Google AdWords Contact Forms – A Bad Idea

I caught a tweet this morning from @ClicksIM’s Jami Broom where she stated “Adwords is trying out contact forms as an extension of an ad – pretty cool, I think.”  The link was to a news brief over at, which provided a short overview of a more detailed review can be found over at PPC Hero.

The core concept is that Google is now beta testing the serving up of contact forms right within an AdWords ad, thus preventing the person doing the search from having to click through to a web site.

This is a terrible step in Google’s ever increasing goal to keep searchers on the Google site.

First, the concept that you can’t know which questions you’ve submitted will show up in the ad – Google will determine which show up based on quality score variables. So you can’t even control the data collection requirement.

Second, you don’t get direct access to the client – you have to go through Google – who can track the engagement data. And ultimately still controls the prospect. By having a prospect remain at Google and never get to your site, you have no capacity to control the flow of information at all if they choose to use Google’s form.

Third, by allowing Google to gather the answers and contact info, this is only a win for Google in their aim to have an infinite amount of personal data on people looking for services and solutions online.

Finally, This is a complete crap-shoot for the AdWords account owner.

With a form on your own site, there’s an infinite number of additional action items you can present that prospect. This is a core concept of extending the marketing message, and tailoring the ability to further engage the prospect.  It’s also a matter of having the ability to gather prospect data and being able to make use of that data in several ways after the initial contact. All of which you lose with this new “solution”.

In addition to all the other problems this creates, by allowing Google to gather that data, marketers and site owners lose a critical piece of first-contact information and need to go through Google to even get a phone number to call.  That is insanity.

And Google stipulates you have to contact the prospect within 24 hours.  Are they kidding?  Sure, I expect immediate response to online inquiries.  But to force this nonsense is beyond controlling and completely kills any potential sales opportunity if circumstances out of your control prevent that response time.

And finally, if someone does a search, clicks on the link, and gets the instant contact form, there’s nothing to stop, or at the very least, slow them down from immediately clicking on a competitor’s ad.  And therein lies what may be the biggest flaw in Google’s crack-smoking mentality, from a business owner’s perspective.

No, Jami, I’d say this is not pretty cool at all.  Unless you’re Google.

UPDATE 1/8/10 – Got a response comment from Jami, who brings up a counter-point.  And from there, I realized even MORE problems with this whole thing.  So go ahead and be sure to read the comments, then offer your take on it…

About Alan Bleiweiss

Just another guy. Who happens to have a lot of experience living, breathing and sleeping organic SEO. So that's my primary focus - high end SEO audits and consulting for sites ranging from thousands to tens of millions of pages. In my spare time I blog, rant, write eBooks, and speak at industry conferences.

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  1. Is it really only us SEOs that see through Google? I’m amazed that more people aren’t shouting out at the liberties they are taking with our traffic and our information. What the heck? Thanks for bringing this to our attention Alan.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alan Bleiweiss, Alan Bleiweiss. Alan Bleiweiss said: Google's new AdWords Contact Forms – A VERY BAD IDEA new article I just posted […]

  3. Patricia, I am sure that a lot of marketers who are new to the business of gathering content and data will fall for this crap. Especially small business owners. And they’ll only suffer for it. No highly seasoned big business marketer would EVER allow such nonsense, unless they too were smoking crack.

  4. Rob Woods says:

    WOW! That idea does indeed suck! Why on earth would I want my customer to stay on a Google page rather than coming to my site where I can more actively engage with them and provide them with a richer user experience. Dictating how and when I contact a lead that I’m paying to acquire is ridiculous and I actually find it quite offensive. It’s sad to see Google going the way of Microsoft and acting like they’re smarter than their users and customers, and that they’ll decide what’s best for us, rather than letting us think for ourselves.

  5. Exactly Rob! But here’s where I comprehend their thinking. There are a hell of a lot of small business owners – people who are not truly savvy in regard to marketing. People they can dupe into thinking -hey – another way to get contact info sooner.

  6. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by AlanBleiweiss: Marketers should be going ape shit over the new AdWords contact form offering.

  7. Can we get a zOMG? Worst idea to come out of Google since Wave!

    Seriously, an advertiser has to call Google to get to their own damn lead and the one-upper – it expires in 24 hours.

    Gee thanks Google. How awesome! Can’t wait to sign-up….

  8. What? You’re not a fan of the G-Wave Matthew? Thought I was the only one intelligent enough to comprehend the stupidity of G-Wave

  9. Jami Broom says:

    I guess I am looking at it through the eyes of my clients and small businesses – this will most likely improve their lead generation (without much effort on the part of their website). yes, us SEOs have to go through Google, but for the majority of my small business clients, I have to do that anyway through Analytics & Adwords. And, as an Adwords account manager, this might actually make it easier for me to prove to my small business clients that Adwords works, and how well it works, and for which keywords, rather than rely on a mix of conversion tracking methods (phone, fax, email, forms) coming from all different sources of the web (direct, ppc, organic, referring sites, etc.)

