Google Boost – another blank cheque for Google?

Google Adwords, Google Places 1 Comment

Google Boost is currently under trial in parts of the USA and if it goes well, will likely migrate worldwide.  We’ve been looking at Google Boost and can see many benefits for certain types of businesses, but also some pitfalls.

Google Boost appears to be perfect for small businesses, located in one or more geographical locations (e.g. a single restaurant or chain of restaurants) – purely because it’s so simple to use.  The steps a business needs to follow are:

1.   Claim (or create anew) their Google Places profile.

2.   Opt in to Google Boost, selecting a few tick boxes (e.g. Chinese restaurant), and how much budget they’re prepared to pay per month.

That’s it – nice and simple.  They don’t need to create an Adwords campaign, set up any geographical targeting, or anything complicated at all.

Taking the example of a restaurant (as shown on http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2010/10/advertise-your-local-business-with.html), when people search for that type of restaurant in that geographical location, an advert appears where you see the other pay per click results.  The restaurant gets clicks and Google makes money.

The benefits for the business owner is that they don’t have to pay external resources (e.g. people like Custwin) to create Adwords campaigns – that will be an immediate saving for them as they’ll only be paying Google.  No-one can dispute that this would be a major plus.

What remains to be seen though is how effective such Google Boost advertising actually is.  Taking round figures, suppose a restaurant allows £100 per month for their Google Boost clicks, which generates them, say, 100 clicks – if they gain business that exceeds that investment (in terms of profits) then that’s clearly a winner.  But what if their website isn’t strong enough?  A lack of testimonials, no menus to view, and a lot more besides, all contribute to people not bothering to make contact with the restaurant.  Google won’t tell them that their website isn’t good – it’ll just take their clicks budget.  What also, if Google are actually conning the Google Boost advertiser?  Here’s how that could happen:

Currently, Google Adwords accounts can be set up so that you allocate a budget and let Google position your adverts as they see fit. You generally get higher positioning of adverts but pay a lot more for the clicks.  Google Boost appears to work in the same way – you pay a monthly budget and Google will do its best to give you good advert positioning – that means you’d pay higher costs per click.   Let’s look then at an alternative scenario, looking at two restaurant owners competing for business in the same location …

Restaurant A is using Google Boost and has allocated £100 per month for clicks.  It spends that budget and gets 100 clicks.

Restaurant B is using an Adwords expert, who they’ve had to pay to create the campaign, but for their £100 clicks budget they get 200 clicks.

If Restaurant A has had no professional input on the strength of the website then their 100 clicks may not amount to great levels of enquiries.  If Restaurant B has had input on their website strength, even before spending money on clicks, then they can make their website stronger.  Their Adwords expert has also created a campaign that’s so much more in-depth than the Google Boost system will create, and so they get more clicks for their budget, and for a wider range of search phrases.

Personally, if Google Boost comes to the UK I’d relish the opportunity to take a restaurant and beat their competitor (who has been convinced that they need to use Google Boost).  Within a period of time it would probably be possible to make the restaurant so successful (via website changes and a good Adwords campaign) that it significantly damages the competitor who has relied on Google Boost.  It would be a fantastic experiment to do and a poke in the eye for Google, who continue to search for ways in which they can raise the costs per click for advertisers.

There’s more to consider on this subject though.  It’s not been that long since Google made the Google Places listings much more prominent in the main search results.  At the time, many people thought it was a nice gesture to help small businesses get a higher profile.  Our view was that it was a method to push downwards the other organic search engine results and force more companies into considering Adwords advertising.   Now it’s clear that this was part of a bigger plan – make the Places more prominent but then add in an upsell so that instead of being amongst the list of Places listings, a company can be in the paid search results more prominently.  This stimulates more companies in the Places listings to consider using Google Boost.

There are still many unanswered questions about Google Boost and so it’ll be great to have the opportunity to get our hands on it when it hits the UK because it’ll probably not take long to demonstrate how it’s detrimental to the potential success of those who use it.  For some businesses though it’ll seem great – a restaurant who pays £100/month to bring in, say, 100 visitors to their website, is going to be on a winner if, say, 10% of those become diners.  Those diners only have to be worth £10 profit each to cover costs and anything else is profit and also the opportunity to impress those diners enough so that they return, as well as spread the ‘good restaurant’ news to their friends and family.   Where it’ll get interesting though is when a Google Boost advertiser then gets competition from another restaurant who has used outside help to gain a lot more from their website traffic, and the cost per acquisition per diner becomes lower.

It’ll be a way off before we see Google Boost in the UK but watch this space because we’ll have a lot more to say on this subject, backed up by hard evidence instead of theory.

Are we ready for #followfebruary, #followmarch and more?

SEO, Twitter 2 Comments

In Twitter, #followfriday has some value – if used intelligently (see previous blog on this subject), it’s a great way to boost up those considered to be worth following.

But could we perhaps take this a step further?  We’re at the end of January and we all will have been in contact with various people, online and offline.  We may have fired off  some #followfriday tweets but who has really stood out in the past month?  Which one person has grabbed your attention more than anyone else?

Do we perhaps have the potential to start a #followmonth concept so that we can put the real stand-out people up there as being our favourite for the previous month.   Just one person/company per month, for up to 12 months in a year, along with a reason why they’re worth following.

Here’s a hypothetical example (oh, if only …) …

#followfebruary @custwin – because they give out useful and free website success advice without a heavy sales pitch.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if such a concept caught on in a similar way to how #followfriday did.  What would be more interesting would be whether Google would attribute more credibility to such #followmonth tags.   We assume that Google doesn’t allow tweets to have much (if any) impact on SEO but it wouldn’t be hard for Google to pick up on #followmonth tweets and determine if they’re genuine, and, knowing that the tweeter is only promoting one person/company to follow per month, there’s a bit more ‘quality’ linked to the endorsement.

I know what you’re thinking: spammers would get round it.  Or would they?  If Google saw something like the following it’d quickly smell a rat and would discount the multiple same, or similar messages in the text:

(from twitter person a) #followmarch @custwin – because they’re really great at analysing websites.

(from twitter person b) #followmarch @custwin – because they’re really great at analysing websites.

(from twitter person c) #followmarch @custwin – because they’re really great at analysing websites.

Perhaps we could take this further.  What about a #followtax for people who are identified as being great at tax advice, or #followrestaurants for restaurants that provide great food and service.  The possibilities are endless and, if Google saw there was some value in such endorsements, and had a way to weed out obvious spamming, just maybe such things could start to play a part in SEO in the future?

As always, bring on the dialogue.  Is the concept barmy, flawed, or is there something to look at in more depth?