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Archive for October, 2011

Fix Your Marketing, Fix Your Reputation

Friday, October 28th, 2011

I just came across a recent story outlining how, in a certain Canadian jurisdiction, a dozen energy companies were fined for deceptive sales practices. A dozen companies. That’s, like, nearly all of ‘em. On the list was one of the two largest firms. Also on the list, several green energy firms with otherwise stellar reputations.


The fines ranged from $15,000 to $50,000. Such low fines are about the lightest possible slap on the wrist, indicating that it wasn’t entirely clear the companies were guilty of anything. And yet those news stories linger and those companies will now live with tainted reputations, especially where today’s information-hungry customer does more and more searching on brand names.

By comparison, there are real corporate atrocities being committed by companies like phone companies, who in Canada have been fined in the 8 and 9 figures for wilfully billing customers for services they didn’t ask for or didn’t receive. A major cable company is now in the news for being the worst Internet “throttler” in the world. They, too, face a heavy and deserved fine in my opinion.

So in the energy cases, do I blame the regulator? Rogue salespeople? Fake salespeople? Nope, nope, and nope.

Until companies in this industry are willing to be as thorough as possible in conventional lead generation methods — especially, leaving no marketing stone unturned in the highly measurable, respectful, permission-based digital media environment — they will be too tempted to continue going door to door.

And the problem here is fourfold. (1) The public begins to associate that behavior with shadiness, thus framing the experience from the beginning. Your “relatively legitimate” version of marketing to people on the doorstep gets blended in with all the others, in the noise. (2) If you do any doorstep selling, then someone will impersonate you in some way, or some homeowner will have a bad memory and accuse you of something. (3) Your own salespeople will go rogue on you in the search for a commission. They’ll mislead consumers. (4) Homeowners merely offended by your presence, or whack jobs with an axe to grind, will hop onto YouTube with some lengthy rant. Regardless of their credibility or lack of it, these videos are popular and tend to rank high in search results.

One energy company in Canada (and no doubt others will follow suit in time) has put a stake in the ground with a steady stream of radio spots about just saying no to the people at the door. (They were one of the ones fined, by the way. It seems all players, including legitimate ones, were caught in a light regulatory sweep while some out-and-out con men are still walking around door to door.) The spots are hilarious. The wife asks the husband how he could ever have been talked into a fixed-price energy contract. He maintains that the salesman seemed very credible, seemed to be with their energy company, and “he had a clipboard!” At the close of the spot, his voice rises into an Abe-Simpson-esque quaver, strange given that he seemed like a much younger man earlier in the spot: “But he had a clipboard!” Ha ha.

That’s working. So there really is no way to fix a reputation problem other than going out and standing up for yourself and creating a good reputation through your track record (and then talking about that).

But there’s one more thing companies can do. It’s to refrain from methods of marketing that annoy people (I call it surplus interruption). The consumer might not care that your version of “annoy” is more ethical than the others’. The search results don’t care that you aren’t responsible for your salesperson “going rogue.” And so on.

There is usually a lot of unharvested fruit out there in the form of untapped online lead generation methods. Maximize those, and it’s amazing how much less you have to do of all that stuff that comes back to bite you in the butt.

Twitter Still Doesn’t Feel Like a Standalone Company, But Where Does the Exit Lie?

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Like many of you, I’m a pretty active user of Twitter. I understand its value in that it reaches a great many people every day.

It’s raised a great deal of money by now — enough to keep it going for as long as it wants. Recently, CEO Dick Costolo made some remarks to the Wall Street Journal about the company’s future in the context of its current lofty secondary market valuation of approximately $8 billion.

As much as we might be curious about technology, advertising models, user experience, and “awesomeness,” what still hangs over all of this speculative industry talk is the reality that Twitter’s fate will be decided largely by investors and founders who are only in this to sell. Partnerships, ad platform development, and even potential future IPO talk are all simply means of solidifying a certain selling price – presumably over $10 billion.

To emphasize that point: Twitter was founded by serial entrepreneurs who have had past successes with companies like Blogger and who are currently curious about new ventures (for example whatever might be developed under the aegis of Obvious Corp.). The investors who currently have an interest in the company’s future are mostly high-powered VC’s who do not go into plays like this so they can operate companies for the long term. They enter so they and their investors can exit, ideally inside of 5-6 years. The current top execs at the company (and those who have essentially left but remain there in title) are simply not credible if they claim that their goal is to build this standalone service into something great in its own right.

