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Old 08-30-2005   #1
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Why Can't You Out Bid Urchin & Other Google House Ads?

I have been really busy since coming back from the San Jose SES, but heard this while I was there...
The web analytic and bid management terms that Urchin holds the top spots for cannot be outbid. Web Side Story claims to have even tried $100 bid and no go....
Would like to hear a little about this from the AWR.
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Old 08-30-2005   #2
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Quote:
have been really busy since coming back from the San Jose SES, but heard this while I was there...
The web analytic and bid management terms that Urchin holds the top spots for cannot be outbid. Web Side Story claims to have even tried $100 bid and no go....
Would like to hear a little about this from the AWR.
I have to say that 'house ads' are well outside of my ordinary realm. I'm not even aware of who places the ads and looks after the account.

I'll ask around though.

AWR

Last edited by AdWordsRep : 08-30-2005 at 03:06 PM. Reason: fixed quote
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Old 08-30-2005   #3
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Quote:
Web Side Story claims to have even tried $100 bid and no go....
They could be bidding $10,000 or more - after all, if they limit distribution to their own sites they'll get every cent back
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Old 08-31-2005   #4
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I did a search on web analytics and found Urchin in the 5th position and web stats Urchin was in the 3rd position.
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Old 08-31-2005   #5
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Interesting... seems they have suddenly dropped this approach...
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Old 08-31-2005   #6
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I hope someone took screen shots as incriminating evidence.
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Old 08-31-2005   #7
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OK, I'm back with some info, having chatted with the account manager.

The short story is that I've had my very strong impression confirmed: Google's house ads are run on the exact same system and under the exact same rules as any other AdWords advertiser. There are no special levers levered, no special buttons pushed, and no special strings pulled.

Just a bit of background for those wondering why this ad seems glued to the top spot: As everyone almost certainly knows, ad rank is not just a function of Max CPC. One's quality score is also very important, and a high Quality Score will usually result in a higher position for an ad. I can't personally imagine any better circumstances for an ad to have an exceptionally high Quality Score and CTR than these:

A well known and very powerful web analytics tool called Urchin provided by Google, which is advertised by Google, using the name Google in the ad's headline, and urchin.com in the Display URL - and with the ads appearing on Google.com.

As a final note, the ad manager also confirmed for me that we are bidding in line with the high bids for the term at the time the bid was placed, and not significantly higher.

Hope this sets a few minds at ease.

AWR
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Old 08-31-2005   #8
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Seriously, Google's getting no special treatment? I remember Andrew complaining about this back in December, where he got a house ad for a search on "flight tracker" that had Google at the top (see http://www.traffick.com/2004/12/shou...g-with-its.asp).

I just looked, and there's Google still above everyone else. Is Google really paying money to say:

Track Flights with Google
Search for your flight number to
get real-time flight information.
www. google .com

Or anything near to competitive with the flight tracking services below it?

Same thing with a search on [adsense] or [adwords], where you have the top listing. I always assumed you just got this space for free, and since it is your search engine, it didn't really bother me except as I blogged before (http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/041208-101647), I didn't think it should be one of the ad unit spaces available to advertisers that were taken up.

OK, so I know it's not all about the amount you pay, but over in the UK, if I search for [adwords sucks], http://www.google.com/search?q=adwords+sucks&gl=uk (added the country code to force this for those outside the UK), I get this:

Google UK AdWords
A better ROI for your ad campaign.
Try Google AdWords Today!
www. google .co.uk

Do Your Adwords Ads Suck?
Find out how to fix them & reel in
more sales. e-Book $29.99.
www. linkyourwayrich .com

So yeah, here's a case where I can believe that the official Google ad isn't necessarily going to get the most clicks or best quality score, yet it's still rock solid?

Google must have some type of special lever it can pull. Do a search on [jew], and you'll see this as a horizontal ad at the top:

Offensive Search Results
www.google.com/explanation We're disturbed about these results as well. Please read our note here.

That's a remnant over complaints about JewWatch getting top ranked a year and a half ago -- and that ad has been rock solid in that position all that time (yes, there are other ads below it). I always thought it was silly to put what's an editorial warning/advisory in an ad area, but that's where it is, has been and something was pulled to put it in that place.

Perhaps part of it was that Urchin wasn't being treated in the same way as an internal Google product initially. IE, search for [mapping] and you get:

Google Maps
maps.google. com
Easy-to-use online maps with local listings and driving directions.

Above all others. Perhaps since that's so clearly part of google -- using even the google domain -- it's a free house ad and hard coded? But perhaps Urchin had been treated differently, then got treated as an internal google product, then shifted back to "normal?"

It is really odd that apparently suddently, it's lost that rock solid hold it had. That doesn't seem like something you'd expect to occur in only a few house.

Anyway, anything more you can provide would be helpful. Sorry to sound so doubtful, but these other house ads just seem so weird to think they are actually costing Google money and still getting the top rankings all the time.

