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AdWords, Katy Perry and The Big Blue Sky

Rob T. Case
AdWords, Katy Perry and The Big Blue Sky

Technology is generally helpful. I love being able to quickly buy music and download it to my phone. I am also rarely late to a meeting thanks to my GPS. When the music program recommends I check out Katy Perry because I recently bought Slipknot's album, or my GPS recommends I turn right while I am on a bridge, I am forced to recognize that nothing is perfect.

As an SEM, I have had to learn that even Google is capable of bad recommendations. In fact, there's a pretty long list between SEO and SEM of recommendations Google provided which turned out to be bad. The most glaring being that e-mail recommending I join Google+...

In AdWords, many of the recommended settings are useful and following them will result in general client happiness. Except this one:

AdWords Recommendation

This is the default view you see when first setting up your new campaign. Notice to the right of the first option is the word “recommended.” If you leave that setting as is, regardless of your specific geographic targeting, you will typically find the following when you check user locations:


In the above example, this client insisted that traffic be served within the United States only. Imagine for a moment how the client felt when they pulled a user location report only to discover that they were serving ads in Algeria, Azerbaijan and Uruguay.

The poor SEM who was working on the account was shocked to see the report, and couldn’t understand how this had happened. She had set the location in her campaign to only the United States, and understandably didn’t get why they would be getting traffic from anywhere else. The client was so mad, they fired the SEM, and even let her know that they would be considering potential legal actions. Yikes.

I see both sides personally. The SEM was doing what Google recommended, and believed it was in the best interests of her client. The client had stated that they wanted their money spent on ads focused only in the United States, and felt their trust was broken. As an SEM, this is a bad spot to be in.

So what is happening here? Well some would argue that these searches are actually stemming from folks who are from the target country (in this case the United States of America), but are searching at that time from one of the non-target countries like Afghanistan. The other more likely scenario is that these foreign searches are being matched at the point of query to the client’s keywords, and are then shown to the visitor because they are known have an interest in the targeted location. Either way, this is not the option you want. Select option number 2:


Choosing this option will mean all traffic that the client’s ad is shown to will be within the area that the client requested. This will also mean fewer useless impressions, which means better CTR, which means better ad rank, which of course means cheaper cost per click. Most importantly, this means adherence to your client’s wishes.

To be fair, if I was running a massive international campaign, I would choose their recommended location setting, and aside from the worst rap lyrics I've heard in recent time, "Dark Horse" is a pretty catchy jam. They are bad recommendations in the majority of scenarios, but they can have their place.

As I stared out over the bridge I would not choose to "turn right" on, I realized the sky was a bright, breathtaking blue. I turned up the radio, and smiled. My GPS may have been trying to kill me, but forcing me to look right for just a second, just long enough to appreciate my surroundings, made me appreciate both life, and my ability to recognize when a recommendation may not be in my best interest.

On the next bridge you cross, I recommend you turn right, too.

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Rob T. Case is a digital marketing expert and President of VonClaro Inc. Rob was Director of Performance for the 2015 Google Search Excellence Award winners, one of four selected to serve as a judge for the 2014 Google Search Excellence Awards, and worked at Google as Adwords Performance Expert training account executives and managers in Search/Adwords best practices. Rob is also co-inventor of the REFbox and co-Host of the radio show/podcast "The Rob and Tristan Show."
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