Simplicity: Google’s Secret Pay-Per-Click Tax

We want it simple!

Given a choice, human beings choose simple over complicated virtually every time.

Searching with Google is simple. You type in a few words and Google delivers the most relevant results.

So, what could be simpler than Google pay-per-click advertisements? People search for stuff, you craft a 95-character advertisement with a URL based on that search, you make a bid telling Google how much that searcher is worth to you, searchers click on your ad and go to its URL, and only then does Google get paid. That’s simple!

It’s so simple and powerful that it’s addictive.

Making things simple is hard work. Nobody does a better job of that than Google. That’s why in 2010, Google will sell well over $20 billion in PPC (define) advertisements.

Google’s PPC platform is a marvel of simplicity. The price of that simplicity is high. In reducing the inherent complexity, the opportunity to fine-tune becomes hidden, practically lost. Simplicity is a large part of what makes Google’s business model so great.

If you want it complicated, more powerful, and enhanced through the API to make your PPC efforts more efficient, that’s completely available, as long as you’re prepared to dig.

If you want it simple, then you overpay.

Thus, simplicity acts like a tax.

You could easily be paying 20 to 60 percent of your Google PPC budget to the “secret simple tax.” That was the case for one of our audit clients with a six-figure monthly PPC budget who was overpaying by over 50 percent. That’s right, millions of dollars could have been better invested if they realized that simple simply costs.

The secret simple tax affects small, medium, and large clients.

The secret simple tax affects in-house and agency clients.

The secret simple tax affects everyone who thinks of PPC as simple.

Google’s pay-per-click advertisement platform is not simple. It’s mindnumbingly complex. It’s hard and it’s humbling.

Can you handle the truth?

The truth is that Google’s PPC advertisement platform is simple to use but hard to master.

Our friends include some of the smartest, most up-to-date search marketers on the planet. We picked their brains when we started seeing quality score drastically affect our clients. We all considered ourselves smart, but our ignorance was astonishing. Every obvious question brought up at least seven less obvious follow-up questions. The complexity of the platform is profound, and when you overlay the complexity of a business’ products, services, customers, semantics, competitors, internal politics, and budgets, it makes your head hurt.

It can make you feel like a simpleton.

So, should you throw your hands up in the air, give up, and pay Google’s secret simple tax?

Heck no! Repeat after me: “We won’t pay that stinking tax no more!”

Hopefully you’re prepared to replace unconscious incompetence with conscious incompetence. Don’t worry, that’s a great thing. If you don’t understand why, then learn about the Four Stages Of Competence.

There are seven indications that you may be paying Google’s secret simple tax:

  1. You favor audience reach instead of focusing on messaging relevance for every query
  2. You favor audience reach instead of targeting, qualifying, and excluding searches
  3. You don’t know how Google calculates your Ad Rank or the true impact of Google Quality Score
  4. You favor brand messaging instead of focusing on the searcher’s buying intent
  5. You organize using keywords instead of Ad Groups
  6. You have many keywords but much fewer landing pages
  7. You don’t constantly test ads and landing pages

There’s a lot more to say on the subject, I’ve said more here, here, and here. I won’t even start to ask what you’re measuring.

Are you willing to be wrong? Are you willing to question what you’ve been doing? Are you willing to unlearn what you think you know? Are you ready to handle the complexity of the world’s most powerful ad platform?

Or perhaps, I’m overcomplicating it all and you have everything under control.

Jeffrey, my brother and business partner, and I hope that you’re truly as smart as you think you are. We wish every one of our readers the best of luck in all their endeavors.

P.S. If you’d like to calculate your secret simple tax, download a spreadsheet here.

Please share if you think others would benefit.