When You Buy Google Adwords, Make Sure You Know What You’re Buying
Many businesses, both large and small, use Google Adwords to advertise on the internet.
Google Adwords started as the small, boxed ads that appeared to the right of regular search results when you searched on Google. It may surprise some advertisers to know that their ads can now also appear on web pages across the internet. Many advertisers may assume that their ads will only be shown when someone searches on keywords for which the advertiser has bid. Such an assumption is understandable.
The first sentence on the Google Advertising Programs information page says: “Reach people when they are actively looking for information about your products and services online, and send targeted visitors directly to what you are offering.” In the information section specifically for advertisers on that same page, nothing is said about their ads showing elsewhere. But they can. And unless an advertiser knows exactly how to prevent it, they will.
The ads can also show up on websites which will never be identified to the advertiser, through Google’s contextual advertising program. (Also known as Google’s “content network,” and known to website owners who carry the ads as the Adsense program.) In the contextual advertising model, there is no user searching for products or services.
The ads are shown on web pages where the content is judged (by computer) to be compatible with the intent of a given advertisement. (Hence “contextual.”). The ad appears before a web surfer, like a magazine ad to a magazine reader. A reader of the web page may or may not click on the ad, at which point the advertiser is charged for the click.
The problem is, when an advertiser sets up an Adwords campaign, this contextual advertising program is not presented as an “opt-in” program. It is actually an “opt-out” program, but the “opt-out” function is not shown during set-up. Many advertisers may set up a campaign and turn it on, without ever being aware that their ad may mostly be shown on websites unconnected with Google, with a portion of their click fees going to the website owner, rather than being shown only as a result of a pure “Google” search by a potential customer. Only if the advertiser knows about this, and knows enought to go back and edit the campaign settings after the ad campaign has started, can the advertiser “opt-out” of the content network. Does this matter to an advertiser? The answer is yes.
As Google notes on its information page, a pay-per-click advertising model allows the advertiser to “reach people when they are actively looking for information about your products and services.” That makes sense. A potential customer who is actively searching for something by using keywords, and who sees an ad that is based on those keywords, is a good prospect from the advertiser’s point of view. By contrast, a web surfer who happens to see an ad on a page, much like seeing it in a magazine, may click on it out of curiosity, or from a vague sense of interest. To me, as an advertiser, with the cost of every click being crucial to my business, I want the first type of user, but I do not want the second. But if an advertiser does not know how to opt-out of Google’s content network, they are going to get the second type as well as the first, and pay for it.
It would be nice if Google provided an “opt-out” capability at the outset of setting up an Adwords campaign, but they do not. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to manage it when you know how. After setting up an Adwords campaign, the campaign is automatically given a name such as “Campaign # 1,” and it is already running. By clicking on the “Edit Campaign Settings” button, the advertiser can go back into the settings, and will find, for the first time, a button that allows the advertiser to “unselect” the content network. By just following that step, the advertiser can be assured that their ad will only be shown to users who are actively searching for the advertiser’s products and services.
Our company, Small Business Online, a web design and internet marketing company based in Norwalk, CT., worked with two new clients recently who had no idea that their Adwords campaigns, which they needed help with, were being shown on Google’s content network. When they found out, they turned it off. There is nothing wrong with the concept of contextual advertising. For a given campaign, it may or may not be a good idea. But the important thing is that the advertiser make an informed decision. With the cost of pay-per-click already spiralling out of control for many small advertisers, not a penny should be spent on a click without the advertiser knowing exactly what kind of click they are paying for. When you are building a campaign on targetted keywords, some clicks are more desirable than others.