Online advertising - Google’s session based clicks are not just wasted clicks and increased spend

By Matt Whiteway | 03 Jan 2011

Though not a particularly new initiative, Google's "Session Based Clicks" (SBC), have recently come under fire. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a number of online advertisers have seen the cost of their Adwords expenditure increase at the same time as wasted, irrelevant clicks - some say up to 10%, as a result of Google's SBC algorithm. AdWords enable advertisers to place bids in an automated auction to have text ads show up next to search results.

SBC should not cause an advertiser any real inflation in costs and wasted clicks. It can help online advertisers identify new opportunities as well as incremental sales and enquiries. All this provided advertisers set up the account correctly, immediately identify and eliminate wasted clicks and run regular reports. Letting these slip is what paves the way for less than optimum returns.

So what exactly is SBC?

Simply put, if a user searches for "credit cards" and in the same browser session they then decide to look for "holidays to Ibiza", Google may chose to serve the user ads that are still relevant to the original "credit card" query. According to Google, SBC will only appear if the advertiser is bidding on keywords using broad-match. Furthermore, Session Based Impressions will only appear in the very recent history of the user's browsing experience. Therefore, Google argues that the original query, such as "credit cards", is still somewhat relevant to the user, despite them searching for something unrelated.

How to eliminate wasted clicks?

In the grand scheme of things, SBC should not cause the advertiser any real inflation in costs and wasted clicks, provided they set their account up correctly and are optimising the campaign on a regular basis. In fact, SBC can be used to help refine an Adwords account and help identify new opportunities and well as incremental sales and enquiries.

Should an advertiser not wish to receive SBC, then a simple option would be to move from Broad-Match bidding to Modified Broad-Match, Phrase Match, or Exact Match. Arguably, if the advertiser's Adwords marketing budget is limited, then adopting a Broad-Match strategy is the wrong approach anyway, as it inevitably results in a number of irrelevant impressions and clicks if not monitored and optimised correctly.

Making the most of SBC

As mentioned, SBC can also provide the advertiser with an opportunity to reach new areas and new keywords, previously not included in the Adwords account. By running Search Query Reports (SQR), the advertiser will be able to identify any keywords that have delivered sales, but are not in the account already. Equally, identifying keywords / queries that are not relevant means the advertiser can add them as negative-match keywords in the account.

Some cynics may suggest that this is yet another way of Google increasing an advertiser's marketing spend. However like me, most industry professionals see SBC as a great way to help refine the advertisers account and identify new opportunities.

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