Google Boost Bid Pricing Will Baffle the SMB

Google’s Boost advertising product was meant to be a dead simple way for a small business that had claimed their Places listing, to place a locally highlighted ad onto the front page of Google. It is simple to get started and in some situations, where the targeting is accurate and the price per click is reasonable, it can be a very effective advertising product. In a  very limited sample size it has worked to the clear benefit of the business about 50% of the times that I have tried it.

But the simplicity of the system hides a deeper complexity in pricing that is sure to confuse and anger most SMBs sooner or later: the bid pricing. These two screen shots tell the tale.

Up until June 15th, this campaign was generating click throughs at a reasonable cost. However somewhere along the line (neither the charts, nor the product interface make this explicit nor discoverable), the cost per click jumped from $4.68 a click to over $20, rapidly running through the budget and it resulted in the ad stop being displayed.

A call to a Boost support person (a 1+ to Google on providing phone support to all SMBs) indicated that “there was probably some external event had caused the bid for the ad to go up rapidly”. A review of the Boost help files made no mention of  the fact that the pricing was bid dependent. In fact there no explanation AT ALL of pricing and how it is determined. Simple all right, too simple by half.

This lack of transparency on pricing will be a death knell of the product in the SMB market. What small business person would be happy with 4x price hike that occurs unannounced? What small business person understands the possibility of a bidding war taking the ad offline? What small business person wouldn’t be surprised that an ad that had been working well for the previous 3 months suddenly went in the toilet? And what small business person, when he called Google was told ”there was probably some external event had caused the bid for the ad to go up rapidly”, would be a happy, educated camper?

Here is the screen shot of the preceding month for comparison. It is very similar to what the client saw in the account for the previous 3 months:

If Boost is to be successful long haul Google needs to be both more transparent and more reliable in their pricing. Otherwise, sooner or later, every SMB that uses the product will shrug in disgust.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Boost Bid Pricing Will Baffle the SMB by

24 thoughts on “Google Boost Bid Pricing Will Baffle the SMB”

  1. Was some category added or the ad changed in some way? Why were they clicked on quite a few times for “criminal law” related keywords, when before they weren’t at all? The keywords clicked on in the first example are more long-tail oriented, and in the second example they are more location oriented.

  2. @Nyagoslav

    The client made NO changes to the ad. I too noticed the change in targeting but the change was not due to any action on the part of the business.

  3. I am not sure if the targeting changed. The problem is that you can’t see the keywords for which the ad had impressions but no actions.

    Furthermore, you cannot predict which keywords your ad will appear for and you can’t even control that. I wrote an e-mail to Sheetal (the G Employee who is crawling around the GP forum) regarding a case I have with an allergist, who appears in searches for “allergy”, which is an extremely broad term. He suggested that this happens as the term allergy exists in the ad (it is part of the name of the doctor’s business). I removed it and completely restructured the whole content of the ad. The only thing I gained – lower CTR for “allergy”, with the same impressions count.

    A lot of explanation to be done on this rather expensive advertising.

  4. Very good points Mike! Small Businesses are different from marketing professionals and are often too busy running their business to watch an ad campaign like Boost daily, weekly, and often monthly, just to make sure they are still getting the exposure they were when it was launched and at roughly the same price.

    SMB’s know they are small and know their budgets are small. They typically just want a program that will give them some results at a fair price. They are also highly sensitive to being swindled out of their marketing dollars, and thus, their retribution can be extreme. Google needs to look no further than all those anti-Groupon articles where small business owners vehemently flogged the daily deal provider for their promo that did not meet their expectations.

    Google: K.I.S.S.

  5. @Nyagoslav
    In this case, the overly broad targeting originally worked to the benefit of the business. This broad targeting has been a problem with Boost for many… I did notice that Google no longer allows a Boost ad on multiple categories… now you need one ad per standard category. Which might help their targeting.

    This particular ad was taken out when they did allow multiple categories per ad. Perhaps some change on the part of Google is to blame…

    Regardless it should not be so opaque and the answer should be at the ready in the dashboard when I get there.

    @James
    Ahmen!

  6. I have had nothing but bad experiences with Google Boost. It runs through the budget and normally has something insane like $500 a month as the suggested budget (how many small businesses would start at that rate?). Also I’ve had huge issues never being able to see the ad. The lack of control and disorganization makes me conclude that there is no reason to use it when Adwords gives you everything Boost doesn’t.

  7. Mike, sorry to hijack your post with something unrelated…I would love to try out boost, however it’s not even an option in my dashboard.

    The option to set it up used to be there when it first rolled out a while back. Now, the option to set up a campaign is completely missing from the dashboard. Any ideas, Mike?

  8. @Yaro

    Is there any chance that you have some language/country other than US English chosen?

    @Imprezzio
    I found that sometimes it was unreasonable but I also found that sometimes it offered good value… depended on the phrase/market/budget… etc

  9. Other than the problems mentioned in this post, there are also technical problems that have to do with the fact that Boost is ‘built on’ the local listing ad.
    It means that once you have a problem with your local listing’s status (Active with no statistics, pending etc.), you can’t see any statistics/ analytics for your Boost ad so that can be even more frustrating!

    We have a problem with one of our client’s local listing for more than a week now, the same listing has a Boost ad & we can’t get into the data.

    The Boost team are very responsive however they can’t solve the problem as for now & I wonder if they will be able to at all.