I see Twitter as similar to YouTube. They *could* IPO, develop the company further, and stay independent, but, um, they can’t really and they don’t plan to.

There’s where it gets tough. Assuming that exit is still the primary (if unstated) goal, Twitter needs to have a “home” in the form of an interested, deep-pocketed acquirer. (See our take on this in the 2009 piece “Yes, Twitter’s Business Model is to Be Acquired, and Yes, It Will Be“.)

Who’s that?

There are few “platforms” in the world upon which to rest a service as beloved as Twitter. Google as always has to be considered #1. Along with all the other obvious reasons (despite Steve Yegge’s choice of terminology, Google remains the #1 ‘platform’ in the world, unless you count Facebook). The exit scenario is interesting to all of us for a couple of reasons. First, if Twitter and their management want to exit, there needs to be a meeting of the minds and valuations with an acquirer, and there aren’t many of those. At the right price, many companies would love to own Twitter. But the price is where the argument starts. Second, as users will we need to envision a different Twitter? Arguably, services like Skype and YouTube have not changed enormously since acquisition and have not been entirely subsumed into their parents, and that’s nice for us. But depending on who they acquirer is, this will affect how you feel about Twitter, to be sure.

At this stage, there are maybe four potential acquirers for Twitter — companies that could be argued to have platforms that are sturdy enough to “rest” Twitter on, and pockets deep enough to overpay enough to satisfy the financial objectives of the current dominant players on Twitter’s board.

  • Google. Certainly, this is still the obvious play. They have an ambitious (to use an understatement) social media development strategy in progress now with Google+. Google+ has many advantages and some strong raw user numbers, but it lacks vitality. Past partnerships with Twitter for data feed sharing have resulted in rather standoffish and stalemate-ish outcomes between the two companies. And at the same time, there’s no way Twitter is going to disrupt Google’s dominance. It’s invested tiny amounts in search technology so it can search itself, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth aspiring to anything broader than organizing tweets. Given Google’s ridiculously strong financial position, it has the means to pay a bit more than it has to or should. So that bodes well for a potential deal. Antitrust and privacy concerns? Of course those always come into play. It’s strange how little they came into play in the past when companies like AOL and Yahoo were ascendant. So in the end, regulation can’t likely block these kinds of acquisitions. Nor should it. Odds: 3-2.
  • Apple. Twitter is talking up an Apple partnership, and certainly Twitter’s main strength down the road appears to be in terms of widespread mobile usage. Indeed, it’s tailor-made for mobile. So as Android and Apple’s mobile strategy face off, Apple seems like the leading other contender to acquire Twitter. That’s obviously good for Twitter, so they can ignite a bidding war between two very jealous rivals. Here’s the problem: Google’s business model relentlessly revolves around monetization through ads. Apple’s does not — not even close. That lowers the odds greatly. Odds: 5-1.
  • Microsoft: Microsoft has been aggressive in acquiring companies like Skype and building services like Bing, and it has invested a significant amount in Facebook. It is doing all of these things to appear connected to the online world, the “cloud,” etc. Whether or not it is particularly good at making money from all these attempts to show it “gets it” (in fact, Microsoft loses great sums in its online division), it has a pattern of heavy involvement in the space. For this reason alone, it’s a stronger contender than Apple, even though on the surface it looks like it should be in third place in the Twitter Sweepstakes. Odds: 4-1.
  • Facebook: Facebook is involved in an even more elaborate and audacious flip of its own, or it may very well go public and try to continue taking over the world. Absorbing something this large, with a far less developed ad model and revenue stream, would simply be too disruptive for the founder and the investors to agree on. Facebook may indeed enter a pre-IPO process of housekeeping (and quiet period) in the next year, which would essentially knock them out of the Twitter sweepstakes for upwards of a year. Odds: 15-1.
  • Private equity & institutional money. There certainly is a lot of money looking for places to park in the world, and only so many digital media darlings with household names. Buying something like this for $11 billion so it can be flipped for $12 billion might not make a whole lot of economic sense, but given the interest certain pension fund managers might have in getting invited to exclusive retreats and founders’ yachts, you never rule anything out. 20-1.

For Twitter, the final piece of the puzzle may be in creating a sense of urgency. Given that — upon reflection — Google is actually much more likely to acquire Twitter than the others, that urgency may be difficult to manufacture. The familiar Google vs. Microsoft scenario is probably urgent enough to create action, though.

The other spur to action may be continued concern at Google that Google’s social strategy needs to turn the corner faster. A Twitter acquisition would bring instant credibility to Google; this is social sharing credibility it doesn’t currently enjoy, despite all its efforts to date.

