Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gearing up for Google wars

Thursday morning
Development spend: £12,837
Tunnocks Snowballs eaten in last five minutes: Two

So... I'm in a bit of a tug-of-war with Google at the moment over adwords. Only a bit of one, still not got beyond an exchange of emails yet, but I'm trying a bit of guerilla action too.

The full story is on sweeble (Google's sneaky business tricks) but to précis:

I tried Google adwords for the first time and set up five campaigns, each with three to six adgroups inside them. I successfully bid for a maximum cost per click price of between 0.05p and 0.20p for each search term (the cost per click (CPC) is the price Google works out that you need to bid in order to get your ad on the page) and the ads go live.

I go and have a look at how the campaigns did, 24 hours on, and bugger me - Google've switched me off and hiked the price on every single one mostly to £2.50 from original prices of 0.05p to 0.20p! Even though there was only bidding for those search terms.

I suggested the Google bots sniff out customers who put in new search terms and automatically bump up the price (to either 0.50p or £2.50) simply because someone asked for that term. Regardless. Are they automatically putting the price up, just because you're interested in that search term, to get every customer up the sales target CPC or daily total?

With all my campaigns switched off and being held to ransom unless I agree to massively inflated prices, I send a complaint to Google through the online forms. I also do a bit of research into the Competition Act 1998.

And I try undermining the Google bots with a few experiments (not saying what yet).

Anyway, two days on and I get a response from Google. Here it is (sorry, it's a bit long but didn't want to edit their explanation):

Thank you for your email. I am sorry that you are experiencing difficulty with your AdWords account. I understand that you are concerned about your keyword costs and performance. I am eager to explain the issue to you.

Firstly your I have reviewed your account and confirm that your campaigns are active and three of your campaigns have received clicks and impressions today.

I would like to explain how our systems evaluates keywords and I would also like to offer tips on how you can improve your keywords performance.

Our automatic performance monitor evaluates each keyword within your account when submitted and periodically throughout each day. When a keyword does not have a high enough Quality Score and maximum cost-per-click (CPC) to show ads, that keyword may become inactive for search. If you use that inactive keyword again, or enter it again in another keyword matching format, you may notice that it is inactive for search again. This is because our system recognises that this word has not performed well for you in the past and so is more rigorous in its evaluation of the word.

Your keywords may be marked inactive for search and stop showing ads if they do not have a high enough Quality Score and maximum cost-per-click (CPC). This is another way of saying that your keyword or Ad Group's maximum CPC does not meet the minimum bid required to trigger ads on Google or the search network. This typically occurs when keywords are not as targeted as they could be and the ads they deliver are not relevant enough to what a user is searching for.

To reactivate your keywords:

1. Increase your keywords' Quality Score by optimising for relevancy:

Optimisation, which is a technique for improving the quality of your keyword, ad and campaign, is the best way to increase your keyword performance without raising costs. Try to combine your keyword with two to three other words to create a more specific keyword phrase. This will result in better targeting and potentially, better performance. For example, make single keywords more targeted by turning them into descriptive phrases ('car' to 'car buying service'). You can also narrow your targeting options (such as to regional targeting). We also suggest adding your keyword to your ad text. Visit our Optimisation Tips page for more suggestions at

2. Increase your keyword or Ad Group's maximum CPC to the recommended minimum bid:

Your keyword's minimum bid is the amount required to trigger ads on Google and is determined by your keyword's Quality Score. When your maximum CPC falls below this amount, your keyword will be inactive. For this reason, you can simply increase your maximum CPC to the minimum bid to reactivate your keywords. To learn about the different ways to increase your maximum CPC to the minimum bid, visit

If optimisation has not reactivated your inactive keywords and you are not comfortable meeting their minimum bids, you may want to delete them.
Poor-performing keywords bring down the overall performance level of a campaign, which in turn reduces the Quality Scores of other keywords in that campaign. Please note that if you delete a keyword and add it back to any Ad Group in your account, the system will remember its Quality Score.
An inactive keyword, therefore, will still be inactive if you delete and re-add it.

Note: There is a small chance that an inactive keyword may become active without optimisation or an increased maximum CPC. If search behaviour works in your favour, such as if more users search for your keyword, thus increasing its relevancy, your keyword might be reactivated. However, we recommend that you either reactivate or delete your keywords to ensure your active keywords maintain high Quality Scores.

If you have additional questions, please visit AdWords Support at, where you will find answers to many frequently asked questions.

I hope you have found this information helpful.

We look forward to providing you with the most effective advertising available.

Kindest Regards,

The Google AdWords UK and Ireland team

So, I write back:

Thank you for the response, Kevin.

However, I'm not convinced by the explanation you give in relation to Quality Score linked to CPC. Why, for instance, should poorly performing keywords (ie low Quality Score) result in the highest increase in CPC?

If I am looking to advertise in niche markets it is inevitable that these will have a limited search response. And I don't believe that you are suggesting that the most popular search terms have the cheapest CPC?

If I'm not worried about a search term performing badly over a single day, why should Google be worried on my behalf - unless it's important to you that I spend a specific amount, ie by having a target number of CPCs on each campaign?

In anycase, switching off adwords unless I agree to change CPCs from my average actual cost of 0.17p to £2.50 isn't the way to encourage me to spend more.

The ones you refer to as getting clicks today are either the new ones I set up last night or the adwords I increased the CPC on to the new minimum you had set.

I made the changes so that I could monitor:
a) whether the CPC actual cost was anywhere near the minimum you'd forced me to agree to;
b) whether, despite the Quality Score, you automatically hike the CPC to the same levels (50p or £2.50) on the adword test that is getting very high responses;
c) whether your suggestion that good search returns will mean the price isn't increased, is correct.

Neither of us really has the time for email ping-pong on this subject but if I remain unhappy about my adwords experience following these tests, I will let you know.


Will let you know too. Although I can see already I risk turning into one of those single issue obsessives that used to bombard the newsroom with emails.

It's the authority figure thing, I can't help throwing pebbles.

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