Most things in AdWords work as advertised or as you would expect and in this article we will discuss a few of these that don’t. The real purpose of this is to stress the need to test features that are important to your business because not everything in AdWords is as it appears.
Impression Capping is one of those sort-of-works features. I recently set up a campaign where the client wanted to cycle over an inventory of 15 ads with each of them getting just a few impressions each day. We set up the campaign with the impression limit set to 1 impression per ad group per day and in theory this would cycle through the ad inventory and then stop for the day. The reality is very different because we had some ads get as many as 40 impressions while others got zero. There is little doubt that the setting impacts the volume of the advertising but the rules expressed are not the ones used. Now in fairness to Google this setting works sometimes and sort of.
Keyword Matching is a really sore point with many because of a rule change made by Google back in August of 2014. Google announced that Exact and Phrase matches were now going to include close variants and this effectively makes Exact and Phrase matches something other than Exact and Phrase. Google has decided that if accuracy gets in the way of their revenue they will simply change the rules. We have noticed since that time that Google is reasonably well behaved when it comes to this change, but still, if I wanted it to be a modified broad I would have coded it like that.
Budgets are a funny thing in Google and I have always equated it to the Vegas expression of “The House Always Wins.” People talk about the budget being set daily and documentation reads like that but the reality is that if you reduce a budget it will continue to hold the higher value until the next business day. If you increase a budget that happens immediately because the house always win. The budget can over run by 20% a day if the account is behind on the monthly budget. So if you skip weekends it will to some degree try to catch up during the week. To be fair, if you dig deep enough into the details you will find these rules but they almost never get mentioned. The vast majority of the time when budgets are referenced they are talked about like they literally apply and they do not.
Billing is an area that makes our clients crazy and I certainly understand and appreciate their frustration. In the basic rules it sounds like you get a credit limit and when it reaches that level your card is charged and that is kind of accurate. Reality is that billing from Google has some sort of special rules that nobody seems to understand and the impact to small businesses is especially frustrating. What happens is that when you reach something above your credit limit and Google feels like it your card is charged. The nightmare starts with a business with a budget of say, $1,200 a month. The account will get 2 months with $1,000 (two charges) followed by a third month with $1,500. This is because the remaining $200 accumulates and eventually it has to catch up. Since small businesses are very sensitive to cash flow this can be a real problem.
Exclusions from the Display Network are a frustrating feature of AdWords and some might even call them bugs but what bugs me is they always seem to benefit Google. One great example of this is the mobile app traffic in Display and for most clients I am not a fan of this traffic. One would think that excluding categories like GMob mobile app non-interstitial and In-game under the site exclusions would get rid of this but that is not how it works. To get rid of most of this you have to include an exclusion for adsenseformobileapps.com but wait because you are still not done. Google is rather famous for sloppy data involving the Display Network and the source of this is a great debate. I personally think that when they run into something that requires judgment rather than an algorithm they do not do a great job because it’s hard work rather than smart work.
There are lots of other things that are not intuitive or where the general rule has some really big modifiers but that goes to the art of AdWords. The important thing is to remember that everything has to be tested and you should assume nothing.