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Friday, February 16, 2007

Who Broke Google AdWords?

Google AdWords is broken. There's a short term problem and a long term problem. First, here's an example of the short term problem:

adwords quality score

See the problem? A keyword that has established a reasonable CTR of 1.74% is now marked inactive for search and Google is requiring a minimum CPC of $10.00 to activate the ad for that particular keyword! Wow, Google AdWords is broken! Notice that the other keyword with a far worse CTR of 0.31% only needs $0.30 to run again. Clearly, a bug was introduced into the Google advertising system with today's quality score update. I'm seeing plenty of reports today about this flaw.

When I worked as a software developer at AOL, if we launched buggy code into production, we'd roll it back within hours and debug it in a QA environment. Google hasn't rolled back. I saw this $10 bid problem this morning. It's now evening and the bug is still present. That's perplexing. For a keyword phrase that was performing reasonably well at an average CPC of 16 cents, I'm certainly not going to raise the bid to 10 dollars! So, Google's CPC revenue from my firm for that keyword phrase will drop from 16 cents to zero.

Ok, so that's a short term problem. Google AdWords has a more serious flaw. This is not a programming bug but a systemic flaw. That problem is distribution fraud, which is actually more serious for advertisers than click fraud. It's a long term problem that Google is choosing to ignore.

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