Default is yours – or not

Timely pre-BOPzine announcement: Free AdWords Ball web clinic tomorrow Wednesday 2 September at 1pm EDT, and Traffic Surge web clinic Thursday 3 September at 1pm EDT. AdWords Ball is for you if you are getting traffic but not enough profit; Traffic Surge if you haven’t yet found a rich online vein to mine.

10 years on an uncomfortable bicycle

On Sunday, I got a lesson in bicycle maintenance from my neighbor John. He showed me how to clean and lube the chain, true a wheel, and even out the brake pads on my Bianchi hybrid. Then he told me to get on the bike (which I’ve had for over a decade) and pedal around the parking lot.

Turns out the seat post was a quarter of an inch too low, and the seat itself was several inches too far forward and tilted too far down. Hence the lower back pain I get whenever I go for long, strenuous rides (like from my front porch to the car ;).

In about 30 seconds, John adjusted the post and seat. I got back on and immediately felt more comfortable. I was no longer using my inner thigh muscles to keep from sliding forward off the seat. My knees no longer extended past the pedal, so there was no strain on my Achilles tendon.

The  shop that sold me the bike made sure I had the right wheel size, but that was about it. I accepted the default settings unquestioningly, and didn’t realize the compromise I had made until a couple of days ago.

Before bicycle sizing

(Me and my bike before the adjustments – just kidding.)

The AdWords default settings don’t fit either

When you created your first AdWords campaign, Google didn’t bother to show you most of the settings options. They didn’t want to confuse you with too many choices (think how many small businesses take one look at the complicated AdWords interface and run away screaming – it’s not a trivial number).

So you began by showing your ads on all three networks: Google, Search Partners, and Content.

You used broad match keywords. No negatives. No ad scheduling. Showing your ads evenly throughout the day. Showing your better performing ads more often. And so on.

Google’s defaults are designed to give you as many impressions and clicks as possible. That’s no accident. The more impressions you get, the more competitive each keyword auction, and the higher the bids go. More money for Google.

The more clicks you get, the more money for Google.

Your default settings might be OK enough that you don’t wince in pain every time you log in to AdWords, just as my off-the-rack Bianchi got me from point A to point B without obvious agony or contortion.

But in the same way that a few personalized tweaks by an expert turned cycling into a whole new experience for me, customizing AdWords to your unique business can mean the difference between getting by and living large.

Google is not smarter than you

Google knows a lot about searchers. About what they want. About how many of them want it. About how they go about finding it. But when it comes to the meanings of words, Google’s artificial intelligence language algorithm is about equivalent to a drunk toddler.

Want proof?

Next week I’m speaking at an AdWords conference in Germany. As a sat down to prepare my talk, I thought it would be a fine idea to see what the participants were promised on the conference web site. So I navigated to the VNR-Akademie site and found a synopsis of my talk:

I entered the URL into Google and ask it to translate the page:

Here’s what I got:

Enjoy the highlighted sections for a few seconds…

Now, I admit that much of the translation is not bad. Very useful for me, in fact. But remember, this page is talking about AdWords itself, a topic that Google arguably knows enough about to avoid a construct like “So Google is ticking – and so you get a top position.”

And I’m not being pissy here just because I can’t beat a $6 computer program in chess. No, it’s not robot envy at work, just a clear eye for Google’s current limitations.

If you’re not tweaking your own AdWords account, you’re leaving lots of sales on the table, and forking over way too much money to Mother Google.

Free! Two Tweaking Web Clinics

AdWords Ball: Wednesday, 2 September 2009 at 1pm EDT

If you are already making sales, but want to spend less and earn more, spend an hour with me on this tip-filled webinar. Details and registration here.

Traffic Surge: Thursday, 3 September 2009 at 1pm EDT

Still trying to figure out how to make your first dollar online? Wondering how to find profitable markets? Struggling to get AdWords off the starting block? In one hour, you’ll discover how to generate your own Traffic Surge. Details and registration here.

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3 Comments. Leave a comment or send a Trackback.
  1. #1 • Terence said on September 1 2009:

    Your Google translation analogy doesn’t hold up Howie. Google uses human input and suggestions to modify its robot’s best efforts.

    If you want screw things up, I agree, let a robot have free reign, but if you want to screw things up totally, let the humans at it!

  2. #2 • Damon said on September 9 2009:

    Hey Howie,

    As always your humor and helpful info is welcome in my inbox. I’m looking foreword to the webinar! What would us humans do without Howie…

  3. #3 • Howie Jacobson said on September 14 2009:

    None of my analogies really hold up – they’re just for entertainment purposes (as the 900 number commercials say).

    Yes, a random human can do a lot of damage. But if you’re the human, you want to wrestle control of your AdWords account away from Google. Otherwise, you’re in the unenviable position of having zero competitive advantage in an area where others are going to outstrip you by out-thinking a computer.