Take Google's AdWords Recommendations With A Grain Of Salt

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I recently ran into a service that Google offers to all of its AdWords customers, and it caught me by surprise at how lackluster the results were. The service is an AdWords optimization plan, but what I was looking at was anything but optimized. I believe there were good intentions with the plan, but it was so far off the mark that I could hardly pull any positive data from it to incorporate into the campaign I was working on. Right from the get-go I could see it was going to be a disaster.

The sole base of the plan was to improve ROI. Doesn’t this go without saying? Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and ROI go hand in hand. The Google rep pulled out every keyword that had at least one conversion over the past two months and paused every other keyword in the campaign. They did not ask what a profitable conversion level was for the campaign, and by pausing hundreds of long-tailed keyword phrases, they essential boxed the campaign into a short list of keywords that were not always profitable.

Google did not ask any questions about demographics and it showed in their next recommendation. They ran a search query and added terms that were converting well for other similar advertisers but not present in the existing keyword list. Among this list of keywords were some age-specific modifiers for children, and my client’s product is not meant for children. Also, they included some cross-industry keywords that were again not at all relevant to what my client was offering. The poor optimization went a step further here as the rep then assigned the new keywords to the existing ad groups, seemingly at random. The majority of the new keywords were not relevant to the ad copy assigned to the ad groups they were now assigned to.

Google also did not ask any questions about any cross-channel advertising that the client was doing. The rep questioned several of the ads based on some “As Seen on TV” language, but did not bother to ask if the client was doing TV advertising. Sure enough they are, and some of the “As Seen on TV” ads are performing very well for the campaign.

Going though this exercise with Google has further solidified the fact that PPC advertisers need to look outside of Google when they want to truly optimize their campaigns. A certain level of checks-and-balances needs to be in place, and if an advertiser takes all of its advice from Google, they may end up with a campaign that is more optimized for Google than the advertiser.

About the Author

Chris Stiner is both a SEM specialist and DRTV media buyer at Koeppel Direct. With over 10 years of offline and online direct response marketing experience, he has a unique skill set and outlook on the synergies of multi-channel SEM direct response marketing.

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One Comment

  1. Chris: Good post and you are dead on. You have to really know your searchers and tailor for them intelligently. No outsider, even Google, will know your market better. Also, don't you just love all the articles about long tail keywords in PPC, followed by countless articles about removing non performing KWs from your campaigns? Well guess what, it's the long tails that sit there and do nothing 99% of the time. A lot of people like to sprout THEORIES and write about them like they are FACT. Those of us actually living with adwords on a day to day basis can tell you otherwise.