"Google Devalues Everything It Touches" – Wall Street Journal Chief

I have chosen this title for today’s post from an article by Tom Foremski at the SiliconValleyWatcher because it touches my experience with Google Adwords both for a real state broker’s website  in Guayaquil, Ecuador and a Mac photo software developer here in Hawaii.

The gem from this article is the quote:

Mr. Thomson (Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal) said, “Google devalues everything it touches. Google is great for Google but it’s terrible for content providers.” He said that Google doesn’t distinguish between the quality of the content around which it serves up ads, it is concerned with quantity rather than quality.

I have to agree with Mr. Thomson on this comment because Google Adwords currently lacks a lot of features that are necessary to truly create ads that are segmented towards specific niches.  I know that this last statement might be challenged very quickly by talented SEO experts.

Let’s take a look at two cases, one positive and one negative.

Positive:

Visits to srbienesraices.com from August 1, 2008 to February 13, 2009

Visits to srbienesraices.com from August 1, 2008 to February 13, 2009

As it becomes quite clear from the graph above, having included a Google Adwords CPC campaign into srbienesraices.com was a great idea because it create up to 20 times more daily visitors.  More than 80% of the site visits were provided by this campaign and the bounce rate from these visits was not that much higher than the bounce rate, about 40%, of direct traffic during the same time period.  Once the CPC campaign was finished, the number of daily visitors drop back to previous levels (this means that extensive A/B Testing is required! However, that is beyond the objective of today’s post).

Google Adwords was able to drive visitors to a small website for a real state broker in Guayaquil, Ecuador because the concept of the website was simple:  1) visitor wants to buy real state in Ecuador, 2) visitor can take a sneak peek at some properties (very few pictures are uploaded ON PURPOSE), and 3) visitor have to contact real state broker to get more information.  The funnel strategy is plain vanilla.

There are no visitor requirements.  Neither technical  (e.g. browser type, operating system) nor demographic (e.g. age, income).

So what happens when technical details and demographic are included?

Negative:

I cannot go into specific details of my Google Adwords campaign at my past position at iLovePhotos but I can tell you that when you add technical and demographic requirements for your visitors from a Google Adwords campaign, things are not that smooth.

For example, if I am targeting a male in the 18-25 year old range that uses Firefox on Windows Vista and that is interested in photography, I am at a serious disadvantage with Google Adwords. Remember the quote from Mr. Thompson above:  Google is good for quantity, not quality.  Google Adwords will allow me to target a lot of people (I had about 3 million ad impressions during a 2 week period) but the number of clicks from the people with the technical and demographic characteristics that I required was about 0.0026%).

A/B Testing of ads? At Google Adwords I did plenty but there is no way I can customize the ads to target users with specific types of browsers or operating systems (if you know how to, then contact me at damiandavilarojas [at] gmail [dot] com right now).  The only way that I see around this is to do extensive research on the demographics and technical background of the users at specific websites and then target these specific websites using Google Adwords.

In conclusion, Google provides useful customization options such as region, ad location and target content but still lacks more ad segmentation features.  If you have a very simple funnel strategy and just require quantity of users with very few (or no) demographic and technical  requirements, then go ahead use Google Adwords!  But if your funnel strategy is more complicated and/or your users have specific technical and demographic requirements, then  you will have a tougher time using Google Adwords.  Google Analytics is doing a great job at advance segmentation, how long is it until Google Adwords catches up?

Damian Davila

Ideas and concepts from Damian Davila, Ecuatoriano thriving in Hawaii. Pro marketer and blogger. Find him at @idaconcpts on Twitter.