Simple works, but which flavor of simple?

Friday, October 14th, 2011

You can say this a thousand times and it’s never as interesting to people as it should be (until they see the financial result and it affects them directly): changing a single, unassuming word in an ad headline can have major repercussions on response and ROI.

Here’s today’s micro case study.

I’m working on some ads that promote a giveaway for free tickets to a popular local event. This promotion is generally popular, but in the end, the campaign is a marketing cost. So it’s paramount we get favorable CPC’s on the promo.

The events themselves are popular, and they’re on for a short time. This means there isn’t too much competition for clicks. But there is some. And Google as you know has tweaked Quality Score so that relevance affects “both eligibility and position in the auction.” That means if you don’t optimize, you’ll pay a de facto reserve price (higher than you would like) to get significant click volume. In any case, we generally get aggregate CTR’s above 10% for this campaign across our mix of keywords. The question is: how far above 10%?

  • Ad Headline 1: Contains the name of the event and crams in another word (forced abbreviation due to space limitations) that aims to explain the promo a bit better. CTR: the worst of the lot at just under 11%.
  • Ad Headline 2: Contains the name of the event plus the seasonal designation “Fall”. About 13% CTR.
  • Ad Headline 3: Just contains the name of the event. CTR is 15.6%. There are high volumes so this result is statistically significant.

The body copy is optimized, as well. So is the display URL.

This is a bit of an unusual auction (less competitive than some, with our type of promotion gaining an unusual level of interest) in that there are significant rewards in the form of bargain CPC’s if you crack this CTR nut in the first couple of days leading up to the event, and score a significant number of 10/10 Quality Scores in the ad group.

Roughly, the winning-ad’s CTR (the ROI outcomes are generally equal) ultimately leads to a 50% lower cost per action on the promotion as compared with the worst ad, or 25% lower compared with the second-best ad. That’s taking an already-optimized methodology and approach and tweaking it just a bit. Why is this so good? Well, the very best performer is getting us clicks in the range of 5-10 cents on some keywords. That’s the kind of performance you  would often get in 2002, but rarely see today.

For a novice, you can forget it. The CPA’s on this clever campaign would never be economic – they’d be 5X what we’re getting and the campaign would be declared a bust.

Once the research is done, the process is repeatable. Future campaigns build on this data asset and are, in some sense, pre-optimized, needing only a bit of tweaking.

That’s why testing matters. That’s why knowing how and what to test matters.

That’s why Media Buyer 1.0 is obsolete.

And what is the substantive takeaway from this test, in terms of user response? It’s clear. The addition of the word Fall was distracting and puzzling to enough users that it cost us significant response. And what many would never have known or guessed: the addition of a relatively innocuous and seemingly helpful abbreviated word in the headline was pretty much disastrous to response, leading to a 38% worse CTR, and ultimately to higher CPC’s as a result.

Google: Not Doomed

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

What was Steve Yegge thinking?

I’m sure that was what Steve Yegge himself was thinking after he inadvertently posted his already-famous internal rant that ranged from his former employer, Amazon’s, massive shortcomings, to the current failure of his current employer, Google, to stop being great at product and to start getting platform.  Yegge is so frustrated by that shortcoming that by the end of his post he manages to overturn his nearly infinite contempt for Amazon (and Jeff Bezos in particular), based solely on Bezos’ (albeit tortuous and autocratic) move to bolt “platformness” onto a company that previously wasn’t one. This U-turn in the narrative only deepened the contrast between Google (product-centric and thus only apparently successful but potentially doomed) and companies that get “the platform thing”.


The “platform thing” is what Facebook’s got that Google+ ain’t got. So along with everything else, the rant came across as a severe case of Facebook envy.

I have to admit that at first, I didn’t get it. Platform? Web services? API’s? Developer ecosystem? I have a passing familiarity with how important those trends have been to the success of some social networks, some browsers, and some mobile app environments. These trends are of wide importance. But still, I have to admit that Yegge’s world view is highly technical and deeply accomplished in areas I can’t even begin to scratch the surface in.

A lot of businesses — let’s face it — are not platforms. Don’t get platform. The local used car dealer? Doesn’t get it. Even though he’s “Canada’s Most Huggable Car Dealer.” Does not get platform at all.

