SearchCenter Auto-Sync: Ready or Not, Here it Comes

Omniture is rolling out a new auto-sync feature to SearchCenter customers. Mostly good news, this can also have some unpleasant side-effects for those who get it whether they want it or not.

One of the complaints about SearchCenter is that it requires the user to do a manual synchronization  between SearchCenter and the search engine account any time changes are made to campaigns, ad groups, keywords or ads via the search engine interface.  Otherwise, there is a disconnect between the actual data (impressions, clicks, etc.) shown in the search engine and in SearchCenter.  And this data can’t be retroactively added to the SearchCenter after a synchronization, so there will be a permanent discrepancy when looking at the period in question.  How other bid management tools handle this, I don’t know, but this has been a pain for SearchCenter users.

A typical approach to get around it has been to: a) make changes from within SearchCenter, rather than the search engine interface (not always practical) and b) develop the routine of synchronizing all accounts each day.

However, Omniture has heard the cries of its customers and has responded by adding an ‘auto-sync’ feature that will automatically synchronize SearchCenter and search engine information – generally during the night.  There still may be a discrepancy in the data if changes are made via search engine interface early in the day, for example, but at least the discrepancy won’t continue to grow for days on end until someone remembers to re-sync.

All well and good, Omniture is to be applauded for taking care of this. If it isn’t happening yet on your account yet (you can check under Reporting>Event History or check the ‘Last Synchronized’ column at the campaign level in your accounts) you can expect it to start happening any day.

So that’s the good news.  Thing is, this is an automatic, no notification, no opt-out new feature.  And it is not benign, since a synchronization (automatic or otherwise) will do things like add SearchCenter tracking parameters to destination URLs if they are not already present.  Which means that if you have a ‘dormant’ account – maybe you’ve stopped using SearchCenter temporarily to test another approach – you may have your destination URLs messed with, potentially wreaking havoc with other tracking that you are using.  This is particularly relevant if you have long URLs, since SearchCenter arbitrarily cuts existing URLs off at a certain point – seems to be about 250 characters – and tacks on SearchCenter parameters at that point. Thanks, but no thanks.

So Omniture, a company not known for a strong sense of customer service, misses two big opportunities to strengthen the relationship with their customers:

1. Make an announcement to customers (and prospects) that they are rolling-out this fantastic new service that will automate the synchronization process and make life easier for users;

2. Show customers that they care by notifying them of this fantastic service, advising of potential side-effects, and providing the opportunity to opt-out in case there are any concerns on the part of the customer.

Just another item in the list of things that frustrate existing users – and scare off potential new ones.  Too bad, because SearchCenter, as part of the Omniture Suite, has some attractive features to offer.

Disabling Omniture SearchCenter Accounts

SearchCenter: folks seem to love or hate it.  Actually, I haven’t encountered many people that love it.  At best, those who enjoy its advantages in campaign management efficiency see it as a love/hate relationship.  Whether you love it or not, there are all kinds of  reasons that you may want to disable SearchCenter on one or more of your search engine accounts.  This is not difficult to do, but it’s also not as obvious as you might think.

One thing you can not do, at least not after the fact, is pick and choose campaigns within your search engine account that you want SearchCenter to disengage from.  If you are at the campaign level and you hit the ‘pause’ or ‘delete’ button for a given campaign, this will pause or delete it from your search engine account.  So choose carefully which campaigns you import into SearchCenter.

What you can do is disable the whole account. Here’s the routine:

1. In the management console, choose Manage > Search Engines

2. Select all of the search engines you want to disconnect from SearchCenter.

3. Hit the ‘pause’ button above the list.  (This will not pause any campaigns on that search engine, but will just dis-associate SearchCenter from those campaigns.)

4. For each search engine that you have paused, one at a time click the box beside the engine and then click the ‘Edit’ button.

5. Delete your credentials: user name, password, etc. so that SearchCenter can no longer connect with your account on the search engine

Now SearchCenter will no longer try to go in and collect data.  And, you won’t get any nasty surprises from the new auto-sync feature, which is generally helpful but can be a nuisance (or worse) in some cases.  But that’s another story…