Tuesday, July 24, 2012

AdWords infinitum V

This morning I received the following reply from AdWords:
Hello John,

Thank you for your email. This is Ankita from Google AdWords and I will be helping you with your query.

John, I am glad to hear that you wish to participate in our survey and give feedback regarding our AdWords account.

Your opinion is greatly appreciated. I have forwarded the suggestion to the team concerned and they will definitely look into it.

John, thank you for your valuable feedback. It is only with your support and co-operation that we can provide you with the best advertising service possible. If you have any other ideas or feedback regarding AdWords, please do feel free to let us know and our engineering team will look into it.
This evening I received another request to fill out an AdWords survey, from adwords.google.com this time. I believe it was a different survey, focused primarily on the professionalism of the support representative. I gave Sarah all high marks because she was friendly and professional in communicating with me. In a space provided for additional information, I wrote the following:
Sarah was very professional and friendly. I had no problem with her as a support representative. My concern is with Google's policy of abruptly taking an entire ad campaign offline, with no explanation offered either before or after the campaign is taken offline as to why there needs to be a review. That is very cavalier. An advertiser would want to know what triggers a review so s/he can avoid repeating the questionable behavior.

Monday, July 23, 2012

AdWords infinitum IV

At 2:30 pm today, I checked the two ads created yesterday and awaiting approval, and both had been approved. I'm very glad to see that the occupation ad isn't being treated like the Captain Uncut ad.

Not long after that I retrieved my email for the first time today (usually much earlier) and found a reply from Sarah that had been sent at 6:42 am today:
Hi John

Thanks for your patience. I've confirmed that your account is out of the review and your ads are now running on Google.

We apologize for the disruption to your ad delivery and thank you for your understanding.
So they did send a notification. Good. I'm glad.

And then this: I received an email today from Google AdWords that was dated Wednesday, December 31, 1969.

Okey-dokey. It read:
Dear AdWords customer,

We are writing today to ask you to complete a brief survey about your experience with Google AdWords. The survey should take about 10 minutes to complete and your responses will be kept confidential.

Your feedback is critical in helping us understand the challenges and opportunities you face every day, so we can prioritize the tools and services that will best help you. To get started just click on the link below, or cut and paste the link into a browser window.
I was surprised that they wanted feedback, since they're so big they don't need it. I noticed that the email was from the Google AdWords Research Team, while Sarah's email had been signed the Google AdWords Team. I picture the two departments going at it, launching attacks and counterattacks via email and texting. Or not.

I then noticed that the link was to survey.googleratings.com. After a moment of wondering why it wasn't ratings.google.com/survey, I clicked on the link and landed on a legitimate-looking page. But then I thought "'Googleratings'? Naw, this is a phishing site" and clicked the Back button, thinking that if damage were going to be done it was already done. I did searches for "googleratings.com" (on Google, wasn't that smart?) and came up with no warnings that it was a scam but also no really clear statements that it was genuinely genuine. Hmm, ponder, ponder. With the date of the email being strange, I thought I'd rather err on the side of safety and sent the following email to them:
About the googleratings.com survey, I would feel better about going to a subdomain of google.com, like survey.google.com. The googleratings.com domain could easily be a phishing site. Or it could be no more than Google handling its accounting like Mitt Romney handles his, but I still would be reluctant to participate in the survey if that were the case.

I appreciate very much your interest in learning about users' experience with AdWords. I'm willing to participate in the survey, but even if I'm assured that it's a genuine site, I'm reluctant to participate at googleratings.com. It's like (how should I describe it?), it sounds like the piano needs tuning. It doesn't ring quite true.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

AdWords infinitum III

At 1:11 pm today, I created an AdWords ad that read "End the Israel Occupation. Here's why: The Talpiot Find, a novel. Find out." At the moment it's 3:50 pm and the ad is still under review. Most of my other ads are more neutral or come out against the Bible, and those ads have taken less than an hour to be approved. At 3:58 pm I created another ad of the same type (text rather than Flash). This ad reads "Ebooks should be free? The Talpiot Find, a novel by John Evan Garvey. Find out." A very culturally neutral ad. I'm curious how long it will take this one to be approved.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

AdWords infinitum II

AdWords' reply on July 19 to my email of July 18 (see previous post):
Hi John,

I'm sorry about the inconvenience caused to you because disruption to the ad serving. I've escalated your account to expedite the review process and will update you in the next 1-2 business days.

I understand your frustration and I'll pass on your feedback to our specialists and we will keep these suggestions in mind if any future changes happen.

Having said that, I also wanted to point out that account reviews are necessary for various reasons, including account security and billing verification purposes. We conduct reviews as quickly as possible, so that your account can get back up and running. However, due to account volume and the time-sensitive nature of each review, we're unable to proactively notify customers about individual account reviews.

Per our Terms and Conditions (https://adwords.google.com/ select/tsandcsfinder), ads can undergo review at any time, and we do not issue credits or refunds for this period of inactivity.

Ad review process

John, I see that you had a concern related to ad approvals and I'm happy to explain that as well. It is possible that certain ads get reviewed quicker than a few others and this may happen because:

-A few ads may have triggers for potential policy violations and they may need specialist review, while others may not have those triggers and will be approved sooner.

In any case we try and complete these ad reviews within 3 business days and if there are any ads that take longer than this, please feel free to write us and we will have them reviewed for you.

Also, please be assured that all ads are reviewed diligently and we ensure that they are in accordance with our advertising policies. I'd assure you that we do not consider any other factors for an ad review other than the policy guidelines. Here's some more information about the ad review process and hope this explains.

