In case you missed Google’s announcement  yesterday, beginning in February they will begin migrating campaigns that are utilizing either the “Conversion Optimizer” or “Enhanced CPC” options to the “Optimize for Conversions” ad rotation option. According to their results making this change can result in a 5% increase in conversions.
Now I have nothing against Google researching ways to increase performance for their advertisers, in fact I support it. It’s good business on Google’s part to help their advertisers succeed and I think they should continue to research best practices and actively produce educational materials. But that’s where yesterday’s announcement crosses a line for me, because Google is actively reaching into advertisers’ accounts and altering how they are run.
Beyond the obvious conflict of interest present in Google changing advertisers’ settings, it is a violation of our privacy (maybe Google is just trying to be more like Facebook!). And if they wanted to easily migrate users to this option it would have been more appropriate to use an “opt-in” where advertisers can request that Google make the changes through their accounts rather than requiring users who don’t want to make the change to fill out a form (found here by the way ).
Now in the great scheme of things, it probably isn’t a huge deal if taken as an isolated incident. Users who are already choosing to optimize their bidding to increase conversions most likely want to align their ad serving setting with this goal. However, Google is setting a dangerous precedent that prompts a lot of questions:
- Does Google plan on making other unauthorized changes to advertisers’ settings?
- If Google felt that strongly about this issue why didn’t they simply send an e-mail alerting advertisers to the benefits of changing the setting?
- Why did Google announce the change on their Inside AdWords blog rather than send an e-mail to every advertiser who would be impacted by the move?
Google will likely never answer these questions, but they should — these are the kinds of actions that lead people to make the analogy that Google is the fox guarding the henhouse. And right now it looks like the fox might be getting hungry.
This is a guest post by Adam Shain, an associate product manager at WordStream, where he works primarily on expanding and improving the PPC management platform. Previously he worked at J-Town Productions and served in the Strategic Planning and International Cooperation Division of the Israel Defense Forces. He holds an MS in Neuroscience from Brandeis University and an MBA from Babson College. Adam lives in Sharon, Massachusetts, with his wife and two adorable children.