My First Day As An AdWords Advertiser

I've played around with AdWords before, just to learn about how it works so I could write about it with some first hand knowledge. But I was never a "real" AdWords advertiser – I didn't have anything to sell. Sure, my publisher (and Amazon) have purchased the "John Battelle"…

Adwords PicI’ve played around with AdWords before, just to learn about how it works so I could write about it with some first hand knowledge. But I was never a “real” AdWords advertiser – I didn’t have anything to sell. Sure, my publisher (and Amazon) have purchased the “John Battelle” keyword, which is great, but I had nothing to do with that.

That all changed today, when I created an account with Google and started a campaign, for real, promoting Federated Media’s new ad platform. Now, sure, it may be odd to use one ad platform to promote another, but I believe that AdWords and FM are complementary, and further, well, I’m a big believer in intent driving content, as anyone who’s read this site or my book knows. Plus, the more I know about Google, the smarter I might be as we take FM into the future.

The lessons so far are really, really interesting. I’ll be sharing them as I go along, but a few to start:

– The AdWords experience so far is really slick. I know many of you who have used AdWords for a long time may have serious beefs, but for me, I was really blown away at how good the initial setup and UI experience is.

– I had a question and got an answer via a real person using IM within five minutes. That is really impressive, in particular given the griping I uncovered a year ago when my reporting consistently turned up how difficult Google was to contact.

– I thought perhaps of using IM again to ask this question, but instead, I’m wagering you all might know. My campaign has been running now for about 8 hours, and I’m starting to see clicks coming in. What strikes me as amazing is the number of impressions on “Google Content” sites (ie, AdSense) versus Google Search. It’s not even an order of magnitude larger, it’s several orders larger. When you think about it, this is not surprising (the market knows that search is riper pickings than content, after all.) But, Google breaks out reporting for search clicks (ie, for a particular search keyword, here are the number of clicks), but not for Google Content clicks. At least, that’s how it seems to work. I wonder why? Anyone know?

– So far, I’ve been experimenting with about 30 keyphrases, and the most interesting stuff is to see how often that phrase is actually typed into Google. From what I can tell, I have not burned through my daily limit, so I’m getting a pretty accurate reflection of how often those terms are requested each day. Even if I’m only seeing a portion of the actual number of searches, it appears I’m getting an apples to apples comparison of which of my search terms get the most impressions, which is interesting learning.

– Lastly, I’ve read Google’s AdWords TOS, and from what I can tell, I’m not in violation of them by posting this. If I am, I’m hoping some kind reader from Google or one of Google’s partners will let me know how, and why.

I’m really looking forward to discovering more, and quite impressed – one day in – with the power of the service. It makes me wonder if the analysts covering GOOG from Wall Street are actually Google customers. Here I was, yapping about the company, but not actually interacting with this side of their equation. Fascinating.

47 thoughts on “My First Day As An AdWords Advertiser”

  1. I began using it a little over a month ago and my reaction was much the same as yours. I was “blown away” too by the ease of use and how intuitive the software is.
    I works too. I leapfrog over all the all the organic listings and while it costs me some I reached my market without any SEO concerns!

  2. John,

    As a new user of Google AdWords, I’m sure your first impressions are worth a lot to Google and to their competition.

    Have you signed up for YSM or adCenter?

    Whether you want to use their services or not, with both Microsoft and Yahoo releasing new ad products in the last seven days, your first impressions would be valuable.

  3. As a fellow ‘outsider’ to AdWords who recently experimented playing marketer for my own campaign, I think you’ll find some of the most fun is how well AdWords serves as a research tool. Relative keyword volume, forecasted clicks, global trends by month, recommended keywords, and other reports offer a wealth of inspiration for any coverage you do (though as for citing specifis, yes, there might be terms of service issues there).

  4. What you really need to do is try out Yahoo’s product, then you’ll really be blown away – by how incredibly inferior it is. I started using both systems a couple months ago and could not believe the difference. It is truly mindboggling, especially when you consider that it is esentially the same platform that was built by in 1998. Once you see it, you will really, really wonder what Terry Semel (who on a relative performance basis is arguably the worst CEO in the history of the world – and I have no affiliation with GOOG or YHOO) has been focusing the company on for the last 5 years and you will understand instantly why Google went from a partner almost completely dependent on Yahoo to completely dominant on his watch. This is Yahoo’s main revenue source, and they haven’t had a major upgrade in 8 years (or to be more fair since they bought Overture)!?!? Make sure you try the “old” Yahoo version and not the new one you reported on.