Last edited by dannysullivan : 09-01-2005 at 06:40 AM.
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Old 09-01-2005   #9
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Hmm, I just tried out Google's latest product, Instant Messaging and guess who is number one.
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Old 09-04-2005   #10
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This is where the playing field becomes quite unlevel, though. Quite right that the inclusion of the word Google in the ad text or title might lead to a very high quality score. Problem with that is, most times editorial policy will reject ads that attempt to use the word Google in the ad text or title. Maybe that's a tip for advertisers in such situations: appeal to editorial if they have a legit reason for putting that word in their ad, and have been rejected at first.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AdWordsRep
OK, I'm back with some info, having chatted with the account manager.

The short story is that I've had my very strong impression confirmed: Google's house ads are run on the exact same system and under the exact same rules as any other AdWords advertiser. There are no special levers levered, no special buttons pushed, and no special strings pulled.

Just a bit of background for those wondering why this ad seems glued to the top spot: As everyone almost certainly knows, ad rank is not just a function of Max CPC. One's quality score is also very important, and a high Quality Score will usually result in a higher position for an ad. I can't personally imagine any better circumstances for an ad to have an exceptionally high Quality Score and CTR than these:

A well known and very powerful web analytics tool called Urchin provided by Google, which is advertised by Google, using the name Google in the ad's headline, and urchin.com in the Display URL - and with the ads appearing on Google.com.

As a final note, the ad manager also confirmed for me that we are bidding in line with the high bids for the term at the time the bid was placed, and not significantly higher.

Hope this sets a few minds at ease.

AWR
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Old 09-04-2005   #11
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I did some checking on the "Google in the ad title or text" situation.

I'm guessing Google virtually never permits the inclusion of that particular trademark in an ad.

I don't like to air dirty laundry, but the problem with this is that it might be particularly hard to get an ad up on the page (no matter what you bid) under the new "quality scores" regime, which appears to have drifted ever so slightly away from past CTR requirements. I am getting an ad position of like 19 and 25 for my new book, which I am attempting to advertise in part using the publisher's funds.

I realized my quality score (for whatever reason) must be very low, so I tweaked the ad to include the title of the book, which includes the word Google. This change however was rejected, and I was specifically directed to remove this trademarked term.

As a result I can get very little search traffic on this term, so the paid search traffic for that book is mostly coming from the content targeting program, which I suspect isn't converting. We are talking about $1.20+ per click to generate content clicks; this is unlikely to pan out.

Yet ironically there are many ads for ebooks costing more (including mine), as well as services and other companies that work in the Google ecosystem, running on the same keywords, doing quite well. But advertising an inexpensive new book on the subject seems to run up against both editorial and quality score issues.

I can only imagine that quite a few advertisers find Google's systems maddening and that this example emphasizes certain drawbacks in non-transparent editorial and relevancy criteria. One thing does seem to be transparent, though: Google can use Google in its ad text and title and we can't. This drives up Google's quality score. Given the vagueness of the component of the algorithm called "other relevancy factors," the fact that the ad is "about a Google service" could well drive up Google's quality score by a factor of 100X. Ergo, Google can claim top spot on the page.

Editorial policy in general is coming to the point of needing a systematic review, IMHO. Disrespectful and sensationalistic ad styles have been creeping in, where in the early days these were rejected. In some industries they seem to garner good response rates, thus increasing quality scores, thus making it hard for conscientious advertisers to compete without completely throwing their brand out the window. Double and triple serving is another trick many are using to get an unfair advantage. This isn't a major trend, but I believe it's one worth watching. There are ways that certain advertisers can ruin the playing field for the rest. But that's the subject of another thread, maybe.
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Old 09-06-2005   #12
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Frankly, I don't know why they don't just say "Those ads are at that spot because they are *our* ads - so there!" And then blow a big virtual raspberry to anyone who complains.

Well, that's what *I* would do....

After all, it is their house, and the deck is always stacked in favor of the house. Maybe that's just the "Vegas" in me talking. I do note that in spite of the house advantage being widely known and assumed, there doesn't seem to be a shortage of visitors and gamblers to LV.

As long as they allowed people to bid normally for positions 2 onward then I really don't see a huge issue. Now, if they banned people from competing, or artificially inflated the bid rates or something, that would be a story. But the Urchin team getting an employee discount or house advantage? I'd be surprised if they didn't.

I've no reason to believe that AWR is misleading anyone, but that doesn't mean that the information they have is absolutely accurate under all circumstances. You have to admit, it seems odd, in view of other "house" ads.

Just come out and say so - I'll respect you in the morning - I promise

What I would NOT respect is a bidding system that artificially raised the bid rates in an area because the fees paid by one bidder simply go back into the same pot they are pulled out of.

That's unfair, since it undermines the basic premise of bidding - that at some price point it becomes unreasonable/unprofitable to bid. Just pin the ad there and let bidding occur naturally for the rest of the slots. Using the standard system without any "fixes" is more likely to cause problems when one bidder is the house, not less, IMO.

My opinion,

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Old 09-06-2005   #13
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I very much agree, Ian. We had a similar case in Denmark just recently with an online auction house where it turned out their own employees was making bids for items on sales. They too argued that it was OK but the public did NOT think so - and especially the press did NOT like it. It was a pure PR nightmare for the auction site. They changed their policy to not allow employee bidding simply to avoid any further problems. I must say, Google should do the same if they want the market to trust them.
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