If you are considering DoubleClick Search as your bid management platform, here are 21 reasons to think hard about before signing that contract with DoubleClick. These 21 reasons are from hands-on experience after struggling with DoubleClick's lack of features, slowness, and inefficiencies. If I had to sum up my experience with DoubleClick as a bid management platform, I'd say: painfully slow, lacks major functionality, end-results were worse than better, poorly designed interface, efficiencies were not gained, the tool is not robust, and implementation was time-consuming.
PS: I would have loved to post pictures illustrating every point mentioned here but DoubleClick probably would not like that since I'm not raving about how 'awesome' their platform is.
- Destination URLs change - DoubleClick search converts all your URLs in your account to clickserve URLs. Clickserve URLs are third-party redirects. All your keywords will have a specific clickserve URL. When someone clicks your ad, the user goes through a redirect which records the data associated to that click. If you have an advertiser that changes landing pages frequently, DoubleClick is a nightmare to work with! A job that once took you five minutes in Adwords Editor now takes much longer for large accounts. By using DoubleClick, you are essentially forced to use DoubleClick when destination URLs need to be checked or reviewed for accuracy. This is a huge downside and forces longer ad-hoc analysis to answer simple questions.
- Bid strategies are not robust - The bid strategies you can create in DoubleClick can almost be re-created using Adwords built-in Automation bid rules. For example, DoubleClick has an Avg. Pos. bid strategy. You can achieve the same results in Adwords using Automated Rules. No efficiencies gained there. DoubleClick has a Target CPA bid strategy. When I implemented this, it caused a 40% drop in quantity of conversions for one our clients while going over our CPA target meaning it proved ineffective to what we had in place prior. DoubleClick allows you to create Floodlight tag bidding. This is similar to CPA bidding except on a more granular level. Target ERS bid strategies in DoubleClick are only valuable for Ecommerce clients and requires you to input essentially 1 metric - ERS. Not very robust.
- Every keyword must contain a URL - DoubleClick recently added the ability to start landing page tests allowing users to split the traffic to allow landing page testing. This feature is pretty useful. Before they had this, you had to choose a specific URL to send traffic to which made testing different URLs very difficult and hard to keep strict testing environments. A downfall of requiring all keywords to contain a keyword-level destination URL is that it increases the probability for error. Since all URLs are converted to clickserve URLs, if you don't pay very close attention to the URLs you are sending traffic, you might not realize you are sending traffic to a dead page or the wrong page for a long period of time. Likewise, when you sync DoubleClick with your engine accounts, if a keyword does not contain a URL, DoubleClick will grab the first URL from your ad... which might not be the URL that you want all those keyword-level destination URLs to be sent!
- Can't make bulk changes within all accounts at once - DoubleClick acts as an umbrella to hold the accounts but each account still needs to be managed individually. It ultimately aggregates the data in one spot which is convenient however changes to each account must be made independently of one another. Essentially this helps you avoid having to log into Adwords or Adcenter individually. Not a huge benefit since you can't make bulk changes across both accounts at once. In other words, you have to be in one or the other but not both in order to make changes.
- Making Bulk Changes in Excel - Both a blessing and a curse. If you're good with Excel, editing in a bulk spreadsheet can be quick but not as quick as if you are an expert with Adwords Editor or Adcenter Desktop. Once you've edited your bulksheet, you need to upload it to DoubleClick and it's not as straight-forward as you'd expect. You need to be cautious to make sure the bulk sheet matches the engine you're uploading to. The DoubleClick engineers should have been more thoughtful in the development of the interface in my opinion. In any situation where you create an environment where a user can make a mistake, that's bad design. What's worse about bulk uploads is that you can only download 100K keywords at one time in Excel format. If you want to download more than 100K, you'd better remember every time to download as a CSV file instead - an annoying nuance of the DoubleClick Search platform. Even furthermore, when you download keywords and have modified broad match types with leading '+' (plus signs), Excel naturally converts these to formulas and you are left with #NAME and other annoying errors. The nightmares of working with bulk spreadsheets. They invite human error.
- Painfully Slow Interface - DoubleClick is very slow in terms of performance. To load the keywords tab takes 30 seconds if you have accounts with over 100K keywords. When you sort columns, nothing actually appears to be happening until at least 1 minute later. The Adwords interface is much faster presumably since it doesn't bottleneck through an API.
- Inability to make bulk changes - You can't assign bulk bid rules to all keywords at once. You can't find all keywords that contain null values (ie: no bid exists on a keyword for example). On the campaigns tab, you can't do a simple find/replace for campaign names (a basic fundamental feature).
- The Ads interface is terrible - I would NEVER use the DoubleClick interface to write ads. No headline, line 1, line 2 or anything... it's literally just a blob of ad text scrunched together into what's supposed to be your ad. Just awful and the epitome of poor design.
- Interface is designed poorly - if you're not on a wide computer monitor, the scroll bar is missing from the bottom unless you scroll to the bottom through the interface.... then you see a scroll bar that allows you to go from left to right. If you are on a laptop, the left-hand menus are so large that you can't see the account and campaign trees. Again, it comes back to poor user-design which is pretty much common sense. It surprises me that they keep the interface in the shape that it's in without caring to change it.
- Bulk Upload Limit - While uploading files, I consistently get errors telling me the file size is too large.
- Inability to see floodlight impressions - At the time of this writing, you can't see floodlight impressions under the floodlight activities section in Advertiser Settings. For this, you have to use DFA which stands for DoubleClick for Advertisers. There never was a clear connection as to why DFA and DoubleClick search were not integrated so you didn't feel like you were using 2 sites as your bid management platform.
