Tag Archives: Google AdWords

Throwing Back The Small Fish

You’re probably a user of one free Google service or another. Odds are that you’ve used the search engine (probably at least once already today!). Maybe you get your email via a free Gmail account or watch videos on YouTube. It’s no secret that each of those services is provided to attract eyeballs (and usage data) for the ads Google sells.

Let’s think for a moment about the other side of that equation. How do those ads get there? Glad you asked! Google also provides a number of other free services to support marketers as well as other free services such as Google Analytics that provide data (to Google and others) about what’s going on in the web world. Lately, Google has been doing some things with those services that are instructive to the rest of us for our businesses.

What they’re doing is making those services less useful to marketers who don’t spend money with them. You might remember the outcry a couple of years back when Google stopped providing search term information in the free version of Analytics. At the time they said it would affect only a small minority of the data. The truth is that today nearly all of the search terms are (not provided), which is where Google lumps them when they don’t want to show them to you.

A few days ago, Google did it again. There is something called Keyword Planner which is used to plan search advertising. Google announced that “advertisers with lower monthly spend may see a limited data view in the Keyword Planner.” How much lower? No one knows.

How does this relate to your business? As you might expect, the response from the search marketing community has been outrage. This comment (and there are pages and pages of them on Google’s Advertising Community page) is typical:

First Google took your organic keyword data away. Now they are intent on impoverishing those without enough budget for the data.

There are many times more small accounts using Google for search than there are large accounts. Is it a good idea to favor the big spenders? Yes, it is, actually. Any good business rewards its best customers with perks. Those perks, however, shouldn’t diminish the ability of a small customer (or a new customer) to become one of the bigger ones. That’s what this change has done. Do I think it will drive marketers to another search engine? Maybe, but I’m guessing your business sector doesn’t have anyone who is as dominant in it as Google is in the search realm so you probably don’t have the luxury of not caring a whole lot.

The Boss wrote, “from small things, baby, big things one day come.” The only way to foster that growth is to provide support and tools, no matter what business we’re in. I think Google has taken a step in the wrong direction. You?

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Filed under digital media, Huh?

Foggy Lenses

Are you confused about what parts of your digital marketing are working?  I suspect you are and if you aren’t hopefully today I do a little bit to make you less comfortable about your certainty.  No, this isn’t some cruel April Fool’s joke – it’s me wanting to be helpful.  While sewing confusion might not seem to be helping anyone, I’m hoping what follows gets you to ask more questions and to refocus your efforts a little.  I’ll add, as any good teacher does, that if you’re still confused come see me (OK, call or email me) after class for extra help.

Source: farm2.static.flickr.com

Let’s start with a quick story from my TV days.  When the college football overnight ratings would come in they would be one number.  The overnights were 25 metered markets, mostly the biggest 25.  When the national ratings came in a few days later, the ratings would have changed.  One might expect this as the rest of the US was now included.  However, when you’d look at the Northeast region, for example, the rating might be very different even though nearly all of the population was included in the overnight ratings.  We’d get told it was two different samples which, of course, were measuring the same thing in the same area but through different methodologies and different homes.  It was extremely frustrating.

Fast forward.  We’re deluged in numbers.  The problem is that many of them measure the same thing but give us different answers.  Take search.  You want to know how people search for your site or product.  Google Analytics is mostly useless now since Google’s (not provided) result tells you nothing and represents a ton of your search traffic.  Webmaster Tools provide some search term information but when you compare some of the other information with the same data points in Analytics the results are shockingly different.  Which do you take as gospel? Add to that the data you get from AdWords – also different – and you’re now thoroughly confused.

Speaking of ads, most of the clients I know look at the top of the conversion funnel – how many people saw an ad.  The problem is that some studies say 50%+ of ads are not viewable.  Obviously that affects conversion rates, ad copy effectiveness measures, etc.  You also have these kinds of issues with content publishing on other social platforms and broad measures such as “likes” and “follows.”  The social guys are doing a better job of cleaning up fake accounts but there is still a long way to go.  The results of a content campaign shown to 5% of your followers that are real vs. 5% that are fake will obviously vary widely.

What can you do?  First, look more at trends than at any data point and second work backwards.  Metrics such as sales (lower-funnel metrics) are hard to get wrong.  Each step back up the funnel increases the uncertainty somewhat so be wary and ask questions.  Experiment, watch trends, measure sales, rinse repeat.  Just be careful about attributing that success to anything based on measurement tools that might have fogged up in the heat of battle.  You can’t see very well though lenses that are mostly obscured.


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I’ll admit that today’s screed is a bit more narrowly focused than it is on some days. That said, it’s about a business that touches us all and a business practice that might serve as an example.

English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might know that one of Google’s informal mottos is “don’t be evil.” More formally stated (as it is in their business code) it’s:

Do the right thing: don’t be evil. Honesty and Integrity in all we do. Our business practices are beyond reproach. We make money by doing good things

It also made their IPO documents:

Don’t be evil. We believe strongly that in the long-term, we will be better served — as shareholders and in all other ways — by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short-term gains.

So far, so good.  What’s bugging me and many others today is Google’s announcement that they’re going to be encrypting all search data.  They started doing that on a smaller scale almost two years ago (you can read my post on it here).  For those of us who are in the business of helping companies understand how and why people come to their digital businesses, it made life difficult.  If you’re engaged in search engine optimization, it put a dent in your abilities as well.  However, at the time, Google said it was a measure taken to protect user privacy (for users signed into a Google account) and it wouldn’t affect much of the data.

Fast forward.  It HAS affected a lot of the data and yesterday’s announcement means ALL the data about how people were searching and found your site is gone.  Some are calling it the day SEO died.  I think it’s evil.  Why?  Because you CAN get the data – you just need to pay Google for it.  Their idea of privacy is bullcrap. You can’t offer privacy, but still SELL the data to AdWords advertisers.   There’s also some rumblings that they’re doing this to protect against the NSA program but if the data is still available I can’t see how that would work.  Business practices beyond reproach?  I think a neutral party might say not so fast.

I respect that Google offers a lot of free services, most of which are among the best offered anywhere.  But dumbing down how businesses can make the web a better, more usable place hurts everyone.  Part of why Google and other search engines work is that many of us work hard to be sure our content is discoverable by and clear to the search engines.  This could make search results less accurate.  It also means the ads Google serves will be less well-targeted.  It also means that while big companies will continue to pay for expensive services that offer workarounds, start-ups and smaller businesses will suffer.

I come down on the side of this being evil.  You?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media, What's Going On