It’s been a while since I’ve posted. It’s been even longer since I took off the “kid gloves” when speaking about the benevolent Google. But today, the gloves come off. Thanks to Marty Weintraub of aimClear for being the catalyst for this one. (I owe you beers.)
If you haven’t read Marty’s post, consider it prerequisite prior to this post. And, since I know your time is valuable, let me give you the gist:
…Baris Gultekin, Group Product Manager, Google AdWords, Google, Inc. clarified that the ubiquitous AdWords Keyword Tool now only provides keywords Google deems “commercial”.
Say that out loud to yourself once again. “Provides keywords Google deems commercial”. So, not only did Google kneecap the tool’s ability, which many noticed when Google zapped the Legacy Tool, but now they’ve excluded results they don’t feel make the “commercial” cut. Clearly this begs the question, what’s a commercial keyword?
Bottom-line answer: short-tail, head terms that have incredibly high volume and an incredibly high CPC. In essence, terms that make Google a lot more money, forcing the unsuspecting into thinking those are the only terms people search, and creating a false plateau of artificially high CPC prices.
Or Not So Smart
We’ve all known that you’ve lied to us in that rotten keyword tool of yours anyway. We’ve all known that you artificially inflated volumes and prices. But actually admitting it could not have been dumber move. Here’s why:
Now that we know, officially, the tool is lumpy pile of crap, why is anyone going to use it? I’m not. When I thought it was as close to the source as possible (exact match on all terms and still taken with a grain of salt), it was a golden goose. Now?
Now it’s just another sad, misguided attempt to sucker-punch the suckers. A “keep us fat and happy off your SEMs inability to understand SEM” mentality. No SEO or SEM in their right mind would be using this tool now.
The Evil Empire
Don’t be evil? It’s seems that’s all you’ve been up to as of late. Google Street View privacy issues, snatching Wi-Fi data out of thin air (unknowingly of course), Google Instant and the three second impression rule, and now this.
As a corporation, I know it’s your legal duty to any/all shareholders to make as much money as possible. I get that. But what’s inherently good about closing off a data pipeline that’s 5 years old? What’s inherently good about showing advertisers untargeted, over-priced short-tail terms that will only serve to drive the bidding war?
With every further step Google takes as of late, they continue to demonstrate they are less concerned about providing the great results drove the success of the engine initially. Rather, they continue at breakneck speed to don the Google Corporate shield and squeeze the searching public for all they’re worth.
Where SEM Goes from Here
Google Instant: A Short-Tailers Paradise
On brighter note, this latest development, as Marty pointed out, certainly does make it plainly obvious how Google intends searchers to search: HEAD terms. Initially I assumed the birth of Google Instant would dramatically extend the long-tail query to new dimensions. Looks like I got that wrong. By reducing the quality of mid-tail and long-tail research available, and funneling SEMs toward more Google-profitable keywords, the inexperienced will begin to (re)target those terms in abundance. As that is all Google’s Keyword Tool is going to show them.
Other Google Tools For Keyword Research
Whether I like it or not, what’s done is done. Google’s not going to renege on this decision, and I’m not going to bend my position of abandoning the tool. So that leaves us at an impasse. But I think Google has got some other nifty tools that could certainly aid keyword research (assuming these haven’t been “commercialized” as well)
Google Insights: Google Insights for Search analyzes a portion of worldwide Google web searches from all Google domains to compute how many searches have been done for the terms you’ve entered, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. You can choose to see data for select Google properties, including Web search, Images, Product search, and News search (certain properties aren’t currently available in all countries/territories).
Google Wonder Wheel: An oddball to be sure, does allow searches to a variety of related topics that skew off from an original search. Again, assuming that this hasn’t been tampered with, one can see what related, relevant keyword queries Google associates to the original query. You’ll find Wonder Wheel on the left-hand navigation under “More Search Tools”.
The Unintended Consequences
Talking with a colleague of mine, Jo Stumpner, about the Google KWT manipulation, she raised a very interesting point. This move very well may actually decrease PPC activity in the long-run.
SEO, I think as Marty and I have both explained is just fine. There are other tools, and the research will still go on. The only struggle I really see is the tendency for Google to want to display short-tail terms to a searcher in “broad/general” mode, or the discovery phase of their online research. In that respect, Google will win out in the short-run, the race still goes to the skilled and wily SEOs.
Building on the theory, I think it works out something like this:
As advertisers are shown more and more competitive keyword phrases, those keyword verticals that were already competitive will become even more competitive. As more and more advertisers are led away from the mid and long-tail terms, the head terms will “overstocked” with advertisers and competitors.
Clearly bid prices and quality scores are a premium; however, as noticed by Jo and myself, head terms often yield very low quality scores, that is, it is very difficult to attain scores over 8. Meaning that bid price will rule the day as far as visibility is concerned. In the short-term Google wins in their cash grab, bilking more cash from advertisers. In the long-term this is going to be detrimental to Google.
