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Announcements from Google, Plus AdWords Editor Woes

There have been lots of announcements coming from Google lately, as usual.   Incidentally, you can get a ton of good news about Google and Google AdWords, by simply setting up an alert for “google” and “adwords.”   I usually start out my day browsing the latest news about them and Yahoo!, as well as cruising the blogosphere.   Here’re a few Google announcements I’ve encountered over the past week:

1. Google is investing in Pixazza.   This is a startup company that enables web publishers to receive revenue by including advertisements on images in their sites.   Pixazza allows site visitors to see products displayed inside larger images that are available for purchase.   The buzz is this could be an AdSense-for-images type venture.   AdSense has been huge for Google.   This and using links to determine rankings were the two big things Google has come up with that have made the company huge (besides giving the company the name “Google” – so I guess that’s three big things if you want to count that).   It makes sense that they’d continue their quest to make the Internet more of an ad-based medium with images.

2. Google is going to display a wider range of related search terms at the bottom of some search engine result pages.   They’ve made it sound more impressive by putting it out as a development in “semantic search.”   Hard-core search semanticists would probably disagree, depending on how Google is accomplishing this.   (Also worth noting is Ask Jeeves already does this.)   One of the big functions of semantic search is understanding the meaning of a query, matching results even when the exact phrases don’t match.   So if someone were searching for “stuffed animals under $20″ – if there was a webpage with a teddy bear being advertised at $10, a semantic search engine would know that’s a candidate result for that query.   Right now search engines wouldn’t have a clue unless you used the same terms that are on the page advertising the bear.   Understanding what phrases are related to another phrase is a step in the semantic direction, but there are ways Google could be doing this that fakes semantic concepts.   For instance, if they are just taking queries that visitors often use in follow up to another query, then that isn’t true understanding (all philosophical notions of “understanding” and “meaning” aside.   Not that this isn’t important, but this isn’t exactly a small topic that I can approach without making several books worth of assumptions).   A search engine ought to recognize a phrase that fits the meaning of another phrase, even if it isn’t popularly used.   For our stuffed animal example, even if search engine users never query an engine with “$10 teddy bear,” a search engine should still know that this is a stuffed animal under $20.   It’s hard to imagine true semantic search taking off without new technologies or a massive overhaul of the web – I doubt a publicly traded company would have the kind of research and development department to seriously take a stab at it.   This might be a job for the Pentagon.

3. Google is supposedly going to announce Java support for their Google Apps engine.   This is somewhat interesting to me because I recently became a “Sun Certified Programmer for the Java Platform, Standard Edition 6.”   At least that’s what the card they gave me says – basically I had a nightmarish month of working after-work to get that one, but I’m proud of it.   Google’s App engine lets you run applications using Google’s infrastructure. In case you haven’t read any of the many interviews of Eric Schmidt, Google is all about cloud computing. Rather than develop an OS, they’re about making software and data available through the Internet on their own systems.   A whole host of security, privacy, and reliability issues arise from this.   Can you imagine a Google that’s “too big to fail” because it has all of the world’s small business and personal data?   I mean, what does every company need to survive: a line of credit (X), access to internal/customer data (√ . . .?), cheap employees (√), electricity (√ . . . ?).   Anyways, it’ll be interesting to see how that one shapes up over the years.

I’d like to take a little time though, to explore this last bit about “cloud computing.”   One thing that sort of bugs me, is Google put out the Google AdWords Desktop Editor to perform bulk edits on an account.   Which, if you’re moving things over to the Internet, you have to ask yourself: “why?”   Why, from this company, would they give platform specific software to install on your personal computer in order to perform edits on your AdWords account?   I use the AdWords Editor daily, and there are a lot of disadvantages to how it is setup.

First, you have to sync up your application with the data that are in AdWords, because those data are on Google’s servers and editable from the online interface.   This is a big hassle.   Recently I had unposted changes in my AdWords Editor that got totally erased because of some bug with an upgrade of the AdWords Editor software.   Basically, the changes weren’t ready to post to AdWords’ servers, so they were sitting in my Editor.   In the meantime, Google released a new version of the AdWords Editor, so I went to upgrade. I did a backup, upgraded, and then it turns out that there was a bug in the backup-restore process – my unposted changes were erased, not recoverable.   That’s a big headache for me.   I wonder what would have happened if this all occurred on Google’s end – they updated their interface and my data was lost while I was sleeping Sunday night and woke up to an unpleasant surprise Monday morning.   I think maybe there would have been a different response, besides, “your data is gone, nothing we can do.”   Seems like they’d have more liability then.

-Sidenote-

I’m also a bit suspicious about the programming team Google has for Mac.   There are a few weird little bugs in AdWords Editor for Mac with the windows – sizing and how they pop-up – makes it really inconvenient to manage your posts.   That mixed in with the fact that Google still hasn’t launched Chrome for Mac makes me a little suspicious.   I think it might have something to do with Google’s relationship with FireFox, but I’m not really sure?   If you’re FireFox, you might be a lot bit worried – Internet Explorer is finally coming out with modern versions of their web browser and now Google has a super-fast, JavaScript-awesome browser . . . uh-oh.   FireFox is still making positive gains in market share, last time I checked, but that is probably small comfort.

-End Sidenote-

Back to AdWords Editor – the second major problem I have is with importing data.   This takes a long time.   You can edit your account without importing performance stats, but usually optimization requires you to have the performance stats, and it’s convenient to be able to do searches on those stats without running a report in the AdWords interface and searching through spreadsheets.   Not only is it inconvenient to import data, the GUI isn’t visually friendly to really view data.   Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot better than the old, download a bulk spreadsheet, make changes, and upload.   I love the search filters in AdWords Editor.   Maybe I’m just a dinosaur – I’m too used to logging into AdWords and working in the web interface.   Yahoo! Search Marketing has come out with advanced search features in their online interface that are great – very limited – but sometimes more convenient than the AdWords editor.     Getting data and account structure in one spot is often quick and easy.

So you have to wonder why a company dedicated to the cloud would have a desktop editor?   Well, I’m not totally sure what qualifies as being on the cloud – the data is still up there on Google’s data centers – so it’s like a half-and-half, I suppose.   But with all this stuff that comes up with versioning, matching up data in multiple locations, and getting data set next to account structure – distributing the computation to everyone’s personal computer doesn’t seem like it’s worth it.   Google – land of infinite servers – can’t handle the load?   At least, before, they had some bulk editing features you could do in the online interface, but they got rid of them to move it all to their desktop application.   I think I’d like a hybrid solution.   Google could at least provide some quick searching and editing in the online interface across adgroups, ads, and keywords for set date ranges.   This way account managers could see basic stats and make bid and status changes without having to sync up data and import performance stats on their desktop application.

. . . So, another big week of news and company philosophy from Google: advertising in images, “break-throughs” in semantic search, Google app engine in Java, more (or less) computing on the cloud.   Never a dull moment from those guys.

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About Steve Loszewski

Steve Loszewski leads the paid search team at Pure Visibility. He is individually qualified in AdWords, has the Google Analytics Individual Qualification, is an Oracle Database 10g Administrator Certified Associate, and is a Sun Certified Programmer for the Java Platform SE 6. Steve has been managing AdWords accounts since 2005 and also has experience in SEO. Most of his time is spent in the trenches, working with keywords, ads, bids, landing pages, placements, etc within the AdWords Interface. You can find him on Google+.

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