A recent profile in the New York Times of Nicolas Fox, the brain behind Google’s advertising program, reveals that Google is more than just a machine and that they actually employ people behind the complex algorithms . One might raise questions about the openness of Google, often called the ‘black box’ company, but in this little piece Mr Fox at least shows a more human side of the Internet giant that Google is.
In his office, click-through data and advertising statistics are closely monitored hour by hour and compared to previous data sets to spot oddities and radical changes, Fox explains. By doing so year in year out, Google has accumulated an unseen expertise in online advertising and how to handle it.
It is the obsession for measuring and the ongoing search for optimization that made Google engineers realize that measuring the average cost-per-click was not good enough. More clicks on high prized ads and fewer on lower priced ads would influence the average cost without reflecting the overall health of the system. To tackle that problem, 2 engineers developed a ‘basket of keywords’. Similar to a basket of consumer goods indicating inflation, the basket of keywords gives Google a more accurate view on their performance.
Like a bunch of scientists, Fox’ team then dissected the ad system top down and by means of various experiments improved clickable areas, background colours etc. The team then started considering the landing page of an ad. That means the quality of the website the ad is leading to influences ad rankings. An ad leading to a page with more ads would rank lower than an ad leading to a value adding website.
Soon the loading speed of the landing page will also be included in the determining variables, Mr Fox added. All these factors will then be represented in one ‘quality score of the ad’. The introduction of the quality score will make it possible for a cheaper ad to rank higher than a more expensive ad, just because the landing page loads faster, the content is better, less ads figure on the landing page etc. Advertisers with a very low quality score will then have to bid so much that it would become uneconomical for them to advertise. That’s how Google is going to make more money, with less ads.