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April 30, 2008

Adwords Fluke Hints at Black Box Secrets

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Guest Entry by Nick Guastella, Senior SEM Analyst — Bruce Clay, Inc.

The Google Adwords score is out of the bag, or is it?

Recently, Search Engine Journal ran a piece on Adwords score information appearing for Google searches. It was quickly voted up to the front page of Sphinn, raising more questions than answers.

As one of the many practitioners of PPC ledger domain I was quite interested to hear that finally some information had leaked out of the Google Adwords black box. Unfortunately my excitement was short lived. After reading the story I tried doing some of my own searches to see what came up, only to see the data wasn’t appearing.

I tried calling in to Google to see if this was a test or some new tool. The representative hadn’t heard about the article, which I was happy to direct them to. After reading it they said they didn’t know anything about it, but it wasn’t a tool available to the public and was more likely a question for the Google engineers — which unfortunately I don’t have on speed dial. When I asked to speak to someone else that could answer the question I was told no one was available. So basically, a brick wall.

Looking at the SEJ story, some of the information that did briefly appear was cryptic:

• Pscore
• mCPC
• thresh

Pscore could most likely be a page score similar to a PageRank. This is possibly a measurement of page relevance to keywords being used for the ad, such as supporting content on the page, times relevant keywords appear, etc.

From what I saw of the screen shots, mCPC appears to show the maximum bid for each advertiser. Having this appear would harken back to the old days of bid transparency, when advertisers knew how much each person was bidding to appear on a term. This would be a little different than previous transparency, though, in showing maximum bids and not actual cost.

Thresh — and this is just a guess here — could be threshold, but which threshold, I have no idea. Is it the one you carry your bride over on your wedding day or perhaps something much more devious?

As it stands, this quiet breach has given us a window into what Google calls scores, but since it has disappeared, it’s not of much help to the PPC professional. Being able to see obscure score names without information on their meaning or how they are calculated doesn’t give you any info to adjust or improve pages. Without knowing how those scores are calculated, they are just numbers. Like with earthquakes, if the officials say it’s a 4.3, the average Joe would know the size but wouldn’t know what that means or how that number was calculated.

So the question remains. Is this some new tool? Was this a hiccup? Is this a secret plan to stop the Yahoo/MSN merger? Only Google knows, and so far they’re not telling.

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