.” The operative word is “eligible”. Dictionary.com defines “eligible” as “suitable or worthy to be chosen.” A bachelor may be eligible but it doesn’t mean any girl cares to marry him.

Google continues to state that “If the keyword’s cost-per-click (CPC) bid and Quality Score are too low the keyword will become inactive for search, meaning the keyword isn’t eligible to trigger ads on search results pages.” Fair enough, right? Nope because if you dig deeper into your keywords by hovering over the little magnifying glass, an apparently active keyword could state, “Ad showing? NO We are showing your ad only occasionally based on your budget.” But wait…jump to the recommended budget in the campaign settings and Google states, “Your budget is OK. We don’t recommend changes at this time.” Hmmm…so heading back to the Ad Group again let’s check on the keyword max bid. What about position preference? What about negative keywords? All of these could be affecting when the ad appears.

But the point is – don’t assume that an “active” status means all is O.K. Check the magnifying glass. For your high value keywords, run a search on Google to verify that your ad is appearing. I have noticed that when a campaign is paused and then reactivated, it will take some time and potentially max bid increases to gain top exposure esepcially in a competitive market. It seems as though the AdWords machine had to start churning through the quality score again before it could calculate a placement. The ad showed “active” but I couldn’t find the ad while searching on the specific keyword in the top two page of results on Google. After ramping up the max bid and waiting a while, it suddenly appeared.

Key point is to not allow the simplicity of Google’s user interface to lull you into assumptions. Do the extra work to validate that your high value keywords are showing especially after you have paused or made changes to your ads and keyword matches. Simplicity is nice but don’t let it deceive you.

About the Author

Kevin Gold is Director of Internet Marketing at iNET Interactive, a social media company operating prominent online communities for technology professionals and technology enthusiasts. Kevin is a frequent contributing author to multiple publications including Search Marketing Standard, Practical eCommerce, DIRECT, Entrepreneur.com, ConversionChronicles.com, About.com, and On Target (Yahoo! Search Marketing newsletter).

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