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Friday, November 17, 2006

Is Google the Grinch Who Stole Christmas?

Google must recognize their latest landing page quality changes for Google AdWords are confounding their customers, online advertisers. They are now answering your landing page quality questions (part 1). Hmm, part 1 of how many, though? These are the questions they currently address:
  1. Why did you make this change right before the holiday season?
  2. Can a page that has a high CTR or conversion rate be considered a poor quality landing page?
  3. Will using Website Optimizer improve my landing page quality?
While answering the first question, they reveal awareness that the timing of the changes could cause a backlash:
To give a bit more background, we had an internal debate about when to release these changes. We ultimately decided that since our focus is providing the most relevant advertising, it was best to launch these long-planned improvements as soon as we were ready to go, technically speaking.
At least there's some honesty in the Inside AdWords corporate blog. I'm actually glad they've launched these landing page quality changes now. Why? I think it'll help my company's clients during the upcoming holiday shopping season. We've seen very little impact from the changes. Based on the number of complaints I'm seeing on other blogs and forums, though, many advertisers have been impacted. As the costs are driven higher for these advertisers, I'm hoping they'll drop out of AdWords. Such attrition should both drive down costs and improve ad rankings for my clients. On the downside, if advertisers bid higher to keep ads with a low quality score afloat, that could hurt ad rankings for my clients.

Regarding the second question, I think Google needs to tread lightly here. They can't use conversion data to assess landing page quality score. Yes, it would make perfect sense to do so. If conversions are high for a given keyword, then obviously the landing page that played a part in that conversion cannot be of too low a quality. Still, Google should avoid using this metric as feedback for the quality score. Why? First, conversion data should be private data. That's important business intelligence that Google should not be using for anything. Not even to help improve quality score for the business that owns that private conversion data. Second, not all advertisers choose to use conversion tracking. Should they be penalized for not employing this optional feature? Third, what if most conversions happen offline for an advertiser? There are some things Google can't measure.

I'm not even sure they should be assessing the quality of landing pages in the first place. How can you automate this? A crawler can't determine the quality of a web page in terms of how it relates to a given search. What was the intent of the search? When someone searches for "flowers" are they actually looking for information on how to grow flowers, where to buy flowers, where to find pictures of flowers? The quality of a landing page is in the eye of the searcher. Can Google read minds? No. Incidentally, if you're looking for flowers, you're looking for this flower shop. I'm sure. When you were thinking of "flowers" weren't you really looking for seasonal flowers? Yes, that's a high quality landing page. No? It's not a high quality landing page? Oh, well perhaps you're really looking for floral centerpieces. Yes, that's it. I don't know. Can the Google AdsBot know? Certainly not.

For a funny take on these answers from Google, read Inside AdWords Answers Three of the One Million Questions Asked About Quality Score (by James Omdahl).

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think google is going to loose billions of affiliate & advertiser revenue and Im personally going to short the stock.If Bill Gates ever wanted to turn MSN Search around now is the time.In my opinion this is a ploy by google to earn more revenue per click on advertisers and affilaites nothing more. I have been in the business of marketing products on the I-net since it was born and I feel that 70% of todays users that search (relevent terms) are what we call curiousity clickers or just board people,with nothing better to do but click on catch prase ad text,but google would have us all believe that every click is a user and thats outragous, If thats part of the score card were all finished..

Sat Nov 18, 08:46:00 AM EST  
Anonymous frank said...

The new useful link buttons are a threat because if they have any basis for determining an advertiser or affiliates quality score there can be so much click fraud on those buttons its not even funny..For instance an advertiser or an affiliate marketer who is getting low scores and producing low clicks could certainly lower the quality of a competitor by clicking No on these buttons and factor in the everyday user clicking on the No button.Wow that advertiser or affiliate would have an incredible amount of decrease in marketability on google.

I personally am a marketing expert and retained by fortune 500 companys every day my point is I know marketing so well I can tell you that more than half of the sites I visit suck so bad that just as the site resolves in my browser im all over the X tab.

