An AdWords Agency – 2008 – October
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Archive for October, 2008

Click Fraud — The topic nobody wants to talk about!

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in click fraud

Friday, October 24th, 2008

We had a small victory in the war on click fraud this month. It feels good to win one but this is only one battle in a very long global war. The problem with click fraud is that it is tough to detect and prove. Any reasonable professional in this field knows that there is a degree of click fraud in the numbers but we must keep it contained.

The process of reporting suspect activity was surprisingly simple although it took a little determination to get the job done. The first report was responded to by a 1st level support person that told us that there was no sign of fraud. We followed this with a respectful “we disagree response” along with more details and documentation on why we thought this was fraud. A few days later we got a response from someone higher in the support chain confirming our position and issuing credit to the account. Google to their credit immediately shut down the Adsense account of the perpetrator and I trust they took other actions.

Google will not disclose their methods of detecting fraud and I agree that keeping the deep details secret is a good idea. However I think some more reputation management is in order for this issue. Maybe they could include some system wide data to the placement report. On our wish list of data to help us detect fraud would include a placement report with the site’s CTR, Bounce Rate, and Conversion Rate. Ebay has built a self-maintained system of ranking sellers and maybe something like that could be implemented in the Content network. I think advertisers would be willing to pay more if they knew that the sites being served to were higher quality.

There is no doubt that if the fraud had fit one of the pattern signatures within their system it would have been immediately resolved. We know this because every month we see credits issued to our clients from Google’s automated detection tools. The problem is that automation cannot find things it was not designed to find. It takes people to see new patterns and those with the most interest in lowering the click fraud level are the most likely to see questionable situations. This situation is a good example because the fraud did not create a known pattern signature. So the big question is how do we as advertisers report new tricks in a way that Google can prioritize and resolve them?

The reason it surfaced in our systems is that we look at traffic with a different perspective. Let’s face it, finding click fraud is not completely in Google’s best interests. After all closing this down reduces their revenue, but Google also realizes that its entire business is based on the trust that the traffic is of reasonable quality. We believe that Google is doing what it can but the violators are getting smarter and detecting fraud is hard. The new challenge is that violators are starting to engineer the user interface to force bad clicks and violate the system.

In this case what they designed was a floating window that was positioned over the ads. The close button was programmed to close with a mouse-over rather than an on-click event. For people with good mouse skills the click is happening almost as quickly as the mouse over event so they click on the close but the window closes before their click resulting in the click traveling to the next layer in the browser, which is where the ad was located. Since this was done by a smart person I would assume that they controlled the CTR by managing the ratio of mouse-over to on-click events. After all if they had too high of a CTR it would trigger a flag in Google’s systems.

While click fraud is a very complex topic we all have to keep our eyes open and report anything that looks questionable.

My Google Christmas Letter

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in Uncategorized

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Dear Google,

Every year kids from around the world write to Santa with their wish list and in keeping with that fine tradition this is my open Christmas letter for things we wish for in the Adwords system. We are not expecting all of this to roll out on Christmas Day although that would be nice. Better tools inside Adwords will create a better SERP (Search Engine Result Page) because the searcher gets ads that are more relevant to their search query. Adwords Professionals armed with the best tools will create better SERPs because it is in our best interest and it serves our clients.

Reports & the User Interface (UI)

This is, in my opinion, the most serious defect in Adwords. Some data is available only in the UI and some is only in reports. There are dozens of examples of this like average position is in the campaign report but not available on the campaign summary UI. The quality score is available on the UI but not on the keyword reports and negative keywords exist in the UI but not in the reports. Maybe the development team should stop and fix some of these before they move on to the next new feature.

User Defined Data

Almost every serious application on the planet provides UDD (user defined data) and Adwords is in serious need of this at every level. We should be able to create several different types of data to be associated with each level in the system. Data types should including numbers, text codes, and memo fields for notes. UDD should exist at the campaign, adgroup, ad, and keyword levels. UDD should be one of the options when you customize your screen. So simple examples of what this could be used for would be to put goals or targets in the display.

Move & Copy

This is probably the hardest to understand why it is not already part of the UI, especially considering that we used to have this. So to Google I say give me back my toy! The simple function of being able to move or copy information is one of the most basic functions of modern systems (iPhones excluded). We should be able to move ad groups from campaign to campaign with all the data intact. This should include all the history, search queries, ad performance, and everything else. On the copy function we should be able to copy full campaigns with all the supporting data. On a copy it is ok that it does not take the history forward since that would cause the account to be out of balance. The need for this function comes up constantly. We have clients that want to control the hours of the campaign and, of course, that does not work if you only have one campaign because a US campaign has 4 time zones to consider.

Analytics

Google Analytics (GA) is a great tool but the hook up to Adwords, oh please! This interface is horrible to work with except when everything goes right the first time. This could be as simple as submitting the GA account number to be linked, then have it approved by someone with administrative authority in the account. This is exactly how the client center works so replicating this should be simple. The hook up needs to be by account number so everyone knows exactly what account is attached to what account. This relationship between Adwords and Analytics needs to be a many to many relationship. An Adwords Account should be able to have multiple Analytics as it does now and the same needs to be true of Analytics. An Analytic account should be able to belong to multiple Adwords accounts.

Client Center

Allow more than one manager in an Adwords Account! This limitation is crazy and for our large clients it makes their life and ours difficult. Many large advertisers have several Adwords accounts and they have to sign in and out of each instead of running a client center because there is a limit of one manager in the account. Client centers should have a “Look-Only” access. Advertisers often times want to have professionals look at their data but not have the ability to change it. This is common in the early stages of our relationships with clients. I am sure they would be more comfortable giving us a first access of look only.

