More Transparency Needed On How AdWords Are Ranked?

Google Goes
Las Vegas
from Robert X. Cringely at PBS looks at the anecdote of someone
who was paying $0.10 per ad to promote his site and then tried to test new ideas
with a different site, coming away perplexed about why paying more for the
second site generated LESS traffic. Are things rigged, Cringley asks?

The person he writes about decided to try testing ideas on getting better
results with an entirely new web site. When he created ads for this site —
using the same terms as the old site — he was told he had to pay $1.00 per

It’s not clear whether he actually had to pay that full amount or if this is
what Google was recommending he pay that amount (what you pay and what Google
suggests and actually bills can be different). But he did pay that amount and
got more clicks than his main site.

Then he dropped to $0.40 per click, and his clickrate plunged. Why didn’t the
test site still do better than the main site? After all, it was paying four
times more.

Cringely says he has “no idea” what this happened, leading to his main point.
Since the system has a lot of things to calculate about how well an ad does,
more transparency would help those who might assume it’s just rigged to benefit

Of course, the system’s always been rigged to benefit Google. Ranking ads on
the old formula of CPCxCTR did help promote relevancy, but first and foremost in
my mind, it also ensured Google was giving the most play to ads that were making
it money.

Recent changes — as covered in
New Google
AdWords Bidding System Live For All
Goodman Revisits
AdWords Changes & Importance Of Clickthrough
— introduced the quality score
factor, but exactly what’s in that isn’t certain. That’s concerned some
advertisers. Certainly a clearer explanation would help. Cringely’s article
points this out. John Battelle calls for the same
here, and Andrew
Goodman, of course, has been

that for weeks.

For all we know, part of the quality score might be rewarding an advertiser
with a longer history of performance with Google. Since this advertiser set up
an entirely new account for an entirely new web site, the quality score might
have counted against him in that instance, since that account had no real

It would also be interesting to know more about exactly what wording was used
in both ads. Is the “main” site a more “trusted” URL to users? That has an
impact. More transparency from Google would help, but knowing more specifics
about this advertiser’s situation would also be useful.

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