Is that questionable traffic segment worthless? Or merely worth less?
In some parts of the world, lengthy conversations are still being held on the subject of persuading clients to devote enough budget to digital. In light of past battles nearly won, it's particularly maddening that some paid search campaign managers seem so bent on handcuffing their own accounts, that they are limiting their upside through a process of excessive filtering.
To be clear, it's important to use a means of excluding unwanted traffic - such as keyword exclusions (negative keywords). But it's also important that overall campaign strategy be driven by a game plan rather than fear or "best practices" hearsay. You're in advertising, not corporate security. If you feel like your whole job is to keep "bad" clicks away from the website, chances are you're over-filtering.
Some clients - indeed, more than half - will be timid and will go about trying new things in accounts slowly. And that's fine.
A select few clients will be gunslingers, aggressive marketers who actually love to try new things.
But never, ever should the agency or expert over-filter on behalf of the client without being absolutely certain that the client is as conservative as one might assume.
In platforms like AdWords, we've been handed wonderful tools to get very granular in excluding certain keyword phrases and display network sources (and other segments) that are almost certainly bad bets to convert for the target market. From this simple principle inevitably grew overkill. Instead of focusing on the business reasons for filtering, some marketers focused on to-do lists (to look busy); exotic strategies (to look "advanced"); and scare tactics (to win business or to sell a new tool). And instead of seeing Google's machine-learning capabilities in keyword match typing and display network placement (expanded broad match in search and automatic matching in the display network) as broadly positive developments with some negative elements that require hand-tweaking, some marketers have chosen to outright reject them and see only negative aspects.
And so the negative keyword lists and publisher exclusions lists grew. And grew and grew and grew. And sometimes they were misapplied to the whole campaign when applying them at the ad group level would have sufficed.
Sure! Powerful machine learning by the world's largest technology company, using the world's largest dataset, is 100 percent worthless! You should filter as much as you can by hand, and when that fails, get other computers involved to counteract Google's computers, willy-nilly. You should make your account into one big filter.
As I see it, there are three main drawbacks to this over-filtering bias:
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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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