If I Were On An AdWords Advisory Board Right Now

I thought I’d write a follow up piece to my comments about the Close Variants issue. There have been a lot of great write ups on this topic – both from the technical/tactical side and from the philosophical side. I thought what I’d do here is write publicly what I’d share with AdWords if they had an AdWords Advisory Board and if I were actually part of it, because I do really think this could be helpful for AdWords to better understand the mindset of PPC professionals.

Why are we PPC pros so up in arms over this?

PPC pros have seen a lot – especially those of us who have been working in paid advertising for a while. We accept that change is part of the game, we really do. In fact, we plan for it! Changes like getting rid of the option to opt out of using close variants is upsetting for those of us who are highly deliberate in how we set up and manage campaigns. Does it make for more work to do things this way (opted out of close variants)? Sometimes, yes, it does. But, it can also pay huge dividends for our clients. Part of what we are expected to do as professionals is to be able to analyze many data points and use that information to create and implement the best and most optimized strategy for our clients, one that results in the greatest number of conversions as the lowest possible cost for our clients.

Read that part again – our goal is ALWAYS to get the greatest number of CONVERSIONS (not clicks) at the LOWEST POSSIBLE COST for our clients. Having the ability to use exact match let us zero in and bid aggressively on very specific terms that we know, from analysis, convert. Ask anyone who has been doing this for a while and you’ll hear them tell you about many instances where there was an extreme performance differential between seemingly similar terms, such as the singular and plural of a term or highly similar terms like plumber and plumbing. You’ve seen this highlighted in some of the immediate post announcement articles for a reason – because it happens all the time. Part of our job is to help figure out just which specific terms perform best for our client’s goals. There may be some terms that are technically applicable, but that we deem less desirable because of a number of circumstances.

Removing the option to not target terms that we know are less effective is not only bad for us, but bad for your ultimate customers, our clients/your advertisers. This is just the latest change that impacts our ability to perform in this area too. Let’s not forget losing search query data earlier this year, which was also a huge blow to being able to optimize for conversions.

It is about more than just the click guys.

PPC pros are responsible for more than just getting clicks. Most of us are responsible for getting conversions, which are vastly different from clicks. Some of us are even responsible for working with our clients to determine the quality of conversions and further refine from there based on our client’s internal data. This type of deep understanding and analysis of PPC is what clients pay us for. It is why they choose to work with a professional (or create an in-house department of pros to manage their accounts) rather than manage it themselves. They rely on us to know how to look past the obvious and figure out how to save them money and get them more customers. It really is that simple.

Changes like this make it harder for us to deliver on that promise. It seems like a lot of your changes (or enhancements as you like to call them) are more about adding volume to accounts than achieving conversions for your advertisers. Sophisticated advertisers do not care about volume for volume’s sake – they care about conversions, sales and profit. The campaigns we manage are of course interested in a certain volume of clicks, because clicks are required for conversions to happen. But all clicks are not created equal. What we do as pros is help to sort through the clicks being generated in campaigns and help our clients to focus on the ones that directly advance their goals of conversion. Tools like exact match can be incredibly powerful in making this happen. I don’t want more clicks for my clients if we already have data showing that clicks for those “closely related” terms don’t convert – period.

Just use more negatives and it will be fine.

This “solution” illustrates in many ways, your lack of real understanding about how pros work. We are already using negatives pretty aggressively, especially if we are running any broad or modified broad terms in our campaigns. If we’ve chosen to turn off the close variants option, there is a reason for that. One of those reasons is that when viewing reports, we’ve seen that sometimes what AdWords labels as a close variant is anything but close to the root term in meaning. For clients with limited budgets (and all but the largest of advertisers do have some type of limitation on their spend) these little things matter. Close variant terms that we know have no chance of converting just need to be easy to opt out of, period. It is easy for AdWords to say that having them enabled increases exposure and clicks and all is positive. You’re not the ones paying the bills. And you’re not the one seeing your cost of acquisition creep up due to lack of precise controls.

By suggesting that we just “use more negative keywords” to combat any issues that this might cause in conversions puts more weekly work on our plates that was previously unnecessary when we could just opt out of close variants.

Do our opinions really matter to you?

This is a big one AdWords. You have talked in the past, and most recently to a lot of us directly via PPC Chat on Twitter, about how your are very much interested in knowing what the pro community thinks about your product and about changes like this. Do you really? Because it’s ok if you don’t. Honestly, it is. Here is my suggestion on this front – stop acting like the PPC pro community is one of your target audiences if we are not. All it does it piss us off and we like to vent on Twitter – as you saw last week. You have endless opportunity to engage with us proactively and get our thoughts on these types of changes, but you aren’t doing that for some reason. Maybe you think you are? Maybe you think you have your finger on the pulse of the pro community, but moves like this show that you do not.

I write all the time about the fact that you’re a mega corporation with huge earnings pressure, so believe me, I get it. I know that sometimes you have to make business decisions that will not go over well with the pro community. But, you really need to start doing a better job of presenting this stuff to us and if our opinions don’t matter to you, just own that. We’re adults. We’re professionals. We can handle it. We might still gripe about these types of changes, but at least we won’t feel betrayed or ignored like we do now when you say you want and value input from PPC pros.

 No one is too big to fail.

Finally, while you are enjoying incredible market share right now, always remember that the marketplace is fluid. Between some of your policy changes and the ever increasing cost of clicks in many industries, we are starting to seriously look for alternatives. There might not be a single entity that can match your reach right now, but those of us who care about our clients are actively looking for other channels for their advertising dollars where they can get more bang for their bucks. We are diversifying, is some cases aggressively, away from you right now. Changes like this are not going to slow that march for professionally managed accounts.  Again, our job is to get our clients the best quality clicks for the lowest possible acquisition cost. Nowhere in that mantra does it say “on AdWords”. You should not take our accounts, at their current size and spend, for granted.

Closing thoughts…

You probably aren’t reading this, but part of me hopes someone at AdWords sees this and takes a moment to think about it. I’m not alone in these types of thoughts, I know that. Fellow PPC pros, I invite you to chime in either on Twitter on in the comments here to add your two cents. Here is the bottom line – we want to work with you. We want to continue to drive great results for our clients, because that is why we exist. Please start helping us and stop putting more and more barriers in our way.

Thanks for listening.

Google Does Not Care What You Think

Yesterday's announcement by Google AdWords that as of the end of September, all keywords will include close variants set the PPC professional community off on Twitter yesterday. I agree wholeheartedly with the general sentiment that this move sucks … [Continue reading]

Expecting the Unexpected – Life in Today’s PPC World

Yesterday the Twitterverse went nuts over Google's latest SEO pronouncement - sites that utilize https will have a rankings edge. Algorithm changes and small clues from top Googlers can do that and in the SEO space, it certainly happens a lot. But … [Continue reading]

Click to Call Data Request


Thank you to those who are trying to provide me with some data for my article. Thought it might make sense to do a quick post describing what I'm looking for... I have noticed a discrepancy between the number of Click to Calls (CTCs) indicated in … [Continue reading]

Hey Google, You Don’t Know Better Than Me


I'm back with another post about our friends at Google and AdWords... This week's post will tackle their announcement of Dynamic Site Links. No hint that this was coming, at least not that I had read and I follow this stuff pretty closely. Ginny … [Continue reading]