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:
The First Hit is Free
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:
|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.