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October 8, 2010


Competition Through Screwing Yourself

by Anthony Verre

Google: The Master PuppeteerIt’s been a while since I’ve posted. It’s been even longer since I took off the “kid gloves” when speaking about the benevolent Google. But today, the gloves come off. Thanks to Marty Weintraub of aimClear for being the catalyst for this one. (I owe you beers.)

If you haven’t read Marty’s post, consider it prerequisite prior to this post. And, since I know your time is valuable, let me give you the gist:

…Baris Gultekin, Group Product Manager, Google AdWords, Google, Inc. clarified that the ubiquitous AdWords Keyword Tool now only provides keywords Google deems “commercial”.

Strictly Commercial

Say that out loud to yourself once again. “Provides keywords Google deems commercial”. So, not only did Google kneecap the tool’s ability, which many noticed when Google zapped the Legacy Tool, but now they’ve excluded results they don’t feel make the “commercial” cut.  Clearly this begs the question, what’s a commercial keyword?

Bottom-line answer: short-tail, head terms that have incredibly high volume and an incredibly high CPC.  In essence, terms that make Google a lot more money, forcing the unsuspecting into thinking those are the only terms people search, and creating a false plateau of artificially high CPC prices.

Or Not So Smart

We’ve all known that you’ve lied to us in that rotten keyword tool of yours anyway. We’ve all known that you artificially inflated volumes and prices. But actually admitting it could not have been dumber move. Here’s why:


Now that we know, officially, the tool is lumpy pile of crap, why is anyone going to use it? I’m not. When I thought it was as close to the source as possible (exact match on all terms and still taken with a grain of salt), it was a golden goose. Now?

Now it’s just another sad, misguided attempt to sucker-punch the suckers. A “keep us fat and happy off your SEMs inability to understand SEM” mentality.  No SEO or SEM in their right mind would be using this tool now.

Google's Evil EmpireThe Evil Empire

Don’t be evil? It’s seems that’s all you’ve been up to as of late. Google Street View privacy issues, snatching Wi-Fi data out of thin air (unknowingly of course), Google Instant and the three second impression rule, and now this.

As a corporation, I know it’s your legal duty to any/all shareholders to make as much money as possible. I get that. But what’s inherently good about closing off a data pipeline that’s 5 years old? What’s inherently good about showing advertisers untargeted, over-priced short-tail terms that will only serve to drive the bidding war?

With every further step Google takes as of late, they continue to demonstrate they are less concerned about providing the great results drove the success of the engine initially. Rather, they continue at breakneck speed to don the Google Corporate shield and squeeze the searching public for all they’re worth.

Where SEM Goes from Here

Google Instant: A Short-Tailers Paradise

On brighter note, this latest development, as Marty pointed out, certainly does make it plainly obvious how Google intends searchers to search: HEAD terms.  Initially I assumed the birth of Google Instant would dramatically extend the long-tail query to new dimensions. Looks like I got that wrong. By reducing the quality of mid-tail and long-tail research available, and funneling SEMs toward more Google-profitable keywords, the inexperienced will begin to (re)target those terms in abundance. As that is all Google’s Keyword Tool is going to show them.

Other Google Tools For Keyword Research

Whether I like it or not, what’s done is done. Google’s not going to renege on this decision, and I’m not going to bend my position of abandoning the tool.  So that leaves us at an impasse.  But I think Google has got some other nifty tools that could certainly aid keyword research (assuming these haven’t been “commercialized” as well)

Google Insights: Google Insights for Search analyzes a portion of worldwide Google web searches from all Google domains to compute how many searches have been done for the terms you’ve entered, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. You can choose to see data for select Google properties, including Web search, Images, Product search, and News search (certain properties aren’t currently available in all countries/territories).

Google Wonder Wheel: An oddball to be sure, does allow searches to a variety of related topics that skew off from an original search. Again, assuming that this hasn’t been tampered with, one can see what related, relevant keyword queries Google associates to the original query. You’ll find Wonder Wheel on the left-hand navigation under “More Search Tools”.

chicken stir fry wonder wheel example

The Unintended Consequences

Talking with a colleague of mine, Jo Stumpner, about the Google KWT manipulation, she raised a very interesting point. This move very well may actually decrease PPC activity in the long-run.

SEO, I think as Marty and I have both explained is just fine. There are other tools, and the research will still go on. The only struggle I really see is the tendency for Google to want to display short-tail terms to a searcher in “broad/general” mode, or the discovery phase of their online research. In that respect, Google will win out in the short-run, the race still goes to the skilled and wily SEOs.

Building on the theory, I think it works out something like this:

As advertisers are shown more and more competitive keyword phrases, those keyword verticals that were already competitive will become even more competitive. As more and more advertisers are led away from the mid and long-tail terms, the head terms will “overstocked” with advertisers and competitors.

Clearly bid prices and quality scores are a premium; however, as noticed by Jo and myself, head terms often yield very low quality scores, that is, it is very difficult to attain scores over 8. Meaning that bid price will rule the day as far as visibility is concerned. In the short-term Google wins in their cash grab, bilking more cash from advertisers. In the long-term this is going to be detrimental to Google.