    Secondly, I don’t think I would EVER fill out one of those forms w/o visiting the website first, but that’s just me. some ppl don’t WANT a richer user experience, they just want quick answers, and they might bypass a website altogether if they can’t get what they’re looking for quickly.

    I agree the contacting thing within 24 hours is stupid.

    I am only thinking about small businesses, and could see where this would have an adverse affect on other types of businesses, and may not be a good thing for certain business models.

    And I think that’s what google is thinking of, small businesses, because they’re not evil. 😉 ha, right. i’m sure it’s all to help their bottom line, but i also can see the benefits for certain small businesses.

    I think it’s good for different types of users to have more options in how they can use the web.

  10. Jami

    Thanks for taking the time to provide your perspective. It may improve lead generation but only among those who have enough confidence from a two line ad, in a sea of ads, to be willing to provide personal contact information.

    Here’s another snag in this. Now, you’re going to have to work with the client to determine the personal information to be gathered for this new form, but then explain that you can’t guarantee WHICH form fields will show up. Then you have to explain about the 24 hour rule, about the fact that they have to call GOOGLE to get TRANSFERRED to the prospect…

    Which brings up a new issue that wasn’t yet clarified according to the PPC Hero article,

    “However, you can’t contact the user yet, you have to call a special Google phone number and provide it with a lead ID, which will then re-route you to your potential customer.”

    So does that mean you call Google, an automated system gives you a direct number to call or just transfers you to the customer number? I pray for business owners it’s the former rather than the latter.

    But that’s just it. The additional layering of data and process really sucks.

    OH – and then you have to explain to your client that this form thing will only show up if you’re in a certain spot in the sponsored section. Which means you still need to have all the other previously thought out work in place for actual click-throughs.

    And that means it’s that much more work for PPC managers.

  11. jimdan says:

    great post alan, thanks

    very interesting article. some clients’ visitors might fill out the lead form immediately and other clients require more reading and research before they will give their info. i’ve seen this when placing the lead form on the landing page vs a contact page. maybe the leads will become less qualified in these cases?

    what kind of effect will this have on clients that value lead forms + phone calls? especially if you are tracking phone calls to the keyword….seems to be pretty beneficial as long as google is the go-between, but i’m not convinced it will provide more value to advertisers with this setup.

  12. Jimdan – it’s true that some will require more info first. And who knows what kind of quality the leads will be for those that just fill out the form? that’s anybody’s guess, however I can only think they’ll be less qualified, more like tire-kickers than anything.

    I just don’t see a very large upside to site owners given that perspective. Especially when you consider that this form will only show up in top PPC spots. That’s a lot of paying for tire kickers who might become more than that if they could get to the site and be presented with more information.

  13. Why not just provide an effective generic form building utility that can directly track conversions on the client site? You build your site with ‘Google Form Builder’ or whatever it’ll be called, and paste it inside your site and just link it up to a campaign in Adwords since it’ll show a selection of forms there. Conversions are the most important part of any advertising campaign and this idea would meet Google half way…
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  14. That’s an alternative consideration. Except Google wants to keep visitors on the Google site. If they can lure site owners into using the new AdWords based contact form, they achieve that, and increase the potential for their own revenue.

  15. Steven Gun says:

    First of all I am no marketing specialist. I am more into developing than selling.

    Love to see a debate about it but I dont understand your vehemency against adwords based forms.

    I see your point on loosing on “persuasive juicy techniques”, I also agree on not wanting to share data with big daddy G but small businesses might really get a push.

    Here is how I see it: the googler lands on a google hosted form… what is not to trust about google? (from the end-user point of view)
    Sure, google will say in many different ways that the form is only hosted and so on, but in the mind of the inexperienced googler might have different meaning and make a huge difference.

    I think that hosted forms will boost the sales of mass market few dollars worth products / services in an instant but have no or even negative impact on niche higher sales.

    To be honest, recently I am seriously reconsidering the mass market myself.

    The quantity vs. quality story of all businesses :).

    Targeting? Qualifying? NO! Just numbers, big juicy numbers. I am pretty tempted.
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  16. Steven,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment – I agree that some business owners may find additional leads. I actually think this is going to impact a very small percentage of ads, at least in it’s current form.

    People first need to KNOW about the form opportunity, then have to know how to set it up, and then will only have the form displayed if they’re in the top position in the paid listings on any given search; then and only then, will the form appear.

    So from that perspective, I don’t see this initially being a massive problem.

    Again though, the biggest issue I have still remains with the fact that Google controls the prospect’s information – both from a privacy perspective and a marketing perspective so this is mostly a win for Google.

  17. Frank says:

    I am new to the world of ad words and getting my ad on various sites…. the issue I am having I am getting clicks but no one is filling out the form! In one day I have had over 124 people click the ad and not one filled it in…. am I missing something or am I getting scammed?? Can anyone give me some information about what I can do to get leads for my business?

    • Frank,

      There are many possibilities as to what’s causing this. If you’re confident the ads you wrote are targeting people who would really want your offerings, the question then becomes whether the site you have is conveying “trust, professionalism, value”.

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