If you’re one of AdWords multiple unlucky users, time that you expected to spend getting your campaigns ready for the holiday rush may be spent in frustration staring at what has been dubbed the “red bar of death.” (Which will be called the RBOD from here on.)
It’s hard to be sure just how many people are affected since Google refuses to even acknowledge the problem outside of one on one conversations and an admission to Search Engine Land of the problem by a Google spokesperson who stated:
“We are aware of an issue that was intermittently affecting some Shopping campaigns, but it has since been resolved.”
However, there are several indications the problem is far from isolated. In addition to two well-known members of the PPC community, Melissa Mackey and Julie Bacchini voicing their concerns and detailing the problems they have encountered, Twitter users have been regularly posting they are running into similar issues.
@adwords Getting the red error in operation bar when trying to edit a shopping campaign. Any ideas? Logged out & refreshed, not working.
— Tom (@thomascox24) November 20, 2014
— Ariana Wolf (@ArianaWolf) November 18, 2014
— Pamela Lund (@Pamela_Lund) November 13, 2014
— Sam Owen (@SamOwenPPC) November 25, 2014
As you can see based on the tweets listed above, while the most common error is the RBOD, it’s not the only one. According to Mackey, the problem(s) show up irrespective of platform or browser. She also states that Google is handling the issues on a case by case basis and told her that she should urge users having problems to submit their issues to the generic AdWords support page.
Is the problem systemic?
Just a few weeks ago we wrote about a massive outage that left the Internet nearly ad free for a few hours. These two problems could be completely unrelated. However, when systems are overloaded due to a large number of users, for example, making adjustments to ads in preparation for the holidays, random errors will pop up and systems will bog down. Sound familiar? Is it possible that Google’s ad servers aren’t up to the task or at the very edge of its capabilities? Who knows? Let’s face it, it’s more likely that my cat will win the lottery than that Google will admit such a thing.
Why this could be a really big deal
Okay, this sounds pretty frustrating, but if you’re not being affected by the bug, you may be wondering why you should care. I’m going to drag my work experience back into this, 1 but during my decade of working for an ISP, I quickly discovered intermittent issues were the worst. If you had no connection at all, the problem was probably going to be straightforward. If you had random problems, it could take a lot of effort to get to the bottom of it, especially since things like weather can impact speed and connection if fibers aren’t up to par. Long story short, if the ISP, or in this case Google, isn’t willing to spend the time, the problem isn’t going anywhere.
Additionally, in certain cases, these problems can slowly get worse as whatever the source of their cause isn’t resolved. This is probably just a small issue that Google is dragging their feet on resolving but will eventually get better and will have ultimately affected only a few users. However, there is also a small chance that it could slowly get worse until basically everyone is affected, forcing Google to address it.
Because it’s all about me.