It’s getting harder and harder to ignore Google’s profit motive in paid search. And the constant harassment from Google’s offshore enforcers of “automatically generated opportunities” (AGOs) is becoming tiresome. Let me explain.
If you’ve been doing search marketing as long as I have, you’ve been called and emailed at least a dozen times by an “AdWords expert”. Let’s call them the AGO enforcers. AGO enforcers operate in an environment devoid of real world marketplace competition, competitive nuance, business client interaction and unique value proposition.
From this vacuum, thousands of miles away from both you and your clients (and the competitive landscape) they relentlessly attempt to convince you to conform to the best practice standards of Google’s artificial intelligence. It seems their sole purpose is to enforce the application of Google’s automatically generated opportunities.
The problem with this, is that these automatically generated opportunities (like their human enforcers) DO NOT guarantee better campaign performance (as clearly stated at the bottom of every AdWords web page).
And they always seem to come with increased budget recommendations. In the rare cases in which I agree to apply them, they never work as expected.
How could they, when you consider the lack of human interaction and understanding of an effective paid search analyst? After all, AGO’s use the same “machine intelligence” that pushes horribly irrelevant keyword recommendations almost non-stop. Keywords that will get more clicks, but not more conversions – because they are all wrong for the client’s particular competitive situation.
If, as the disclaimer states, WE “are always responsible for the changes” we make, then:
1) Why is Google hiring AGO enforcers to push higher spend so hard upon us?
2) Why is Google’s AGO using automated reminder terms like “Last Chance” to keep up with the competition?
3) Why is Google constantly pushing CPA bidding, which ALWAYS includes an increased budget as part of the process?
4) Why is Google’s system trying to incite bidding wars at the keyword bid level?
It would take far too long to explain in detail the evidence that Googles profit motive is dangerously close to overshadowing the golden goose of SEARCH RELEVANCE, but … we are headed in that direction.
Googles Profit Motive – Search Relevance or Search Revenue?
The role that HUMANS play in a search marketing landscape where SEARCH RELEVANCE is the core value of search – is vital. It’s why we take the certification tests, and it’s why “search relevance” is the key take away from professional certification (or at least it was).
Human search marketing strategists meet with clients to discuss unique value propositions and competitive nuance in relevant, real world markets where humans buy and sell products and services. Conversely artificial intelligence operates within marketplace models that are theoretical and behave according to the logic of completely level and artificial playing fields.
Artificial intelligence works perfectly well in a theoretical construct where intelligent machines produce goods and services to be consumed by other intelligent machines. I’m here to tell you what should be obvious – we’re not there yet.
Case in point. We had a client whose conversions suddenly flat-lined. Suspecting this was systemic, we began troubleshooting possible causes. But at the very same time, Google had implemented one of it’s infamous bi-weekly changes – we’ll call them “improved visual bid estimates“. This is where one of our client’s top keywords rose from $3.27 per click to over $71.00 (estimated) per click for the same relative ad-serving-position in the span of a week.
Frankly, we’ve been getting good position for ALL of our clients at well below “first page bid” estimates for many months, but the new visual bid estimates, with recommended “first page” and “above all organic results” bid estimates have clearly convinced competing businesses to bid higher. So … as we’re troubleshooting the abrupt decline in conversions, amidst these automated suggestions to bid massively higher, here comes the call from Google’s AGO enforcer of the week for this account.
I managed to “stall the call” long enough to establish the systemic cause for the drop-off in conversions: broken linkage between Google Analytics and Adwords (where Analytics conversions were being imported into Adwords).
When I emailed her back with my findings and agreed to a call appointment only if she had recommendations for how to re-link Adwords to Analytics, there was no response (as expected). We were able to determine the cause and re-link, but there were no further recommendations from this “AdWords Expert”. Obviously, since our solution didn’t serve Googles profit motive, Google’s AGO enforcer was no longer interested. We definitely learned a lot from the experience.
This is just one example, and actually a fairly simple one. Overall, Google is clearly driving it’s paid search customer accounts toward a standardized “best practice” baseline where all competitors within a certain market are operating on equal terms on a level playing field. The perfect situation where a price bidding war is the only way to “get ahead”.
When Google’s system constantly makes (direct and indirect) recommendations for me to increase my client budgets to “keep up with the competition” do they really expect me to think they’re not doing the exact same thing with “the competition”? I wouldn’t give the username and password to my Adwords client center to the competition, so they could analyze my strategy. And yet Google is contacting my competition armed with that knowledge (whether they use it or not) and inviting them to “beat me” at my game.
Besides the bad taste that obvious conflict of interest leaves me with, if inciting bidding wars is the strategy, it reminds me of a pricing game where an agency keeps telling clients to lower their prices to be competitive – and both competitors are their client. Where does that lead?
Google will ultimately win the “profit” battle, but will they win the “best search engine” war? There will always be a better search engine to be built if search revenue becomes the new focal point over search relevance. Just search “Google profit motive” in Google, and then in Bing. I think you’ll see what I mean.