At the end of October, Google launched their latest attempt to crack the SME market, Google Boost. In recent times Google has dedicated a lot of resource to gaining more of a foothold as a small business marketing channel. The Google Reseller scheme, Jumpstart, GBBO and Google Adwords Vouchers have all been aimed at getting more small businesses using Adwords and their efforts have often seemed confused and convoluted as I have documented in the past. So is Google Boost going to be the answer they are looking for?
So what is Google Boost all about? Is it the answer to the SME prayers?
Google Boost ads are basically paid search listings linked to a Google Places with management automated and simplified. These ads appear, as normal paid search listings, on Google.com (and variations) and Google maps in the sponsored links sections.
The SME provides a description of their business, which is used as the ad copy, selects the category and sub category their business falls in to, picks a budget, and away they go! The business location is pulled from the Google Places information and Google takes care of the rest. Google selects the most appropriate keywords for your advert to appear on, manage your bid prices, your daily settings and the SME sits back and waits for the business to roll in.
What problem is this solving?
Google is making serious in roads into local search at present and Google Boost forms part of this attack. It appears from the outside that there is a clear focus on local search internally at Google, so to them, this provides the ideal solution for further monetising both local search, and Google Maps.
But what about the SME?
Google Boost is a stripped back, simplified version of Adwords with a local twist, so Google is obviously hoping its simplicity and local targeting will make it appeal to the SME.
Does this fit the SME need?
In my opinion, no. I’ve worked extensively in the SME search market in the UK and simplicity and leaving it all to somebody else, are on the whole, way down the list when it comes to priorities around paid search. Most SMEs want to know where and when their ads are going to be appearing, and are less than pleased if they can’t see them. With Google Boost they are reliant on software to choose their keywords and on Google for their ad-scheduling, a significant lack of control from the SME perspective.
They are also not going to get the support they need should something go wrong with Google Boost or if they just have a question. It is a core SME need to know they can pick up the phone, or send in an email, and they will receive response and support for the service they have purchased and with Google Boost they won’t get this.
So what is it good for?
I’ve no doubt that in the US, where local search is more prevalent, and Boost is currently in beta, they will get some level of take up. High ticket value services with local appeal such as solicitors, dentists and vets ill probably see quite high take up (solicitors is one of the key markets in US SME search) but it isn’t going to be any sort of magic bullet and will probably just take up some slack from their cancelled reseller programme. Many, more developed markets will see Boost as unnecessary and too basic for their needs. And in the UK (despite recent attempts to force maps into the results) local results are not as relevant and generally accurate enough to be useful. Where they are, the advertisers available will be limited to the point it won’t reach the penetration Google will need to keep it running.
So what next?
I predict Google Boost will make it out of beta n the US, with reasonable success, but fail to reach penetration in the UK and Europe without a major SERP shake up. Then Google will be back to the drawing board trying to find their next product to take over the SME world.