Google is in the business of selling clicks yet the bulk of CMO’s seem to think that the most reliable source of information for conversion optimization comes from hiring staff who are “Google Adwords certified”. Why do I feel I’m missing something? If I may explain through a parable: imagine you visit a local gym where a fellow member wants to sell you steroids.They assure you that it is safe to use and there will be no adverse impact on your health. A reasonable guess is that given their potential bias for selling the product, you´d obtain an informed opinion from a qualified and neutral third party, perhaps from you local doctor.
The standard educational message from Bing and Google is that we can rest assured, they are covering our backs as advertisers by taking click quality seriously. Your message to them should be: “What a great start, rest assured we’ll do everything we can to help you in this worthy cause.”
If a company who spends $4M per annum is due to receive a 25% refund from Google, that exceeds the entire annual salary of a small marketing team. This may sound exceptional if you narrowly define your playbook by what you learn from a standard Google Adwords Certification course. Yet, this is something that many companies qualify for, particularly those who buy mobile traffic or traffic from a display network as will be illustrated below.
This journey you can start by simply measuring the right metrics, not by paying a fortune for fancy attribution software. The first time I discovered the issue was with an account for which the landing page had three traffic sources, being organic, display network and paid search. It became clear that for the same landing page, the display network produced an excessive bounce rate: higher than 90%, whereas search traffic (both organic and paid), produced a bounce rate below 50%. At first instance, I contacted Google, notifying them that some traffic was invalid and that a refund was due. This request got dismissed through a rather template letter, essentially advising us to fix the “user experience” on the site. This prompted my second response and much laughter, since this time, I contrasted the above mentioned metrics, proving to Google that it was not a UX issue, but rather one of “traffic quality”. Beyond that I had some discussions at an EU level, reaching out to regulators as well as the card provider through which we pay Google. This enabled me to explain to Google the potential consequences if this reasonable request was to be dismissed again. The end result was that Google decided to refund a very significant portion of the advertising budget. This is something I am now helping many businesses with in different parts of the world.
To illustrate just one of the many origins of accidental clicks with an example, I’d like to propose that you conduct a live experiment: Take your mobile phone and laptop computer out simultaneously. Choose an article from an online newspaper – the most reliable source you can think of. Open the article in both your mobile phone and laptop browsers. Imagine you’re in a rush and browse both articles up and down as if you were speed reading. Chances are, if you do this with a few articles on your mobile, you will inevitably click on an ad by mistake: this is known as an “accidental click”. Given the way we browse on laptops, using a mouse instead of a finger on a screen, the chances of an accidental click are much higher on a mobile device. If you do further investigation into this phenomenon, it will reveal ads placed below the header of an article, halfway into the article and even as part of the footer within the website template: you will find many examples. The fact is, it is happening on a global scale and the problem is estimated to cost the advertising industry billions. We are in an era of digital marketing: Just like a cost controller would audit actual consumption of physical items within the business, so do we audit our media buying: not only the back-links bought from SEO contractors but also the clicks acquired through “pay per click”.
Both Bing and Google claims to be doing a lot to ensure better quality traffic which we as an industry should be celebrating. However until such time it becomes clear that they are highly successful in their efforts to reduce accidental clicks, it remains a crucial CMO/CFO function. Are you getting a fair deal with your media buying?
Adriaan Brits is a digital marketing consultant across multiple sectors including iGaming. He is also an author for LinkedIn Learning, where he produces course materials on the use of Google Adwords and Bing Ads, which is used by marketing agencies worldwide.
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