More and more advertisers will see that impressions will drop dramatically. And, naturally, conversions will decrease also. Thus leading advertisers to decrease overall spends on advertising platform in search of one that offers better visibility and ROI for key terms. Perhaps that’s what Google is after, quick profit gains upfront for less long-term growth? After all, no advertiser can abandon the platform with risking brand and product exile. Definitely something to think about.
Competition Through Screwing Yourself
Microsoft just caught lightning in a bottle thanks to Google continually screwing itself. You’d think Google would be past these screw-ups by now? Clearly MS is no gem, but they’ve been flying low enough on the radar, that if they made some quick updates to attract advertisers, I think many would flock to them.
Google had their foot on search world’s throat, even if through trickery and distraction Bing/Microsoft has managed to make it appear as if growth has occurred. All Google has/had to do was lower the boom; push their foot down a little harder and end the game. But they can’t seem to find that killer instinct. Instead they keep finding ways to open the door for competition, look like the “New Microsoft” on the block, and fuck it up.
Google always alludes to competition being welcomed. Well, keep screwing yourself, keep driving the nails into your own coffin, we’ll all find out just how much you “really like” competition.
Google Inflating AdWords Conversion Rates (Allegedly)
WebProNews published a story over the weekend that may spark some controversy in the coming days: “Harvard Professor Claims Google Conversions Inflated“. There may be hordes of SMBs, Mid-Size companies, and a few large corps lamenting outrage (much of it justified). Yet, here’s the problem with the Edelman story: it’s not a big surprise. And so all the lamented horror and outrage will not a change a thing.
Why This Story Has No Shock Value
Google, like other corporations, is a “for-profit” company. “Do no evil” may be the motto, but “we make money” is always the bottom line. And, if you were surprised at this, then you need a reality check. They’re a multi-national corporation, a hydra-headed beast with their tentacles in just about every facet of search marketing and functional web.
Not to mention that the AdWords platform has been a “racket” since it’s inception, under the guise that even the “little man” could get top placement. Any system based off of what particular businesses are willing to pay for keywords is going to be (not that there is a better system out there). Google introduced “Quality Score” as a way to level the playing field (supposedly), but that too still takes into account what you are willing to bid for a particular keyword as a large part of the equation. Don’t bid enough, and it doesn’t matter that you have highly relevant and targeted content around a keyword(s). You get a less than satisfactory quality score and don’t get the impression share you need to drive conversions anyway.
Let’s also not forget to mention that this is the crown jewel of the Google money-machine. It behooves them to show that their product actually works and helps make conversions. After all, it’s a product that anyone can use, right? Sure. Just put down your set budget, pick your keywords, throw the lever wide open, and watch your traffic and conversions roll in.
Edelman’s argument holds some water, as far as the Chrome Ominbox (suggested search), but he delivers no actual numbers of inflation, just that they are inflated. But, I’d trust the argument more if there were actual percentages of inflation, say the conversions offered by AdWords is 5% inflated from what you could normally expect to see in ROI.
In The End, It Doesn’t Matter
That statement may seem overly simplified and cynical, but the fact is, no one is going to stop using Google or Google AdWords, inflated conversion rates or not. They have captured over 70% of the seach market and have become a verb synomomous with search. Not being there is search marketing suicide, frankly, because Yahoo and MSN don’t hold enough of the market to be competitive and return a profitable enough ROI.
Not being in AdWords ultimately does mean less conversions, especially for those with newly begun SEO programs. The two are intwined in such a fashion that, unfortunately, one without the other means that it will only take more time to build a strong(er) presence within the SERPs. Remember that Google tailors its algorithm from everywhere, grabbing all the data it can to deliver the most trustworthy, relevant results for any given query. That includes AdWords data. Sorry, but it’s true.
And, if you’re just now starting to realize that this “search thing” is essential, then:
1) Please remove the incredibly dark and heavy boulder you’ve been living under and join us
2) You need this shot of “search adrenaline” not only for search presence, but so you can give the GOOG the inside track to discovering your pages. I’m not talking about indexing, that’s what XML sitemaps are for; I’m talking about Google discover what pages should be making their way up organically because they do a great job on the pay-per-click side.
Established sites within the SERPs don’t need to worry about this as much; hence the reason they’ve established themselves organically. They’ll feel it in traffic numbers to be sure, but may likely see their bounce rate drop and their overall site conversions increase. They could drop out of PPC and not feel it at all on the bottom line.
In the end, you have to play the AdWords game. It’s not a choice, it’s not an option: you play or you perish. It’s that simple. Don’t depend on PPC as your life-line, but use it to your advantage. It’ll do no good to bitch and moan about inflationary conversion rates because Google doesn’t care. And neither should you.