Thursday, November 27, 2003

Customers rage at Google tweak | CNET

Customers rage at Google tweak | CNET "The search engine giant tweaked its AdWords service in late October, saying it was making the move to better identify successful ads--those that get clicks--and to increase their visibility. It also took steps to reduce the number of unsuccessful ads that show up on its search results pages...

the new system pits smaller companies against bigger ones, ultimately favoring deep-pocketed advertisers that can afford to outbid rivals for coveted keywords...

Google is seeking to address shortcomings in its service without building up a large, well-trained staff of human editors to review ads--the course taken by its main rival, Overture Services.

"Google is trying to accomplish through technology what Overture essentially does through an editorial staff--they have a much more intense review process of what ads can appear against what words, whereas Google relies a lot more on technology," Lamberti said. "The financials are going to play into Google's favor, because they relying on the efficiency of the technology. It's yet to be seen whether it will work."

a recent study from the IAB and Comscore, the average click-through rates for travel- and finance-related sponsored ads were 18.3 percent for April and May of 2003. That compares to click-through rates of 4.3 percent for ordinary search results for related terms...

Under the old system, a hotel-chain advertiser could bid for a term such as "hotel." If the price was right and its Web page was a popular destination for Web surfers, its ads would surface to the top of Google results pages for the term. The buyer's ads would also show up in searches on phrases that included the word, such as "hotel with swimming pool," in a system called broad match.

Opening up broad match
Broad match terms evolve over time, based on the click-through rates of an ad in different contexts. For example, a keyword advertiser for the term "accommodations," might see ads appear for related keywords such as "hotels," "inns," and "hostels." But if the system learns that searchers aren't clicking on the ad in relation to the term "hostels," it will eventually remove that term from the mix.

Google expanded broad match so that it now automatically matches keywords to a wider set of terms, including synonyms and misspellings. Advertisers might now see their ads appear in results for search queries that don't use their keyword at all. For example, an ad tied to the keyword "hotel" might show up in searches on related terms, such as "vacations" or "car rentals."

Google changed a key measure it uses to determine an ad's placement, known as the "minimum click-through threshold." Google now disables any ad that has a click-through rate lower than 0.5 percent. In addition, ads must now show a higher click-through rate than they did previously in order to appear within a certain broad match phrase...

One owner of a travel Web site said that AdSense has displayed ads for hotels in Madrid on pages about Amsterdam, for example. That publisher said that for the last two weeks of October, click-through rates were down 10 percent and earnings were down 14 percent on the AdSense program, compared with the last two weeks of September.

"The relevancy of the ads has deteriorated significantly in the past month," said the publisher, who asked to remain nameless because of Google's terms of service forbid publishers from discussing the program. "When an ad appears on the page that has nothing to do with the topic of the page, click-through and revenues go down significantly."


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