Client Center Internal Security

We need a client center with the ability to manage multiple users. Within a single client center the need to control the access of multiple people is critical. We need the ability to attach authorized users to the client center and then grant account access as change or look only. The current client centers forces the sharing of passwords and the reuse of a single profile. A manager overseeing 100 accounts might have 4 people on staff taking care of different sets of accounts and today this situation requires sharing of passwords. Client center users with full client center authority should be able to transfer an account to another client center within the same business. In this way we can have managers overseeing accounts with the ability to transfer the account within the company.

Quit pushing off-line tools

We know that off-line tools have advantages but they also have disadvantages. Offline tools create islands of information with data security and synchronization challenges. Each Account Manager should be allowed to make this decision and the online user interface and the offline application should be kept in sync with each other. You should not have features offline that are not offered online.

Ranges of Data

Common to most applications but lacking in many areas of Google is the ability to select and work with a range of data. Sure I can select keywords with a checkbox but what a pain it is to select lots of words. Do you select them all and then manually deselect those you do not want or do you just pick the ones you want to work on. This change would be simple select the starting item and the ending item and it would select everything between.

Changing Bids

Once we select the 25 keywords we need to work why not let me just say add .25 to every selected bid or add 10%. Why do you force us to retype every bid?

Negative Keyword Search Query

Negative keywords improve the quality of the SERP and that should be a goal of advertisers and Google. A system without feedback will fail to evolve and it will stagnate and die. When you run a search query report it should show you the traffic you got and also what you eliminated. A Search Query Report with the negative transactions might be more valuable than just the positive. Adwords is a much better delivery because of negative keywords and how they function needs to be clearly understood. Only specific feedback of what keyword removed the ad from the SERP will help improve the SERP.

Search Query

Tell us what keyword triggered the ad because it is not always obvious especially when it comes to broad matches.

Other Unique Queries

This is actually one of my personal pet peeves and it’s frustrating to have to work with partial information because it makes one wonder what you are hiding. At one point I thought this might be caused by the other search engines in the search network but clearly that is not the case because we have clients that only advertise in Google Search and they still get “Other Unique Queries”. So tell me Google, what are you not telling me?

Rethink Ad copy Maintenance

I was trained in relational database design and the Adwords system follows many of the best practices until you get to Ads. To properly focus traffic you need to break your keywords down into smaller and smaller groups, a process we call granularization. For each ad group you end up writing the same ads over and over and for no good reason. Why not just let the ads stand by themselves and attach the ads you want to the ad group. This gets even more frustrating when it comes to image ads that we have to upload the same graphic file dozens of times and your staff has to approve dozens of times.

There is no Ad maintenance

Ads are never maintained and everyone one knows it. When you maintain an advertisement it actually deletes the old and writes a new one. There are good and bad things that happen as a result of this but in reality you should let the Adwords Manager decide when to delete and copy and when to change the data directly. In some cases we are running a split test and we discover a spelling error. We are faced with either not fixing the problem, resetting the test, or add the two results during the analysis. The default of resetting all the stats on the ad is not always the right answer.

Opt Out Advertisers

Click fraud is out of control and it endangers our entire industry. One way to control part of this is to have a cookie put on every machine that accesses the Adwords system and not count anything that machine does related to ads other than their own. If an advertiser is caught clicking on competitive ads then Google should take some sort of corrective action. One idea might be to reduce their quality score or disable their account for 72 hours. There are people that could figure out how to stop this by deleting the cookie but they would have to remember to do it every time they access the Adwords System. Advertisers should be allowed to voluntarily go to a page to create a test cookie that would put them into test mode. This mode would allow them to click on ads with no impressions or clicks being counted for their account or any other account.

Give the same result every time

Every client we have tests their ads from time to time and honestly there is no prayer of getting them to stop. Some do it once in a while and some do it several times a day. We know there is a test tool inside Adwords but honestly NOBODY BELIEVES it. They want to see it for themselves! Everyone in this industry knows that there are thousands of variables involved in rendering a SERP. The most troublesome of these are the local variables like prior searches, ad click history, other data related to the session. Advertisers should be able to go to a page and install a cookie that causes search engine to act like it is on a clean local machine. All it needs to do is turn off the local variables so the search results remain the same.

Get a better Position

It is no secret that average position is not the position of the ad. We all know that the top positions or T1, T2, T3 do not always exist but what I think we can agree on is they are different than the positions on the right side. There are many ways to solve this problem but the simplest is probably to just split the impression and click data down by the top and right positions.

Quit hiding data from me

It makes me crazy that certain things that we know exist are simply not made available to us. One example of this is the conversions by hour. Every computer system on the planet time stamps everything it touches so why can we not see the conversion time. We understand that conversions are not posted for hours after the event and fixing that problem may be more complex than we can appreciate but we do know what time the event happened when it finally gets to the data. When we are trying to control our budgets we have some control over the clock but no data to help us understand our audiences buying pattern. Another area that is hidden is who exactly is providing traffic from then search network. We know the big names because they are part of the marketing of Adwords but there is no detail of where this comes from. Just like Google did in the Content network they need to open the curtains on this data and let us control where this goes.

In closing

We know this list is long and we know that we are not going to get all of this, and hey maybe Google has a surprise gift that we did not think of. That would be cool. Like the kid writing to Santa we promise to be good and use these new tools only for the betterment of Adwords and the service to our clients.

Sincerely,

The Adwords Monster