    By the way, I don’t think the new one has been launched for the general user base yet. They sent me an email this morning saying it would “debut this fall” and my account certainly hasn’t changed.

    AdCenter is actually pretty good, but still not as good as Adwords.

  5. The content network matches may be triggered across a number of different keywords, so it makes it much more difficult to break it out. That’s because the matches are contextual, not keyword driven like the search network.

  6. I would recommend seperating your Adsense or content clicks out from your Google search and search partners. Adsense clicks generally convert at a much lower rate. If you’re paying the same for content and search, you’re paying too much. Also, if you’re split testing, having them in the same campaign can mess up your results. I seperate my ads into Google search, Search syndication and Adsense. It’s pretty simple to do in the campaign settings.

    Also, put your keywords in brackets and quotes too of you’re not already. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t do this and miss a ton of traffic.

    I second the opinions of Yahoo’s inferiority. You would think that they’ve never had an Adwords account. Because if they did, they would try to improve.

    Good luck!

  7. John – To answer your question on YSM and Adcenter being in closed beta, Adcenter opened up to everyone last week and the current version of YSM (formerly Overture formerly Goto) has been available to anyone with a credit card for about 8 years. They announced their upgrade will be generally released this fall but the bad old version is still very available to anyone.

  8. I have wondered for a long time why Google doesn’t provide more transparency with its click data. Your content click reporting issue occurs with site targeting as well. Not sure if they are consciously hiding the information from advertisers or just don’t have the tech to push this data out. Maybe they need to increase their R&D budget. πŸ˜‰

    I agree, Google is far, far ahead of Yahoo in search relevancy both on natural SERPs and with ads.

    Can’t wait to hear how your results are looking. Best of luck.

  9. Here I was, yapping about the company, but not actually interacting with this side of their equation. Fascinating.

    Wow. Someone published your book about Google, and you are ostinsably an expert Google. And this is the first time you had a serious interaction with AdWords? I have a low opinion of people in the media and publishing already, but … wow. This really takes the cake.

  10. I hate to say it, as I really enjoy John’s blog, but I have to agree with GoogleWatcher that it is pretty shocking that John has never really interacted with how Google makes all their money, and maybe even more shocking that he so freely admits it, especially when his company just launched a competing platform. That being said, I know a lot of VCs and research analysts that purport to know a lot about Google and I’m pretty sure none of them have seriously interacted with the system, either. And I can guarantee you that Terry Semel has never interacted with Adwords or YSM. πŸ™‚ So I say very bad on John’s part, but he has a whole lot of company.

  11. If John had written all he’s written about Google *and* included point-by-point comparison’s of AdWords, DTC and AdCenter for the past two years, then you can bet the high-level thinking he’s brought to bear would’ve been unnecessarily weighed down by reality.

    I, for one, like seeing John riffing on everything *but* the interface. I have no less than 5 RSS’d blogs on my MyYahoo that currently have a review of YSM’s non-news about the ‘new’ DTC, and lord knows I don’t need another one.

  12. We have about 13,000 keywords loaded into our Yahoo and Google accounts as we go after quite obscure terms that people interested in particular reports we sell would search for. We get a decent ROI (better from Yahoo than from Google). The one thing Google does that Yahoo didnt is ‘maximise’ free of charge. Even though we are a Platinum advertiser with them, Yahoo have never done that (5 years with them). Having said that the maximisation of our AdWords campaign was pretty poor. You need to understand each business to do it properly. Still, its great to see that Yahoo have started to do this as well. When you have thousands of keywords (with the possibility for many thousands) its good to have some feedback as to what the money driving words would be.

  13. Yes, in general you want to bid lower for ads on the content network, which is easily done from the campaign settings. It’s not unusual for me to bid $0.01 for the content network and much higher for the search network — you can do this by enabling the separate bids feature.

    As for Google spitting out the keywords for the content network, it would indeed be nice to have. After all, Google’s contextual analysis algorithm ends up spitting a list of keywords associated with a site, so it’s not like Google doesn’t have that information. I think, though, they like to keep that information away from us AdSense publishers along with details about percentage of payouts and so on.

    By the way, anyone reading this should be aware that the AdWords keyword research tool is available to non-AdWords users, so you can do your research without having to sign up for AdWords.

  14. My experience with Yahoo vs Google has been that Google delivers more hits, but Yahoo with less hits delivers more sales.

  15. “Here I was, yapping about the company, but not actually interacting with this side of their equation.” just confirms my suspicions about all you big traffic bloggers, type and run…

  16. One of your clicks today came from me. I hope you didn’t pay too much for it. (I heard the top bid for “refinance” is $35 a click!) It took me a while to find one of you ads. FM isn’t using some of the obvious terms that I thought you would use e.g. blog advertising.

