This is the last part of our four-part series unravelling the mystery of search engine marketing. Click to read Part I, Part II and Part III.
This series on solving the mysteries of search engine marketing was researched and compiled by my colleague and teammate Greg Bond and he’s done a fantastic job in breaking down a very complex topic in a very simple way. I wanted to close out the series by offering my perspective on what this all means for small business owners.
First, I don’t want anyone to read these posts and think that the guys at Zero-G have some sort of vendetta against ReachLocal, Yodle and the other AdWords Authorized Resellers. In fact, not all Authorized Resellers are bad — there are over 30 of them here in the U.S. and from what we can tell, not all of them are following the model we’ve tried to expose in this series. And yes, I freely admit that small companies like ours who manage AdWords campaigns are often frustrated by companies like ReachLocal, who — because of the size of their client roster and because of the size of their sales force — are allowed to play by a slightly different rulebook, the criticism that Greg and I have offered in this series is real and based entirely in fact.
The facts are that ReachLocal and the rest have the beneift of:
- local account reps on the streets in every major market
- advanced integration with Google and relaxed rules
- being able to aggregate mass amounts of data gathered from thousands of clients’ campaigns for the benefit of all.
For these reasons, there aren’t ANY firms in the world better positioned to deliver incredible results to small businesses than Google’s Authorized Resellers and especially the really BIG resellers like ReachLocal. The problem is that, very often, they don’t. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say they won’t because, as we’ve explained throughout this series, they have the tools to do so.
For the most part, they operate like the old-school yellow pages, ineffectually selling the modern-day phonebook listing. Simply put, ReachLocal and the others like them are good at helping clients get their business on AdWords quickly and helping them boost web traffic (whether that traffic is helpful or not).
I do want to be clear though in saying that we did not mean to single out ReachLocal, our intent was to talk generally about a particular sales and account management model that is very common within Google’s AdWords Authorized Reseller program. For better or worse, and especially here in the southeast, ReachLocal happens to be by far the most visible of these vendors.
We also don’t wish to come across as being overly critical of Google’s Authorized Reseller program. Even if they haven’t gotten it quite right this time, Google has a long history of meticulously curating their services and doing their best to exert a positive influence on the communities that surround them.
Our research into this topic has also revealed that Google rebooted the program in 2010 to prevent Resellers from selling AdWords at exorbitant markups and there seem to have been persistent rumors over the last year and a half that Google wants to shut the program down altogether. The vision from Google’s perspective in everything we’ve read seems clear: leverage a local, direct sales force to help put their AdWords product into the hands of more clients. There isn’t anything wrong with that and it obviously represents a natural progression for Google in selling their biggest and most profitable product.
I do wish, for the sake of the small business clients, that Google has included some sort of performance metric as a requirement for maintaining the Authorized Reseller designation, but I also understand that the program is for “Resellers” not “Consultants”, “Partners” or even “Experts” which small business clients would also do well to remember.
But without a mandate from Google I doubt that anything substantial will change in the small business AdWords marketplace which is dominated by the firms like ReachLocal.
My advice to small business owners trying to compete on AdWords? Don’t give up on AdWords because ReachLocal isn’t getting you results. Do some reading, try to understand the media and basic strategy (beyond what your vendor has told you about it) and DEMAND MORE from your AdWords vendor. Find a partner that will listen to you, treat with you honestly and work hard to make you money.