Be wary of Google AdWords’ push in Massachusetts

About a month ago I received an email from Google AdWords with the following message:

Google seminars coming to Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut

Google invites you to some interactive seminars for your local businesses
community. Our certified trainers will show you how Google tools can help
you reach more customers, understand what customers are searching for, and
operate more efficiently.

In the workshops our trainers will cover online marketing best practices,
including how to:

– Reach the right audience using Google AdWords and boost your ad
performance by choosing the right keywords and writing compelling ads
– Claim your business on Google Maps and create a Google Place Page
– Use Google Analytics to track online traffic and optimize your website

These seminars are ideal for customers who are new to online advertising as
well as existing AdWords customers who want to get more results from their
online advertising investment.

[Date time and locations removed]

Registration is required to attend. Space is limited. First come, first
serve.

AdWords is Google’s Pay-Per-Click advertising program. You can see AdWords ads on the Google search results pages as well as third-party publishers web sites. From a business stand point, AdWords is Google. It is AdWords that enables Google to generously compensate its employees, and to almost willy-nilly buy companies and launch new products and services. In spite of dominating the market AdWords is not without its challenges. One is click fraud. Another is a reputedlyvery high churn rate, especially among smaller advertisers. I assumed that the seminars advertised in the email were part of a campaign to increase retention rate among new new AdWords advertisers.

I’ve been using AdWords on and off for many years, mostly just to test this that or the other thing, but also for cold-blooded no-nonsense customer acquisition. I am, however, not an AdWords power user and since the tool is constantly evolving I figured it would be a good idea to attend one of the seminars and learn something new about the program or mabe just develop a new way to approach it tactically and strategically. So I signed up.

Registration cost $75 which wasn’t exactly obvious from the sales pitch email, but that didn’t particularly bother me. After all, the sales funnel has to start somewhere. The registration fee didn’t seem unreasonable either. Besides covering the cost of the event it seemed like a good way to secure some level of committment from the attendees and thereby dent the turnover rate a little.

After registration had been completed it turned out that “our certified trainers” – ie Google’s – turned out to be from a company other than Google. Call it “the royal they.”

The seminar turned out to be a bit of a bust, and it deviated so much from the pitch that I am tempted to use words like “fraudulent” and “deceptive” to describe the whole affair but that’s probably too strong. Crossed wires and honest misunderstanding strike me as more accurate.

The presentation deck carried the headline “Online Marketing 101,” a level which is hardly “ideal for existing AdWords customers who want to get more results from their
online advertising investment” (however, as OM 101 it wasn’t bad at all and although I disagree with some of its recommendation I credit it for stressing the importance of email as part of the online marketing mix. The presenter also stated that it seems that companies that use AdWords do better in organic search listings than those that don’t, a statement that is, well, interesting for coming from one of “our certified trainers.” But I learned squat about AdWords).

Yesterday I received the following email from Google AdWords:

Google invites you to two interactive seminars for Massachusetts’ local business community. Our certified trainers will show you how Google tools can help you reach more customers, understand what customers are searching for, and operate more efficiently.

In our workshops our trainers will cover online marketing best practices, including how to:

Reach the right audience using Google AdWords and boost your ad performance by choosing the right keywords and writing compelling ads
Claim your business on Google Maps and create a Google Place Page
Use Google Analytics to track online traffic and optimize your website
These seminars are ideal for customers who are new to online advertising as well as existing AdWords customers who want to get more results from their online advertising investment.

[Date time and locations removed]

Registration is required to attend. Space is limited. First come, first serve. There is a fee to attend these events.

Fool me once…

Google AdWords is flailing. It appears anxious to both increase sign-up rates and lower retention rates. Certified third-party trainers are one of the methods the company is using to get there, but quality assurance is lacking. Until that changes small business owners in Massachusetts should consider seeking online-advertising advice elsewhere.