Google Adwords Min CPC Has Gone Underground. Inactive Keywords Alive and Well

First page have replaced min cpc, for all intents and purposes.

Read and cry…

Visit the the original ppc blog article on this topic in order to see the screenshots.

Google Adwords has announced that all keywords are now perpetually active, and they do indeed show as active in our reports and in status column in the keywords tab page, even with ridiculously low max cpc bids.

This was our dream, wasn’t it? Never agian to have to worry about keywords “going inactive”?

Well, folks, this is just theory. The recent quality score updates do not tell the whole story. Follow me now, and learn the complete truth…

The status column indeed always says keywords are active, but its not true. We see our first clue with this message: “bid is below first page bid estimate of…”

Now, hover over the “ad diagnostic tool” icon, the magnifying glass, and we see this screen, on the “keyword analysis page”:

1. Keyword is NOT triggering Ad, despite the fact that is is “active”.
2. Reason: “current bid is too low to be competitive”, even though QS is Great (4)
3. Details & Recommendations, next. Can you guess what the recommendations will be?

your bid is “not competitive”, and therefore may “rarely” trigger ads.

I translate this to really mean:

“not competitive” = inactive for search
“rarely” = almost never

Now, lets look at the last component on the Keyword Analysis Page, the Details & Recommendations (#3)…

What can you do? Raise your bid? Why do I need to raise my bid? In order to “competitive” enough to trigger my ad? If you’ll remember, I manually double checked and saw that my ad in this case studay indeed was NOT showing at all, with only 5 advertisers, eg. only 1/2 page of ads.

Weren’t we told that there is no such thing as inactive keywords?

Did we celebrate too soon?

Was this just a smoke and mirrors maneuver? Why were we told that keywords would always remain active?

To make matters even worse: there is no way to see these stats in reports, or in Editor, only on the web interface at the kw level on this keyword analysis tool, keyword by keyword. This is impossibly impractical, to say the least.

This is a major setback for advertisers, who thought that min cpc was abolished, only now to discover that it is alive and well, and cloaked, for all intents and purposes.

Currently, the best method to avoid your keywords from “going inactive” is to bid at the “first page bid” recommendation or above. I wonder who this benefits, advertisers or Adwords?

This is not so fair, as in this specific case study, there were only 5 advertisers, 3 of which are not even relevant to sushi, where our ppc advertising client’s keyword was deemed “uncompetitive”, despite a great quality score.

So, you tell me… are keywords always active?

I do not think the Adwords team intended “First Page Bids” to replace the min cpc field, in practice?

Perhaps the min cpc bid should be reinstated, in addition to first page bids, or keywords that are listed as active in the kw status column, should really be active, and not cloaked behind multiple keyword analysis screens!

Following is a real chat which i just concluded, which I removed the name of the adwords chat specialist. ..

Support: What can I help you with today?
dan: i have question re: Ads Diagnostic Tool
dan: on the keyword analysis page…
dan: where the message says: Ad Not appearing…
dan: does this generally mean appearing at all, or not appearing on page one?
dan: i was told page one, but this is not stated in the message.
Support: If the Keyword Analysis page is telling you that the ad is not showing, is it giving you any other messaging below that to tell you why the ad is not showing?
dan: yes
dan: quality score great
dan: bid too low to be competitive
dan: first page or not showing at all?
Support: Without actually looking at the Keyword Analysis Tool right now and judging on what you are saying, if the tool says that the ad is not showing, then the ad is not showing.
dan: yes, i also manually double checked that. it was not showing at all.
dan: even though there were only 5 ads on the page serps i checked
dan: i thought keywords would never become inactive since the new update?
dan: the keyword initially shows as active in the keyword tab…
dan: only when i click on the tool, and dig to the details screen, do i see that the keyword is not triggering ad…
dan: how is this compatible with kw being “active”?
dan: in the past, if kw bid was under min cpc bid threshold… kw showed as “inactive”…
Support: The keyword is active, but is the quality score and CPC must still surpass a threshold for the keyword to enter an ad auction.
dan: what you just said, sounds like double talk. either the kw is active or its inactive.
Support: Yes, you should use the Keyword Analysis page to determine the reasoning if your ad is not accruing any impressions in your account.
dan: that is not a practical solution, esp if an account has tens of thousand of keywords…
Support: Here is an article from our Help Center that goes into more detail about this subject:
Support: Removing Inactive For Search
dan: i have read that page…
dan: but the paradox still holds…
dan: it is now impossible to adjust bids en masse.
dan: it was much more logical in the past, when we could know which kws were inactive, via Editor or kw reports.
dan: this new situation creates a huge obstacle for advertisers to accurately adjust bidding.
Support: With the old system, if the keyword was inactive for search, the keyword would never be entered into the auction. With the new system for keywords, a keyword may be eligible for the auction for one search query and not for another.
dan: i understand that, it is a more dynamic system… however…
dan: the problem still exists.
dan: if i adjust a bid to 1 cent, and the kw is listed as “active”, but in reality it will “rarely” accrue impressions…
dan: of what value is the “active” status to advertisers?
Support: It would depend on if it met the threshold for each auction.
dan: exactly
dan: at 1 cent, most likely it would “rarely” if ever meet the threshold. so of what value is the “active” kw status?
dan: making it impossible to effectively manage low bids
Support: The value of this status is that if the keyword meets the above threshold, then it would go in the ad auction to appear for this keyword.
dan: it was suggested to me to delete active keywords which had not accrued any impressions in the past 2 weeks…
dan: if i followed that advice now…
dan: i would probably be deleting keywords that were really “inactive” even though they were listed as “active”
dan: that would not be very wise, would it?
dan: another reason to reinstate the “inactive” status.
dan: why not utilize both fields… first page bids, as well as min cpc field?
Support: I would say that with the new system, if you see that your keywords have not accrued any impressions, it might be wise to look at this keyword to determine if you need to change the keyword or delete it from your list.
dan: totally impractical. i manage accounts with 100,000 keywords, which is not uncommon for professional client managers.
dan: the new system is “broken”
Support: Dan, I would be happy to pass this feedback along to the team.
dan: thanks so much
dan: i am happy to assist in improving the system
Support: Since this system is newly introduced, the team is concerned about feedback from our advertisers concerning these issues.

Conclusion: Inactive for Search is Alive and well.

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