Google search

Oh so many lessons learned!

| Every so often I get offers from my web hosting company to try Google AdWords Express. Finally one was sweet enough that I decided to try it.

The offers inevitably start with "You might be surprised at the number of people in Desert Hot Springs who are searching Google for exactly what you have to offer." The one that I bit on was that if I would just setup a Google ad account and agree to spend $50 in the first month, then I would receive a credit of $150. (And I do wish I had waited another month: I just got another one that promised a credit of $200—but of course once you've bitten....) Hmmm, a $200 advertising budget for $50. OK, I'm willing to spend $50 to find out how this stuff works.

Google AdWords Express is only one of several Google advertising programs, all with similar—and therefore confusing—names. AdWords Express is the Google-advertising-for-dummies version. You write a 4-line ad and ...

Voilà! You're advertising on Google search. You don't even have to have a website to use AdWords Express. Google manages everything—no messy and time-consuming analysis of keywords, no worries about targeting. Just let Google do it.

May budget

May is not even half over, and already my monthly budget is mostly gone; less than 10% of the budget remains (see right).

Lesson One: Google sucks up your money very quickly. Extrapolate that $120 for a year, and it amounts to $1,440 per year. Yikes!

So, what I have I gotten in return?


The easy answer is, "not much." The following chart shows the number of times my ad has appeared on people's search pages and the number of times someone has clicked on the ad.

Views and clicks
Views and Clicks

Google counts a "view" every time they show the ad on a search page. It would more properly be called "shows" or "placements" or "impressions" (to use a bit of advertising jargon) inasmuch as the mere inclusion of the ad does not mean that anyone has viewed it. Many people have trained themselves to simply ignore the ads that show up everywhere.

A true "view" count would require eyeball tracking, and thankfully Google hasn't figured that out—yet. Or, at least we don't know about it.

A click is easily counted, so I have a lot more confidence in that number. Thus far, there have been 21 clicks on my ad. 

Google makes a point of saying that with AdWords Express you only pay when someone clicks your ad, but they are not at all forthcoming about the cost of those clicks, nothing as simple as: $xxx per click.

I downloaded the billing history for my advertising account and ran the numbers, shown below.

Charges per click
The two columns at right are my analysis

The first thing that jumped out at me when I compiled the cost-per-click was that a click is not a click, at least insofar as Google pricing is concerned. The very first click my ad received was charged $2.67, but the click on May 7 was charged $8.12! Say what?

Lesson Two: The Google pricing machine is a black box. Sure, you can set the total per month, but the way each click is charged is a total mystery.

I've found no confirmation on Google's site itself, but some articles indicate that the amount charged depends on the particular search keyword that triggers the display of your ad. That implies that Google is setting a premium for each keyword, or that they have identified certain keywords for which they charge a premium. Either way, it's still a mystery.

The next logical question is, What were people searching for when they saw my ad and clicked on it. Google in fact displays this data when you sign in to your account. The three search terms that produced the most clicks for my ad were: "website design," "web designers," and "website builders" — each of which garnered 4 clicks. That's at least reasonable: at first they were showing my ad to people searching for "search engine optimization" and I make no claims about that — not even a mention — on my website.

On average, I've gotten one click for every 178 views (3740 ÷ 21 = 178) for total charges of $118.74 ($118.74 ÷ 21 clicks = $5.65 per click).

Oh yes, I should mention that of those 21 clicks, I did get one (one!) actual inquiry from a potential customer.

Obviously, this experiment will be cancelled as soon as the $200 runs out.

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018



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