Tue, 17 Jul 07

Free google website optimizer isn't actually free

Nup, it cost me £5.00. That’s not free is it.

OK, so I’m being intentionally blunt, but that’s because google annoyed me by being misleading and incompetent. Although I have no intention of using adwords, I had to sign-up in order to use their website optimizer service. I signed up but chose not to enter any billing information; I wasn’t going to buy any ads, and website optimizer is free (hmmm), so I didn’t see the point. I went on to set-up my optimizer experiments and waited. The docs suggest that you may have to wait up to an hour before seeing impressions, but 24 hours without impressions, that I knew should be there, seemed a little excessive. I guessed it may have had something to do with not entering my billing information but in order to be sure I sent the folks at google an email.

Chris I’ve set-up my website optimizer campaigns and all seems correct. Unfortunately, they are not showing any impressions or clickthrus. I wonder if this is because I haven’t activated (i.e. set-up my payment information) in my adwords account. As I don’t intend to use adwords, I didn’t really want to have to do it. Could this be the reason?

I thought I was being fairly clear in my questioning, but apparently not.

Adwords Thank you for your email regarding why you are not accruing any clicks or impression for your ad. I noticed that you have not entered your billing information. Below, I address this in detail.
I have reviewed your AdWords account and found that your ad is not appearing on Google because you have not yet entered your billing information. Entering valid billing information is required to activate your Google AdWords account and begin running your ads.

Surely it should be common practice to read the email before replying. Obviously not. Oh well, I’ll get back to them (in an admittedly sarcastic tone).

Chris Any chance you can re-read my original query and answer that, rather than essentially ignoring it?

Surely they’ll read it this time…

Adwords Thank you for your email. I understand you would like to know why your ads are not receiving any clicks and impressions. Upon reviewing your account, I found that this is because your account has not been activated. To activate your account and to receive clicks and impressions you will have to enter your billing details

Nope. Let’s try one more time.

Chris I haven’t mentioned anything about adwords ads. My problem is, in fact with Website Optimizer. Do I need to enter billing information just to use website optimizer, or is there another reason that I’m not recording any hits?

Woot, we get an answer.

Adwords The Website Optimizer is integrated into your AdWords account, you will need to enter your billing information to use it. In order to use Website Optimizer, you’ll need a Standard AdWords account.

Right, so we finally have a sensible answer. In fact, I think this is probably covered in this answer, assuming that “active” means “with correct billing information”. What about the £5.00 I had to pay to get set-up, of which there is no mention until the very last stage of sign-up? Well, it actually seems that this is covered too, in this answer, mentioning a “nominal setup fee” to create an adwords account.

In all fairness, the big G (not His Dad, the other one) has probably not done anything wrong, but it’s certainly not very transparent. You have to pay to activate an adwords account and you need an adwords account in order to use website optimizer. Or, website optimizer costs a fiver. There, much easier to understand.