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19.09.2023 Search Engine Land

Are you being manipulated by Google Ads?

Dive into the covert persuasion tactics Google Ads uses to ensure the house always wins and discover strategies to outsmart the house. The post Are you being manipulated by Google Ads? appeared first on Search Engine Land. - Do you know when you’re being manipulated?  Most of us get the ick around used car salesmen and high-pressure tactics, but subtler persuasion techniques can be far more powerful.  Consider the unassuming Google Ads interface. Though it seems like a benign management tool, its crafty design subtly shapes user behavior, contributing to $224 billion for the tech giant last year alone. Dive into the covert persuasion tactics Google Ads uses to ensure “the house always wins” and discover strategies to outsmart the house. Deceptive patterns: Default settings and hidden options Deceptive patterns – once termed “dark patterns” – are manipulative design tactics that trick users into choices favoring the business.  These patterns boost company metrics, but users pay the price through unintended purchases, surrendered personal data, or wasted time navigating misleading interfaces and “screen mazes.”  How Google Ads uses deceptive patterns Deceptive patterns refer to an entire class of unethical design techniques. Here are some you’ll find in the Google Ads interface: Unexpected and misleading defaults Pre-set user choices and defaults can influence your selections, and if you don’t pay close attention, you might inadvertently agree to something you don’t want. Google defines Search campaigns as “text ads on search results that let you reach people while they’re searching on Google.”  Yet, the Search campaign settings default to include the Display Network, which does not belong in the campaign by its very definition. Location targeting defaults to include people who may be “interested in” (but have never been to) your target.  This setting is not immediately visible from the Location section. Not only do you need to uncheck it, but you have to know to un-nest it (click Location Options to expand) in order to uncheck it.  Some campaign types don’t even allow for the removal of “interested in.” Automated assets (formerly ad extensions) are also hidden and run without your review or approval, even if they’re irrelevant to your business model.  Here’s Google explaining how they run automated location assets even if you never linked your Business Profile to your account: Obstacle course  The “obstacle course” tactic places deliberate barriers in your way when you try to perform specific actions online. Instead of a simple process, you’re forced to jump through hoops or contact a representative, adding complexity and deterring you from completing your intended tasks. For instance, here are the steps to turn off the aforementioned automated assets you may not want running in your account: Go to Ads & Assets.  Select Assets  Navigate to More (indicated only by three vertical dots). Select Account-level automated assets.  Navigate to More once again Select Advanced settings.   Select an asset Select Off. Select a reason (required). Enter comments (optional). Select Save. Simple, right? Other management tasks can’t even be completed in the interface, requiring you to contact Google directly for help. Good luck with that. Sneak into basket and forced choice These deceptive design patterns manipulate users into making decisions or accepting choices you might not have consciously intended. Google Ads wants you to keep mobile apps in your proverbial basket. There is no simple opt-out. They even “yanked advertisers’ option to exclude all mobile apps” in 2018.  Though you can try to exclude 140 different app categories manually, the process isn’t 100% effective at eliminating app traffic. Last year, they removed the option of content targeting for YouTube conversion campaigns, meaning you have to choose between contextual relevance and conversion optimization. While certain feature restrictions may stem from technical and data constraints, the deliberate elimination of features that advantage Google underscores a conscious, strategic decision. How to protect yourself from deceptive patterns Deceptive patterns are a growing problem that institutions like the European Union and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are fighting against.  Here’s how you can do your part in your Google Ads account: Get to know the interface. Yes, the interface is always changing, but knowing where your settings live is the only way to ensure you know what they’re set to. Challenge the default. Many marketers use default settings simply because they didn’t feel they had a reason to make an active change. But “it was like that when I found it” can be an expensive management style. Learn the cheat codes. Navigating the Google ads interface might feel like a maze, but like the classic “Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A” code, there are shortcuts and hidden solutions. At the time of this article, you can still use “mobileappcategory::69500” to exclude app placements, a method not openly advertised by Google. Completion bias: The allure of the checkmark Completion bias is your brain’s tendency to favor tasks you can finish quickly, often at the expense of more important or complex tasks.  The satisfaction and sense of accomplishment you feel successfully completing a task leads you to focus on short, achievable goals rather than more challenging or valuable ones. How Google Ads capitalizes on your need to complete The Google Ads interface hosts thousands of choices for changing settings and exploring data.  Because it can be overwhelming, you’re likely drawn to tasks that offer immediate results and a clear sense of completion. Google knows that if it gives you a ranking, you’re hard-wired to improve it. It has cleverly assigned “scores” to certain actions it wants you to take that don’t otherwise benefit you. Ad Strength Not to be confused with Quality Score or Ad Rank, Ad Strength is a score assigned to responsive ads that doesn’t directly influence your ad’s serving eligibility. Will you sacrifice focused, curated ad messaging for a better arbitrary score in the interface? Lots of marketers do. Optimization score A 100% optimization score means “your account can perform at its full potential,” according to Google Your score (and the “full potential” of your account) is mostly based on your willingness to adopt Google’s campaign recommendations, which may not align with your best interests. How to outsmart completion bias First, understand that not all scores are created equal.  Diagnostic tools like Quality Score represent factors used in auction bidding and shouldn’t be overlooked.  But with vanity scores, “everything’s made up and the points don’t matter,” so you’ll want to: Scrutinize recommendations, and only apply those that align with your goals. (Some recommendations may help your account, so don’t reject everything out of spite – just be judicious.) Dismiss recommendations you don’t agree with. Dismissing recommendations essentially removes them from the denominator, giving you a higher total percentage. This is especially important for Google Partners, who now need an optimization score of at least 70% for Partner status. You will have to give a reason why you’re rejecting the recommendation before it’s removed – another example of an “obstacle course” deceptive pattern. Be OK with low completion scores. These Google-assigned scores don’t reflect your skills as a marketer and are rarely worth achieving. Get the daily newsletter search marketers rely on. “> “> “> Processing…Please wait. SUBSCRIBE See terms. function getCookie(cname) { let name = cname + "="; let decodedCookie = decodeURIComponent(document.cookie); let ca = decodedCookie.split(';'); for(let i = 0; i

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