If you own a business I’m sure you use adwords.  If you use any sort of paper advertising I would recommend you at least give it a try.  Like all advertising – half of it works and half of it doesn’t – and the real issue is you never know which half.  However if I had to place a bet it would be with them.

But my point here is to explain to you why it’s broke.

For a very long time when you used adwords it was like any other product that Google put out, you used it and there was very little if any support.  There was no email support, no number to call, etc.  You could try a forum post (or search Google), but those were for broad issues.  Not specific ones.  The dashboard (where you manage your account) of adwords can be a little complex.  There are a LOT of options and it isn’t always intuitive where options are, or what affect they really have.

Then Google started to send emails to you for adwords with “suggestions” of what to do.  These suggestions typically boiled down to “spend more money.”  The adwords dashboard then created inline suggestions.  What I mean is you’d be in your adwords dashboard and you’d be changing or viewing something, and you’d get a pop-up of what to do.  So you’re adding keywords and then you’d get suggestions.  Add these keywords for more clicks, and it would list 100 to 300 new keywords.  It even allows (or suggests) to select them all and add them.

So here is where it starts to break.  You still get email suggestions and inline suggestions, but then you also get a sales (or support) rep. for your account.  I assume like everything you have to reach an advertising threshold to get one (perhaps $1,000 a month) – but they call you directly and talk to you about your account and where you can improve it.  What the support rep tells you will not reflect what the suggestions suggest – in fact if you take the suggestions you harm your account.

Ok – to explain this fully I need to explain the context of adwords.  Adwords is how you advertise on Google.  You as a business create an account, give them your CC, and then you select how you want to run your ads.  Typically you choose keywords to pay for – so if I was to choose timecard or time sheets and tell Google that I want to run an ad based on this keyword, you then tell Adwords how much you’re willing to pay to get your ad to show up when someone searches for that keyword.  Seems simple, right?  Except there are rules to keywords that they don’t tell you.  Secret rules.

Here’s the actual breaking part.  You don’t just give Google keywords, you give them folders of keywords.  These folders are called Ad Groups.  You then assign these folders or Ad Groups to a “Campaign.”  Campaigns are a fancy word for a bundled setting.  So a campaign might be to run your ad only in Wisconsin for the day of the Superbowl.  Well that’s simple – so what’s broke?  The Ad Groups have secret rules that you don’t know about.  Remember those suggestions that Google gives you?  Those suggestions allow you to add keywords to your Ad Group – typically hundreds of options.  However Ad Groups have a secret rule – if you add more than 30 (some say 50) keywords to an Ad Group, Google will ignore everything after 30 (or 50).  So if you’re reading this, and you went with a few hundred keywords (or even 60) in your Ad Group – Google is ignoring most of them.  You will never know this and they’ll never “officially” tell you.  There is a lot more here, such as quality score and reasons that they do this – but they don’t relay these when you’re adding keywords.  They even steer you in the direction that will hurt you.

I’ve had 2 different Google reps who have confirmed this; I believe they made a point to say unofficially.  They officially suggest make many more small Ad Groups.  If you talk to one they make the same mistake most of us make, they deal with the same thing day in and day out and then expect a user to fully understand that this is expected behavior.  I brought up to them that the Google Suggestions to ad keywords directly contradicts what the rep. was suggesting I do.  Their response was “Well it’s just a suggestion from a computer, you shouldn’t add all those.”  I replied with “But it tells you to add them, and makes it easy to do.”  And that’s as far as it goes – they don’t report any issue and it never gets looked at or fixed.

Lesson = Use smaller groups of Keywords in your Ad Groups

Adwords is broken because there is no feedback loop from the user to the rep. to anyone who changes anything.  It is broken because it makes suggestions that you shouldn’t follow.  It is broken because they’ve made it so complex that the average business user will not know how to best use it, or understand all the (sometimes secrete) settings.  This is Google’s biggest product – their biggest money maker.  If something is hurting your ads from running they shouldn’t allow you to make the setting.  There’s a disconnect here and there isn’t a solution (yet?).

Oh, and there’s another thing called Google Places, which is Adwords Express – which is confusing and cannot be managed in the same dashboard as Adwords – but does something very important if you want to advertise the location(s) of your business.  However that is for another time.

Really, I do like Adwords.