<< by on December 7th, 2010
If you read my earlier post on Google’s AdWords API you’d quickly see the potential that the API presents to make your life much easier when managing AdWords campaigns. There are two typical uses of the AdWords API.
1. API As Reporting Integration Tool
The first is using the API as a reporting integration tool. So you can take all your data and merge it with your internal systems. This saves you time on both ends. Setting up and running reports takes time and so does merging two systems.
2. API to Upload Large Amount of Ads and Group Them
The second use is to upload a large amount of ads and to group them as needed. For instance, you could have a fairly long list of items in your inventory and though typing each one into AdWords is possible, it causes some major time commitments. The beauty of programming in the AdWords API is that it allows the computer to handle the monotonous task of adding data repeatedly into the system and frees the end user up for analysis and management which both need more of a “hands on” touch.
Getting Started: The Sandbox
So let’s say your ready to take on the AdWords API and learn a little programming. Trust me … it’ll seem daunting at first but once you get started it’s like a snowball rolling down a hill (you’ll get faster and make your process much more powerful). One of the first questions might be something like “Okay, I get it but how can I preview my ads before they get put out to the real world?”. Well, that’s where the sandbox comes in. Some of the more powerful APIs provide a “development playground” where you can do testing. The “sandbox” is usually the coined term for many of these testing areas. The idea behind the “sandbox” is that it provides nearly all the ability of the “real” system, yet keeps you isolated so that you can play around without changing the production environment. As a kid the sandbox represented a safe haven where you could do just about anything without getting hurt (though getting sand in your eyes can really burn!).
Testing Is Key
If you plan to use the AdWords API and really, if you plan to do any programming at all, then plan on spending at least 50% of your time testing. Sometimes it can be a lot more. The best part though is that Google setup everything for you. Many other programs and APIs make you setup your own testing but Google has built the API so you can change one line of the configuration text and switch between “testing” and the “real” world. That quick change is adjusting a URL to point to https://adwords-sandbox.google.com instead of https://adwords.google.com. As you can see one link includes the words “sandbox” which is the key to showing you that you can play around and test without damaging anything else.
The sandbox is free. You don’t have to have an AdWords account or developer token (that’s just a simple key that’s provided by Google to identify you). Each API call is also free. Normally API calls can add up to hefty amounts of money but the sandbox allows you to get everything setup before running the full-blown API and paying for anything. Since everything is free and Google could potentially be storing lots of test data, the sandbox is cleared occasionally. Think of it as an etch-a-sketch. From time to time (could be as frequent as monthly), Google will shake it up and your data will be cleared. You are provided with 5 test accounts and when Google clears the sandbox then the data is cleared for all 5 test accounts. It allows you to start fresh so this can be a good thing but just make sure you aren’t storing important data that needs to be saved in the sandbox. One other feature of the sandbox that is incredibly helpful is the account viewer (http://adwordsapi.blogspot.com/2010/05/sandbox-account-viewer-released.html). This allows you to see all your campaigns, ad groups and ad text easily. Without this you, it would be much more difficult to see what data was being added to your test accounts.
The Sandbox Needs Some Improvement
Now that I’ve told you about the ease and some of the useful features of the sandbox, there are two things that I can think of that I wish were added. First of all, I’d like to be able to clear my sandbox test accounts whenever I want instead of having to wait for Google to clear them out. Secondly, I’d prefer to be able to view my ads like you can in AdWords editor. I want to be able to see a real preview. It’s not a huge deal but it would be nice to view the ad as it will be in the “real world”. The good thing is that the engineers for the AdWords API are very receptive to any new ideas and are continuing to build out bigger and better functionality.
Now stop reading and go play in the “sand”.