Searching Beyond the Paid

Friday, May 11, 2012

Adwords Support Needs A Better Bra

I know I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record.  Over the past couple weeks, I’ve written about the less-than-optimal changes to Adwords, including near match and the rotate ads fail.

I started this week thinking things couldn’t get any worse.  Surely we’d hit rock bottom and were on our way up.

I was wrong.

Last week, I was hard at work on my first-of-the-month to-do list:  client reporting, and updating ad copy tests.  For as long as I’ve been in agency PPC, I’ve evaluated and updated ad copy tests on at least a monthly basis.  It’s a good practice, right?  Especially in view of the recent “near rotate” fiasco?

Not so fast, bad guy.

We have a global client with campaigns for every country and region of the world.  Although the basic message for their ads is the same, I’m sure it won’t be surprising to hear that minor nuances in ad copy can have different results in different parts of the world.  Anyway, I updated all their ad copy tests and moved on.

Or so I thought.

When I checked the campaigns the next day, I noticed that the US campaign traffic was down a bit.  Well, I didn’t get too worried – after all, we all know that days are not data.

A few more days went by, and I checked the campaigns on Monday.  I was in for a shock.

US campaign traffic had screeched to a halt.  Mind you, this is a branded campaign for a long-term advertiser with an average quality score of 10.  At first, I thought the new ads might be stuck in editorial review, which seems to be happening more and more lately.

But alas, the ads were just stuck on the “other” ad position, instead of the top where they had been.  And CTR & traffic tanked as a result.  Quality scores and everything else were still ok, so I figured there must be something else going on.

Well, of course we don’t have an Adwords rep for this client, for whatever reason.  (Eliminating agency reps is yet another tear in the elastic of Google's support.)  So I called the general support number.

What a nightmare.

I related my story to the rep right off the bat – basically telling her the exact same thing I said here.  She agreed that something was amiss, and promised to get back with me.

Later that day, I got an email reply.  It said, and I paraphrase:  “I took a look at your account, and it looks like your ads are mostly appearing in the Other position, which is why your CTR is down.  Here’s a report illustrating this.  I suggest you raise your bids to get things back on track.”


One, I told her that I’d already run that report.  I knew that’s what had happened.  But I didn’t know WHY it happened.  Two, how in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks can my quality score drop that much overnight??  The ad changes were very minor – just a tweak to the second description line – and this is a long-standing branded campaign for the brand owner.  I smelled a rat (or something even stinkier).

So I wrote back, basically telling her all that, and also telling her that I’d tripled my bids as soon as I saw the problem (BEFORE I even called Google), and still traffic was nil.

Two days later, I hadn’t heard anything.  So I called support again.  The rep I spoke to that time told me that the original rep had gotten my email and was looking into it further.

Yet another day went by before I heard back.  The reply?  “There might be a temporary drop in quality score due to the ad changes.  Just give it a few more days.”


Here’s a client whose traffic from their most important region of the world has gone to crap, and they want me to wait?  And does quality score really drop with minor ad changes?  Does that mean that our quality score is reset every time we change ads?  Does historical quality score count for nothing? And how is that going to work now that we have to change our ads every 30 days just to keep them rotating evenly?

After I got this reply, I decided to try a crazy ACE test.  I set the test to 50/50 and set the experimental bids at $108 per click.  Yes, over $100 per click.  And this is for brand terms with an actual CPC of well under $1 prior to this disaster.

Guess what?

Traffic is back!

And no, we’re not actually paying $108 per click, but the average CPC is up about 10x from what it was before.  It’s still early days, and I’m hopeful that I can back the bids down to a more reasonable level in a short period of time.

There’s a nagging voice in the back of my head, though.  And it’s shrieking “MONEY GRAB!”

Postscript:  I just got an email from Adwords Support.  It says "I see that the number of clicks this campaign received today has increased quite a bit from days past." Nothing like stating the obvious.... Wow.  I'm speechless.



  • The fallacy of Google AdWords support is that help is just a phone call away. The reality is, you can call but that doesnt mean they will actually DO anything. Luckily your client had you to hound dog the issue....but I agree, it does sound like a money grab.

    By Blogger Carrie Hill, at 8:29 AM EDT  

  • Thanks for your comment, Carrie. You're right - clients who are using agencies with PPC experience are going to be ok. I'm worried about the inexperienced advertisers, though. They're really going to get burned by this latest round of changes and by the low level of support. The illusion that you can actually call Google for help is going to burn people.

    By Blogger Melissa, at 8:41 AM EDT  

  • Sounds like the reps are as victim to Google's heavy handed delivery updates as advertisers/agencies are. It's unbelievable that their strategy was to monitor the account for a few days, while traffic was tanking.
    We depend on a certain level of consistency as we try to manage budgets in a variable audience. When a wrench is thrown in the gears we look bad to those we report to as we scramble to recover.

    Adwords has grown to what it is by working with us to make sure we can manage accounts towards a myriad of goals. As the recent updates roll out, it seems that controls are being taken away for some short term profit. We accepted the lack in visibility that came with past updates, since they still benefited the advertiser. Now we are facing a lack of visibility that only benefits Google.

    By Blogger ChrisKos, at 9:18 AM EDT  

  • Chris, you hit the nail on the head. That's exactly what I was worried about: looking bad to the client and to my boss, just because I did the same thing I've done all along. You're right abut the short term profit thing. Seems as though Google has become all about the balance sheet for the next quarter, and not all about long term success. Pretty scary stuff for all involved.

    By Blogger Melissa, at 9:38 AM EDT  

  • General AdWords support is simply atrocious. I read all about how rigorous the hiring process at Google is, yet the general help line is manned by employees who are obviously very new to PPC in general and seem more like gatekeepers for higher level support people who actually know what's going on.

    If you don't have a direct line to a rep you're basically screwed.

    By Blogger Robert, at 2:11 PM EDT  

  • It's utterly ridiculous the level of support these days, I've encountered similar support issues where you raise something straight away only to receive a quoted help article (sometimes the URL is even broken) 3 days later.

    I, like you, am a little concerned by the trend in new features...

    By Blogger Andrew J Baker, at 5:02 PM EDT  

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