Slashdot | Google Sued Over Click Fraud
Slashdot | Google Sued Over Click Fraud
I have a radical proposition: Get rid of insertion orders for PPC advertising.
Do IOs really serve a purpose? Or are they simply an extraneous carry-over from print advertising? Someone in an accounting department would probably be able to explain to my why this document is necessary… but from the point of view of a pay-per-click advertiser, they are a nuisance and a potential liability.
What information is in the IO? The length of the campaign, the budget, the client info, and the payment method. All of these are defined when you set up an advertising account online. Perhaps this is seen as a kind of protection for the advertiser, to make sure that they do not keep their ads up longer than intended or spend more than intended… but defining and changing the date or budget parameters is simple online. Even setting a max spend not to be exceeded, or an end date…
If it were not so simple to control these factors, or if, as in print advertising, there were a long lead time – so that you can’t cancel an ad at the last minute – then insertion orders would make sense.
OK – so yes, it’s another piece of paper that requires a few e-mails back and forth to obtain and get signed. One more thing to fax back. Pretty minor nuisance. How can it be a liability?
It becomes a liability when the Insertion Order runs out, and the campaign stops – and the advertiser does not realize it immediately.
Oh, wait – maybe that’s more a customer service issue. Maybe the real problem is that customer service reps do not send out notices that an account is about to be shut off because the IO budget or end date is reaching an end. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Or the customer service rep does not assure that a new IO is prepared in a way that will leave the account with no downtime.
Uh-oh. Is this turning into another Google rant?
Yes and no. Neither Google nor Yahoo has been consistent about keeping me apprised of IOs reaching either budget or time limits.
Yahoo has been better about letting me know when one is going to end and needs to be renewed, but not so good about noticing that an account had nearly spent its limit, or was spending too fast.
Google has been wildly inconsistent.
For example. One client has three accounts. The IOs are all set to end on the same day, but they are burning through their budget at different speeds. The rep I work with lets me know, about a month in advance, that this is happening… and that one of the accounts will reach the budget limit early.
I am happy they have done this, and ask that we go ahead and complete new IOs.
I hear nothing back for a week. I am told there’s no rush. I get passed between two account reps, who do not share all of the information I communicate. One IO gets completed, but with a start date that leaves the account with a day of downtime. The others get extended – so that now, instead of three accounts with a single end date, I have three with three different end dates.
I hear nothing further, until I notice that one of the accounts is not running. My client loses money. Google loses money. Why did I not get a call or an e-mail? And why, when I did hear back (two days later, after I followed up again, from a *third* rep), did they act surprised that I wanted a new IO?
This is not the first time Google has allowed a campaign to simply end without following up.
Oh, wait… I guess it did turn into another Google rant. (Hey, don’t get me wrong. The folks at Google are really quite nice. Just not so well organized.)
But seriously, why is all of this needed in the first place? If an insertion order really is a necessity, why can it not be generated easily, by the advertiser, online? If an electronic contract is insufficient, the info could be autofilled from information already in the account, printed, faxed back… Take out a few steps and simplify everyone’s lives.
Have you ever wondered who those “editors” are at Overture/Yahoo? What exactly do they do? Why do their decisions seem to be inconsistent.
Well, I can tell you. I used to be one of those editors.
Here’s the basics:
An editor receives a full week of training when they start, mostly on the guidelines and interpretation thereof. Some of them are cut and dry, and any editor will make the same decision (unless they are just being sloppy.) Like the back button. It’s got to work. If someone goes to your site from a PPC ad, and sees that it’s not what they are looking for – they must be able to easily return to the listings using the back button.
Some of the rules require interpretation. This most often is an issue with content. Let’s say you want the keyword “tire” and your site sells rims. Is a rim a tire? Is it a tire part? The editor gets this in front of them, and they make a judgment call. My judgment call may be different from the editor sitting next to me. Is someone who types the word tire into an engine looking for rims? In fact, might decide one way today… and (having forgotten about seeing the listing before) reverse my decision a month later when presented with the same scenario.
Now, here’s where it gets fun… The editor may turn to their neighbors and get an opinion from one, two or three others sitting nearby. We did that all the time. Some editors more than others. Some editors are inclined to be more lenient. Some are more strict to the letter of the guideline. Some think more like the advertiser, some more like the searcher. And sometimes, at the end of a long week, when we are rushing to meet our quota (yes, they have quotas for the number of listings an editor must process) – we get sloppy and don’t pay as close attention. We miss content, we forget to check the back button. Listings get declined when they shouldn’t or approved when they shouldn’t. Not often, but they do. (I prided myself on my exceptionally high quality scores, with a less than 2% error rate.)
The most common reason to decline a listing is probably obvious path. You have a lovely home page, and want all visitors to your site to go there – but how do they find the exact thing they were searching for from there? If it’s obvious (shown on that page, or listed in a menu), then you’re good to go. If the editor doesn’t see how to find it, then a searcher is unlikely to as well. Unless of course, the editor doesn’t know that the keyword you want, “dubs,” are large rims, and thinks it has something to do with voiceovers… and then, even though you have 22” rims listed in the menu, they might decline. I’d hope that they’d take a moment to figure out why you want the term (asking, doing a web search) first, but – sometimes that quota looms and finding answers takes time.
Here’s the thing about editors. They’re only people. People are inconsistent, though we do our best to be otherwise.
That is, when your listing is reviewed by a person, and not a program.
Another source of inconsistency is a little thing which editors aren’t supposed to talk about called “E2.” These are listings that are deemed “low risk” and processed automatically. Low risk listings meet the following criteria: they are low-volume, they do not contain any brand names (at least none that are in the database), possible drug or medical terms, gambling, or adult. Sometimes a listing can be flagged because there is a word in the description that the system can’t interpret according to context… like “bet” and then it will be routed to an editor.
You see, the volume of listings has increased so rapidly that there is no way for editors to keep up with them all… so E2 processes many of them. And, being a program, it has limited capacity for interpretation. What’s more, when things get really busy and the editors are all working overtime, the E2 program might get tweaked to be less sensitive, and allow more terms through.
But call me biased (OK, yes, I admit it) I prefer this system, even with its flaws, to Google’s… Because I know when my listing is submitted that it’s either online or not. If it’s declined, I can make a change and resubmit. With Google, I may have a listing live for months, only to one day get an e-mail saying that the ad has been shut off because of a guideline violation… You get a higher quality ad, most of the time, when it’s been proofed by an editor before it goes live. (Some of the ads on Google are such a mess, I’d be embarrassed to use them to represent my business.)
So if you get something declined and don’t understand why, maybe it went through E2. Maybe it went to an editor who was tired. Most likely, on the other hand, it simply didn’t meet the requirements. Keep in mind, most of them are there to improve your click through and ROI – because doing so is in Yahoo’s best interest. You getting traffic is what makes them money. You making money is what keeps them making money. The better you know the guidelines, the better you can make your ads work for you.