I’m intrigued when I hear the phrase ‘beat AdWords’, it suggests an adversarial relationship that Google has worked hard to dispel. In fact the informal Google motto is “don’t be evil”. In the intro to their Corporate Code of Conduct, Google explains the “don’t be evil” philosophy, “it’s about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can. But it’s also about doing the right thing more generally – following the law, acting honorably and treating each other with respect.”
The same code of conduct goes on to detail various types of ‘conflict of interest’, but it’s interesting that it makes no mention of the natural conflict which arises from an advertiser’s desire to get maximum exposure for as little as possible, and Google’s desire to have spending budgets increase.
In fact, the Google AdWords system has (imho) a set of biased settings that sway things in a way that doesn’t benefit the advertiser. Here are just 3 of the blatant ones, and what you should do as an advertiser to ‘beat’ the Google system:
1. In Campaign Settings, ads default to show on an ‘optimized’ basis. This means that AdWords will show ads with a higher click-through-rate more often. I personally find Google’s definition of ‘optimized’ as best CTR as a little bit ‘evil’. I’d suggest always using the ‘Rotate’ option and substituting your own definition of optimization to mean the ads with the best conversion rate.
2. When setting up a new Campaign, AdWords subtley suggests that both Search Match and Content Match are used. However, it seems fairly clear that since different ads are likely to appear to Search vs. Content audiences, it’s best to have Content and Search run in separate campaigns. The AdWords Editor tool is great for copying and pasting an existing campaign and then making the relevant modifications.
3. The nature of a bidding system is that prices will always go up, perhaps not ‘evil in itself (although certainly good for business). However, Google’s implication that you should bid for position 1, is perhaps misleading. In my opinion, the ‘race’ for position 1 leads many companies to overbid. I’d actually suggest that there are a number of cases where position 1 isn’t desirable.
Overall, I’m not sure that I agree with Google as being the adversary to be beaten, however, I do think that the smart pay-per-click advertiser keeps an eye on their own interests, and doesn’t rely on the ‘goodness’ of any advertising platform.
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