Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Does Google click for you? Are there link frauds, bid frauds and click frauds?

I have learnt quite a bit from using Google Adwords for my advertising campaign. I have been able to tweak key words  and write blogs that have pushed Accuserve to the #1 result when the keywords "409A valuation", the most relevant keywords for our business, are used in the search engines. My blog results also show up as #1 for that keyword. But here's the problem: Google seems to want me to increase my ad budget to capture all clicks. But the clicks I currently have do not translate into much sales and therefore I have concluded that Google advertising works only for direct business-to-consumer type businesses. Since most business decision makers would go beyond just ads to learn about a company, I believe that for product purchases that require credible decision making, Google Ads may not be that relevant. In my business, if the first 20 clicks do not get me business, I wonder if the next 20 would. Therefore, its not a numbers game for me and increasing the budget to get more clicks. Increasingly, more clicks are being provided by ad placements in targeted websites rather than generic search engine searches. I wonder if the buyers are making their decisions more through credible gate keeping websites than just looking at Google ads directly. In a way this is good for our business as we maintain our credibility by attracting buyers that visit specific gatekeeper websites. The cool thing is that AdWords provides a nice way to target these gatekeeper websites. Managing your brand and reputation is key and it is important where and how your ads are clicked. This has been a key takeaway for us. My advice to businesses that provide services to other business (B2B) is to take a hard look at data. If the first 20 clicks on ads displayed alongside search engines dont get you business, the next 20 most certainly wont. While Google prominently recommends increasing your ad budget, I believe that B2B service providers may not necessarily benefit from that. The right thing, perhaps, to do is build your brand through insightful knowledge conveyed through blogs and making others link more to your site, leading to displaying of your site at the top of the search results, because that's how Google algorithm works. But it appears that the system can still be beat. What if you pay to get a lot of people to link to your site or aggressively promote your links to be embedded within others' contents for a generous payment. Garbage in, Garbage out at action here. While you may get traffic to your site, you'd probably wont get much business out of this junk traffic.
It becomes important to spend your budget in a way that minimizes junk traffic or traffic that dilutes your brand - easier said than done in the way AdWords is setup right now. Many of our keywords' bid prices are going through the roof and I just dont see that much competition in our industry, given the specialized nature of our services. This leads me to question if there are bid frauds as well, aimless junk traffic bidding up the keywords, in return for some payment. Right now, the advertisers seem to be not complaining much, perhaps, because even with junk traffic there are some business returns. But, are your returns from selling your product/service or by becoming part of this junk ecosystem where you participate as well, making Google a commission based enterprise? Some points to ponder, dont you think? Do we want Google to be a positive economic value adder or just a market place where we all keep paying each other to keep generating ad frauds? This reminds me of Wall Street and how artificial returns were created.
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