SAN JOSE, Calif. — What’s next after keywords? The director of Google’s wildly successful AdWords program says the search giant is working on ways to make the system easier to use and more effective.
“Keywords work very, very well, but we think we can do better,” Nicholas Fox, the business product management director for Google AdWords, said in an afternoon keynote here today at the Search Engine Strategies conference. Fox said Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) was investing in approaches that wouldn’t require keywords.
“It’s hard to say how that will work out, but we’re doing continued investment and research,” he said, adding that there’s a huge opportunity for Google, its partners and competitors to “revolutionize search.”
In general, that means improving the quality of results for both users and advertisers. With keywords, advertisers have to pick what terms and phrases they think will get maximum return on search engines. Fox suggested the system could be made simpler — and probably needs to.
“There are about 30 million keywords in our keyword database,” he said. “That’s pretty good. On the flip side, it’s pretty crazy to think you can figure out everything your users are looking for.”
He also noted that query length is increasing, making the entire process more complex. For example, Google estimated in 2006 that there were 47 types of queries for “cashmere sweater,” but by 2008, that number had grown to 73.
Fox said one new approach Google is examining is one in which advertisers would only have to provide a minimum amount of information — like who they are and what they were trying to sell — and Google would essentially figure out the rest.
“Imagine if I’m a plumber in San Jose and I fix sinks and toilets, and Google could automatically match you to the users you’re looking for,” Fox said.
He gave another example of an electronics Web site. “What if I could just point Google to my site and have it crawl the site and automatically build targeted ads matched to queries?”
Fox gave no timetable or indication of how far along Google might be in presenting such a system.
He also added that Google’s exploring a number of other marketing-related features, noting that Google has services in beta testing that include location-based ad formats and conversion tools. He encouraged attendees and other users to give the company feedback and suggestions for improvements on the tools.
“Be as brutally honest as you’ve always been,” he said.
The integration of AdWords and Analytics?
While Google is working to enhance a number of its marketing offerings, attendees at Fox’s talk said it needs to improve in some areas.
In particular, during a Q&A session after his presentation, Fox faced questions about differences in reporting between AdWords and Google Analytics.
One attendee said Web pages are always ranked higher in Google Analytics reporting than in AdWords — up to a 20 percent difference. Fox responded that there could be technical factors in the pages themselves or in how Google processes them that results in the different ranks.
Another attendee asked whether Google would consider integrating AdWords reporting and Google Analytics to make it simpler for advertisers to deal with one set of data and get a more consistent set of results.
“I have to be careful not to preannounce features,” Fox said. “But in general, we sympathize with that pain point” of having to deal with two different systems.
However, he provided few hints on when users could expect a change.
“I can’t really comment on when that might happen,” he said.
Christian Swanson, the chief innovation officer for ad services firm SearchSalt said that it would be great if Google integrated the two services — particularly for small businesses.
“But it would be more difficult, at least initially, for companies that don’t use Google analytics,” he said.