Having Direct Access to Your Adwords Account – The Only True Transparency – Is More Important than You Think
The industry-wide shift in digital spending is real.
Dealers have been moving an increasing amount of their advertising budgets toward digital advertising, and companies are coming out of the woodwork to offer “SEM” in order to try and get a piece of the pie. What’s alarming is their pricing models – which mask true costs from dealer – in an attempt to increase their margins. This lack of transparency is not in a dealer’s best interest and could in fact be tarnishing the trust Google has in their website.
Let me explain.
When a dealer decides to advertise on Google and Bing, they are the ones paying for that media and taking the risk. The SEM company managing the campaigns is there to give strategic direction, offer advice and help them navigate the ever-changing and complicated waters of AdWords/Bing. That, however, does not change who actually owns the account. The dealer owns the account. As you read on, I’ll explain what the concept of “ownership” should actually mean and why you should care.
Ownership Means Access
If you can’t access your AdWords account directly, your SEM company is hiding something from you. There’s been a lot of buzz lately regarding the importance of linking your Google Analytics (GA) account to your AdWords account. Although this does provide some insight, it’s not enough. That’s kind of like driving a car with foggy glass. You need more clarity.
If you settle for GA-only access, or what I like to call “translucent access,” you are missing out on a number of metrics. To name a few: Quality score, change history, geographic settings, daily budgets, impression share, keyword position, ad text, image ad creatives and more. This is the data that drives which ad auctions you are participating in. This is where your in-store strategy should align with your digital marketing strategy.
For the purpose of illustrating how a lack of transparency can hurt your reputation, let’s focus on quality score.
Quality score is a 1-10 ranking (10 being the best) in AdWords used to represent the quality of your ads, keywords and landing pages. Quality score (QS) is essential in large part because, according to Google itself, a higher quality ad can lead to lower prices and better ad positions.
In short, QS measures how relevant your keyword + text ad + landing pages are. It’s Google’s way of awarding the advertisers most relevant to what people are searching for.
Why should you care? First, your domain-level quality score stays with you forever. Second, it is one of your first indicators of holding your SEM company accountable. Third, the better your QS, the less you have to pay! Did you know you can only see your QS inside AdWords, not Google Analytics?
Hold Your SEM Company Accountable
A typical dealer doing SEM wants to focus on their own brand, the brand of their OEM, new cars, used cars, parts and service. Each one of these areas of focus requires different budgets, targeting and messaging. And each one will yield a slightly different QS.
It’s important to understand that you’ll never achieve a QS of 10 for every keyword in your account. Furthermore, for some campaigns, a QS of 4 or 5 can still be effective in driving performance (i.e, driving more shoppers to your dealership at a reasonable cost per lead etc).
By looking at a keyword inside one of the campaigns in your account, you’ll be able to quickly see if the ad inside the same ad group is relevant to the query. If the term is “used jeeps” and your ad says “used cars”, that’s a red flag. Ads need to be highly relevant not only to get potential buyers to click on your ads, but also for Google to give you a higher quality score. Second, click on the ad and see where it takes you. If “used jeep” is the keyword and when you click on the ad it takes you to your home page, that’s another red flag. Since the page isn’t related to “Jeeps,” Google won’t give you a higher quality score. Good campaign structure (organization of AdGroups, keywords, text ads etc) is crucial for good QS.
The most important thing you need to know about quality score is that the QS you achieve on your domain name stays with you. That means if your SEM company is driving your QS into the ground, it is going to make it that much more difficult for anyone managing your SEM in the future to improve it. Log in to your AdWords account, pull a report of your top keywords with quality score as a column, and have a conversation with your SEM provider. Make sure their strategy is being used to improve your overall QS week after week.
Transparency Should be a Non-Issue
Many industries have long since abandoned business models where Google and other SEM costs are obscured from clients or customers. A relationship where one party relies on blind faith is not an effective way to maintain trust over the long-term. Our direct clients have always had full access (100% transparency) to their Google Adwords accounts. After all, they own them. And if the technology and the service are working, why hide it? We have always believed in being fully transparent when it comes to pricing, strategy, and tactics. Heck, even our business cards are transparent.
This belief creates informed discussion with clients, prepares and sets expectations with our employees, and serves as a guiding light for our strategic principles. This is real transparency, that extends beyond just access to your Analytics or Adwords account. It creates a long-lasting relationship.