Last week, and to celebrate International Small Business Day (whatever that is) Google launched what the company calls a new "small business portal" with an aim to helping small businesses like mine better use its products and services so that we can attract more visitors to our websites.
I give the company credit: at least they've identified the problem area. Between social media experts, Google "certified" Ads consultants and the search engine company itself, I have handed over tens of thousands of my hard-earned dollars over the past year alone in an attempt to draw just a few eyeballs to a new website my company launched.
It all went down the drain. Of course this is my fault and as a business owner the buck stops with me. Clearly I'm not an educated buyer and relied too much on things that were told to me. I made many mistakes.
I should have started slower. I should've done more testing. I should've dug into the details deeper. I'm doing all of that now. But I just didn't realize how little those social media “experts” actually know about online advertising (write more blogs! Spend more money with me so I can help you!). I didn't fully grasp how their "certification" training merely taught them how to mechanically use Google's tools but never provided them with the kinds of insights that they could use to advise me.
And, despite the great value that Google promises its customers, the data actually shows something different. According to a recent study by marketing analytics firm Jumpshot, almost half of Google searches result in zero clicks and although clicks on ads are rising, the difference between those that click on organic non-ad listings is still huge: 47.4 percent of people click on organic listings when they search as oppose to 3.7 percent of the people that click on an ad.
The bottom line: the more your listing comes up organically on a Google search, the more apt someone will be to click on it as opposed to buying an ad. But that's not stopped Google. They’ve got their shareholders to respond to. They want our advertising money. So they launched a small business "portal." What they actually did was create a simple website that’s obviously just a marketing gimmick to get small businesses to buy ads. I've tried it and let me save you some time: it's useless. Why?
For s starters, I did the Q&A on the portal twice - the first time responding that I wanted Google to "help me standout online" and the second time asking Google to "teach me how I can reach more customers." Both times yielded the exact same results. And what were the results?
Surprise! Download the Google My Business mobile app so I can keep track of activity and communications on the go! Setup a YouTube channel! And, oh, buy an ad!
How much to buy an ad? Brace yourself. For me, it meant spending anywhere from $500 to $1,500 per month with no guarantees that people will click on it or that even if they do they’re getting qualified leads. I just fork over my money to Google and then trust them to tell me how many impressions and clicks my ad is getting until the budget is depleted. Now, am I wrong, but doesn't this sound a lot like those hucksters travelling through the old West selling miracle cure medicines?
Kim Spalding, a Google product leader, suggested to Techcrunch that the site could be "particularly useful for small businesses that are just getting started as well as more established business that are starting to develop a digital strategy."
Kim and Google: do you really want to help me and thousands of other small business owners like me who have lost money playing Ads roulette? Don't bury us in analytics that we don't have time to look at. Don't insult us by dumbing down the way we give you our money with gimmicky websites that you're going to lose interest in within weeks of launching. Stop certifying "experts" that suck.
Instead, how about building a channel of external (or internal) partners that actually cares about my business? How about building a team that I can rely on to not only deliver results from my ads but also get paid based on their performance? Why is it that I'm the one taking all the risk? How about putting a little of your skin in the game too?
That would entice me to spend - and keep spending - money with you. Otherwise, I might as well just head to Vegas. The odds seem better.