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.
of Web Management
pointed out this Tracfone Adwords ad
that includes a Coupon attached to the ad. I had not seen this previously although Greg Sterling had reported
on seeing them in the wild on SEL last week. It clearly indicates Google’s desire to expand the roll of coupons as a revenue generator. It is an obvious fit for local for both Boost and Adwords with location extensions although this current test is obviously neither:
Coupons have had a long a tortuous life at Google. They were introduced in late 2006 and but left to languish for a number of years before seeing some activity in late 2009 and through 2010 with the Tags Beta. 2010 culminated with the failed effort to purchase Groupon.
2011 on the other hand has seen lots of other activity on the coupon front for Google. Besides the new Adwords coupon test first seen last week, rumors of Google Offers, their Groupon competitor, first surfaced in January, with a full blown Offers beta rolling out June 1 in Portland. Google also first rolled out Latitude Check-In Offers at SXSW in March with a limited national test in April. They cancelled the Tags product in April as well. Roll out early, iterate often and shit can anything that doesn’t generate enough profit seems to be the coupon approach.
Here is a chart of Google’s current free, paid and cancelled products…
||First Seen In Wild
|Places – Free
|7-Pack Tags Coupon
||Tags Test Cancelled
||2/2010 – 4/2011
|Latitude -Location Based
||Check In Offers – Test
|Adwords -Ad Based
||Pay Per Coupon – Test
||Deal Offers – Portland Beta
Much like the trend on Places for links on Google to head off to other Google properties, this new product takes you to a Google page.
When the View Offer button is selected in the newest Adwords coupon test, it takes you to Google.com/Coupons that either prints or saves the coupon for later use to your My Offers area, the same UI used to save Google daily deal Offers and (I assume ) for Latitude Check-Ins.
There have been questions about Google’s desire and willingness to ramp up face to face sales in local markets. Their attempted acquistion of Groupon seemed be to focused on a quick development of an on-the-ground, locally focused sales team. Discussions about their early efforts and ability to succeed in selling local revolve around this question. Last week’s job postings indicated that they were looking for new hires in Seattle for “Commerce Sales team [members which will] play a critical role in growing Google’s new Commerce related businesses, such as Google Offers, through large-scale SMB acquisition programs.”
Today while searching the Google Jobs posting for similar positions (Field Rep, Field Sales Manager, First Sales Team Lead & Head of Field Sales for Commerce Sales) I found at least 64 Offers postings for the following cities:
I guess that puts to rest the question of whether Google is developing a local sales presence.