A few weeks ago we explored some options for having our keyword advertising managed by an outside group and settled on Idearc Media, owned by Verizon. They seemed to have a reasonable grasp of things and except for some doubtful answers about Catholicism by our account rep, seemed like they would do a good job.
Boy was I wrong.
I provided them with a full history of keyword data that included conversion rates for each keyword along with a backup of our adwords account and a file with all of our product data.
When they sent me their initial list of keywords for the campaign I was immediately concerned because many of the keywords have produced traffic but have never produced sales. Going through the list it was obvious that the rep hadn't bothered to read the conversion data and had just dumped the higher traffic keywords into the ad system. The rep had also added several keywords to our account for things we didn't sell.
As I was trying to figure out what was going on with our account, I noticed that a Google ad that popped up when I searched for “First Communion Cards” was taking me to the holy card homepage on our site. This didn't seem like an optimal landing page since the only First Communion holy cards on the page were at the very bottom and only there because they were new items. There isn't any mention of First Communion in the main body of the page. When I asked about the rationale for this and asked if people might actually be searching for congratulations cards instead of holy cards, this is the response I received from our rep:
I put that as the home page because that was the most relevant to that search and it allows them to research what cards they were looking for. I dont [sic] want to assume most of the searchers are looking for First Communion.
So…if someone actually does a search for “First Communion card” he didn't want to assume they REALLY meant First Communion. My mind wobbles.
After several emails back and forth trying to get some rational explanation for the keyword selection I spoke to the rep this morning. His explanation for paying for ads on keywords that had never produced sales from standard, non-paid searches?
“Just because people didn't buy before doesn't mean that they won't buy in the future.”
I think there is a definition for insanity along those lines.
Another thing that we were told is that you are only allowed to have one landing page per ad. This means that if you have an ad for a variety of church goods and you used to have a separate landing page for each different keyword people might use, you now have to create a separate ad for each keyword instead of a general ad that covers a variety of keywords. The only problem with this is that it isn't true. The only thing I can think is that they tell clients this so they don't actually have to do the work of finding good landing pages for a bunch of keywords – see the Landing Page Problems below.
The rep sent me a note saying that he couldn't open the Adwords backup file I sent and asked for a spreadsheet. I explained that the backup was from the Adwords desktop tool and he should download it so he could get the full list of ads, keywords and landing pages. He told me he couldn't download the application so I had to send a spreadsheet instead that left out a lot of the useful information.
Okay, so these guys are supposed to be pros and able to reduce our costs while increasing sales, right? During our first week the cost per click was ten times what we normally pay. No big deal, they were just getting the account in place and things would improve quickly. This week the cost per click was twelve-and-a-half times what it usually is!
They explained that this was a new account without a history and costs for Google ads have gone up 400% over the last few years. If the keyword problems mentioned above and the landing page problems below hadn't occurred I might believe them. As it is, I think they are blowing smoke.
Apart from the lousy job Idearc did managing our campaign, the reporting tools they provide are just as bad.
Do you want to see what keywords are associated with what ad? Sorry.
How about the actual text of the ads? Nope.
How about the correlation between clicks, ads, keywords and sales? Nope, no way and are you nuts?
Okay, what about the actual text of the ads that are running? That's crazy talk.
Oh, the reports show that there are form conversions. Great. I can see what forms people are filling out on my site! Silly Ian, that would make sense. Of course you can't.
The report shows a ton of sales coming from Superpages and none from Google but we aren't running ads on Superpages and are on Google. Oh, that's a bug. “Sales” in the report mean anytime someone puts something in the shopping cart.
Landing Page Problems
According to Google:
The landing page is what your site visitor sees first after clicking your ad. Therefore, it's imperative that your landing page works in conjunction with your ad text. If your ad describes a specific product, the landing page should display that product. If your ad describes a general category, that category should appear on the page. In short, your landing page should deliver on your ad's promise.
When optimizing your website and landing page, strive to: (1) Make the content useful, relevant, and trustworthy and (2) Make the site easy to navigate.
Here's how our conversation about landing pages went:
Me: “So how many ads are actually running on our account?”
Me: “You're only running sixteen ads for all of our keywords?”
Me: “So how many landing pages are you using?”
Me: “You're only using eight pages on our site for our entire campaign? What, are you just using our main categories?”
Him: “Pretty much.”
Me: “So let me get this straight. If someone types in “Magnificat” in Google and clicks on our ad they go to the home page for books?”
Me: “We're through. You're not running our account anymore.”
So basically, Idearc mismanaged just about everything they possibly could with our account. Maybe you will have better luck but I'm sure that there are less risky companies to work with.