Piling on to yesterday’s rant about Google search, here’s a personal look at where Google makes 97% of its money – paid search – the majority of it from the shallow coffers of small businesses and organizations.
For roughly four years now, I’ve been the Google “AdWords guy” for a nonprofit. There never seems to be enough time to launch a proper Facebook or Twitter campaign to let people know of our periodic events, so, like many small businesses, we rely on AdWords to drive people to our tiny website.
So, here we are on Rosh Hashanah eve, with an offer of a free dinner and service. In Manhattan. We started our paid search campaign less than a week ago. Since the expense comes from my shrinking bank balance, I minimize bids and daily totals. Expectations couldn’t be lower.
Yet, within a day, our little scoreboard shows that we are showing up! Hundreds of impressions! And even though Google “suggests” keyword prices double what we are bidding, we rank in the top four.
Then the “clicks” come through. Amazingly, they are always 2%. We get 2% click-thru on “Rosh Hashanah,” where our ad has served up 38,806 times. We also get 2% for the alternate spelling (“Hashana”), for which only 2948 impressions have been delivered.
Almost all of our dozen well-performing keywords come in at 2%. Strange coincidence.
But what really counts are what your site visitors do when they click through to your site. We have 849 supposed visitors via AdWords. My credit card is looking at a hit of $269.51. Number of dinner reservations called in so far? Zero.
[Speaking of the High Holy Days, we’ll not post again until next Monday. This will give Google a chance to catch up on its indexing.]
Our silly little website provider’s silly little analytics package doesn’t confirm anywhere near that much site activity. A rational person would halt the campaign. But this is the big day, when thousands of people who have waited this long to finalize plans will search Google for some Rosh Hashanah event advice.
We have no choice.
I expect we will “get” 400 “clicks” today alone. Google has now doubled its suggested price for “Rosh Hashanah” to $1.75, four times our current bid. We will be $500+ in, with most likely zero ROI.
Not that every outcome for all AdWords users is this bad, nor that our website is any good, etc. etc., but it seems easy to figure out how Google can amass $30 billion. Just take 5 million small businesses who are able to say, “what the hell, it’s only $500, what have we got to lose?” and you’ve tallied $2.5 billion.
Paid search is like gambling. You know you should be doing something else with your time, that the whole experience makes you feel a little dirty, that the house is stacked against you, and that you’re not going to win. But you place your bet anyway.