On October 25, Google announced a new PPC advertising option called "Boost."  Basically, Boost is a simple, automated PPC option that is available to business owners and advertisers through their Google Places listings.  With the recent shake-up by Google of their search results to favor more robust local profiles, this added feature in Google Places is not a huge surprise.  Boost ads will be displayed in the "sponsored links" section of Google’s search results, and will compete with other traditional Adwords ads.  Google Boost is in beta, and is only available in select cities (San Francisco, Chicago, and Houston).  Keep an eye on your Google Places listings to see when Boost is available in your city.  Presented as a less-involved alternative to Adwords, I have a few initial likes and dislikes when it comes to Google Boost:

Likes:

  • Ease of use – there are no keywords or bids to figure out.  Google will automatically develop a Boost ad based on the business category and information provided in the Google Places listing.  Just enter a monthly budget ($50 minimum), and Google will pretty much do the rest.
  • Ability to stand out from other ads – Boost ads will be shown in the same "sponsored links" section with other Adwords ads, but will also include:

    "…the number of reviews you’ve received, an average star rating and a link to your
    Place page to help potential customers find additional useful information about your business. When a map appears alongside the results, a blue pin will help folks quickly find your location on the map. Businesses using Google Tags will also see their yellow tag appear in the ad."

Dislikes:

  • Limited control – without the ability to choose keywords, set bids, etc., the advertiser is giving Google a lot of control over how and when their Boost ad is triggered.  The thought here is that with Google ultimately controlling how your monthly budget is used, Boost advertisers are likely to see plenty of increased "recommended budget" messages from Google.
  • Possibility for decreased performance – the great thing about Adwords is that you get to pick the keywords that your ad displays for.  This control means you can eliminate most irrelevant and unwanted clicks.  Without the ability to explicitly tell Google what you do and do not want to show up for, there is room for decreased performance in terms of irrevelant clicks.
  • Unfair ad ranking? – Quality Score is the driving force in keeping ads relevant, and allowing smaller advertisers to compete with bigger ones.  By eliminating keywords from the equation of how an ad is ranked, how will Google continue to ensure that ads are ranked fairly according to relevance?  Without a bidding system, ad rank will likely to go the highest bidder, which doesn’t favor small business or more relevant ads.

It will be interesting to see how the introduction of Google Boost plays out.  As several search marketing professionals have speculated, Boost’s success will largely depend on the performance levels that small and medium businesses (SMBs) experience with the automated system.  Personally, with all the time, effort, and resources Google has put into Adwords (training programs, tutorial videos, new features, etc.), along with the importance of relevance that has been stressed by Google throughout the years, Boost just seems like a way for Google to make some easy money off of less knowledgable SMBs.

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