Today we were doing some experimentation at my firm, and we came across something very bizarre with Google AdWords. We were trying out Google’s new search query reports, which allow you to see the actual search queries searchers used to find your ad. This differs from the keyword reports in Google AdWords in that these reports show the actual queries versus the keywords that you establish in your ad groups.
Why is that helpful? From our perspective, we thought they might provide some interesting data and insight into additional negative keywords we might want to troubleshoot for. Indeed the report did just that. In fact, the report yielded many new negative keywords for us to consider that were not highlighted by Google’s negative keywords tool.
But what was really shocking about this new report is that we found that our clients’ ads have been showing for keywords that do not appear in either the campaigns or the entire account. What do I mean?
Let’s use a fictional example. If the client were Apple and advertises only on Apple-branded terms, this report showed that the Apple ad appeared and was clicked on for queries on the term Microsoft — even though Apple might not be advertising on that term. And what’s worse, in the examples we saw, our clients could be spending quite a bit of money on these terms.
Until this new report debuted, you couldn’t tell that (from our example) the Apple ad might be coming up for the term Microsoft because all of the previous reports provided by Google were focused only on the information that YOU gave Google, rather than Google providing the actual search query data.
Our theory is that perhaps Google is trying to “help” us spend more money by targeting additional keywords WITHOUT OUR KNOWLEDGE. Perhaps the Ad Bot found these terms on or near the landing page? Or perhaps Google is tracking data about “like searches” and serving up ads for queries it thinks are “alike”, such as an “Xbox” ad appearing on a “Nintendo Wii” search because searchers that look for the Xbox may also be interested in a Wii?
What also steams me is that we can’t seem to opt out of this capability (except through negative keywords perhaps). Why even establish keywords in an AdWords account if Google will just predict likeness of searches for you? I liken it to my Tivo. I love my Tivo. But most of the time, my Tivo doesn’t do a good job at making suggestions for me. A computer cannot replace a human brain or even, without a shadow of a doubt, predict its intent.
If you doubt what I’m saying here, just try a search query report in your own Google AdWords account. I’d love to hear what you find. We’ve tried it across several clients now and found some disturbing results.