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Dicrepancies In Google Adwords Reports And Billing
Posted 30 September 2003 - 04:27 AM
Please take the time to read the post below, it raises serious doubts as to the validity and integrity of Google adwords. Any opinions on this would be welcome.
Recently I took over the website management of our Family business, an Agritourismo in Tuscany near Florence. We are a small business with 4 rental apartments and 3 bed and breakfast bedrooms with an annual turnover of around Euro 250,000. In the last 20 months my Father has marketed using Google adwords to get new business which has cost us US$18,000. This is a lot of money for a small family business in rural Italy.
As part of this new role I purchased WebCEO from Radiocom; software which I evaluated and read some good reviews about.
With the software I ran a comparison with the number of hits on our website and the number our CPC search engines were charging us and the results were not what we expected. Apart from Google Adwords we advertised in Overture (USA and UK), FindWhat, and others
I reviewed the amount of hits we received from Google and Overture and found discrepancies between the amount we were being charged for and the amount we were receiving on the website according to the reports from WebCEO.
The hits from Overture were consistent with the WebCEO reports and with the level of hits we received on the whole. Google was not consistent.
I approached Google after running a report on August 26th from which Google reported a total of 54 visits to my website from Google adwords. However, on the same day Overture reported directing 14 visits to us yet my reporting software revealed the website, in total, received just 50 visits and 45 unique visitors.
A detailed review of the stats from WebCEO indicated further discrepancies from Google over previous days. So I decided to email Google about my concerns.
They replied and in between naturally denying these discrepancies the reply was most revealing. It was an auto-generated email, i.e., they have created a standard response to this problem, which means I am not alone in having doubts as to the validity of their programme. Google also added that their technology is better than anything we use despite the fact that they are charging us more than the other search engines combined and Google are charging us for more hits than the website is receiving in total, which includes other search engines and direct typing etc.
The points they raised in their defence were:
'We rely on our own servers' web logs to supply the most
accurate site traffic data. We guarantee that our reports only include
clicks and impressions that our web logs indicate we have served.'
When I asked what value their guarantee has and how they guarantee this they chose not to respond.
‘Additionally, Google's reporting technology can record clicks that
other web tracking programs may miss. Some tracking programs may not
register clicks that occur while the destination site is down, or they
may have limitations on the kinds and sources of clicks that they
Google suggest here that their reporting technology is superior to whatever hit counter we use. However, our website was up throughout the periods in question and it reports all hits, I have tested this myself.
‘To help you reconcile the discrepancies you are seeing, please
consider these variables:
Google ad network: Google displays ads on a growing network of
search and content sites’.
A largely irrelevant fact, as the subject in question is not the source of hits, but the number of hits.
Time discrepancies: Time discrepancies between different tracking
programs can throw off estimates of clicks. Be sure to compare the
appropriate time periods. All of our reports are accumulated on US
Pacific Standard Time.
Good point as I am based in England and Google are 8 hours away in California. So for the day in question, 26 August, where Google charged us for 54 clicks, I looked through the hourly hit rate and worked out how many hits we received during Google’s 24 period.
But the CPC discrepancy was even greater, revealing just 41 unique visitors and 45 visits between the time of 08.00 on Tuesday August 26th and 08.00 on August 27th UK time. As opposed to Google’s claim to have sent 54 people our way in the same 24 hour period, in fact there were even less visits than before. The last point in their defence was:
'IP selection: Your system may filter out visits from your IP address; however, AdWords does not.'
Only my IP address is filtered out and I have all my websites saved in my ‘favourites’ list, given how much google charge I do not search for my own websites through Google adwords.
The evidence seems to point to the fault being at Google, however, at no stage did Google admit they could be at error, and finally they drew us to the terms and conditions of the agreement with Google, which all Google adwords customers must agree to, and to a clause that stated the customer must only accept the Google results as the correct results. By this stage such a statement did not instill any confidence in Google.
Our company reached a decision that we would immediately suspend all Google Adwords campaigns and see how hits to the website changed. We signed up new campaigns with a number of cheaper search engines. The result has been staggering, we have cut our search engine marketing costs by at least 90% while hits to our website have increased substantially, (this is alongside my own SEO works and I hope some growth is a result of optimising the website.)
So we have cut our costs by removing Google adwords from our marketing campaign. However, the key question to us is; how accurate was Google in reporting and billing for adwords in the first place?
For a small business providing accommodation in a rural part of Italy, $18,000 is a lot of money to spend over 20 months, so have we been overcharged by Google, and if so, by how much and is there a way of finding out?
Also, who else has doubts about Google adwords and what have you experienced? I feel this is a legitimate and valid case against Google, their search engine technology is brilliant, but their reporting software is, in our opinion, highly suspect.
Posted 30 September 2003 - 09:42 AM
Here are a few thoughts:
1. Personally, I haven't seen discrepancies like the ones you've experienced with my clients campaigns. That definitely sounds like something you need to work out directly with Google.
2. It looks like WebCEO uses a tracking code to track site visitors. While this is convenient, it's not necessarily the most accurately way to track visitors. You're probably better off checking your log files to see what's really going on.
3. Stepping back from the discrepancies for a minute, how good of investment has the $18,000 you've spent over the past twenty months been for your business? If you are seeing a high return on your investment, you might want to consider accepting the program and it is. On the other hand, if you're not receiving a positive return on your money, maybe you shouldn't be using program at all?
Posted 30 September 2003 - 09:56 AM
To clarify your post, I take it this was written by you and something you've experienced? (It wasn't clear whether this was your experience or if you copied that post from somewhere else.) If it's not your experience, we need to credit the person who actually wrote it. If it is your experience and you wrote the post, then it's fine as is.
Posted 30 September 2003 - 09:59 AM
First of all, I am sorry to hear that you feel Google has dealt you a short hand. I have found that in general, Google delivers a better conversion rate and ROI than other PPC vendors.
Seeing descrepencies in the reports are normal. If you were to use 3 different tracking systems on the same web site, you would probably get three different numbers for clicks. This is normal, and a result of differences in the way the software works. No tracking solution is perfect. Especially today, with products that are designed to protect users privacy on the web becoming more pervasive.
Its no surprise that Google was not real willing to work with you. Primarily what they would be concerned about is fraudulent clicks- which happen from time to time. If you can demonstrate that you have recieved 500% of normal charges in two days, you might have a case. But a minimal 10% or 15% reporting difference can and should be expected. I would suggest going back and running your server logs through several different analyzers, and averaging the results together to see what happens.
I see the same kind of descrepencies through Overture, Findwhat, and all the other sources as well. I am surprised you have not. Perhaps you should revisit this with more in depth analysis.
Like Haystack mentioned.. more important than how many clicks, is the question: how is your return on investment? You didn't mention anything about this. What is your conversion rate like for Google leads? Without knowing this, it would be wrong to eliminate Google from your marketing mix.
Posted 30 September 2003 - 01:59 PM
We stopped using Overture completley because they continued to allow fraudulent clicks (see repeated clicks) and let one company bid on multiple spots via "separate" URLs.
We noticed something similar, from the same group of nasty people, on Adwords. The difference, however, is that Adwords took care of the problem...quickly.
I'm glad that at least one of the PPCs appreciated the $5k/week we were shelling out.
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