The Adwords Growth Curve (Part II)

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We love the people at Google, we really do. For unlimited-storage email, office-friendly scheduling, and even the still-unbeatable search (you know you’ve got a killer algorithm when people use your company name as a transitive verb). But there’s a difference between respect where respect is due and blind faith in the good-natured intentions of a corporate giant, and as more and more businesses attempt a do-it-yourself SEM strategy, Google has been finding clever ways to profit a few extra pennies off of each search.

Picture yourself as a small business owner-maybe you own a successful chain of barber shops, you’re known for cutting a pretty sweet fade, and your grandfather started the chain in 1932. Business has been booming, you’re too busy sculpting chinstraps to pick up the phone, and you’ve just revamped your website. Obviously, you want both your current customers and new ones to visit the site, check out your multiple locations, and use the online appointment booking tool (you’re hoping that the ringing in your ears will stop when the phone does).

You’ve heard about Google Ad Words and you think it sounds like a great idea-you use Google all the time; what better way to bring in new customers? Of course you know almost nothing about setting up an account, so you’re thrilled to find out the people at Google offer to help get you started with a few paid ads. You eagerly give Jimmy from Ad Words Headquarters administrative powers on your account, and he calls you back a few hours later with everything ready to go.

The problem? Jimmy wasn’t exactly honest with you when he picked your pay-per-click search terms. Sure he tried to get the best-fitting terms, but he bid up the price on them a bit first. So now you might be paying 75 cents every time someone clicks through your site instead of 55 cents-and anyone who hopes to outbid you on the price of search terms will need to put a 76 cent premium on the term in question. And while the 20 cent difference may not sound like too much to you (after all, you’re bringing in more customers, right?) it translates to millions of dollars in excess revenue for Google.

The moral of this story isn’t that it’s wrong to try to turn a profit-we can’t fault Google or any other business for that. But the way Google goes about squeezing extra bucks out of small business owners is a little unsavory, and, at least in our book, honesty is a much better policy. Before you let tech support handle the setup on your Ad Words account, talk to someone who knows a little about SEM (we can recommend an expert) and get the full scoop.