In Vegas the house always wins and so it is with many new Google AdWords features. Google’s newest budget tool fits this model quite nicely. Google rolled out a new Budget feature in AdWords that provides budget control over a collection of campaigns. Initially, we were excited that this would solve some of our budget dilemmas, but as we dug deeper we realized that it still has limitations.
The feature is found in the Shared Library tab on the left side of Adwords. Click on Budgets and there’s a button labeled +New Budget. Name your budget, set your budget, and then apply it to any or all of your campaigns. Google makes it pretty simple to set up. Undoing a budget isn’t quite as easy. One would think that deleting the shared campaign would do the trick – it doesn’t You can’t delete a shared budget as long as a campaign is applied to it. Before you delete a Shared Budget, you must opt out all campaigns from it. To opt out a campaign of the Shared Budget, click on your campaign and click the Settings tab. Go to your Budget, edit and select the Individual Budget button. Enter a daily budget for that campaign, save, and that campaign is out of the shared budget. It seems odd to us that Google did not bring all the budget setting tools together in one place, but for now these are separately maintained.
When Google rolled out this new feature, the way it was described was that if one campaign didn’t use its daily budget, the remaining budget would go to a campaign that had spent its budget. This seems like a great idea…but alas it has flaws. When you set up a Shared Budget it deletes the original budget. Now the system doesn’t know what you want that campaign to spend. So, you ask yourself, how does AdWords allocate the budget if it doesn’t know what the budget is for an individual campaign? Here’s where Google gets mischievous. We had to call Google to clear up this question. They told us that the allocation was based on “performance”. Well, “performance” is basically first come first served. If you group a very strong campaign with weaker ones in a shared budget that strong campaign is going to overrun your weaker campaigns and make it difficult for them to get traffic. Who does this scenario benefit? Just Google.
There are a couple things to keep in mind when playing with this feature. If you have a very strict budget, don’t activate the shared budget in the middle of the day. AdWords will assume you haven’t spent any money that day, and it will start off at $0. One side product of a shared budget is the ability to adjust bids past the original campaign budget. For example, if one of your campaign budgets is set to $10, the highest your bids could be set at is $10. Under a Shared Budget, you could set bids past that $10. If you need to bid higher than $10 to be competitive in your market, it’s a nice by-product of a Shared Budget but probably not worth it.
If you use your budgets to control the blended CPA cost then you need to stay away from this feature. As with most new features that Google rolls out, this new feature is there to make them money. You don’t have a campaign spending its budget, Google has a solution. Spend that money somewhere else! Just keep in mind a campaign that spends its budget slowly will get even less traffic under a shared budget. Google won’t tell you that however, they’ll just keep running your credit card.