The National Hockey League? For now, they suck at platform. Maybe after they’ve digested the move of a team from Atlanta to Winnipeg, and figured out whether to allow players to willfully inflict brain damage on one another, they can move on to consider whether to stop playing around with product and features to truly allow platform thinking to come to the fore. But for now I think they’ve got it on the back burner.

Granted, though, Google’s a little smarter than some other people. But still, not the smartest of all? That hurts.

Yegge got no argument from his legion of fans on Google+. Yeah! You suck at platform! When are you going to get it?

So in what sense does Google suck at this?

Let’s be clear. They have a few API’s. They operate in some ecosystems. But the main complaint appears to be that Google+ doesn’t have a plan to be a platform in the same way that Facebook is (at least yet). And that a massive cost will come to bolt that on later, if they decide to.

That’s fair enough. But Facebook is a pretty specific enemy. And the problem comes when you assume that Facebook is doing so very well and that Google is doomed because Google doesn’t “get” what “Facebook gets” about a “social platform”.

And then Google’s Q3 results came out.

Without a dime of revenue from Google+, or a dime of revenue from the huge spike in advertiser-to-audience fit that will come about as a result of Google+ having 100 million reasonably active users of the Google+ platform (er, product, for now), Google is knocking it out of the park.

It’s not doing all that well in some areas. But it knows who it is. And that’s important for a company that means to be great.

Facebook is Facebook, and Google is Google.

As I’ve stated before:

  • Google is the ultimate Hedgehog company that has such a big market size, everything it does (even apparent diversification) pours so efficiently back into the same funnel – its advertising model — that no matter what it appears to be “sucking at” or “not getting,” is in fact quietly succeeding. The flywheel turns, more advertisers join the advertising platform, and begin to expand their use of it. Although not directly talking, their fit with potential customers grows with every iteration, in keeping with the principle of markets being (at least reasonably close to) conversations.
  • Google+ is going to provide a gateway to audience targeting for advertisers to use the Google advertising platform to target users (ultimately, through not only Google publisher relationships, but through the ad exchange ecosystem, aka platforms) far beyond Google properties. The current state of the Google Display Network, even after the Doubleclick acquisition, is modest by Google standards. Mass adoption of Google+, especially given the current TOS that users agree to, will be a major catalyst in reigniting growth in non-search, non-Google-properties advertising for Google, to move it into 50% annual growth territory from 2012-2015.
  • As such, the urgency of getting the product out there probably led to the haste and lack of foresight in some areas. And as high as the cost of “bolting platform on” may be down the road, Google is easily able to afford it.

So these are some ways that Yegge’s rant is “wrong,” taking a wider view of what Google wants to accomplish as a well-run business.

How he’s right appears to be: Google+ would be doomed to feel like a kind of dead, dull place if all they did was beaver away on “features,” as Bradley Horowitz just offered. Compared with Facebook, where enthusiasts can hook up in endless diversionary ways with gaming and social environments owing to its fundamental acceptance of the platform model that allows third-party partners to flourish and proliferate in a manner that no “product team” could ever manage to do, Google+ right now is sort of like how Disney World would feel to the kids if you got there and there were no roller coasters, shows, or train rides…just crowds.

Yegge’s powerful point is well taken. “Product” cannot beat “platform” in that sense, and in many other senses in today’s connected business and social environments. While Google is no stranger to platforms and API’s, in the culture, one senses a certain reluctance.

Google began life as a company that prided itself on “sending users away to their destination site most efficiently,” not on “being sticky”. So it isn’t surprising that (not counting the YouTube acquisition), the notion that you would build and care for an entire… fun… social… environment… in part by embracing…outside developers… is a touch alien to most at the company.

Someday, though, the brilliance and openness that Facebook appears to have may prove to be more insular than Google’s mindset. Facebook is eager to play nice with its ecosystem so that they can make a nicer walled-sandbox for their users to play in. Period. Google knows no such bounds and aims to improve everything in the universe, and if not that, then certainly to be central to users’ lives anywhere they may be reading content, using a device, or doing pretty much anything.

Will the “good enough at platform and really great at business focus” strength of Google ultimately be more than good enough? Will Google eventually bolt on “that stuff” at some cost? Or will it persist in “not getting platform” and find itself doomed someday?

My vote is for not doomed, because boring things like products, assets, network effects, scale, efficiency, and focus may be far more than enough to ward off being as social and ecosystem-y as others who are the best in the world at that.

Whatever that is.

