Sunday, August 7, 2011

AdWords Express- Did Google Get it Right?

Google is continually launching changes to its AdWords online advertising service, and it recently rolled out AdWords Express in an aim to help smaller businesses more easily create and run keyword-targeted ads on Google and Google Maps.

Many small business owners have dabbled in AdWords, only to find it costly and complex. So any move by Google to make it easier for merchants to master the complex art and science of keyword advertising is a step in the right direction. But the new AdWords Express service does not solve all of the challenges that small businesses have experienced with AdWords, including a financially-impactful lack of control and the ability to reach intentional, targeted customers.

AdWords Express does include a number of helpful features for small business users, such as a simple campaign setup and no ongoing campaign management. The promise is that business owners will not have to bid on keywords, but will instead simply provide a bit of information about their business, set a monthly budget, and let Google do the rest– setting up, running, and managing ads for the user.

The result, according to the Google AdWords Express site is the following: “When people search your area for the products or services you provide (”flowers in Dallas”, or if they’re already in Dallas, just “flowers”) an ad for your business will appear above or beside their search results. Your business will also be marked with a distinctive blue pin on Google Maps, helping it stand out to potential customers.”

But while the nuts-and-bolts of Google AdWords Express may be simple, even for non-savvy advertisers, there are disadvantages to the program. For one, targeting is based on a searcher’s IP address – which is, at best, 20 miles around a zip code and in the worst case, hundreds of miles away. Someone searching for flowers 100 miles from Dallas may get ads for florists in Dallas – not very helpful to that searcher and not very useful to the florist in Dallas, either. IP-based geo targeting is often wrong or inaccurate, and even when it is accurate, it may only reflect the location of the consumer and not where she would like to have the service rendered.

Additionally there are issues with intent and return on investment. Without a method for vetting who will see a given add, business owners could lose hundreds of marketing dollars in wasted paid traffic at the hands of casual, click-happy Internet surfers who may not represent the intended target audience or aren’t interested in the offerings presented. If Express isn’t producing the right return on investment, what does an advertiser do? They don’t know their bid and can’t optimize geography, making cancellation the only option left.

Advertisers still need to develop and optimize ad copy to maximize click rates. Remember, just because Google makes this process simple, doesn’t mean they are giving up on maximizing yield (revenue) per search.

The bottom line is that Google AdWords Express is a step in the right direction to serve the needs of the small business community, but it doesn’t go far enough to meet the needs of local merchants. The service is almost too simplistic; local businesses need robust, targeted location-based marketing, not just a one-size-fits-all approach. What Google has launched will make it easier to advertise on the site. But they’ve also just made it easier for local business owners to spend a significant amount of hard-earned money resulting in discouragement coupled with little to no ROI .