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Archive for September 21st, 2006

At the end of the day, paid search is just media

A recent post on Google’s Adwords blog alerted me to the existence of the Google Adwords Philosophy which is as quaint and whimsical as the Unicorn slide show my 5-year-old insists we watch every night on YouTube.

But seriously, while I respect the well-intentioned folks at Google who took the time to outline a philosophy that is clearly built on integrity and the promotion of a good user experience, I can’t shake the feeling that they just don’t quite get it.

Here are a few quotes that gave me pause:

“By focusing on our users’ satisfaction and ensuring their confidence in the ads we deliver, we’re able to provide you with an audience that’s both highly targeted and highly receptive to your message.”

Um, no. Okay, well maybe. You’re able to provide us with an audience that’s highly targeted and highly receptive because YOU ARE A SEARCH ENGINE and you have brilliant engineers that figured out how to tie this technology into a keyword-targeted ad platform.  But, let’s be honest, paid search isn’t successful because you’re Google, it’s successful because it taps into the core of what pepole want.

Search engine users are receptive because that’s the nature of search, not because of Google’s obsessive desire to serve the perfect search ad. So please stop charging us more money based on arbitrary landing page criteria, or CTRs or other cryptic factors that are of no help to us, as advertisers.

“At its heart the AdWords program is simple: we bring our users and advertisers together at the moment when their interests intersect.”

Sure, ok. This is true at Google.com and other SEARCH partners that serve ads tied to keyword queries, but it’s definitely not true for site or content targeting. Nuh-uh. A fact that Richard from Apogee very aptly points out. Richard says, “People browsing sites displaying AdSense ads are NOT “‘customers who are actively looking for exactly what they have to offer.’” Right on, Richard. The difference between content-targeting and keyword-targeting is fodder for another post, so I’ll resist going into detail about that now.

“Yet, in order to maintain a safe and unbiased advertising program, there are certain things about our system that we cannot share…If we were to detail the specific ’signals’ we look for when reviewing the clicks, malicious users could use the information to the disadvantage of other advertisers and to the AdWords system itself.”

Ok, so it’s for our own protection. How very George Bush of Google. In all fairness, I respect that Google and Yahoo both are more transparent than other forms of media. You can monitor results in real-time, view conversion down to the keyword level, generate on-the-fly reports quickly and launch a campaign wicked fast (again, compared with other forms of media). Still, I feel a bit squirmy when Google mentions all that blah blah blah about transparency when my work day is often filled with quality score mysteries and puzzling quotes by Eric Schmidt (Google’s CEO) about click fraud.

No matter how well-intentioned Google, Yahoo, MSN or any other PPC search ad provider is when it comes to the quality of the ads served, at the end of the day they absolutely must remember that they are selling media. This makes them media vendors. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t search engines, and that we don’t still love them (group hug!) It just means that advertisers need not always take second place to Web site users.

Advertisers help fund the miracle that is Google. Most of us are not asking Google (or Yahoo) to cheat its users or display ads that aren’t relevant - obviously we benefit from highly targeted relevant ads just like you do - but I personally would love for Google (and Yahoo) to be a bit more media savvy (hint: MAKE THE IO PROCESS SIMPLER).

Admit you’re a media company. ADMIT IT!!!

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