Landing Page Relevance Criteria: Google’s Modus Vivendi

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Following up on the news that Google is incorporating landing page relevance more directly into Quality Score as it affects position and thus CPC’s as well as eligibility in the keyword auction…

As a few of us try to digest Google’s high-level announcement, it’s still unclear what exactly Google is measuring now, or plans to measure in the future, when it comes to relevance and scent in the keyword, ad, and post-click user journey. Ruling out major policy violations, the discussion with product management director Jonathan Alferness seemed to break it down into two areas:

  • Navigational experiences and usability
  • Consistent relevance from a keyword or meaning standpoint

But there is a third factor, I think, as I attempted to imply in the idea of users coming to an “expected” landing page. We’ve ruled out “policy violations” as being even more serious than what is being measured for ranking purposes. But there is something similar, and that is basically:

  • Non-policy-violating websites and pages that are in somewhat of a grey zone in that they don’t exactly take the user to the type of page they were expecting. For shorthand let’s call them ‘purposeful misdirection’. Again: extreme versions of ‘purposeful misdirection’ are violations that consumers require protection from. Those long strings of privacy-violating forms you need to fill out to get the $5 iPod that never materializes are so far over the line, Google suspends accounts, kicks ass, takes names, etc. But what to do about “lite” versions of this? Nothing has been violated, but something (‘purposeful misdirection’) is still a bit unfair to other advertisers.

I expect Google has the technology and mechanical turk capacity to measure all three, and to incorporate them into Quality Scores. But I’d guess the third is particularly interesting.

There are a couple of reasons Google is likely interested in negating ‘purposeful misdirection’, aside from the obvious point that users don’t like it as it represents poor or inauthentic information scent.

  • The first reason it’s particularly interesting is that it may be the least subjective of the three categories of user experience, so it’s an area we can all agree on. Relevance in meaning is subjective, depending on how you look at it. User experiences (clutter, Flash, interfaces, layout, speed) are important, but who decides what’s good or bad? But we should all be able to agree that if you promise x type of page, and you don’t get x type of page, that’s no good for users.
  • The second reason it matters is because some advertisers will gently misdirect users so that they increase CTR’s, all else being equal, and CTR’s boost Quality Score. Since nearly Day 1, Google has been aware of this phenomenon, but to enforce it manually via policy specialists became infeasible. Arguably then, Google is still perfecting scalable ways of smoothing out anomalies in ranking. In sum, an ideal ranking system would not ban an advertiser for implying something (free, buy, read, download) that wasn’t quite true (might take a little more effort than implied, or the offer expired, etc.), but would apply just enough of a Quality Score penalty to offset the unfair boost in CTR that comes with luring users with blue-sky wordings. For that matter, this is essentially the principle that has been in place around rules against excessive punctuation, all caps, etc.

So have you been sliding by with gently excessive claims that don’t violate policy, but do shade the truth (free download, free shipping, implying you’ll get relevant content when all you get is a paywall), enjoying a CTR benefit and lower CPC’s as a result? Google’s new algorithm is probably looking to tighten that up a little, so you pay a bit more to do that.

If you’re on the other side of the fence, writing ads that filter aggressively (responsible B2B ads that use cues to ward off consumers; or ads that refer to ordering, buying, or complex actions you may need to take to receive a benefit or read premium content), you’ve been so honest that it actually hurt your CTR, Quality Score, and CPC’s (though it would have helped your conversion rate). As a thank-you to you, and a win for consumers, an “up front and honest” style ad may bubble up a bit higher in the rankings, or cost a few cents less to the advertiser.

These things may be difficult to measure, and to be sure, it would appear that human intervention on a wide scale might be needed to make it effective. But in fact, there are ways to simplify the process. Few if any could disagree with a methodology that essentially asks “true or not” when the ad refers to the type of landing page that is to be expected (eg. premium topical content on the landing page), and the user gets something else (eg. a paywall and no possibility of receiving said content without completing a transaction). The means to make it true might be a slight re-wording of the ad, offer, and landing page (free trial), which would make an “honest company” out of you, and an “honest search engine” out of Google.

No advertiser really loses under this (obviously, speculative, as is all the speculation in this post) scenario. If you’re particularly clever in softly misdirecting users to shake out some semi-desired action out of them, well at worst, your CPC’s creep up a bit. If you’ve been more honest in the past with some of your ad wordings, which dampened CTR’s and cost you some Quality Score love, you may have been doing yourself a favor anyway, in the form of improved conversion rates and reputation. Now, the theory goes, Google’s also going to thank you with a slight improvement in rank (or a discount of a few pennies per click).