- Can't Sync ONLY THE CAMPAIGNS YOU NEED - DoubleClick forces you to sync ALL campaigns regardless of status. Therefore, accounts with a lot of history and old paused campaigns get synced. This causes unnecessary clutter and performance issues since there is more data to load. Consider this: you have Adwords Express campaigns that you don't want to sync with DoubleClick. Too bad. They get synced and then you see trafficking errors every day of your life and there is nothing you can do since Adwords Express campaigns are uneditable from the Adwords account.
- Trafficking Errors - Old campaigns contain Trafficking errors which makes it hard to see what information is relevant and what is not. The Error message is persistent and follows you throughout the interface.
- Must sync from Engine Daily - Syncing a large DoubleClick account takes a minimum of 5 minutes. As you press the sync button, you are obviously busy so you tend to wander shifting your focus on other pressing paid search issues. Then you get caught up in those other pressing issues and forget you were working on DoubleClick because it takes so long to sync. They now have the option to schedule your sync which is what any SEM would do. However, I sync for peace-of-mind before making any changes because I don't trust DoubleClick nor that it's up-to-date.
- No budget pacing - Budget pacing is only available for certain bid strategies which is not helpful since most of our bid strategies are tied to CPA goals. They just recently added the functionality to pace budgets but this is NOT a budget pacing management tool (which would be useful)... no, this is a budget MONITORING tool. For example, you simply input what your budget should be for the time period and it tells you what percentage of time has passed and what percentage of spend you are to spending that budget. It does not do any campaign, keyword or bid adjustments to help you hit your target spend. It's basically useless to me and something I have in Excel with stupid-simple formulas.
- Column Headers not persistent – In Adwords, the column headers are saved from the last time you modify them. In DoubleClick Search, the column headers default to the same standard headers every time you re-visit the tool. The engineers want users to save what they call ‘views’ and to use these views to see the columns they desire. Why should you have to click something to see the view you want? Why can't the view you want be what you set it at last?
- Inability to EASILY exclude campaigns – In Adwords, you can exclude or include campaigns by the filter. In DoubleClick, you have to TYPE out campaign names that contain or does not contain text using pipe delimiters. Not user-friendly. Instead what they should do is add a text AREA so users can copy/paste text from Excel into this text area. I guarantee you DoubleClick will maintain their stance on the pipe delimiter. If you enjoy concatenating in Excel, then you'll love the pipe symbol as a delimiter and applying filters to campaigns!
- Bid Strategies - After going through DoubleClick training, they pretty much shake your hand and say "Good Luck!" and you're on your own to set up your bid strategies. Bid strategies need to be applied to EVERY keyword that you want to be automated. If you have a large account, it's not easy to pick and choose and go through the account with a fine-tooth comb to apply highly-specific bid strategies to tens of thousands of keywords. Time is not something a PPC manager has a lot of. Instead, you try and develop keyword bidding strategies for the groups of keywords. To apply these bid strategies to the given keywords in specific groups is needlessly hard within the DoubleClick interface. You can't apply a bulk bid strategy to ALL keywords at once; you can only apply a bid strategy to a MAX of 100 keywords at a time since each keyword has to be checked via the checkbox in order to apply the bid strategy and since you can only have 100 keywords visible in the DoubleClick interface at a time. Manually applying bid rules like this in the DoubleClick interface is nothing short of painful especially since you have to click the next arrows to get to the next 100 which is extremely slow. It's more efficient to do this in bulk spreadsheets however, you need to know the label text of each bid rule you created in order to assign it to the keywords in Excel. It's all just so archaic and not what you'd expect from a premium platform (in my opinion). I can think of +3 better solutions just sitting here as I write this.
- Adoption and Implementation - The use of DoubleClick will require the use of Floodlight tags. You will need to implement these floodlight code tags on specific pages that you want to track. If you have full control over your website, this is easy. If you work at an agency and need to execute this across many different clients all with unique needs, this is challenging to say the least. Some clients have a third-party web team that you need to provide with documentation and communicate what the reason is for implementing the code. Other clients don't have a clue how to implement this code and will require help every step of the way. Still, other clients won't implement it because they lack the time and/or motivation to do so. This presents a significant barrier to onboarding new accounts onto DoubleClick.
- Floodlight tag creation - The act of creating specific tags to track and record specific actions on a given website. Think of these as conversion tags but they could be used for anything you'd like on any specific page. Bottom line: these tags have a lot of settings that the PPC manager needs to configure. Some settings are for more advanced tracking, others are essential. The problem is, you don't know what is essential and what is 'nice-to-have' when you are first creating them. This is something you learn through trial and error or by asking a lot of questions to your account rep. When you create a lot of floodlight activities, the implementation becomes more complex and requires a lot of time to spot-check for each account.
- Removing Engine Accounts - When you remove engine accounts, DoubleClick does not convert your URLs back to the original URLs. Instead, they keep all your URLs clickserve URLs! That's why it's important to export your entire account from DoubleClick before removing it. You can then re-build the account structure from the exported files and remove all DoubleClick URLs from your account. The only reason DoubleClick has for not doing this automatically is to keep you locked in and using their tool. It's their attempt at creating an exit barrier once you have an account synced.
Have you used DoubleClick Search? Are you using DoubleClick Search currently? Feel free to leave a comment and your thoughts!