Sorry AdWords, you do things the wrong way around

Google is a data-driven organisation, but that often means it makes fundamental conceptual mistakes and then just uses the data to find the most efficient way of executing what was the wrong approach in the first place. As I’ve said on many occasions, with Google Analytics it gives you a set of data by default which may be useless to your business, and then assumes you’ll learn what else it has to offer. Instead, it should start off with a blank screen and ask: “what do you need to know about your website visitors?”

With Google AdWords, it begins by telling you to define the searches where you want to appear, then asks what you want to say, and finally asks what you want to do with the clicks. I’ve always believed this is entirely the wrong way around. In any advertising, surely you start by deciding what you want people to do, then work out the message, and only then sort out the advertising location.

Because of this – what I believe to be – fundamental error, it’s easy to get obsessed with ‘keywords’, and neglect the message …or what actions you want people to take. One of our clients recently sent me a finished landing page for an AdWords campaign. “This”, he said, “is the web page which we hope is going to convert people, from having shown they were interested, into enquirers”. It was really good, by the way. Our job was to come up with a mutually-agreed message which would attract the attention of Google users and be appealing enough to get them to click on the advert. Then – and only then – would we need to sort out a location where we’d show the adverts (the ‘keywords’).

Sure, the ad copy would need to vary to match the keywords, and these might feed back into the landing page wording, but this is the way I believe advertising should be done. At heart, Google is a publisher, and like all publishers, its world centres around its own product, not the needs of advertisers. Don’t let it call the shots.