Skip to Content

Apple iPad Adwords Ads - Broad Match for PPC Keyword "Tablet"?

Summary: This isn't the first time we've caught a major corporation fouling up their own Adwords PPC ads, but it's certainly a doozy. It appears that Apple set up an Adwords campaign to advertise the iPad, but they're broad match bidding on the keyword "tablet" without any negative keywords to prevent lower quality clicks. In fact it looks as if there isn't any campaign management taking place. In this post we talk a bout why they might be doing this, if they're even aware. As you may know, in addition to SEO and social media strategy, we offer PPC online advertising services to all of our clients. Like everything else in the world of online marketing, PPC (pay-per-click) changes constantly. Google Adwords rolled out an entirely new interface just 2 months ago. Because of this, it's important for us to stay on top of anything and everything happening in the online advertising industry. Sometimes this means reading about upcoming changes Google and the other PPC services have announced and other times it means simply observing effective ads we see while browsing the web ourselves. If they're important enough, I like to highlight them here for your reference in hopes that they'll help you avoid some common mistakes.

Amazon Advertising 4 Year Old Boys for Sale With Free Shipping?

The funniest example was this past Christmas when I was online shopping for a present for my 4 year-old nephew. He was always frustrated that he couldn't keep up with his older sisters on their Nintendo Wii games which were never intended to be played by kids his age. So I did what any caring uncle would do - I left it in Google's hands. Translation, I searched: Wii 4 Year-Old Boys. You can read this iMarket Solutions post for the whole story of my experience, but here's the top ad I saw: Amazon Wii Ad You read that correctly "4 Year Old Boys at Amazon" and "Save on 4 year old boys Free 2-Day Shipping...". I was tempted to think that this had something to do with Adwords' dynamic keyword insertion, but why isn't the word "Wii" showing up in the ad at all then? The cause remains a mystery, but fortunately for Amazon I can no longer trigger that same ad so it seems that Amazon tweaked their campaigns in some way. The point is, Amazon is Google's biggest advertiser, but even they can make mistakes. By the way, follow that last link to read about how despite the fact that you see their ads for seemingly every product search, there are retailers who are giving Amazon a run for its money in certain niches.

iPads in School

As I said earlier in this post, that was the funniest ad I think I've ever triggered. The example I ran across today is more intriguing than it is shocking or funny. Yesterday, while using TweetDeck I saw that one of our Tweeps and a local high school teacher posted the following message:
Look out, #BTV! We have a few hundred freshmen who will be taking over wifi hotspots with their iPads next Wednesday! #edtech
This was just another example of how much technology the younger generations are being exposed to and it reminded me of the time my 7 year-old niece showed me how to truly "close" apps on my iPhone when I wasn't using them - which she learned because they had iPads in her first grade class!!!

Tablets for Younger Children?

Given that I'm in the market for a tablet myself, and holding out for a rumored Google Nexus 10, I've been paying close attention to the growth of tablets in recent years. A growth so rapid that I think kids that don't grow up with them now might feel left behind as they get on into middle school, high school and beyond. So I wondered - are there "tablets for kids"? Meaning, rather than letting small children play with and potentially break our more expensive and fragile productivity tools, are their durable options made just for children. Once again I turned to Google for my answer and once again I was surprised by the ads my searches triggered. I first searched for "Kids Tablet" (click image to enlarge): Kids Tablet   As you can see, the first ad is for Apple iPad, however nothing about the ad is "kid" oriented. Given that all of the others are, I suspect Apple's quality score is relatively low, which means they have to pay a lot for top ad position. But this raises the first important question: Why would Apple be bidding on "kids" tablet keywords, when most people know what an iPad so the search intent indicates the user is looking for an alternative to the iPad? At first glance, it would seem like other advertisers have a better grasp on search intent. For example, you can tell just from the images that the paid shopping results are kids tablets. Also, the third ad is from Meep Tablet, which is in fact a tablet made for kids 6+. And quickly, before I move on, I have to point out that when you go to the Meep Tablet site and click the "Buy Meep" button, you're taken off-site to an empty Oregon Scientific shopping cart. Bad news if you're a failing product or new start-up who's product hasn't quite launched (as is the case here - launch date 9/1), but it's even worse when you're running paid ads on Google but your purchase funnel is completely broken. There are workarounds if you play with it long enough, but that should never be necessary and it's definitely not working as it should. I've tweeted the issue to them, hopefully they can get it resolved because they're potentially wasting a lot of money on Adwords ad clicks. But I digress (at length). Getting back to the point of this post, one would think the advertisers paying for top ad positions on a "kids tablet" search would be offering.... um, kids tablets. Not Apple advertising the most popular tablet in the world, the iPad. But they aren't the only ones. If you look at the bottom of the page, the ads below the search results. The Amazon ad is correctly targeted to "Childrens tablets", and the Target ad is at least on the right track with "Childrens Kids Toddler", but that's not tablet specific. The last ad is Google pushing their own Nexus 7 tablet, which is not a kid specific product. It's important to remember though that this is Google advertising on Google, so even if money is going from one branch to another, it's all staying within the same company, so why not get your product in front of as many users as possible. More importantly, in that low position they're not paying the premium Apple must be to keep the top ad position. A search for "Children's Tablet" produced very similar results: Children's Tablet For whatever reason, Google changed the ad results a bit on this search but putting text ads below shopping image ads on the right (and removing them from the bottom of the page). This allowed for a greater total number to be shown on the first page of results, so we see some other retailers like Walmart, Sears and Kmart in the mix. Note once again that the Nexus 7 ad is there as well, just below the shopping results. You'll see that in some of the other examples as well, which leads me to believe Google is liking the interaction/click-through-rates they're seeing in that ad position. My next search was for "Baby Tablets": Baby Tablets This time Google didn't show any product/shopping results, but also moved the right-side ads back down to the bottom of the page and the ads were from all of the usual suspects. Next up, "Toddlers Tablet": Toddlers Tablet More of the same here - Apple iPad ads holding the #1 position, with Meep and Amazon right behind. As you look further down the ads on the side you've got the national retailers again just targeting "tablets" that aren't "toddler" specific and Target specifically targeting the demographic, but not the product. They also clearly have something wrong with the way their ads are set up if their headline and first line in their ad text reads "Kids Kids Toddlers". Again, not as egregious as "Save on 4 Year Old Boys Free 2-Day Shipping...", but not good. We're talking about a major American retailer here. From here I flipped the searches around to include the product I was looking for ("tablet") as the first word in the keyword phrase. I started with "Tablet for Kids": Tablet for Kids No big surprises here, as Apple was still #1, Meep #2 and many of the other positions were held by the same other big retailers. Google's Nexus 7 ad was again the first one to the right, just below shopping results and among the others were a couple of ads from retailers we saw only sporadically: Leapfrog and Vtech Kids. The same basically holds true for searches on "Tablet for Children", Tablets for Babies, Tablet for Toddlers:

