No. You’re NOT Helping.

I’m going to rant just a little about Google–because it’s a very common problem in “customer service”.

We miss you

I remember the days before Google, when the best search engine out there was Alta Vista. It worked with straight-forward Boolean search terms. For those who don’t know what “Boolean search” means: It’s a search that uses standard conjunctions: and, or, not.  You would, for example, type in:  October AND holiday NOT “United States”.  And the results would be sites which listed holidays in October outside of the United States.

Search results from Alta Vista were “literal”; they gave you exactly what you asked for.  It could be frustrating at first, but once you learned the rules (which were simple and easy to learn), you could get… exactly what you asked for.  It was elegant.

And then came Google.

Not Helpful

They changed  the way that we search the web.  They used algorithms and predictive searches and (here’s the rant) “We think you actually want this, so we’ll show you that instead of what you actually asked for.”

These predictive algorithms have become a problem for me.  Google is actually hindering my ability to find what I want, because it keeps returning the results it thinks I want instead of what I ask for.  It used to be that you could put your search in quotation marks, and get a literal response.  Not any more.

This becomes especially annoying when I’m looking up something very specific, such as a legal citation, and Google thinks I actually want to read about some celebrity with a vaguely similar name.

Actively Harmful

Remember this?

This philosophy of “aggressive helpfulness” has spread to other aspects of Google’s empire–with bad results.

I had previously used the previous incarnation of Google’s AdWords (now just called “Ads”) for a few years while working in China (for international advertising).  I don’t claim to be an expert, but I got fairly good at tweaking things, and those tweaks brought in a lot of good leads.

I had a bit of downtime before starting up Redleaf, and during that time, things changed.  AdWords became Ads, and “aggressive helpfulness” became the standard.  The default interface for Ads is “Smart Ads”–which, after a few quick bits of input, take over and “help” you.

Being used to the old way, I wasn’t aware of the extent to which this “help” goes.  The biggest issue I’ve encountered is one that’s causing actual harm to my marketing:  Google automatically changes your keywords (i.e., search terms).  These new terms have nothing to do with my business.  So my ads are showing up in searches where they make no sense.  This makes me–my business–look bad (“He does marketing? He can’t even target his ads correctly!”).

Over the next few days, I’ll be pulling all the useful info from my existing ads, deleting them, and starting over in “advanced” mode (i.e., “let me control my own stuff”).  That’s wasted time, wasted effort, and wasted data.

That’s not “helpful”.

Personal Control

One of the main philosophies behind Redleaf is that you should have complete control over your company.  We’ll listen to what you want, and assist you in getting where you want to be, but it’s your way.  We’ll advise you, and point out what we feel are mistakes (sometimes in bluntly honest manner), but you make the final decisions.  And if we’re not comfortable with the ones you make, we politely part company and move on.

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