Google's recently released local advertisement tool, AdWords Express, experienced a technical issue that made it seem users were having their ad displayed instead of their organic listing on blended search results.
Background of Google AdWords Express
The AdWords Express tool was launched in late July as a way to encourage busy and technologically less-than-knowledgeable local business owners to use Google AdWords. The tool allows business owners to quickly promote their Google Places page for their targeted categories.
The tool really is meant as an "express approach," taking just a few minutes to set up but allowing for very few post-implementation tweaks. It seemed ideal for local business owners who wanted nothing more than a quick in on Google. However, early on, an apparent issue cropped up that made it seem as though AdWords Express was shooting users in the feet.
How AdWords Express Can Hurt Your Business [Update: Or Not]
The major problem was first brought into the public eye by David Mihm and later confirmed by Mike Blumenthals. Mihm discussed an email from a prospective client that explains the details: "The client swore he was ranking #1 for a couple of key phrases prior to emailing me. He had been advertising on Adwords Express. He shut it off and IMMEDIATELY it went back to letter A for a generic phrase when I checked again."
In other words, the blended results on Google that often bring in results from Google Places aren't compatible with AdWords Express ads. If you advertise for an applicable category, your page will not be displayed in the blended listings, even if you would otherwise have the top rank.
'An Unfortunate Coincidence'
However, after posting the original version of this article on August 16, a Google AdWords Express spokesperson contacted Search Engine Watch to make it clear that "Participation in AdWords Express does not affect the ranking of free, organic business listings in any way."
While she couldn't provide the specific details of the error experienced by Blumenthal, she clarified that it was an isolated error associated with Google Places which has since been resolved. That AdWords Express seemed like the cause of the issue was, as she put it, "an unfortunate coincidence."
Further, she stated that the Google AdWords representative who told Blumenthal that AdWords Express was the cause of the issue was misrepresenting the company.
"Google places a very large amount of importance in separating what appears in ads and what appears in organic listings," Google's spokesperson told SEW. "Google takes this really seriously. We definitely don't want people thinking that ads and organic search listings are tied together in any way."
When I asked if the back-end issue that Mihm's client experienced might be experienced by others, Google's spokesperson said it was an error specific to the user's account and no one else is at risk.
In my original version of this article, I told you to let @AdWords know that this issue needed to be resolved as quickly as possible. Well, I was contacted within 24 hours and provided with an assurance that Google was not breaching the trust of advertisers, as the unfortunate timing of this error made it seem they were, and that the original Places glitch had been fixed.