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Inside AdWords
Google's official blog for news, information and tips on AdWords.

  • Booting the bots: New botnet protections across our ads systems
    Keeping fake traffic that originates from infected computers (aka “botnets”) out of our ads systems has been a priority since we launched, and over the years we've worked hard to put in place extensive technology checks and filters to safeguard against this type of traffic.
    Today we're further reinforcing our existing botnet defenses across our ad systems through a new feature that automates the filtering of traffic from three of the top ad fraud botnets, amongst those we are monitoring and defending against. One of the key benefits of this new feature is that it is resilient to possible changes to the malware that generates this botnet traffic.
    This move boosts our defenses against invalid traffic generated by some nasty ad fraud malware, including Bedep and two other malware families that we have code-named Beetal and Changthangi. Together these three botnets are comprised of over 500,000 infected user machines.
    Today we’d like to take this opportunity to take a deeper look at ad fraud botnets.

    Ad fraud botnets: a menace to the advertising ecosystem

    Ad fraud botnets are armies of malware-infected computers that are controlled by malicious fraudsters intent on generating large amounts of non-human ad traffic volume, typically for unscrupulous publishers. As a result, ad fraud botnets are a major threat to the budgets of advertisers, the reputation of publishers, and the safety of consumers. And this threat is considerable, given that hundreds of thousands of computers around the globe are infected with malware used specifically for ad fraud.
    The Bedep Botnet size over the course of 60 days. Dips in the graph represent weekends, when some infected machines are turned off.

    Global distribution and concentration of Bedep Malware.

    Botnet traffic is difficult to consistently filter in advertising platforms because malware authors try to make their fraudulent traffic look as human as possible so that it resembles legitimate traffic. For example, botnet traffic has many of the same characteristics as real traffic, including the use of common browsers, and typical user behavior on a web page (e.g., scrolling, clicking, and mouse movement).
    Our move to consistently and confidently cut out the traffic from these botnets, despite any changes in the malware on which they’re based, represents a significant milestone in the defense of our advertising ecosystem.

    The art and science of protecting against botnets at scale

    Identifying ad fraud malware and protecting ad platforms against botnets is a sophisticated effort that requires deep technical knowledge, diligence, and the ability to think several steps ahead. It’s a game of chess against an opponent that is constantly changing the rules.
    In addition, it takes robust and extensive infrastructure to properly analyze malware threats at scale. For example, there are millions of malware programs out in the wild, although not all of this malware is associated with ad fraud botnets. This scenario represents a considerable technical challenge, since the malware, along with a vast amount of botnet traffic, needs to be continuously analyzed. To compound the challenge, there are hundreds of thousands of new malware programs produced each day that our systems need to analyze as well.
    Our team has expanded its expertise by working to gain a deep understanding of the Bedep, Beetal, and Changthangi malware families. Subsequently, we have expanded developed the capability to significantly protect our systems against traffic generated by this malware through an automated, scalable, and seamless filter. This filter is already available to all marketers on DoubleClick Bid Manager and Google Display Network (GDN).

    A bold move, but there’s more to come

    We believe in fighting the good fight in order to stop malicious actors in the advertising ecosystem. We also know that our success is not based solely on sophisticated algorithms or robust, highly-scalable infrastructure. Our success also relies on a team of warrior scientists that combines art and science to innovate and cultivate, relying on creativity and collective wisdom to effect change in unique ways.
    This is a really exciting start to the year for us, yet we know that our work is not done yet. We will continue to be vigilant, working hard to protect our systems from fraudsters in 2016 and beyond. Stay tuned.
    Posted by Andres Ferrate, Chief Advocate, Google Ad Traffic Quality

  • Introducing the AdWords app for iOS
    Today, we’re rolling out the AdWords app on iOS to all AdWords customers globally – you can download it from the App Store. With the AdWords app, many campaign activities can now be managed while you’re on the go from the convenience of your iPhone:
    • Monitor campaign performance like clicks, CTR and CPC 
    • Update bids and budgets
    • Act on suggestions that may help improve campaign performance
    • Get real-time alerts and notifications about your billing and ad status
    • Call a Google expert
    Customers like The Honest Company, MuleSoft, and PMG use the AdWords app to easily manage their campaigns, stay in touch with the needs of their customers, and quickly access important business insights – from anywhere.

