Google Adwords continues to grow in complexity and it is unlikely that will ever change. In the olden days you could write an ad, pick a few keywords, and your campaign was up and running. Well, the world has changed. It is not that you cannot still do this, you can, but Google has continued to release information and smart advertisers are using this to get better performance from their marketing investment. The problem is that your competitors are really smart people and they are not going to let you get away with being sloppy or cheap. Competitors are going to push the system for maximum performance and you have to do the same thing.
We can start by talking about the broad areas that have changed and what this means to your business. In the early days we had clicks, impressions, and CTR and not much else. Today we have a whole array of information and understanding what it means is not simple. Within Adwords we have quality score, impression shares, exact match, filtering, expanded search query reports, and many other newer items. Then you have Analytics and that gets into a whole new level of complexity.
Of the newer items quality score is probably the most important since it contributes to your knowledge of both paid and organic traffic. Quality Score is simple to understand but very difficult to manage. It is in fact what Google thinks of the relationship between that keyword, your ad, and your web site. It is the first quantified feedback in this area that Google has ever given us. Quality Score is what Google thinks. Google filed a patent on the Quality Score and we read it from start to finish. Our count of the attributes in this filing is about 140 so there are 140 items they are telling us about that affect the quality score. What they have not given us is the weight of each item. Given Google’s love of partial information my guess is this is about half of what is really going on inside the quality score. What is very clear is that organic score and quality score are cousins and very close cousins at that. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that an improvement in quality score will also improve your organic score. Every professionally run web site needs to be tracking and managing this number for both paid and organic purposes.
Impression share is another area that deserves some attention. This data includes the total impression share and a break down by budget and rank. The budget side of this is fairly straight forward in that if you want to improve these numbers simply give it more money. The Rank side however is about as clear as the components of the quality score. When an auction takes place Google ranks each of the ads with what they say is the sum of quality score and bid, however this is not entirely true. There is a touch of magic involved here and magic is another word for something they are not telling us. If the calculation were as simple as quality score and bid the positions would not move very much and they move all the time. We accounts that do not run out of money yet they loses large volumes of traffic to Rank. Our belief is that Google is moving ads in and out of the list that is being ranked based on factors they are not ever going to tell us. What we have learned about Rank is that it seems to improve based on the overall reputation of the account. Those accounts that have been around for a long time with a good CTR and run a clean account have the highest impression shares based on Rank. The problem with Rank is that Google does not report this information to a level where you can develop a specific strategy for improving this. The data stops at the campaign level and the problem has to be fixed at the keyword level. So you look at the warning signs at the campaign level and you try to guess what keywords are losing based on rank. Maybe Google will fix this, but for right now there is a huge leap between the level of the data and where the change has to be made at.
Filtering is new to the beta interface being rolled out in 2009. In the olden days you would run your reports into Excel and then use that to filter your data to find what is important to you. That has changed in a big way since you can now create the filter and not only see your data but change it as well. This is a massive improvement and we think this is probably the most important improvement in the Beta Interface. We have not been a huge fan of the beta interface but it is continuing to improve and data filters are one of the really bright spots in this change. Developing filters that isolate, view, and edit the data in a way that supports your overall strategy is now possible.
Search queries are one of the basic building blocks of any account and yet it is common to run into an account that has never run one of these reports. The newer reports have gotten rid of the Other Unique query problem. This is where Google would hide much of the detail that you needed to really understand what people were actually searching for. That is no long the case and we think this is a wonderful change. Beyond that they have expanded out the search queries letting us know about session matches, which we always suspected were going on but could never document before. A session match is where Google uses parts of queries within the same session to figure out what the person is really searching for. For example if you search for Grover Beach, which is the city we are located in, then followed that with a search for Real Estate. Google gives you results for Grover Beach Real Estate. This is a simple example of putting location with topic but they get much more creative than that.
Google Analytics is another component of this conversion because it brings all the other traffic to the conversion. It is now possible to see how the multiple types of traffic interact with each other and the mixing of Adwords data with this makes some incredible things possible. In many cases you can now calculate your organic click through rate which is really exciting since organic traffic is a mystery wrapped in an enigma with little or no real information available for it. Yet as an advertiser you suddenly have information to help you tune your organic optimization. You can use Analytics to measure your branding strength based on real reactions from real people. All you have to do is accept the assumption that an increase in searches on your brand is reflective of the strength of that brand. The number of things you can learn from Analytics could fill a dozen books and I am not going to do justice to it here in a couple of paragraphs so let’s just say that it makes many things much clearer than they were in the past.
These are just a few of the really big changes so you have to add to this all the little things and you can see that the system is evolving and the pace of change is just getting faster and faster each cycle. Added to all the above the changes in the interface that include extensive graphing ability and now you have a real powerful system for advertisers to focus their investments with. The question is what are you going to do with this better information interface, and will you do it before your competitors or in reaction to them?