If you’d like to check to see if your ads are active and showing up in Google, don’t just search for your keywords in Google’s search box. Instead, try searching for your ads using the Google AdWords Ad Preview Tool. Why you ask? In short, it’s all about money.
When you search for one of your keywords in Google (and your ad shows up), you increase the number of impressions for both the keyword and the ad by one impression. Doing this once or twice isn’t so bad, but over time it can add up (this is especially true if both the client and the advertiser are doing it). Assuming that you’re not actually clicking on the ad, the increase in the number of impressions leads to a lower click-through-rate (remember that the click-through-rate, CTR, is the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions).
Why should you care about your CTR? Well, since the CTR is the dominant factor in the calculation of Google AdWords’ Quality Score (which is then multiplied by your CPC bid to get your actual CPC), the lower the CTR, the higher you have to bid each keyword to keep each one in the same respective position. Essentially, all else held constant, you either have to bid up your keyword or you see a decrease in your average position for that keyword. If your average position drops too much, you run the risk of not having any ads show.
Put simply, a lower click-through-rate leads to a higher cost per click for the same position. Here’s the process one more time:
- You drive up your total impressions over time because you use google.com instead of the Ad Preview Tool to check to see if your ads are showing.
- Impressions increase, resulting in a lower CTR, and you reduce your Quality Score for that ad or keyword.
- The reduction in Quality Score causes your ad to move to a higher (worse) position or perhaps even fall off the page.
- You either lose out on potential sales because your ad isn’t showing or you increase your bid to compensate for the lower Quality Score, thus costing you more per click than you would have been charged otherwise had you been using the Ad Preview Tool.
Of course, as advertising spend increases, so does the benefit of using the Ad Preview Tool. For smaller accounts, the cost savings might be less noticeable. Regardless, I would also say that the potential for lost sales due to ads not showing could total even more than the potential savings of using the Ad Preview Tool. Advertisers for clients with smaller advertising budgets have told me that, for their clients, it doesn’t really make much of a difference since it might only amount to just a few dollars a month. My reaction? I’d wonder if they’ve told their client that.
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