In conclusion Google will loose at least half of its advertisers and affiliates. This is a dawning of a new day where google becomes the enforcement agency of the internet..Billionare children deciding the future of the internet for advertisers and affiliates and attempting to hold up and hold hostage this heavily growing internet revenue machine Called The Internet,Its a play on Freedom.

Here is where we need congress to Act.

Sat Nov 18, 09:23:00 AM EST  
Blogger Richard said...

Anonymous & Frank, I don't think these changes are going to impact Google's market share. Even if MSN and Yahoo build better search marketing advertising platforms, advertisers need to show their ads where the searchers are. Where are the searchers? They're on Google.

I also think Google is genuinely trying to improve their advertising platform. They're likely concerned about too many bogus ads in their system - ads that have a high CTR but don't deliver. They "trick" searchers into clicking their ads. I don't think, though, that becoming the judge of landing page quality is the answer. AdWords should be a self-correcting system. As these bogus ads generate clicks and cost the bogus advertisers money, if the landing pages do not convert, these shady advertisers will lose money. I can see Google's predicament, but there has to be a solution other than these landing page quality assessments.

Mon Nov 20, 10:30:00 AM EST  
Anonymous James Omfahl said...

Thanks for the link Richard – I am glad you enjoyed the post.

I think you make a lot of great points here – especially about not using conversion as a factor in ranking.

While it does seem like a quick and easy way to decide what landing page is working and what is not, it would be easy to game the system. I mean, you could basically set up your site to fire off a conversion script whenever you want…so it would be in your best interest to throw that pixel up on the first or second page of your form (although I am sure Google could figure out how to filter something like this eventually).

I also agree that using AdBot to determine the quality of landing pages is going to imperfect at best. From what I have heard, optimizing a landing page for AdBot is somewhat reminiscent of optimizing webpage text and titles tags back in 2003. If that is the case, Google is encouraging advertisers to build websites with text that is more focused on AdBot than it is on end users. To me, it sounds like Google is setting things up in a way that will potentially decrease the quality of landing pages in the eyes of users.

In the long run, Google should be able to build a better landing page algorithm and should do a good job finding out what pages are quality and what are not. With that said, I still think this could be part of a bigger strategy to eventually push affiliates out of the marketing (or at least the GoogleMarket™).

Oh well, hopefully Google will start digging through some of the other questions they have gotten from AdWords users.

Mon Nov 20, 12:49:00 PM EST  
Blogger Richard said...

No problem with the link, James. You wrote a great post. Good point about gaming conversions. That's another reason Google shouldn't rely on that data. Looking beyond their own platform might be too much of a stretch. Measuring CTR of the ads on their system is useful. Factoring that into ad ranking is reasonable. Stepping beyond the relevance of ads on their own system whether measured by CTR or ad text quality to assess the quality of the landing page leads them into murky waters. Particularly if they try to automate this. What if the landing page has a video or flash animation that's very relevant to the search? The AdsBot won't be able to assess the quality. I think they've got to be very careful as they decide what's quality beyond their network.

I think you're right about driving out affiliates, though. I'm not sure if they're trying to get rid of them or just trying to make it more expensive for them. I think this is why I've seen very little impact for my clients. The companies my firm works with sell their own products or services and don't run ads on their sites. As such, they've not been impacted by these MFA landing page quality bots.

Mon Nov 20, 04:19:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guys we are forgeting the most important aspect of being on google in the first place, that is too market our products to consumers hittin our keywords.I hate to say this but all this added content for 50% of internet based products is not condusive to a sale..its telling not selling..btw advertisers want to sell affiliates want to sell.Google wants to earn more cpc on less conversions for instance to get a screensaver the user does not need to read war & peace as its an impulse buy user sees an image of JZ and submits there addy and bam a conversion.. whats to much information have to do with the job of google..I pay them to get me conversions..not to give me marketing advise..we all know the are not a marketing firm just a keyword auction house...Google is turning into the websters dictionary not a place for commerce.lol

Thu Nov 30, 12:00:00 PM EST  

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