Scary Google: Five Reasons Why Google's Changes Should Keep You Awake At Night

Google’s actions in 2023 are enough to make anyone lose sleep.

 min. read
October 31, 2023
Scary Google: Five Reasons Why Google's Changes Should Keep You Awake At Night

Scary Google: Five Reasons Why Google's Changes Should Keep You Awake At Night

Google, the tech giant that dominates the online world, is constantly evolving and making changes to its products and services. While some of these changes may seem beneficial, there are also several that are causing concern for users. From altering its auto-applied recommendation settings to facing legal challenges, Google’s actions in 2023 are enough to make anyone lose sleep. In this blog post, we will explore the five scariest things that Google has done this year and why they should be on your radar.

Unsettling Change of Auto-Applied Recommendation Settings

Google made an announcement in Q1 regarding automatically applied recommendations and redundant keywords. These were advertised to advertisers as an easy way to make smart decisions automatically within the account. We were very hesitant to implement this for certain recommendations, but there were others that were no-brainers for us. One of them being Remove Redundant Keywords. This recommendation looked at keywords within the same ad group, final URL destination, bid strategy, and match type. When enabled it would automatically clean up the account allowing for ease of management without really having any impact on the account. In Q1 Google nonchalantly sends an email notifying advertisers that the AAR for Redundant Keywords would be changing. Instead of looking at keywords in the same ad group, final URL, bid strategy, AND match type. They would expand this recommendation to remove redundant keywords across all match types. 

How does this look exactly? If one ad group is bidding on phrase match: “women’s hats” and broad match ladies hats then Google is going to remove the redundant keyword “women’s hats”. Google is going to prefer the broad match keyword over any other match type. Women and Ladies are considered close variants and redundant to one other. 

This isn’t the scariest part though, it is how they handled the change. They didn’t offer this as a new AAR that you could choose to opt in to. They decided to fundamentally change the way in which the recommendation worked and then notify advertisers with a 15-day notice that this change was going to occur giving them an opportunity to opt-out. What if you missed that email and it went to your spam folder? You agreed to set rules of the game and then mid-game Google changes the terms. It’s like going in to get a tire plugged at the shop and then being told that actually, they put a new set of wheels on. That would be a costly and scary realization.

Troubling Admissions in the Courtroom

Google’s troubling admissions in the courtroom have sent shockwaves through the tech industry. Google is currently on trial for allegedly using underhand tactics to maintain its position as the world’s leading search engine. While it’s still uncertain how the trial will unfold and what the final outcome will be, it’s important to note that there is a possibility that no changes will be made, and that they will be allowed to continue to operate as usual. This is where the scary part comes in, Brad Dischler, Google’s former vice president of product management for AdWords had one particularly alarming revelation. Dischler admitted that Google’s AdWords auction system, known as the Real-Time Guaranteed Second Price (RGSP) auction, was designed to boost Google’s revenue by intentionally switching the auction outcome. According to Dischler, in the RGSP auction, the second-place bidder would be placed in the top advertiser slot, while the initial winner would be pushed down to the second position. This switch would result in higher bids from the second-place advertiser, ultimately generating more revenue for Google. This admission raises serious concerns about the fairness and transparency of Google’s action system and calls into question whether advertisers are truly getting a fair shot at reaching their desired audience. The presiding Judge Ryan Finn, expressed his disbelief at the fact Google would intentionally manipulate the auction outcome to maximize its own profits, rather than ensuring a fair and competitive advertising landscape. It’s terrifying to think that if Google is willing to manipulate the auction outcome to its advantage, what other questionable practices might they be employing behind the scenes?

Frightening Revelation: Google’s Revenues Year-over-Year and The Early Days

When it comes to Alphabet Inc. (Google’s) revenues, the numbers can be quite frightening.  Google’s first reported revenue in 2001 was a mere 86.43 million. They only stayed small for two years before hitting their first billion dollar year in 2003, at 1.47B. They steadily increased their reported revenue reaching over 100 billion dollars in 2017. The growth between 2017 and 2022 is downright petrifying. 2017 the reported revenue was 110.86B and 2022’s revenue was 282.82. So, why the exponential growth curve? What key features were added/options removed from the platform during those years? We won’t be jumping to conclusions here, but I will say that Google released Smart Bidding strategies in 2016. If you didn’t already know this or haven’t come to the conclusion yet in this article, Google is a conglomerate that is in the business of making money. Lots of money, primarily through advertising. They don’t care who they hurt in the process. We like to refer to Google as the Cookie Monster, and that’s being polite.

Spine Chilling Move: Phasing Out Similar Audiences

Google’s decision to phase out similar audiences has been sending shivers down our spines since 2022. If you haven’t been adequately preparing your campaigns, then you should have cued up the Halloween music in August. With this move, businesses no longer have access to this powerful targeting tool, potentially hindering their ability to effectively reach their desired audience. Without this feature, advertisers may struggle to find alternative methods for reaching their desired audience with the same level of precision. This lack of targeting capabilities could result in increased wasted ad spend and decreased ROI for businesses. With fewer targeting options available, advertisers may be forced to rely on broader audience targeting methods, which could result in increased competition for the same pool of users. In light of this spine-chilling move, it is important for marketers to start exploring alternative targeting strategies and platforms. Diversifying advertisers' efforts and utilizing other audience targeting tools can help mitigate the impact of losing Similar Audiences. Overall, the phasing out of Similar Audiences is a chilling development for businesses relying on targeted advertising. As Google continues to make changes to its products and services, marketers must adapt and find new ways to effectively reach their desired audience.

Ghastly GA4: How Google’s New Analytics Could Haunt Your Website Metrics

As if the changes Google has made in 2023 weren’t unsettling enough, the forcing down our throat uhm I mean the introduction of GA4, Google’s new analytics platform, has left website owners and marketers with a pit in their stomachs. Just the mention of GA4 has left marketers quaking in their shoes, with one marketing company comparing the sunsetting of UA to The Last Of Us, the post-apocalyptic drama by HBO. One ghastly aspect of GA4 is the limited backward compatibility with the previous version of Google Analytics, Universal Analytics. If you’re currently using UA, the forced transition to GA4 means starting from scratch in terms of data collection and analysis. This can be a daunting task for businesses that have relied on Universal Analytics for years, as they will need to reconfigure their tracking codes, set up new goals and conversions, and learn a whole new interface. GA4 introduces a more privacy-centric approach to data collection and reporting. While this is a positive step for user privacy, it also means that certain metrics and dimensions that were previously available in UA may no longer be available in GA4. This could make it challenging to compare data and track historical trends accurately. The forced change of GA4 brings a new level of complexity and uncertainty to website analytics. 

What's In The Box?

Google continues to be this black box that we feed information into without knowing its inner workings. We don’t exactly know what buttons were pushed to get us the data reported but most marketers continue to blindly feed the machine, which will continue to be the scariest thing of all. From the unsettling change of auto-applied recommendation settings to the spine-chilling move of phasing out Similar Audiences, Google’s changes are keeping marketers awake at night. The frightening revelation of Google’s revenue growth year-over-year raises serious questions about what tactics they might be using in that black box. The mention of GA4 still gives most marketers goosebumps. It’s as if Google is playing a never-ending game of cat and mouse with its users, constantly making changes and keeping us in the dark. But despite all this, we still feed the black box with our information, hoping for the best, while fearing the worst. It’s a scary reality that we must come to terms with as we navigate the online world dominated by Google. If you are a business doing DIY advertising, you need someone in your corner, whether it's full-on management or a crash course in eliminating wasted spend, let us be your guide in the dark.