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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Google AdWords for Intuit Quickbooks Users

This partnership between Google and Intuit is another clever move by Google. Not so sure it's good for small businesses. That depends on the execution. The deal lets Quickbooks users advertise on Google Maps, Google Base and Google AdWords. I'll address AdWords since that's what I'm very familiar with. Here's a quote from the press release (from Intuit's site with graphics) pertaining to AdWords:
QuickBooks users can select search terms related to their product or service and create customized ads that show up when shoppers search on Google for those products or services. This feature gives small businesses full control over their budgets, allowing them to stop or pause their campaign, monitor their spending or change their advertising messages at any time.
My concern is that the Google AdWords system has become more complicated as it has evolved. This makes it difficult for small businesses with limited resources to manage PPC ads effectively. To combat this issue, Google created a simpler version of AdWords called Starter Edition. The problem with this version is that the content network is enabled and cannot be disabled. What's wrong with the content network? Nothing, as long as an advertiser realizes that content ads run on AdSense sites and not on search engines. There's a big difference between passive users reading a web page embedded with AdSense ads and active users searching for specific keywords on a search engine. I've been recommending for a long time that AdWords users manage search and content ads in separate campaigns. Putting it another way, AdWords is a hybrid product including both search engine advertising and contextual advertising. These are actually two very different advertising products. For a new user to AdWords, the two forms of advertising should not be combined.

With the Standard Edition of AdWords, advertisers can opt out of the content network (it's on by default when a new ad campaign is created). Will Quickbooks simply link to AdWords or will there be some sort of Quickbooks Edition? If so, will small businesses have the choice to opt out of the content network? Google needs to find a way to make AdWords simple for small business owners without forcing them to run ads on Google AdSense sites.

Other bloggers have reservations about this partnership, as well. On TechCrunch, Michael Arrington states, "I sure hope there’s an easy way to turn this stuff off." Matt McGee via his Small Business SEM blog comments, "Online marketing isn’t like the Yellow Pages, where you get to make an ad and then let it sit for a year." Speaking of yellow pages, Greg Sterling points out that "the U.S. yellow pages industry has approximately 3.2 million advertisers in total. QuickBooks has 3.7 million active users." Clearly, this is a potentially lucrative market for Google. But, is that market ready to use AdWords? Does that depend on how AdWords is integrated with Quickbooks? Again, I hope they don't use something like the Starter Edition.

Something else struck me about the press release: the paragraph that begins, "Research by iProspect, a leading search engine marketing firm, found that..." This is the same Google that advises against using a search engine optimization firm and declares not to have relationships with any SEO firms. I'd say including iProspect in a major press release indicates a relationship. They could've quoted my search engine marketing firm. ;-)

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