Fast and Furious
My relationship with Google started out strong. The attraction was immediate. Google was easy (AdWords Editor). Google was experimental and willing to try new things (Sitelinks, shopping extensions). Google was willing to bring in partners to the relationship (Display network), and Google had a cheap side (free Analytics). Above all, Google was the best: the highest search volume, the largest ROI, and clearly everyone loved Google.
Unfortunately, the attraction has dimmed. Google started inviting its in-laws to crash the party (YouTube, Google Local in search results). Google stopped sharing (search term not provided). Google became moody, and everything that pleased Google before no longer works (Penguin). Lately, Google has been unpredictable (Bigfoot update). It has also become clear, Google is a bit of a gold digger (opting users into Display, extended broad match, auto-optimizing ads for clicks). By the time I saw a Sitemap rank in the top 4 for a competitive commercial term, I knew something had to change. Clearly Google was going crazy, and I needed some time apart.
Bracing for Change
Frankly, there is zero chance of me completely severing ties with Google. Foremost, it would be destructive to my clients, and my client interests far outweigh any petty grievances I may have with the dominant search engine. Secondly, cutting Google off would be near impossible. My clients spend roughly 70% of their online budgets on Google paid search/Display; I use Google Apps for Business, Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Maps, & Chrome. Even when I use Firefox or Safari on my iPhone, my default search is on Google. Google is too intertwined in my life for me to leave it completely.
Frankly, Google is still great. Google paid search, Display network, and SEO are still incredibly profitable channels for my clients. Their paid search management tools are still top notch, and Google remains the best opportunity to help my clients succeed. But, with all of the changes Google has made disregarding SEO’s, content producers, & small businesses, I feel like I need to do something in defiance.
My solution is to pursue diversification. PPC managers, in general, have become over-reliant on Google. We place the majority of our clients’ spend in Google because it is the easy thing to do. We are comfortable with the interface; we can predict the outcome. We are familiar. However, our reliance on Google has given Google the power to take us for granted and ignore our interests. It is in our industry’s best interest and in our clients’ best interest to find other marketing channels that can perform as well or better than Google.
I am going to take it upon myself to actively encourage my clients to test other ad networks (i.e. every client on Bing, Yahoo Network Plus, test targeted display buys, content ad networks, behavioral targeting, mobile, in-game, Twitter, Facebook, & LinkedIn advertising). Ask my clients to consider testing email list rental, inbound marketing (content, events, webinars), and affiliate & CPA networks. Too often our only answer as PPC managers and SEO’s is Google. Everyone is better off if we change that.
I know I am not going to impact Google. Me scaling back my Google use is akin to a Justin Bieber fan unfollowing him on Twitter. It just won’t matter much.
Regardless, my goal is to take the poorest performing 20% of my clients’ Google budgets and direct it to more effective advertising. Surely, I can improve on the poorest performing keywords and placements by testing other networks. For example, I have a client that averages spending $50k per month on Google paid search and display. I am recommending cutting my spend on Google to $40k per month and testing in-domain targeting competitor emails and search retargeting on Yahoo Network Plus with the remaining $10k. Hopefully, it outperforms Google but if not, I can continue to test other ad networks and marketing platforms. There are plenty of opportunities to spend advertising dollars, and surely one can outperform Google’s bottom performers.
With another one of my clients, I plan to cut back a $19k Google budget all the way down to $9k in order to test a niche ad network that specifically targets their audience.
Diversifying from Google is just smart business sense both for internet marketers and our clients. Too much money Google’s way makes Google complacent to our (manager & advertiser) needs. Google begins to focus solely on its shareholders and profits rather than what is best for its customers.
Again, my clients moving a bit of budget away from Google won’t impact Google one iota, but hopefully, it will impact my clients by generating more leads and driving more sales. On the other hand, if all internet marketers start to realize the same idea – we need to look beyond Google – then Google could really feel an impact.