    I really can’t find a solution other than cancel this whole thing!

  10. Same experience here too. We have been testing boost with a number of clients and in each case they all experienced the same thing. Started out working well with reasonable per click costs and then bam “an external factor” raised the per click costs substantially.

    In every case we have stopped all Boost ads and are running standard PPC instead.

    Truth is all these billing problems will end up costing Google once a good class action attorney is turned on to the problem. Remember a few years ago when Google paid big bucks for their charging accounts that were paused simply because internal Ad Groups were not paused?

  11. I looked into Boost but was turned off by the hard sell I was getting from the Google employee who called me. I am glad I never started down that road.

  12. @Nyagoslav,
    It is expensive, isn’t it? Good point.

    @Abby
    Did you tell the rep you’d have to stop paying for the ad if you can’t get the data? Curious.

    Mike, thanks for highlighting some of the issues surrounding this product.

  13. 5:00am Mike? Are you nuts?!?!

    I had a wonderful Boost experience. I set up boost for my local campaign with a monthly budget of $300 just to see how it performed. I eventually got an email stating that I was missing out on clicks because I was burning through budget. Google suggested setting my budget higher, but I was confused as to why I was using my budget without an appreciable increase in business. I did a little research and found that due to merging issues, Google was displaying MY ads but clicks on those ads were going to my competition’s website. At an average cost of approximately $7.50/click, that didn’t make me very happy.

    I realize I’m guilty of not paying closer attention, but that was part of the draw with Boost. Let us/Google do the hard work while you get clicks and pay attention to what’s important (padding your competition’s business). :(

  14. I have been running Boost for a client for the last month after her listing just went through a Google Places “cycle” and although it was active, it was not displaying on any searches including her “business name city st” searches.

    I actually wrote a rant regarding Boost yesterday (not published -just here at work to “work through” my experience. My biggest problem is also the lack of transparency -one click cost us $.05 and another one was $24.39 with no explanation of what the difference was. Because I was running this at our cost until her listing came back online, I immediately shut down Boost and started running her ads through AdWords. I can not believe that Google does not provide detailed explanations to where the money is going. I can not believe that they haven’t had more backlash against this product -although perhaps the SMB owners are just too busy to look at the detail on how this product is actually working.

    Thanks for the great article!

  15. @MiriamEllis

    Trust me I’m talking to anyone I can- starting with the sales representative (who is adorable, by the way & really tried to help but she can’t) & with the customer service support, not to mention reporting a problem by e-mail & doing a tight follow up with them. I mentioned canceling the campaign obviously however the only thing they all say for their defense is that we are paying only when the ad is alive & by clicks…
    Well, considering all the issues going on with CPC (that is an issue for itself!), & the fact that our ad is not online right now (god knows why- we should have available budget left), there is only 1 solution….

    I must say though that I do feel for the first time that there IS a real support team that are trying to do their best. Unfortunately, it looks like more of an ‘algo’ problem with the local listing & that’s why I’m convinced that the Boost team are not the right address but another department…(?)

    I’m interested to know if anyone is experiencing an ‘Active’ status with no statistics/ dashboard to their listings in Sacramento, CA?

  16. First off, I think the google boost pricing is crazy.

    But I would guess that the pricing is affect by the adwords bidding. So maybe someone bid a high amount on adwords to be at the top and boost changed its pricing to be competitive with adwords?

  17. Ryan

    I suspect you are right or close to right but since google offers no transparency or guidance we may never know

  18. I’ve been testing this for a client and so far I am unimpressed…

    One issue you didn’t bring up, which I have also experienced, is that you are 25% OVER BUDGET. Your screenshot clearly states “Maximum monthly budget = $200.00 & Cost over this time period = $250.84″

    When I first noticed it, I chalked it up to yet another Google Places bug, but it looks like Google is overcharging everyone on this plan.

    Our test with a “$50 Maximum monthly budget” came to $84.38. A 68.7% overcharge!

    Is that a feature or a bug?

  19. @Jeff

    You are right, I didn’t bring it up… it is an artifact of the jump in bid price. When the ad price jumps, for whatever reason they keep showing the ad as if it were still at the old price until your budget is exhausted and then some… to balance it out they then stop showing your ad until you are even…

    They don’t actually end up charging you $250 as they just don’t show the ad so that by the end of the billing period you are within your spend.

    Its screwy regardless of the reason.

  20. I have been working with this feature for a while now and it seems to me that G was/is trying to earn money for long tail/not popular KW’s on the back of SMB.
    Creating the platform without giving the SMB any control over the KW’s choice for which their business will show…?!?!?! But now it is even worse as the prices went up and still no control!

    I think that in the future G will probably want to separate the Adwords and Boost each for it’s platform – organic results (web results) and Places… That is of course if places will have enough traffic coming in…

    If it stays like it is now I also guess all our clients will want to stop using Boost.

  21. I don’t do much advertising online, but I did make an attempt at setting up a Google Boost ad campaign for my business. Well, the cost was nearly identical to what an AdWords campaign would have cost, and if anything was slightly higher on a per-click basis than the standard ads. Go figure…

  22. @Mike,

    I do not have anything other than English chosen. The only thing that I can think of – there used to be a duplicate listing I had about a year ago. I had deleted it back than but it is still in “suspended” status as of now. Not sure if this could be causing it?

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