More and more advertisers will see that impressions will drop dramatically. And, naturally, conversions will decrease also. Thus leading advertisers to decrease overall spends on advertising platform in search of one that offers better visibility and ROI for key terms. Perhaps that’s what Google is after, quick profit gains upfront for less long-term growth? After all, no advertiser can abandon the platform with risking brand and product exile. Definitely something to think about.

Competition Through Screwing Yourself

Microsoft just caught lightning in a bottle thanks to Google continually screwing itself. You’d think Google would be past these screw-ups by now? Clearly MS is no gem, but they’ve been flying low enough on the radar, that if they made some quick updates to attract advertisers, I think many would flock to them.

Google had their foot on search world’s throat, even if through trickery and distraction Bing/Microsoft has managed to make it appear as if growth has occurred. All Google has/had to do was lower the boom; push their foot down a little harder and end the game. But they can’t seem to find that killer instinct. Instead they keep finding ways to open the door for competition, look like the “New Microsoft” on the block, and fuck it up.

Google always alludes to competition being welcomed. Well, keep screwing yourself, keep driving the nails into your own coffin, we’ll all find out just how much you “really like” competition.

  1. Oct 8 2010

    Well, Tony-
    You DID say you were taking off the gloves! 😉

    If, in fact, the “commercial” terms they intend to list prove to be primarily head terms, then I agree, they’ve screwed themselves. Unfortunately, they’ll have screwed a lot of site owners, too.

    In the long run, they may well have dealt themselves a body-blow that will give Bing (or maybe even a new player) an opportunity to land a one-two and snatch away a major piece of their market. There are other platforms around, that with some savvy VC behind them, could possibly make a name for themselves, virtually overnight.
    It wouldn’t be easy, certainly, but it would certainly be easier now, than before, thanks to a foolish move on Google’s part.

  2. Oct 8 2010

    Tony, great post and I relate to all of your feelings about the adwords tool. What do you think about using some of these Search Suggest tools like from this post,, or this tool too,

    Basically now what will you be doing for kw research? Great, we all know the tool is dead (I saw it coming once the Search Suggest tool took a dump), but what are some actionable suggestions for KW research?

    I’ll kick it off with this tip. Pull terms that are providing impressions from Google Webmaster Tools, run a ranking report on them and target terms that you are ranking within the first 3 pages or so and that are already driving impressions and clicks. Impressions from Google tells me that Google REALLY REALLY wants to rank you.

    • Oct 8 2010


      I do agree with your assessment. I think Google as stepped on a land mine with this last move, as it affects more than just their image, it very well could effect their total revenue stream. But If I ask myself honestly how much this may or may not matter in six months, I’m leaning toward the not matter. Advertisers have no choice but to be on GOOG. End of story. So, while they may lose a percentage of the revenue to competitors, as long as the engine continues to build popularity among the general populous, it doesn’t matter a hill of beans. People will pay.

      Sadly, I think they have been clued into that fact, and are now just pressing the advantage.

    • Oct 9 2010


      Thanks for the kind words on the post. I do what I can 🙂 . What will I be doing for keyword research now? I’m evaluating a few other tools at this point. I’m looking at Trellian Keyword Discovery, Word Tracker, and checking out the Microsoft AdLab Tools.

      That’s just for relevance and research ideas. I’ve always leaned heavily on the analytic’s data. No better way to find out how people “actually” find your site than that data. I’ll also use GWT. I think your plan of action is solid.

  3. Oct 8 2010

    Yahooooo….. for Bing.

  4. Terry Van Horne
    Oct 8 2010

    Great post Tony. Not affected cuz never really believe numbers and for the most part even if they were dead accuarate should you be using that data for any more than a way to prioritize importance. And that should be weighted according the the relevance to the site/products.

    As to Google and others taking them away… well I would never become dependent on something I have no control over. At some point… it will end… usually badly, for instance: tool/apps that use Y! Site explorer data.

  5. Oct 8 2010

    Tony you hit this one perfectly. I’m definitely no fan of Microsoft but they’ve been making excellent strides in search. Google labeling what’s “commercial” and what isn’t seems a bit much.

    The point you brought up about the potential negative impact this could have on PPC ad spend is also something to keep an eye on. If I’m a small to medium sized business just entering the search marketing space and see outrageously high average CPC on short-tail keywords with no cheaper long-tail alternatives, I would head for the hills.

    • Oct 9 2010


      That’s just my gut feeling on what may happen a few months down the road. Clearly, with nearly 70% of the search share, advertisers can’t abandon the platform all together. But they can, and should in my opinion, spread that revenue across a lot of other platforms a little more heavily.

      But as SearchJunkie mentioned, Google Webmaster Tools will be helpful to find that mid and long-tail data. And your GA data will also help w/ targeting those terms. Now, it’s going to be a lot more trial and error to get your SEO and PPC campaigns in the zone, IMO.

  6. Oct 11 2010

    The guys at WordTracker and the like will be rubbing their hands together. What a ridiculous development.

  7. Oct 19 2010

    Hopefully somebody steps up soon. Would still love to have a single tool that does the job instead of using 2 0r more to do keyword, traffic, and estimated costs research.

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