    “Amidst the hectic holiday festivities, this app saved me from having to leave the dinner table to monitor performance and make quick changes to my accounts. That meant more time with my family. I'm excited for what's to come!”
    – Josh Franklin, Manager, Search Marketing, The Honest Company

    “The app helps me access high level data on the go which can come in handy in the boardroom, or anytime I need to quickly understand how our campaigns are performing. Also, having the ability to make adjustments to our campaigns – such as changing bids and budget – is invaluable.”
    – Nima Asrar Haghighi, Director, Digital Marketing & Analytics, MuleSoft

    “The consumer shift to mobile means our retail clients' campaigns have to be responsive to meet the needs of consumers at all times of the day. The app makes it easy for us to address issues without being chained to our laptops. PMG has been able to deliver prompt account adjustments from campaign to keyword level for our clients, as well as keep our customer satisfaction rates high.”
    – Kyle Knox, Account Manager, PMG

    Get started

    You can learn more about the AdWords app in the AdWords Help Center.
    Posted by Sugeeti Kochhar, Product Manager, AdWords

  • How we fought bad ads in 2015
    When ads are good, they connect you to products or services you’re interested in and make it easier to get stuff you want. They also keep a lot of what you love about the web—like news sites or mobile apps—free.
    But some ads are just plain bad—like ads that carry malware, cover up content you’re trying to see, or promote fake goods. Bad ads can ruin your entire online experience, a problem we take very seriously. That’s why we have a strict set of policies for the kinds of ads businesses can run with Google—and why we’ve invested in sophisticated technology and a global team of 1,000+ people dedicated to fighting bad ads. Last year alone we disabled more than 780 million ads for violating our policies—a number that's increased over the years thanks to new protections we've put in place. If you spent one second looking at each of these ads, it’d take you nearly 25 years to see them all!
    Here are some of the top areas we focused on in our fight against bad ads in 2015:
    Busting bad ads
    Some bad ads, like those for products that falsely claim to help with weight loss, mislead people. Others help fraudsters carry out scams, like those that lead to “phishing” sites that trick people into handing over personal information. Through a combination of computer algorithms and people at Google reviewing ads, we’re able to block the vast majority of these bad ads before they ever get shown. Here are some types of bad ads we busted in 2015:
    We suspended more than 10,000 sites and 18,000 accounts for attempting to sell counterfeit goods (like imitation designer watches). 
    We blocked more than 12.5 million ads that violated our healthcare and medicines policy, such as ads for pharmaceuticals that weren’t approved for use or that made misleading claims to be as effective as prescription drugs. 
    Weight loss scams
    Weight loss scams, like ads for supplements promising impossible-to-achieve weight loss without diet or exercise, were one of the top user complaints in 2015. We responded by suspending more than 30,000 sites for misleading claims.
    In 2015, we stepped up our efforts to fight phishing sites, blocking nearly 7,000 sites as a result.
    Unwanted software
    Unwanted software can slow your devices down or unexpectedly change your homepage and keep you from changing it back. With powerful new protections, we disabled more than 10,000 sites offering unwanted software, and reduced unwanted downloads via Google ads by more than 99 percent.
    Trick to click
    We got even tougher on ads that mislead or trick people into interacting with them—like ads designed to look like system warnings from your computer. In 2015 alone we rejected more than 17 million.
    Creating a better experience
    Sometimes even ads that offer helpful and relevant information behave in ways that can be really annoying—covering up what you’re trying to see or sending you to an advertiser’s site when you didn’t intend to go there. In 2015, we disabled or banned the worst offenders.
    Accidental mobile clicks
    We’ve all been there. You’re swiping through a slideshow of the best moments from the Presidential debate when an ad redirects you even though you didn’t mean to click on it. We’re working to end that. We've developed technology to determine when clicks on mobile ads are accidental. Instead of sending you off to an advertiser page you didn't mean to visit, we let you continue enjoying your slideshow (and the advertiser doesn't get charged).
    Bad sites and apps
    In 2015, we stopped showing ads on more than 25,000 mobile apps because the developers didn’t follow our policies. More than two-thirds of these violations were for practices like mobile ads placed very close to buttons, causing someone to accidentally click the ad. There are also some sites and apps that we choose not to work with because they don’t follow our policies. We also reject applications from sites and mobile apps that want to show Google ads but don't follow our policies. In 2015 alone, we rejected more than 1.4 million applications.

    Putting you in control
    We also give you tools to control the type of ads you see. You can always let us know when you believe an ad might be violating our policies.
    Mute This Ad
    Maybe you’ve just seen way too many car ads recently. “Mute This Ad” lets you click an “X” at the top on many of the ads we show and Google will stop showing you that ad and others like it from that advertiser. You can also tell us why. The 4+ billion pieces of feedback we received in 2015 are helping us show better ads and shape our policies.

    Ads Settings
    In 2015, we rolled out a new design for our Ads Settings where you can manage your ads experience. You can update your interests to make the ads you see more relevant, or block specific advertisers all together.
    Looking ahead to 2016
    We’re always updating our technology and our policies based on your feedback—and working to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters. In 2016, we’re planning updates like further restricting what can be advertised as effective for weight loss, and adding new protections against malware and bots. We want to make sure all the ads you see are helpful and welcome and we’ll keep fighting to make that a reality.

    Posted by Sridhar Ramaswamy, SVP, Ads & Commerce

  • Use Smart Goals, powered by Google Analytics, to optimize in AdWords
    To advertise smart, you have to measure smart.  And a key metric for almost any business is conversions, also known as “that moment when users do the thing that you want them to do.”

    Many AdWords advertisers are already measuring their website conversions, using either AdWords Conversion Tracking or imported Google Analytics Ecommerce transactions.  Measuring actual conversions is ideal, because it allows you to optimize your bids, your ads and your website with a clear goal in mind.