    The real fun starts when you have to bid against people who have little or no connection to what FM is trying to sell. But you still have to pay the Googster.

    And then wait for the splogs to get you on AdSense. You’ll think you are really kicking with 100Ks of impressions when it will be just a bunch of 3rd Worlders following orders on the click farm.

    Have fun.

  17. I couldn’t agree more with the comments of Adwords Vs YSM, the difference is quite astounding. The information, UI and general overall experience with Google is what you expect from one the worlds leading media/advertising companies. With Yahoo you are forced to use an interface which looks like it was put together by a 1st year computing student the night before an assignment deadline with reporting which all seems to produce the same information despite the option you select. It amazes me how they manage to make any money at all!

    When I received an email from YSM recently to say that they’d be updating their interface I was surprised as they should have done this three years ago at least. Lets see what they come up with. Perhaps you can post some of your thoughts the differences John?

  18. John’s book does a great job of telling the story of Search up to a certain time — and maybe a next book would look more at Adwords. And books are often written years before they are published, so to me that is not an issue. I appreciate his honesty, in terms of both the knowledge he has learned — and the lessons he is still (maybe belatedly) learning. That honesty creates more of a sense of “learning with someone” rather than a blog used to try to impress people.

    It does seem, however, that anyone giving funding to FM, would want a detailed description of how it compliments and defers from Adwords (and other services). From my limited experience, they would want someone to do this indepth research *before* getting funding to create a competing serrvice. Or maybe a little knowledge of Adwords would suffice, or maybe I do not understand enough about what FM does. Either way, this has helped me to look more into Adwords — I have always rationalized that I do not have the money to do be a “real” user, but maybe not.

  19. I work in the search field for a software company that also provides search management services. I work with many large IR 400 accounts across all engines. So I feel like I have a pretty good feel for the landscape.

    Google has many good features and the UI is probably the easiest to use. As for MSN, I was a detractor until recently, having experienced first hand the attention to detail they are (finally) putting into their product.

    As for Yahoo, the verdict is still out. But with the amount of money they are throwing into re-vamping their platform (desperately needed, by the way) they are bound to remain a player…technologically. Procedurally, they have a loooong way to go. Case in point: for almost the entire day yesterday their new search page had the wrong images in the tables (I should’ve taken a screen shot – chalk it up to a browser compatibility coding error). Regardless, Yahoo should be embarrassed that the site was resolving like this for almost the entire day. It’s things like this that really make me wonder if they are brining their “A” game to the table.

    And as for traffic. I’ve seen it cut in half over the past 2 weeks as MSN has increased AdCenter traffic.

    I think one feature that would really set them apart from the pack is to incorporate a more detailed day-parting system for advertisers. MSN does a pretty good job at this…but it can be done better. This would be a true differentiator for Yahoo and would really help them on the supply and demand side. Of course the arguement could be made that this would only hinder their overall revenue stream.

    BUT, this would send a message to the industry that Yahoo is truly committed to the democratization of search (you know, like that little portal, err, uhm, search company that has the “do no harm” mantra, right?). πŸ˜‰

  20. People should not consider JB an expert on CPC advertising, but instead consider him (and others) a commentator on the companies that operate within the space. Thats why i come here… to hear decent commentary on Google, its business model, the development of the search ‘industry’ and other related businesses.

    On a different subject, its my opinion that the YSM interface is superior to that of AdWords. The one ‘downer’ for me though with the whole YSM experience is that fact that you need different accounts to hit different international markets – which lets face it is probably due to internal account mgmt mechanisms. Yahoo really needs to address this!

    I swear we didnt have this issue when it was Actually, thinking about it… we did πŸ™‚

    In terms of AdWords… its good, but (to me) not quite as logical to use.

  21. As usual you all are keeping me on my toes. No, I’m not a CPC expert, never claimed to be one. I studied how AdWords and Overture worked, I reported on it throughly, I spoke to the people who built the systems, I spoke to tons of folks who used the systems. But I was not an advertiser – I had nothing to sell! Nor do you need to be one to report on the systems. If that were the case, well, why not criticize a film critic for not being a director or actor? Or a financial journalist for not being a CEO?

  22. I leapfrog over all the all the organic listings and while it costs me some I reached my market without any SEO concerns!

    MikeM – you do have SEO concerns because 60% of total search engine clicks go to the natural listings. And in most markets natural clicks convert better too. If you’re ignoring SEO you’re missing out on up to 60% of your targeted market for any given search term…

  23. JB – I laud you for your insight on the search industry. Your site is a great (and trusted) resource and I read it all the time!

