Goggle (self serving) Best Practices


Here’s a screen grab of a typical Google Best Practice deigned to help me optimize my Google Ads account. This ones all about ad testing (or research):

  • Test one variable at a time.
  • Use a 50/50 split to reach statistical significance faster.
  • Avoid making changes while the experiment is running.

This (elementary) advice is so biased and self serving it’s painful.

  • While testing is the best way to improve the poor online advertising response rates (and ROI) many companies experience, Google does NOT tell you that you should have done a lot more homework before setting up your online advertising campaign. Before you turn to any media vendor, you should already have research at hand that tells you which medium or media will provide you with the most effective response rate – not the cheapest one. There’s a difference.
  • The Google Best Practice advice is, by any professional standard, entry level advice – good enough to get you started but not insightful enough to help you win the race. Google’s Best Practices are not the profound or insightful musings of an advertising research director. Most are really not worth reading - unless you're just starting out. And if you're starting out, this stuff will stunt your growth and education. 
  • Google’s Best Practices help keep Google top of mind by giving itself another seemingly legitimate reason to send you a push notification – encouraging you to think about using more Google products and services.

The best thing you can do for yourself, your agency and your clients is to learn to think for yourself. To sort out what’s most important for the brands that you represent and to do so by exploring all viable communication options – not just the cheap and convenient one – the one that’s just a few key-strokes away.


REMINDER . . . Alexa is not your friend – she’s owned + operated by Google.     



Charlie the philanthropist


While any ball was a good ball as far as Charlie was concerned, he did prize some balls more than others. On our morning walks he just loved to hunt for abandoned tennis balls at our local tennis court. One summer he found over a hundred balls which, as his ball-account grew, he shared with his dog-friends in neighbouring parks. Dogs who were less able to hunt for their own balls. 

Charlie taught me how much joy there is in finding little treasures. Bringing it home, having it for a while, and then giving it to some-one who needs it or will enjoy having it as much as, or more than, we do.

Sometimes it's just a beach pebble or a piece of driftwood. That doesn't matter.

What matters is the emotional state that's elicited. Philanthropy is a wonderful state of mind because the act of giving to others generates ripples of goodness + kindness in the lives of the giver and the receiver which then radiate outwards to touch the lives of others, prompting more and more acts of random kindness.




Permission to do better creative

Recently I criticized some creative work and was in turn criticized for doing so. My client told me that, while the work wasn’t out of the box, it was "solid, and besides - the client is conservative and a small business manager" - meaning risk-averse? I’ve heard this sort of defense frequently enough over the years that it's prompted this little rant. 

Any and all creative ideas or work that you + your agency presents should leverage your client's USP. Your job is to turn the client’s advertising expenditures (both media + creative) into wise business building investments. The difference between a good and a great ad campaign begins with a different mental perspective; like figuring out how to help the brand stand out from the crowd while remaining “on brand”.

Relative to your competition . . . you can make a brand stand out with greater REACH (using as more media channels), greater FREQUENCY (telling the story more often), greater RELEVANCE (breaking down and effectively describing as many relevant product or service benefits as possible), and MORE STOPPING POWER (doing something that stops the audience, causing them to take notice of and comprehend your message - and then take positive action). 

When ad agencies review their portfolio to see which work should be submitted for an award, they're invariably looking at message relevance in the context of stopping power.

When agencies recruit graphic artists or writers they too look at the candidate's portfolio and judge the body of work's message relevance in the context of stopping power.

Ads with a lot of sales potential need to be sold to the client first. To reduce un-billable agency (client related hours) it's helpful for the account team to know what kind of work the client will buy, and to make that clear to the creative team. 

Because not all clients are created equal consider "gauging" you client's risk tolerance when it comes to both MEDIA + CREATIVE work. After all, the two must work hand-in-hand.

Ask your clients questions regarding their perspective on communications risk - and how your agency can help them manage it.

Is the "same-old-same-old" the lane they really want to live and die in, or is there some room + desire to explore new ways of reaching and talking to the audience

What specifically is "risky" for them - and what isn't? Don't assume . . . ask. 

How does an understanding of the client's specific "risk triggers" open up opportunities for you and the agency to do better work for the client - on time, on budget and on brand? 

Are they willing to set aside a "new media ideas" testing budget? 

Are they willing to set aside a "new creative ideas" testing budget?

Can the agency and the client agree on realistic, outcomes and metrics that will help you steer future media and creative discussions, recommendations and marketing plans? If so - great. If not - good luck.




Imagine having 30 years of proprietary data

Google’s search engine was launched on September 15, 1997. It is now the most widely used search engine on the web, with over 92% market share as of June 2019, handling more than 5.4 billion searches each day. In the early days no one worried about page rank and SEO because most webs were Brochure sites, which a company’s sales team referred prospective clients to “for more information” - just to demonstrate that they (and their ad agency) knew how to utilize this new medium. In April 2004 Google introduced (free) Gmail and in November 2005 they introduced the world to their game-changing Google Analytics™ service. Analytics was a game-changer because, to most small to mid-size businesses, Google's offer seemed like the ultimate value proposition: a lot more (and a continuous stream of) data for free . . .  with no obligations. It seemed too good to be true. It was, and, it still is. While the offer didn’t come with any apparent limitations per se, there was one very important restriction that most people didn't pay any attention to: while Google Analytics provided you with some new + interesting information about your company’s online behaviour, you learned nothing about the competition, your business category or the prevailing business climate in your trading area. Importantly, the FREE data service addicted users to Google’s online performance data and blinded them to other valuable research tools. Around the same time a wide variety of online data interpretation service providers sprang up, promising to help busy organizations interpret data, that Google discreetly mined, for insights into to the client’s own marketing programs. Website organization + optimization, PPC and display advertising campaigning strategies and tactics as well as social media buying tactics (on Google’s ever expanding media monopoly) can all be improved with this data. The objective of all data mining strategies is the same: to put more of my client’s ads, emails and push notices in front of you. Then the world changed again: In 2014 Canada enacted the CASL legislation. It was launched and promised to reinforce best practices in email marketing, combat spam and related issues like identity theft, phishing, and the spread of malicious software, viruses, worms and trojans. In 2018 US Congress proposed + passed a comprehensive data privacy policy as well. In a nutshell, the Canadian, American (and European) privacy legislation has led Google to close most of the data (mining) loopholes that were being exploited by independent online message optimization consultants. The changes have stopped data mining companies from supplying their clients search engine derived data interpretations that have give them a competitive business communications edge (in the past). Except this change in data privacy laws does not affect those business that have made it their own ongoing business to have a robust proprietary data collection and interpretation policy and program (even if that program represents just one part-time student).

Consider this . . . 

The companies that began collecting, tracking, comparing and analyzing their own data when all of this online stuff started in the late 1990’s, would now have THIRTY YEARS OF PROPRIETARY (ONLINE) MARKETING DATA to work with. 

Those who own 30 or more years of proprietary data today made just one decision that the others didn’t: they did not stop collecting their own data just because Google offered them a nicely organized + presented data stream for free.




My 20\20 wish for all of you


This being the international year of 20\20 vision, I hope that in 2020 we all see it, get it, and do something about it. That we move beyond B.S. and platitudes and change the world for the better – one decision at a time. Starting right now.

On your marks, get set, GO!