Offers of help aren’t always … helpful. One of the early scenes in the movie Up captures this situation, when Russell, a young Wilderness Explorer in pursuit of his Assisting the Elderly badge, asks Carl Fredricksen how he can be of service:
“Are you in need of any assistance today, sir?” “No.”
“I could… help you cross the street.” “No.”
“I could… help you cross your yard?” “No.”
“I could… help you… cross your… porch?” “No.”
“Well, I gotta help you cross something!”
Google Offers to Help Advertisers “Cross Something”
Last week, Google sent out an email offering some advertisers free campaign management for their Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) accounts. “We’ll focus on your campaigns, so you can focus on your business,” the headline proposes.
Unlike young Russell, though, Google didn’t really ask advertisers so much as notify them that their campaigns would be managed by Google unless they opted out by clicking a link in the email within 7 business days. This automatic enrollment tactic reminded some analysts of recurring memberships or subscriptions hidden in the fine print when purchasing a product.
Michael Hubbard of MediaTwo discovered that the “We’ll focus on your campaigns” email was sent to client email addresses rather than to the agencies that handle those clients’ Google Ads accounts. This begs the question of how many advertisers have that email sitting in a spam folder (or in an inbox that has long since been abandoned) right now and don’t realize that the clock is ticking.
Additionally, this offer hasn’t yet been announced on any official Google blog or the GoogleAds Twitter account, so there’s very little awareness of it outside search engine marketing circles. It seems like a very quiet, under-the-radar move for one of the world’s largest and most prominent companies.
The Specifics of Google AdWords Campaign Management
The email declared, “…our Google Ads experts are identifying key changes that can help you get more out of your ads, from restructuring your ad groups and modifying your keywords to adjusting your bids and updating your ad text.” (emphasis added) Each of these four actions alone can have a colossal impact on your ads’ performance and how well it aligns with your paid search strategy.
- Ad group structure: As noted earlier on this blog, paid search account structure can make a significant difference in ad performance. Plus, the structure will likely need some adjustment to suit each individual business’s needs
- Keyword modification: Whether this phrase means changing the “match types” for the keywords you’ve chosen or changing the keywords themselves, keyword modification must be done with your company’s goals and strategy in mind
- Bid adjustment: It should go without saying that managing bids is key to how well your ads perform in terms of revenue and return on ad spend
- Ad text: As with “keyword modification,” the precise meaning of “updating your ad text” is unclear; regardless, ad text is the deciding factor in whether or not an ad is clicked, and changes to it should have strategic input and oversight
The email continues, “We’ll work behind the scenes to ensure the right features are being activated at the right moment. Your budget won’t increase – and you can opt out at any time, even after improvements have started.” (emphasis added)
Google says that the total amount you spend on Google Ads won’t increase, which is good. However, because Google will be adjusting bids “behind the scenes,” the allocation of your ad spend will almost certainly change, and there’s no guarantee that new allocation will serve the best interests of your business.
Not All PPC Campaign Management Is Created Equal
Many of Google’s optimizing tools have operated almost completely through machine learning, such as AdWords Automated Bidding. By contrast, this new campaign management program specifies that “Google Ads experts” will be identifying these changes and working to ensure options are activated.
While it’s refreshing to see Google promote their in-house team members as a resource, the email doesn’t elaborate on the level of training or experience their experts have. (un)Common Logic has a mandatory 90-day training program for all new hires followed by a 90-day apprenticeship, so that new analysts don’t touch client accounts without at least six months of knowledge and skill under their belts. Google’s guidelines for training their paid search analysts are unknown.
The email notes that more than 800,000 Google Ads accounts have been optimized by the company. While that’s a very large number, when placed into context, it’s not quite as impressive. Given the estimated 4-5 million Google Ads accounts currently in operation, only about 17-20% of all accounts have been optimized by Google.
This statistic also leaves out the number of accounts optimized by Google that have since been switched back over to client or agency control or simply closed. (And there’s no reference to how many of these accounts saw actual performance improvements.)
When Letting Google Manage Your Ad Campaigns Makes Sense
This new offer from Google shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, especially if your business meets these criteria:
- Your company is in a static industry or segment. This doesn’t mean that nothing changes, just that when changes occur, they do so gradually rather than rapidly
- Paid search is not mission-critical to your customer acquisition strategy. After all, paid search is one marketing channel among many, and it might not be essential to acquiring customers for your company
- Your monthly ad budget for Google Ads is very consistent. This makes comparing performance before and after Google management much easier than a fluctuating budget would
If these three conditions apply to your company, taking Google up on its offer could be a smart move. Just be sure to gather historical data on your account’s performance before the management switch, so you can determine how well it worked for you.
How to Evaluate Google’s Campaign Management Offer
Essentially, the choice comes down to your answers to these six questions:
- Do you trust Google to manage your account to your benefit at all times? Some paid search experts have equated Google’s offer to letting a casino manage your bets, or an auction house manage your bids. Google is, of course, a company seeking to make money, so they’re not exactly neutral or objective when it comes to managing the money you have given them for advertising.
- Does Google know your business in-depth? Do they understand your market, audience & unique selling proposition (USP)? And if you have a distinctive USP, will Google be able to discern that and optimize for it, given that Google uses aggregate data from up to 800,000 different accounts?
- Does Google understand which metrics are most important for your bottom line? The options already available for Google Ads automated bidding include optimizing for clicks, conversions, CPA, ROAS, and other fairly basic metrics. However, if your company targets more subtle or sophisticated metrics, the level of oversight provided by Google might not be enough.
- Can Google’s campaign management implement and optimize a growth-focused strategy? Many of our clients benefit from a portfolio-level bidding strategy, where lower returns on top-of-funnel keywords are acceptable because those keywords pay off later on, through larger overall funnel volume or customer acquisition activities like brand awareness. We monitor paid search performance end-to-end to ensure these early losses are recouped many times over in bottom-line revenue. Will Google experts be able to do that level of analysis, and would you give them access to your sales data?
- Will you get a customized strategy? Google Premier Partner agencies like (un)Common Logic have a Google expert on call to answer questions about specific tools and tactics. This works very well because those tools and tactics are consistent across all accounts, and the expert on call is very knowledgeable about them. A strong Google Ads strategy, however, will differ from company to company and require far more intensive work than applying tactics or tools.
- How much time will Google experts spend on your account? Intelligent paid search management is a fairly time-intensive endeavor. (un)Common Logic experts spend a minimum of 30 hours a month optimizing client accounts, which includes conducting strategic analysis. Will a Google expert spend that much time on your account each month?
Google’s offer has given many advertisers pause, and for many reasons: the automatic opt-in, the lack of publicity, the short deadline, the scope of control it would give Google, the potential conflict of interest, the lack of information about the experts who would be involved, etc. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a terrible offer, just that it bears a lot of consideration.
If you’ve received this email and aren’t sure how to proceed, contact us and we’ll be glad to talk to you about its pros and cons, as well as answering any other paid search strategy questions you have. We can also help determine a customized strategy for your paid search campaigns that’s designed specifically for your benefit.