Officialspeak. Companyspeak. Sarah reflects the company image. You maintain their goals to live by. Shine your shoes, let's keep a neat haircut now that you're— A coat and tie? Jeans and T-shirt. But anyway. Ms. Sarah, say Ms. Sarah, I have seen you go through a day. You're everything a robot lives for. Walk in at— 9-to-5? Hardly. But anyway, robo-reflecting the company image can come in all shapes and sizes.

I've considered replying again, but I'm just one of, how many?, tens of thousands? of AdWords users, and nothing I say in an email is going to affect corporate policy. I would only annoy a few customer assistance facilitators. The people who actually make policy and design the user experience are safely buffered by customer assistance. If I suggest that, when they take a user's campaign offline, an automated email be sent to the user to inform them, that suggestion would go no further than the customer assistance facilitator who reads it first, and probably not Sarah next time. It's interesting that expediting the review process will still require 1-2 business days for her to get back to me. It's also interesting to read that, if the review of any ads takes more than the expected 3 business days, I should feel free "to write us and we will have them reviewed for you." Did she mean that, if they aren't reviewed in 3 business days, they aren't going to be? Are they left in a pool of unreviewed ads, to be retrieved only for those advertisers who care enough to contact them? That's a great policy. Another suggestion I would offer them, instead of abruptly taking a campaign offline so it can sit in a queue for days, would be rather to wait until a reviewer is available and then take it offline. But would that suggestion reach any influential person? Doubt it.

Sarah assures me that they do not consider any other factors for an ad review other than the policy guidelines. And maybe that's true for her and the group she works with. But given the subject matter of my ads and the history of protectionism and exceptionalism of those associated with the subject matter, I think it's very likely that somewhere in enormous, labyrinthine Google are individuals who've never been taught to think outside the box, never been allowed to think outside the box, who follow an agenda that differs somewhat from that of their employer.

Stay tuned.

Update Friday, July 20, 10:55 pm:

About 10:00 pm tonight, I discovered that my ad campaign was back online. From the number of impressions, I could tell that it hadn't been up for long, maybe an hour. No email from Sarah. No explanation of what they were looking for when they took it offline. No warning that they were going to take it offline or notification when they let it go back online. Google doesn't follow best business practices simply because they don't have to.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

AdWords infinitum

I contacted Google AdWords Help on July 17 to find out why the number of impressions for my ad campaign had dropped to zero after generally having been between 1k and 5k impressions per day. I received the following reply July 18.
Dear Advertiser,

We're sorry to hear that you're experiencing difficulties with your AdWords account. It appears that you have some questions about why your ads aren't showing. We checked your account and found that it's currently under review by our specialists. In an effort to provide the best experience for our users and advertisers, some accounts are submitted for review to ensure that they comply with our policies. Your ads won't show during this time, but they'll automatically be eligible to show again as soon as our review is complete.

The Google AdWords Team
My email reply:
If an advertising account is taken offline to be reviewed, the advertiser should ALWAYS be notified. That is just basic business practice. I interpret from your email that I received this notification only because I contacted AdWords support. I should have been notified of the review before my account was taken offline.

From my experience with individual ad approvals, I've learned that ads of a certain type will languish indefinitely "under review," actually for a week or so, while the rest of the submitted ads are approved within minutes. I interpret this discrepancy as the individual(s) responsible for approval and rejection of ads being unable to reject an ad because it complies with company policies, but because they find this type of ad personally distasteful, they will leave it "under review" until the advertiser gives up and deletes it, effectively rejecting an ad for which a rejection would not otherwise be permitted. I anticipate that my account will undergo the same quasi-rejection as some of my ads have received.

I believe that the activites described above are a serious breach of company policies and that they would be grounds for dismissal of an employee should the activities become known by management. Unless, of course, management is directing the activities.

Thanks very much.
What I had been promoting with my AdWords campaign was, primarily, my novel The Talpiot Find, which takes a reasonable approach to examining the controversial topics of the divine inspiration of Scripture and Israel’s traditional claim to the land. The "certain type" of ads that languish indefinitely "under review" are those that promote a T-shirt design I'm selling through Zazzle.com. The design includes an image of a superhero named Captain Uncut who has the title "Defender of Foreskins." At the top of the design is text that reads "No foreskin left behind!" I had developed the design while working on the graphics for Sherwin Carlquist's photography book Uncut, which playfully discusses the medical and social aspects of circumcision and advocates that the custom be abandoned. I thought that a T-shirt displaying the graphic I created for the book's cover would help promote the book. I got my AdWords campaign for my novel up and running in March of this year, and in June I included ads for a few of my items on Zazzle, including a page of assorted Captain Uncut items. Every other ad I created in my AdWords campaign was approved within minutes. Captain Uncut, however, remained under review for about a week, when I contacted customer assistance. The facilitator moved the ad through the system within a few hours. A few days later, I decided that the ad should point to only one item, the T-shirt pictured in the ad, and I changed the URL and resubmitted, thinking that whatever holdup there had been before had been removed by the facilitator. More than a week later, I decided just to delete the edited Captain Uncut ad, which had gotten stuck again "under review."

I could be making a wrong connection between my ad, which could be called anti-circumcision, being blocked and then my entire ad campaign, which primarily promotes my end-the-Israeli-occupation novel, being blocked. But there at least appears to be a unifying theme.

Tune in tomorrow for more AdWords fun.