If you’re involved in PPC at all, you’re no doubt aware of the recent change to AdWords ad rotation announced in late April. Google made a sweeping change to one of the key facets of their platform. Not only was the change a major one, Google gave advertisers a whopping one week notice, and offered no way to opt out.
Advertisers were up in arms, to put it mildly. People were figuring out workarounds for the change, and commiserated with one another in social media and online forums to complain about what had happened.
Then, last Friday, Google posted an update about its ad rotation change:
…in response to your feedback, we're planning to make two changes to the setting. First, we'll expand the even rotation period from 30 days to 90 days to give you a longer window for testing new ads. Second, if you still wish to have your ads rotate evenly indefinitely, we're going to offer an opt-out of this change. You can opt-out by filling in your information on this form or by contacting your account representative. Both of these changes will go into effect on June 11, 2012.
I spoke with Sorenson about the petition and its outcome.
Melissa Mackey: What gave you the idea to start the petition to overturn the AdWords rotation change?
Neil Sorenson: I realized quickly that the new ad rotation policy was bad for all. The fact that an opt-out was not built into the "feature" (like was done for the new phrase/exact match policy) caused a legitimate gripe. Sending individual feedback comments to AdWords through Twitter or Google's feedback system is less than satisfying, to say the least. Plus it makes it difficult for us, as PPC'ers, to gauge how many others shared our frustration. I suspected that many others felt like I did and I thought that combining our collective voices might illustrate how truly unpopular the change was.
MM: Did you expect the response that it got?
NS: I did not. I felt that most experienced paid search marketers would oppose the new policy, but wasn't sure if an online petition was the right way to unite all of us. I was skeptical about hitting 100 signatures, much less 600! Despite no precedence that an online petition would make an impact, it was shared on countless sites and blog posts. The response was incredible.
MM: You also spoke directly with some AdWords representatives about the changes. What were the key outcomes or takeaways of that conversation?
NS: After a few weeks (and 450-500 signatures) I sent the petition to ZAGG’s AdWords representative. I wasn't sure if it had already made the rounds there, but just asked if it could be passed on to whoever makes those decisions. A few days later I was told that they might have feedback or questions directly for me. While that conversation didn't materialize, when the opt-out was announced I got emails from a couple people at AdWords saying that the petition had played a strong part in the policy change. The takeaway is that at least in some sense, when we put our efforts behind something, it is possible to produce a change even at Google.
MM: The fact that advertisers can now opt out of the rotation change is huge. Do you consider the petition a success, or is there more work still to do?
NS: I'd say our combined efforts were a success. The petition played a part, for sure. In addition, there were plenty of well-written blog posts, pleas to Google, and advertisers who filled out feedback to AdWords, all of which combined to inform the search giant that we weren't happy. In this instance, it's not quite over because advertisers still need to fill out another form to make sure their accounts are opted out of the current ad rotation settings and assure that they can continue to evenly rotate their ads indefinitely.
Huge thanks to Neil for sharing his thoughts with me and for his efforts on the petition!
I’ve been doing PPC for over 10 years. Never in my experience has a PPC policy change had this kind of a negative response. Neither has Google ever responded by nearly overturning the change.
The lesson here is that one person really can make a difference. The PPC community thanks Neil for his persistence in creating the online petition!