If you’re an agency and you manage many accounts with ads at both ends of that spectrum, you might even have the opportunity to observe whether this comes to pass.

Google Tweaks its “Other” Black Box: Ads Quality Update Deepens Measures of Relevance

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Word is out that Google has gone through another round of algorithmic tweaks to address content quality in the organic search results. These updates have collectively become known by the nickname Project Panda.

Not to be outdone, the Ads Quality team at Google has been pondering adjustments to the Quality Score formula with pilot projects in smaller markets like Portugal. As a result of these tests, Google is announcing today that landing page quality, or the “relevance” component of Quality Score, will be weighted more heavily than previously. The rollout is now going global.

Explains Jonathan Alferness, a Director of Product Management at Google: “What we’ve found is that the ads at the top of the page typically get more clicks and are rightly rewarded for strong relevance. But some of the ads further down the page might have particularly good ‘post-click’ experiences and deserve a boost.”

In the past, landing page quality was usually administered as if it were “policy”: that is, there was an attempt to look for what Alferness calls “negative signals”. An advertiser that violated “policy” would find its ads suspended, for all intents and purposes. Some would even have their accounts deleted. More recently, perhaps to set things on the road for the current wave of testing that will incorporate a broader-based assessment of landing page relevance into the ranking formula, Google began making a distinction between landing page quality and landing page policy. That being said, for the most part, Google will be assessing advertisers “on the same basic principles as in the past,” says Alferness.

That sounds fair enough. But if it’s essentially the same, why announce a change?

Because — although the initial effect may be small — it’s clear that some advertisers may be rewarded, and others, punished, for sending users to “correct,” “relevant,” or “expected” landing pages. (Quotation marks don’t imply that Google or Alferness used these terms.)

Alferness advises that advertisers “build a page for the aggregate set of users that is natural or appropriate to what they are looking for.”

Traffick’s take? Above all, it’s impossible to comment authoritatively on changing formulas whose details are never fully revealed. Just days ago, we reminded you that Google’s primary definition of “relevance” was clicks. It still is, with a little wiggle room thrown in referring to broader concepts of relevance. It’s worth asking: would Google prefer to cultivate an image of a user-experience-obsessed company because that’s nobler-sounding than a company that just maximizes effective CPM rates? Probably it would. But is it true? Isn’t Google mostly just treating clicks as synonymous with relevance, just as it did in 2002? When Fred Vallaeys said as much just weeks ago, wasn’t he basically correct?

No matter. As we’ve seen, anyone with a tool to sell, an ax to grind, or a surfeit of smoke to blow up a client’s butt is going to latch onto this new official incorporation of scent into the mix and begin weaving beautiful fantasies out of it. Of that we’re sure. That despite Alferness’ advice to focus landing page testing primarily on the “user experience” (and, we’d add, engagement and business metrics), rather than trying to “reverse engineer the algorithm.”

Let’s cut to the chase, if there is any left to cut to. What might be some real-world examples of winners and losers (even if most changes will be slight) under the updated algorithm?

  • Appropriate levels of granularity will be a winner. Companies who have languished too long with bloated ad groups, too few landing pages, sending too much traffic to the home page, etc., may suffer slightly.
  • Google is going to be looking at keywords more so than navigational elements, according to my interpretation of some of Alferness’ comments. That means conventional architecture, clear copy, and “SEO style” incorporation of relevant keywords in page elements can only help. If some aspect of your page, form, cart, etc. is highly deficient, it might begin hurting your Quality Score. But for most navigational and layout elements, it’s safe to say for now that Google won’t be micromanaging the user experience as if there’s one best way. And that’s a relief.

Companies that have been doing things this way in the first place were doing so for good reason: better user satisfaction and better information scent are almost always tied to better campaign ROI. Companies should not have needed any external motivation to address relevancy and information scent issues, but Google, clearly, is now providing an extra incentive to do just that.

For smart, user-sensitive advertisers, the change will likely be noticed only as a positive.

Meanwhile, for lazy, disorganized, or clueless users of the AdWords platform, well, the Google AdWords Tourist Tax probably just went up.

Google won’t comment on whether such changes are revenue-neutral for the company, but given their ability to test and calibrate the auction, it’s a safe bet they aren’t setting themselves up for a significant loss. But this is more of a long-term loyalty play than a short or medium term revenue play. And it isn’t just user loyalty that is involved, but advertiser appreciation. By forcing the issue on practices that may spur higher aggregate conversion rates, Google will be able to remind and convince advertisers of the value of the platform for years to come.


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