Google, with its promise to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible, speaks the language of transparency – yet it doesn't always practice what it preaches. But I'm betting there will be continued pressure on it to do so.
In a WikiLeak-y world where citizen revolts are fueled by Twitter hashtags, there's only so much you can paper over with a clever wrapper. When it comes to your product, people want to know: does it work? How does it work?
As Don Tapscott has noted, "If you're going to be naked, you'd better be buff." Google plugs in well in this regard. It's often had better fundamentals than its competitors, so it has less to hide. In the advertising program, Google generally offers more segmentation, access to detailed reporting, and opt-outs than its competitors.
So it's a little disappointing when Google holds back on the release of some new features and reports. It's also become fond of inventing new framing mechanisms in reporting; taken too far, the experience for advertisers can become Orwellian. Experienced advertisers may experience revulsion when faced with interface innovations that offer, for example, automated suggestions for cramming more irrelevant keywords into an account. "Lost Impression Share" seems clever, but the implied remedy for this is merely a higher bid or broader keyword match types.
Sophisticated advertisers would be appreciative if Google made a number of changes to the AdWords program in 2011. Here's a sampling of seven key ones:
"It's important to note that due to these changes, we're removing some columns that you had previously been able to add to your Keyword Tool results: Estimated Avg. CPC, Estimated CTR, Estimated Ad Position, Estimated Impressions, Estimated Clicks, and Estimated Cost. While you won't be able to access these columns in the updated version, you'll still be able to see much of this information in the context of an ad group."In a transparent world, phrases like "much of this information" and "in the context of an ad group" sound mealy-mouthed, though the latter actually speaks to the likelihood of more accurate group-wide projections. But in the same post, Google is also still recommending you use the Traffic Estimator tool. In most of my dealings with that tool, it's told me I'll get next to no traffic unless I bid ridiculously high. After all these years playing with keyword tools, I can say with some certainty that the best keyword research of all is actually building, launching, testing, running, and iterating a live account.
At some point along the line, it's easy to cross that imperceptible line between "providing appropriate information to stakeholders" to "waging a concerted campaign of disinformation." Hopefully, we're keepin' 'em honest.
In a future column I'll look on the bright side, at amazing nuggets of information that are made available.
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Goodman is founder and President of Toronto-based Page Zero Media, a full-service marketing agency founded in 2000. Page Zero focuses on paid search campaigns as well as a variety of custom digital marketing programs. Clients include Direct Energy, Canon, MIT, BLR, and a host of others. He is also co-founder of Traffick.com, an award-winning industry commentary site; author of Winning Results with Google AdWords (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed., 2008); and frequently quoted in the business press. In recent years he has acted as program chair for the SES Toronto conference and all told, has spoken or moderated at countless SES events since 2002. His spare time eccentricities include rollerblading without kneepads and naming his Japanese maples. Also in his spare time, he co-founded HomeStars, a consumer review site with aspirations to become "the TripAdvisor for home improvement." He lives in Toronto with his wife Carolyn.
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