Own a small- or medium-sized business and use Google Ads (formerly AdWords)? Watch out.
Google has turned its AI loose on unsuspecting Google Ad customers. Unfortunately, the results are exactly what you’d expect from a tech company whose main bread and butter is not in AI but in converting ads to clicks: a quickly draining bank account and ads apparently written by a random word generator. Neither is good news for your brand -- or your bottom line.
OK, Google: What’s going on, and why?
Google is playing defense in an increasingly Amazon-dominated world. The Google Ads network accounts for a massive 70.9% of Google’s revenue – or $95.4 billion, according to Statista, but others are moving in. It’s anticipated that Google’s ad stake will drop by 1.7% in 2018 despite national ad spend growing by 19%.
Google has a problem, and like so many others, it’s banking on AI to solve it. In Google’s case, this involves auto-generating machine-written ads for its unwitting customers -- and billing them for the pleasure. If the ads weren’t terrible, this might not be so bad. But they are, and they’re being expensively rolled out to customers without their knowledge.
How Google crashed our conversions
My company began advertising on Google in 2010. But Google’s unilateral decision to help us promote our business through its “ad suggestions” has seriously undermined our efforts.
Google Ads rolled out Ad Suggestions on some unsuspecting accounts in the U.S. and U.K. this past August.
According to Google, Ad Suggestions are “variations of your existing text ads that may boost performance of your Search Network campaigns.” We found out we were among the guinea pigs when our ad metrics dropped by 47% in just three weeks. Our own carefully honed ads had been supplemented with 50 new “suggested” ads that obviously hadn’t been written by a copywriter and definitely didn’t pass the Turing test.
We quickly discovered Ad Suggestions are nothing more than AI-written ads. And while we appreciate Google’s confidence in its Natural Language Generation abilities, as a 20-year veteran of NLP technology, I can tell you that language generation is one of the hardest text-processing problems out there. Not only did Google generate dozens of nonsense ads tied to our brand name, but they diverted resources away from our high-converting, tested ads as well.
We’re a fairly heavy technology player, so we were able to dig in and figure out what happened before too much damage was done. But what if you were a restaurant or a plumbing company that only dabbles in Google Ads? All you would have seen was that your ad budget was being chewed up -- and that the phone had stopped ringing.
Say goodbye to your hard-won brand equity
Here’s what the new normal apparently looks like:
1. We are paying Google to serve ads that we have no control over.
2. Google is serving as many ads as they want, spending our budget quickly.
3. Google’s ads are atrocious and are destroying our conversions.
4. Google is destroying our brand equity by tying our name to useless, low-quality ads.
But surely Google has realized that all of this has been an unmitigated disaster and that it’s time to switch off Ad Suggestions? Sadly, that’s not the case.
The feature is still out there, spending your money without your input, and turning it off involves a seven-step process that in Google’s words is “not recommended." (We, however, do recommend it -- here’s how.)Since Google has no qualms about telling other people how to do business, we’d like to return the favor by making an Ad Suggestion of our own: that Googleroll back this disastrous “improvement” and leave our ads the way they were: effective.