    However, hundreds of thousands of small and medium businesses aren't measuring their website conversions today.  Some businesses may not have a way for users to convert on their website and others may not have the time or the technical ability to implement conversion tracking.

    The Google Analytics team is committed to helping our users use their data to drive better marketing and advertising performance.  So, for businesses that don’t measure conversions in AdWords today, we’ve created an easy-to-use solution: Smart Goals. Smart Goals help you identify the highest-quality visits to your website and optimize for those visits in AdWords.

    "Smart Goals helped us drive more engaged visits to our website. It gave us something meaningful to optimize for in AdWords, without having to change any tags on our site. We could tell that optimizing to Smart Goals was working, because we had higher sales than usual across our channels during the testing period." - Richard Bissell, President/Owner, Richard Bissell Fine Woodworking, Inc

    How Smart Goals Work

    To generate Smart Goals, we apply machine learning across thousands of websites that use Google Analytics and have opted in to share anonymized conversion data.  From this information, we can distill dozens of key factors that correlate with likelihood to convert: things like session duration, pages per session, location, device and browser.  We can then apply these key factors to any website.  The easiest way to think about Smart Goals is that they reflect your website visits that our model indicates are most likely to lead to conversions.

    Step 1: Activate Smart Goals in Google Analytics

    To activate Smart Goals in Google Analytics, simply go to the "Admin" section of your Google Analytics account, click "Goals" (under the View heading) and select "Smart Goals."  The highest-quality visits to your website will now be turned into Smart Goals automatically.  No additional tagging or customization is required; Smart Goals just work.

    To help you see how Smart Goals perform before you activate them, we’ve built a Smart Goals report in the “Conversions” section of Google Analytics.  The behavior metrics in this report indicate the engagement level of Smart Goals visits compared to other visits, helping you evaluate Smart Goals before you activate the feature.
    Step 2: Import Smart Goals into AdWords

    Like any other goal in Google Analytics, Smart Goals can be imported into AdWords to be used as an AdWords conversion.  Once you’ve defined a conversion in AdWords, you’re able to optimize for it.
    Step 3: Optimizing for Smart Goals in AdWords

    One of the benefits of measuring conversions in your Adwords account is the ability to set a target cost per acquisition (CPA) as opposed to just setting a cost per click (CPC).  If you aren’t measuring actual conversions today, importing Smart Goals as conversions in Adwords allows you to set a target CPA.  In this way, you’re able to optimize your Adwords spend based on the likelihood of conversion as determined by our model.

    Smart Goals will be rolling out over the next few weeks. To be eligible for Smart Goals, your Google Analytics property must be linked to your AdWords account(s).  Learn how to link your Google Analytics property to your AdWords account(s) in the Analytics Help Center or the AdWords Help Center.  Note that your Google Analytics view must receive at least 1,000 clicks from AdWords over a 30-day period to ensure the validity of your data.

    Posted by Abishek Sethi, Software Engineer, and Joan Arensman, Product Manager

  • Get deeper insight into your automated bidding performance
    Understanding how your automated bid strategies are performing is easy if you know where to look. With three new reporting features now available, you can gain transparency into your bidding and save time troubleshooting issues that may be impacting performance.

    Know what’s going on under the hood of your bidding

    While automated bidding saves advertisers hours per week while optimizing bids at scale for every auction, it’s still important to keep an eye on your bid strategies and know when they need steering. New status annotations enhance bid strategy statuses with additional insight to help you decide if and how to take action.

    For example, if a strategy is still in “Learning” status because you recently created it or changed the composition of its campaigns, we will display the estimated “days left for learning”. This indicates that the bidding algorithms are still calibrating and how much longer you should wait before making any other changes or evaluating what baseline performance looks like.
    Meanwhile, if a bid strategy is in “Limited (bid limits)” status due to minimum or maximum bid constraints, we will show you what percentage of impressions or spend is limited to help you understand the extent of the performance impact.
    Easily track performance changes back to status or target updates

    Status over time reporting maps bid strategy statuses along the bottom of the performance graph. This helps explain what may be influencing bid strategy performance for your chosen date range. For example, if you notice an increase in spend at the same time a bid strategy had a “Limited (not enough data)” status, this may signal that you raised campaign budgets to help drive higher conversion volume and give the algorithms more data to work with to better optimize bids.

    Target over time reporting maps your historical targets over performance data to provide better context. For example, a trend line showing a decrease in conversions might initially set off alarm bells. However, if you saw that during that time, you had also decreased your target CPA, that would help explain the performance decline.

    Both of these reporting options are now available in the Shared Library when you click into a bid strategy.
    We hope these improvements to automated bidding reporting will take the guesswork out of evaluating performance. To learn more about AdWords automated bidding, visit the Help Center, check out our best practices, and read the new guide that explains our unique, auction-time bidding technology.

    Posted by Jonathan Wang, Product Manager, AdWords Bidding

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