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5 ways Google Adwords harms businesses and wastes people’s time

Google is one of the most hypocritical large businesses around.

Google SAYS that they want people to have a good search experience, which conflicts with what often happens – particularly when Adwords is in the mix.

Although these are just a few reasons why Google Adwords negatively impacts advertisers and those who click on adverts, they’re probably the most significant …


Reason 1 – broad match setup by default

Although those of us in the know consider it a rookie mistake, Google will allow people to set up Adwords campaigns in the most inefficient way possible – broad match.

We have seen hundreds of Adwords campaigns set up as the default of broad match keywords, and the businesses being blissfully unaware that they are pumping budget into Google, out of which most of it is wasted.

Google is totally aware that, even though broad match can work when combined with other strategies (e.g. negative keywords), the vast majority of people don’t have the knowledge/time to implement campaigns in that way.

So, Google make tons more money and the businesses get a ton of irrelevant clicks because people type something into Google, see a result pop up, don’t even realise it’s paid advertising (see Reason 2) and so click on the advert without hesitation.  Then they realise it wasn’t what they were looking for and they click back to the search results.

Google earn from the click, the business gets nothing out of it, and the searcher feels their time was wasted by clicking on that link.

The culprit – broad match by default.

If Google were an ethical business they would do one of two things:

  1. Make it clearer what options are available when people set up campaigns.
  2. Leave it as broad match but send an automated message to the campaign owner within hours of setup, noting that there are other ways to set up campaigns more efficiently.


Reason 2 – hiding the fact that adverts are adverts

This image is taken from

It shows the changes in how Google ads have evolved to a point where the untrained eye won’t realise that what comes up in search results are an advert:

Google Adwords advert format changes

This is pure greed on the part of Google because the searcher will often click on the first thing they see and if the advertiser used broad match then the advert may have been off-target, which wastes the budget of the advertiser and the time of the searcher.

Below you can see how there is negligible difference between the paid adverts and the organic results beneath.  Just that small ‘Ad’.

Google Adwords advert similarity to organic results 2017

Google could have kept their adverts distinctly different to the organic results, but they make a lot more money from being deceptive.

What’s the outcome?

  1. Advertiser gets more clicks, but that’s not always a good thing.
  2. Searcher often clicks on a result and then realises it wasn’t what they wanted, which wastes their time.
  3. Google makes more money.


Reason 3 – limited exclusions (and inclusions) in Adwords setup

Although Google allow minimal exclusions to be applied to the visibility of adverts (e.g. ensuring that adverts aren’t visible in certain countries), they’re not offering what they could to benefit the advertiser who wants to make the most from their budget.

As an example, if you want to advertise on LinkedIn, you can choose business sectors that you want to be visible in front of.  You can’t do that in Adwords.

One of the annoyances of many Adwords advertisers is that they get wasted clicks from people in the education sector, who are just researching something and will never be buyers.

What’s the answer?

To allow advertisers to set up their campaigns so that they exclude certain sectors (or include only certain sectors).  Google knows a lot about the people who could click on the adverts and so are in a position to include such customer-focused functionality.

Here at A1WebStats, we regularly have conversations with our subscribers, who are fed up with getting Adwords clicks from people in the education sector.  Here’s an example …

Google Adwords Education Sector Exclusions

Every Adwords click from an unwanted business sector is a click taken away from others who you want to be clicking on your adverts.

So the point is: if a tiny business like A1WebStats can track the organisation names of visitors (where they can be identified), then Google certainly could offer advertisers the chance to show their adverts to only those sectors that are of value to them.

Why doesn’t Google do that?

Because they’d have a lot less clicks and a lot less revenues.


Reason 4 – not allowing niche keyword phrases

Many years ago, Google had what we considered to be a fairer system.

That system allowed you to use any keyword phrase you wanted and if your advert didn’t get a strong enough percentage of clicks within 1,000 impressions, then you were penalised.

For example, back then, you could have had a search phrase of:

Blue trousers for midgets

… and the advert would have run for 1,000 impressions and then the keyword would be judged based on what happened in the way of clicks.

Nowadays, if you use a keyword phrase that’s too niche (according to Google) then you’ll get a ‘Low Search Volume’ message against it.

And this is where it’s insane.

Using the example above, if you genuinely sold blue trousers for midgets, had a page (or section) on your website dedicated to that, and Google could see the interaction levels (which they can), then that is a perfect match for the midget who wants blue trousers.

When Google killed off that flexibility of keywords setup they made life harder for advertisers to promote their products and harder for those who may be searching for something very specific.

Instead, if you’re looking for something quite specific in Google now, then you often have to click through to various search results (including Adwords results) to find what you were looking for.

The searcher doesn’t benefit.

The advertiser doesn’t benefit.

Google benefits through more clicks because people are hunting around for something specific and who will keep clicking on links (including paid adverts) until they find it.

At the time (many years ago), Google came up with all sorts of reasons why they killed off that functionality (‘load on servers’ was one of the excuses, which was laughable), and although it may need some modifications, as search has changed so much over the years, how many businesses would prefer to have the option to have visibility for very specific search phrases?

We suggest: a lot!


Reason 5 – weak Google Analytics view of Adwords clicks

Yes, you can use Google Analytics to create funnels that will show you certain types of paths, and you can set up conversions tracking.

But it’s all a bit crappy.

Here’s what you see within A1WebStats when looking at a visit from an Adwords click:

Adwords click from page to page after landing

In this case it was an identifiable company that clicked on the Adwords advert, after searching for ‘liquid filling equipment’, and then looking at several pages on the website.

Often it’s not possible to identify the company (e.g. someone clicks from a mobile device, or from at home, or they’re not set up so they can be identifiable as a company) but the point is that it’s possible to see the page by page movements of every visitor who came in via Google Adwords.

And if a small business like us can offer it as part of the system functionality, then Google could do the same.

Why don’t they do it (even keeping the visitor organisations unidentifiable if they wanted to)?

We believe it’s because they don’t want Adwords customers being able to see too much detail about what happened with their clicks.  If advertisers have more visibility then they will better-understand how poorly websites may be performing, make things better, and so gain more from the paid clicks they get.

And there’s the problem – if businesses gain more from their paid clicks then they may not need to spend as much budget to get the levels of business enquiries/sales they desire.  Which affects Google’s revenues.

That’s a limited view though because if businesses (as we advise our subscribers to do) took a micro-level view of all their Adwords clicks, then they’d pick up on opportunities to improve (within the websites themselves AND the Adwords campaign setups), which makes them gain more business.   When they gain more business and feel their Adwords/website is really working for them, then they will put extra budget into Adwords.

The relationship is then fair.  The business gains more from analysing paths from the Adwords clicks (and making beneficial changes), and Google gets paid for being the platform that brought the clicks in.

Is it reasonable to expect to be able to do granular analysis on what happens to visitors after they click through from Adwords adverts (or anything else, such email marketing etc.)?

Yes, we believe it is reasonable.  But you’ll never see Google allow you to get that level of detail.


In Summary

Please do join the dialogue via the comments below.

We’d like to expand this page into more reasons that Google Adwords harms businesses and wastes people’s time, and your feedback will help us to add to the original 5 reasons above.