Tablet for Children Tablets for Babies Tablet for Toddlers

There are only a couple of small things that stand out in these examples. For instance, the shopping results for "Tablets for Babies" include health products (cold tablets). Nothing wrong there, just a different type of "tablet". On the "Tablet for Toddlers" search there was an ad for "Table for Toddler", which is obviously a bit of an issue, but still relatively minor because the ad is in a lower position.

Apple iPad Ads on Google Adwords

As I'm sure you can tell, the one common denominator in all of the screen shots above is the iPad ad in the #1 position. Again, this is a not a product specifically designed for kids, nor do they have landing pages for the ads that are children specific, so I suspect they're probably paying quite a bit for any clicks in that #1 slot. The question is - why do they want to be #1 for all of these specific searches that clearly indicate the user is looking for something other than a traditional tablet, which iPad is practically synonymous with. I understand that Apple has the cash on hand to absorb the cost of less targeted clicks they may get here, but they didn't get there by wasting money either. So what could the goal be? I liked Andrew's initial thought about this - it's all about making iPad synonymous with "tablet", however as I noted earlier - that' sort of already the case. Or is it just me? I think you'd have a hard time finding someone in the market for a tablet who was unaware of the iPad. It's not like a computer where Windows machine people (like me) are terrified and know very little about Macs. It's more analogous to smartphones, where iPhone has been the standard bearer. Plus, the goal of making people think iPad=tablet is going to be increasingly difficult as more tablets are available all the time. So I don't totally dismiss this theory, because I think it could be the way Apple is thinking and the costs are probably a drop in the bucket for them, relatively speaking. But it's not my favorite. I'm leaning towards error on the part of whoever manages their PPC. As we've seen with Amazon and Target, even some of the biggest advertisers can screw up. In Apple's case, I think that what likely happened was their campaign was set up to bid on "tablet" as a broad match keyword, a high bid was placed, and little PPC campaign management has taken place since. It just runs and generates traffic, much of which is certainly low quality, but no one is analyzing it on the micro level, so nothing is done about it (e.g. no changed match types, negative keywords, etc.). This theory is bolstered by the fact that they don't appear to be running any different ad variations. The ad text is identical in all of the screenshots above. Still not sold? Check out the search results for "Garbage Tablet" and "Crap Tablet": Garbage TabletCrap Tablet In the end it may be a combination of both. Apple certainly has to recognize that the market is and will continue to be flush with other competing tablets, but having people visit your site and learn about your product is never a bad thing. It's not that unreasonable to assume they're simply willing to pay a few bucks for each ad driven hit, as long as it keeps them in front of the same eyeballs that are seeing ads from the competition. As someone who manages PPC accounts, I still feel it's unfortunate that they seem to be in "set it and forget it" mode, when they could be optimizing the campaign so their budget is spent more wisely, but I'm also not working with a budget as large as theirs. What do you all think could be behind all of this? Let me know in the comments below... And of course, whatever the cause, it should be clear that PPC campaign management can be tricky if even the world's largest company has issues like this. Don't just try to wing it if you're thinking about trying Adwords for the first time. Contact us so we can talk about your goals and see if we might be able to help. *UPDATE* I forgot to mention, for those who are actually in the market for a tablet made for kids, check out this ZDNet piece on the top 10.