Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

Playing around with HTML5 ads with Google AdWords built in Google Web Designer

Friday, December 18th, 2015

I had to build a relatively simple HTML5 ad for the main client this week. I had previously built Flash advertisements, but even that was a few years ago.

This was sadly a frustrating experience, especially since Flash ads (which in end user terms are basically the same) have been around for over a decade.

I will not go into too much detail, perhaps, I’ll backfill this post in the future. I wanted to write down a few notes while this pain was still fresh in my mind.

Google Web Designer (GWD) is the preferred way to build HTML5 ads for Google AdWords. The sad thing is they don’t need to invent anything here, just copy programs that we’ve used to build Flash ads for years. Some notes on this “beta” product.

  • It will install without complaint on Windows Vista. It will NOT work properly though, many features fail SILENTLY on Vista. Admittedly, Google only claims Windows 7 compatibility – I was working over RDP on one of the spare machines in the office –  I didn’t even realize it was running Vista rather than Windows 7. The “Swap Image” and problems in the asset library come to mind.
  • Don’t even get me started on the quirks in the UI. I never could figure out how to move an object with the mouse, rather than create a transform. I ended up entering “pixel” values into the X and Y fields with the keyboard.
  • I couldn’t find a way to export a frame of the animation, for, you know, the JPG failover image that the majority of ad networks require for users that disable animated ads.
  • Misleading “template” choices. My first attempt at building an ad I picked one of the 300×250 templates that mentioned Google and something about remarketing. In the end, this caused me grief. My final file was not compatible with the standard AdWords upload… something about it being custom (forgot to write the exact error down). I eventually rebuilt the simple ad without a template, using the Google ‘environment’.
  • Resizing a file to switch from a rectangle to a leaderboard ad? Yeah, not easy. Actually, I never confirmed that I got this working – I may try again next week.

Google AdWords issues…

  • I use Inkscape for a lot of vector art work. GWD seems to use these SVG files fine in local previews, but uploading the “publish locally” zip file from GWD to AdWords failed in all my attempts. Worse, it failed with this completely misleading error: “Invalid file format. Make sure you are using a supported file format (.JPEG, .JPG, .PNG, .GIF, .ZIP or .SWF) and that your file is not corrupted.” I was using text that had been converted to paths, but I later tested with just an oval and rectangle. In the end? I made precisely sized PNG files. It feels so old fashioned, and I’ll be really annoyed when I have to resize the ad.

HTML5 Ad Notes

  • No, you do not need to include a “clickTag” with HTML5 on AdWords. This is not as easy to figure out as it should be.

Thunderbird Email Losing Sync with Google Hosted Email (via IMAP)

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Update: I wrote this too soon. This worked for a day or two, but then Thunderbird got out of sync again. I will have to try something different later.

Update 2: For a week or so, I have disabled mail.server.default.use_condstore  in Thunderbird, as suggested here: – I’m again cautiously optimistic that it’s worked around the problem.

My email is currently hosted by Google and I use a mix of the web interface (often on multiple devices), Thunderbird on a workstation, and my phone to access email. For reasons unknown to me, a couple months ago  Thunderbird client stopped updating itself when items were read or deleted from other devices or interfaces. I often resorted to closing Thunderbird, and re-opening it to force a re-synchronization.

I vaguely recall updating Thunderbird at about the same time that  this issue started, but, I’m not 100% sure. I hadn’t updated in quite a while –  probably over a year. Or, perhaps Google changed some settings on their end. I really don’t know.

I finally spent a bit of time trying to figure out a workaround or fix.

I disabled IDLE support in the email account in Thunderbird. It’s under Account Settings –> Server Settings –> Advanced. For those who don’t know, IDLE is supposed to push new email notifications to your email client, in this case, Thunderbird, more or less instantly. That’s normally a good thing.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, disabling this seems to have fixed my Inbox’s “deleted” and “read” status issue, and I can live with a few minutes delay before my emails reach me.

sIFR (and Flash) is dead. Long live sIFR (and Flash)!

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

It’s hard to believe, but only a few years ago I eagerly looked for excuses to use Adobe Flash to make a website just a bit more interactive or fluid. Now, I have started the process of purging Flash from every site that we operate, and manage for clients. What changed?


It’s truly astounding how much web browsing is done on iPhones and iPads where Flash does not exist (Flash is also on the outs in the Android world). One of our clients has the majority of their web traffic driven by their weekly email newsletter – and I’ve seen the numbers, a very large fraction of people read their email on their phones and tablets. Today, it is critical that your website does not depend on Flash. It’s also a good idea to slowly remove Flash from non-critical parts of your website too.

Which leads to today’s subject. On many of Perceptus’ websites we use sIFR, Scalable Inman Flash Replacement, which 5 or 8 years ago, was a great way to use nicer fonts on your website for headers. sIFR uses Flash. For some reason the most recent Google Chrome web browser broke some, but not all, of the sIFR headlines on, our popular bingo card generator. It might be related to a missing  attribute or something relatively minor. But, rather than debug it, it was time to move to Javascript based fonts. On, we’re now using Google Web Fonts.

Bye bye sIFR. You were a good thing for your day.

You can now “+1”

Monday, June 20th, 2011

We’ve recently added Google’s new “+1” button to

We encourage you to try it. We suspect that it will help other users find custom bingo card generating website over time.  Then again, who really knows what Google’s plan with the +1 really are?  And… couldn’t they come up with something less gramatically awkward than +1?

Tentative Switch to Google AdWords Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) Bidding

Friday, March 11th, 2011

We’ve run Google AdWords campaigns for years.  Currently, by far, our largest online advertising campaign is our campaign on Google AdWords.  We do run ads on the Microsoft+Yahoo platform, but that hasn’t been worth the effort to work on optimizing, it’s hard to see any real ROI on these.

A couple months ago, Google offered AdWords users an incentive to add the conversion tracking JavaScript snippet to our campaigns.  With conversion tracking, Google will track which advertising clicks lead to actual sales, in our case, we are counting upgrades to Premium access to  In theory, Google will optimize our bids, both up and down, to match based on geography, time of day, search phrases, and potentially more, so that our cost per acquisition is optimized.  We still pay for every click in CPA; however, Google tries to get us the best ROI  for our clicks.  The alternative on Google, is the traditional cost per click advertising, where we set a maximum bid for a click and find some other way to make sure that we are getting a positive return on our ad dollars.

Since it was on the to-do list anyway, we took up the offer to add CPA tracking.  We’re glad that we did… probably.

We’re only a couple weeks into the process, and we’ve seen Google start to adjust the bidding.  Search ads do much better than the content network – we knew this already, but we underestimated the difference in ROI.  Our average cost per click is going up; however, our total spend is about even.  It seems that higher spots in the advertising have a better ROI. And our conversions are at least even, if not up moderately.

Note that we do have a couple months of tracking data in the system before we turned on the CPA bidding. So we are trying to  compare apples-to-apples when we count the number of conversions over a period of time. It is a bit worrisome, we’re putting quite a lot of trust that Google won’t try to cheat us; but what can you do… ROI is ROI.

There is a hole in this setup. generates revenue from advertising, and we benefit greatly from word of mouth referrals by both paid and unpaid users.  Since we are only tracking Premium users, we’re not giving a value to the free-level users that visit our site from ad clicks.

In the end, we’re tentatively switching to CPA bidding.  We might even increase the advertising budget if the numbers hold up.  We might add a second, parallel, campaign, aimed at getting cheap clicks from the content network… maybe.