Google Boost: Warning or Welcoming?

Heard about Google Boost? No? You’re not alone. And you’re probably the perfect victim, er, candidate.

Boost is a new feature that allows local businesses to purchase Pay Per Click (PPC) ads directly through their Google Places account instead of messing around in AdWords. It’s only available in a few areas now, but should be rolled out nationwide soon.

Evil Genius or Innocently Helpful?

Boost is simply a stripped-down AdWords integration with a slight improvement on how the ads are presented on a results page and within Google Maps. It’s a brilliant move by Google to reach the companies that don’t yet buy AdWords ads and may not want to learn how. They even have telemarketers reaching out to local businesses to upsell them on Boost and Tags.

With a couple clicks and a credit card, a locally-targeted ad will start showing for keywords that Google deems relevant to your business.

Sounds great, right? Here’s the warning – Boost automatically creates terribly inefficient AdWords campaigns with no easy way to know if the campaigns are successful or not! Even if you log into your AdWords account (same Google account as your Places page), you can’t manage the keywords, bids or ad text associated with the “Places Ads” campaign:

Edit Google Boost Campaigns

Optimize this...

The First Hit is Free

AdWords Boost Campaigns

See what we did here?

Campaigns generated by Boost are automatically added to the Place user’s AdWords account. Didn’t have an AdWords account? You do now. Sneaky!

See where this is going?

Google Boost is simply a gateway into the AdWords cash machine. Almost like magic, Google creates multiple campaigns with hundreds of broad and modified broad match keywords with extremely high automatic CPC bids.

Wow, that’s bold. And dangerous. And potentially a huge windfall for Google.

Once a business realizes they have an AdWords account, they are more likely to increase their spend, add to their campaigns or simply “let it ride” and let Google collect a hefty residual to keep showing the Boost ads in perpetuity.

This could be construed as better than not having any PPC visibility, unless you are the type of person that likes to know whether or not your  marketing investment provides any type of return.

Cons: Transparency, Metrics, Customization

I can’t emphasize this enough: Google Boost campaigns CAN NOT be edited in AdWords.

Advertisers have to go all in.

Within the Boost interface, advertisers only see click and impression volume by keyword category. Cost data are aggregated across the entire Boost campaign. Conversion data are not available because clicks from Boost are not differentiated in Google Analytics unless you link your Analytics and AdWords accounts. This leaves unsophisticated advertisers with no ability to determine if the ads are actually helping build their business or refine the Boost ads for greater efficiency or effectiveness. This leads to my theory of PPC’s intractable problem.

Keyword-level data are available in AdWords but it’s useless if it can’t be changed.

The ad titles themselves are fixed based on the Google Places business name. If a business name is longer than 25 characters, too bad. It will be truncated. The 70 characters of body copy are customizable but only one ad can be run at a time.

Finally, the advertiser can only choose between two destination URLs: the Google Maps Place Page for the business or the home page of the advertiser’s website. Specific landing page URLs are not an option.

Pros: Save Time, Improve Visibility

Some businesses haven’t yet experimented with AdWords, and that’s okay. Using Boost, they can advertise immediately with minimal effort. There’s no need to hire or train anybody to manage a complex AdWords account. (but you get one anyway…)

Search results are enhanced with a blue map pin and details from the Places page that normally are not found in AdWords ads. This could lead to greater visibility and higher interaction rates. This is possibly the ONLY reason to choose Boost for tightly controlled campaigns.

To Drink the Koolaid or Not?

So how well does Google Boost work? Based on my preliminary, unscientific data, not well when compared to existing Google Places content and AdWords campaigns.

Here’s the breakdown after a week:

Channel Actions
Impressions CTR Avg. CPC
Google Boost 7 (7) 1,858 0.38% (0.38%) $4.99
AdWords 7 (7) 475 1.47% (1.47%) $3.34
Google Places 16 (11) 100 16% (11%) $0

The final verdict?

Here are some key takeaways:

  • A tightly controlled AdWords account will outperform a Google Boost campaign with little effort.
  • Businesses that are not on Google Places or haven’t optimized their listing are missing the biggest (and cheapest) opportunity to improve their visibility in search results.
  • Boost is a stripped-down AdWords gateway. If your business is interested in advertising online, skip Boost and go straight to AdWords. Even if you have to hire somebody to set up and manage it for you, the cost savings over Boost will likely pay for the consultant.


  1. says

    Good stuff. Didn’t think it was a gateway, just local ads. I do agree it was an attempt to get to the non Adwords business market. They were pretty aggressive launching it in Houston, I got a call every other day asking to join and $100 or something towards my account. I love Google but this one was sort of rammed down my throat.

    • says

      Funny you mention the phone calls. The client that I tested this with got a call from Google Boost sales team the day after I posted this. Needless to say, the client didn’t jump on board. This seemed odd to me because the client had already advertised on Boost so they are not cross-referencing active accounts.

      Apparently the sales teams are targeting by industry because the next week I saw several local competitors with new Boost ads.

  2. says

    We’ve tried the boost option in addition to our normal adwords setup.

    After letting it go for a month, we’ve received a bunch of clicks, at a high cost with no perceivable gain in customers.

    Biggest problem? Not being able to edit the keywords and that is the rub. Google sets the business name as a keyword so when my existing customers type the name of the business into google they see an add pop up with the business name and click on it not aware that it is an ad. This is a really shady way that Google is making money off all the businesses that use boost when the customer should be seeing an organic result for the name search of a company they already know about (free).

    They also have keywords such as ‘commercial appliance repair’ and ‘hot water heater repair’ both of which WE DO NOT DO!! I was wondering why I’ve been getting more calls for stuff like I know, and I’ve been paying for it!! I was charged for 10 clicks for keyword ‘store repair’. That doesn’t even mean *anything*!!!!

    We are NOT happy.

    Needless to say, we are turning boost OFF.

    (boost gets turned on through google places, but you can’t see or monitor your keywords for it there, you need to go into your google adwords account to see what is really going on behind the scenes. Most people don’t know this, and only see the few options given in the Places page. Sneaky, deceptive and wrong on several levels.

  3. Alex says

    Thanks for the above insight. My guess is that because the product is so new, Google’s development team hasn’t fully integrated the keyword selection process with the Places API. That’s why they’re offering $100 credit incentives to get businesses to sign on and vaguely track their performance. Google probably has better statistics than the account owner (such as yourself) and will evaluate the effectiveness of the campaigns before deciding whether to pull the plug, or fully integrate the two into Adwords.

    The trick is, like all PPC campaigns, writing a descriptive ad text to distinguish between those looking for your services as opposed to “store repair”.

    One question I had was how Boost affected your organic Places listing. If you get more traffic through the paid ad, doesn’t this also improve your organic rankings?

  4. says

    @Alex – I don’t know if the Boost ads improved the rankings of the Places listing itself. I’m guessing it did not based on Google’s desire to keep paid ads from influencing organic results (other than pushing them farther down the page).

    The only perceptible differences is the blue marker that stands out against a field of red markers.

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