Google’s Boost advertising product was meant to be a dead simple way for a small business that had claimed their Places listing, to place a locally highlighted ad onto the front page of Google. It is simple to get started and in some situations, where the targeting is accurate and the price per click is reasonable, it can be a very effective advertising product. In a very limited sample size it has worked to the clear benefit of the business about 50% of the times that I have tried it.
But the simplicity of the system hides a deeper complexity in pricing that is sure to confuse and anger most SMBs sooner or later: the bid pricing. These two screen shots tell the tale.
Up until June 15th, this campaign was generating click throughs at a reasonable cost. However somewhere along the line (neither the charts, nor the product interface make this explicit nor discoverable), the cost per click jumped from $4.68 a click to over $20, rapidly running through the budget and it resulted in the ad stop being displayed.
A call to a Boost support person (a 1+ to Google on providing phone support to all SMBs) indicated that “there was probably some external event had caused the bid for the ad to go up rapidly”. A review of the Boost help files made no mention of the fact that the pricing was bid dependent. In fact there no explanation AT ALL of pricing and how it is determined. Simple all right, too simple by half.
This lack of transparency on pricing will be a death knell of the product in the SMB market. What small business person would be happy with 4x price hike that occurs unannounced? What small business person understands the possibility of a bidding war taking the ad offline? What small business person wouldn’t be surprised that an ad that had been working well for the previous 3 months suddenly went in the toilet? And what small business person, when he called Google was told ”there was probably some external event had caused the bid for the ad to go up rapidly”, would be a happy, educated camper?
Here is the screen shot of the preceding month for comparison. It is very similar to what the client saw in the account for the previous 3 months:
If Boost is to be successful long haul Google needs to be both more transparent and more reliable in their pricing. Otherwise, sooner or later, every SMB that uses the product will shrug in disgust.