How a Google Ads Slowdown Affected the Bottom Line of 1000s of Businesses

March 14, 2018 by Shahar Evron

Recent Google Ads Slowdown Highlights Importance of Retailers Monitoring Sites 24/7

Outages and slowdowns are among the biggest modern day risks for retailers and brands–and recent events show that even industry stalwarts like Google are susceptible to problems affecting retailers. Yesterday, Shoppimon caught a recent Google Ads tracking code slowdown hours before Google even acknowledged there might be a problem. The slowdown lasted 7+ hours and definitely had an impact on store sales during this period. According to Aberdeen Group, for every second lost on load time speed shows, there is a 7% drop in conversion rate.

Google Ads Slowdown Timeline

On March 13, 2018, Shoppimon‘s AI powered eCommerce monitoring bots detected slowdowns across almost all of the stores they were monitoring via their European locations. After some investigation, it was evident that the sites that are slowing down have all embedded Google Ads conversion tracking code, which was loading significantly slower than usual and in turn increasing the site’s full load time. Shoppimon was able to notify our clients once the issue was identified and confirmed in order for them to assess the impact and take action to minimize possible losses in sales.  

This tweet from me, re-tweeted by Shoppimon’s Twitter account immediately after, confirmed there was an ongoing issue at 4:43 p.m. UTC to the Google and Google Analytics teams.

Shortly after, Google acknowledged they were investigating reports of issues on their Google Ads Status Dashboard:

Google's Response to Ads Slowdown

This was followed by another tweet from me, which included a graph of the slowdowns across all stores being monitored by Shoppimon’s European servers:

Google’s investigation continued for 6+ hours until it finally acknowledged it affected multiple systems and resolved at approximately 11:30pm UTC:

3/14/18, 11:34 PM: The problem with DoubleClick for Publishers should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support.

Due to a bug in DoubleClick, we were unable to track and record some ad impressions, clicks and conversions for a period of time on March 13th (EDT). Some redirects also did not work as intended. For customers who link their DoubleClick and Google Analytics (or Google Analytics 360) accounts, impacted events were not recorded.

To mitigate the issue, we briefly paused conversion tracking and automated bidding on DoubleClick Search, and some bidding on DoubleClick Bid Manager.

We have fixed the bug and will continue to monitor over the coming days.

The Delivery > Creatives section of the DoubleClick for Publishers UI is now loading correctly.

Here is a visual of the average scenario time across all sites Shoppimon is monitoring in minutes before, during, and after the slowdown (Time shown in UTC):

Google Ads Slowdowns During Technical Issue

What Can We Learn From This?

This incident has affected 1000s of sites around the world, potentially causing conversion rates to drop significantly for several hours. Interestingly, the root cause of the problem was not a mishap of any retailer or anyone on their teams – but in Google Ads – a very well-trusted and normally very well performing 3rd party service embedded into those sites.

No retail site can operate today without embedding 3rd party services: tracking conversion rates of ads, for example, cannot be done without embedding Google’s code. Embedding 3rd party code is usually easy and convenient and can solve a lot of problems. However, this comes at a cost: your site becomes more and more dependent on services beyond your control.

This is why monitoring, or observability into how your site is doing from an end-customer’s perspective is crucial: being able to get an alert and identify the root cause of such a slowdown in time, and having a solid contingency plan for such cases, can potentially save $1,000s in revenue for even a single incident.

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Shoppimon CEO and Co-founder Roy Rosiness was recently featured on Internet Retailer following the Google Ads Slowdown. He shared three key tips on how to identify and respond to these types of issues rapidly to protect user experience and minimize potential losses in revenue in future (imminent) outages.

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Author

Shahar Evron