    Please don’t take my weighing in on the pro’s and con’s of the engines in any way to be an attack on you or to otherwise question you.

    I just like to give my 2 cents. πŸ™‚

    Keep on posting!!!! πŸ™‚

  24. Aaron, I don’t deny a high organic placement is an advantage. You say 60% of total search engine click got to natural listings, I do understand that. I also understand if you are not above the fold or at least on the first page you are invisible to the majority.
    Not being an SEO wizard AdWords is the simple, and so far inexpensive solution for me.

  25. Don’t you hate when “high-level thinking gets weighed down by reality”? πŸ™‚

    It is possible to do both, though. John’s book is a bestseller for good reason, even though it’s obviously missing out on the details of what generates 98% of Google’s revenue. And the treatment of Bill Gross… way too nice. πŸ™‚

    I wonder if it’s true that Terry Semel has never seen inside YSM / DTC.

    John, if you’re considering signing up, also consider that the full release of the new YSM platform is quite far away. Check out the (bad, old) one, and you may gain some insight into the gap between YSM & AdWords that helped Google to pull away from Y! financially in the past couple of yrs.

  26. Hey bro, I just emailed my family in China and we will be clicking on all of your FM ads. I just clocked on it 100 times from proxy servers.

    Just want you to get a real “fee” of GOogle ad platform

  27. Hey bro, I just emailed my family in China and we will be clicking on all of your FM ads. I just clocked on it 100 times from proxy servers.

    Just want you to get a real “feel” of GOogle ad platform

  28. why am I not surprised of the tone of your review … I think most would agree that your opinion is definitely biased (no need to mention towards what company :), but this tops it all: without trying the other platforms, you decided to share your ‘frist impression’ of the one that actually is the most outdated of them all!!

    also, did you think of taking the pulse of your readers? adwords are annoying … the same thing every where! we are sick of adwords … may be they were cute like five years ago.

    I am sure we’ll see adwords as the background cover image on your next book, eh?

  29. Point taken, John. It can be easy to assume that an “expert” in one facet of an area ia also an expert (or has a great deal of experience) in all facets of that area. Clearly, there are good film critics who have never acted or directed.

    It is surprising though that you or the publisher of The Search did not do start significant Adwords campaign to promote it. I would have figured they would have done so. Luckily, it sounds like the book did fine without it, though.

  30. MSN could kill off Google if they put a simple button on their search that said, “Show results minus any websites that carry Adsense.” Can you imagine the purity of those results? Results from people earning a living off “real” content websites.

    Adsense has singlehandedly destroyed good search. Everything is now at least 2 clicks away instead of 1.

    JB wait until you start tabulating your results.

    Oh…and Rob. I could save you thousands from Google and put you right on the first page in a week for any of your “long tail keywords.” Too bad you’re so heavily invested in your Adsense blinders. There are a lot of other options!

  31. MSN Having a option to remove AdSense site’s is a great idea to drive Google mad! Maybe they could change all of the Amazon results to affiliate ID’s at the same time πŸ™‚

  32. The Amazon ad that’s serving on your name right now (“The Search- John Batelle”) wasn’t placed by Amazon; it’s from an associate with the ID informatiab08-20.

    Either Amazon isn’t targetting your name or (more likely) they’re getting outbid.

    The Amazon ad currently serving on the “John Battelle The Search” keyword is actually from Amazon.

  33. Sooner or later you will learn not to display ads on content sites. Trust me. If I am wrong call me on it. They drain and do not convert.

  34. I fail to understand why people give too much importantce to interface, rather than the ROI. When you compare PPC services, the most important criteria should be the quality/cost of the clicks you get. isnt it?

  35. I couldn’t agree more with the comments of Adwords Vs YSM, the difference is quite astounding.
    My experience with Yahoo vs Google has been that Google delivers more hits, but Yahoo with less hits delivers more sales.

  36. with my 2 years of goolge adwords and 6 months of YSM experience, i could not be more agree with Tom. “Google delivers more hits, but Yahoo with less hits delivers more sales”

  37. ADWORDS is launching VIDEO Ads

    In the coming days, we will be adding click-to-play video ads to the line-up of text, Flash and image ad formats currently supported by the Google content network. At launch, video ads will be available to AdWords advertisers in the US, Canada and Japan – but we plan to roll them out to other regions shortly.

  38. I’ve always found Adwords to be reasonably easy to use and set up – although there will always be room for improvement when it comes to providing information or metrics to the user – everyone has their own requirements when it comes to figures.

    Many Thanks,

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