It's Friday! Small Businesses in Search, The Future of Online Advertising & Google Goes to Court

It's Friday: The Week in Search

Big stories this week included the fate of small business owners and the future of online advertising. And of course, are you eligible for any of Google's $20 million payout?

Most Small Business Owners Try Then Quit Paid Search

A study conducted by Borell Associates found that 90% of small business owners quit their paid search campaign within 6 months citing poor performance and not enough ROI. According to the study, 50% of small business owners will end their campaign after only 3 months, with the following 40% following suit up to three months later.

This odd part about this is that CNN Money just posted an article about the importance of small businesses to advertise on Google. Fred Vallaeys, Google's AdWords evangelist says, "[small businesses] built us. We want to support them. We've set up the system to help them compete with the big guys." According to the article, Google is revamping AdWords to make it more user-friendly and appealing to small businesses. So why the disconnect? As I often do, I turned to Lisa Barone (@LisaBarone) for the answer.

Lisa outlines her theories in Small Business Trends, essentially identifying education and flawed guaranteed click programs from resellers as the reasons for businesses' withdrawal.  Here's how to make sure your pay per click efforts don't fall flat:

  • Avoid any program that guarantees numbers of clicks: Remember quality over quantity
  • Invest in your website and landing pages: More targeted landing pages lead to better conversion rates and a higher Quality Score
  • Take advantage of free Google tools, like the Google Keyword Tool, Google Analytics and the AdWords Keyword Tool

Also, check out Carrie Hill's open letter to Google Analytics on behalf of small businesses for other pain points and usability concerns you should be aware of.

Online Ad Market Grows in Europe

With the fate of small businesses on AdWords in the balance, the good news (for online advertisers at least) is that online ad spend in Europe is steadily climbing. Jack Marshall's Click Z article outlines that across Europe, online ad spend hit approximately $18 billion in 2008, a 20% growth from the previous year. In the US, we grew 10%, spending just over $23 billion, which means that Europe is currently on pace to out-grow us within a few years.

Spain is the big winner, with growth topping 26% for 2008. The truth, though, is that we're all big winners-even in this economy, online advertising holds the most potential for growth while maintaining accountability and budget tracking. It's just that the US is a little ahead of the game for now.

Google Goes to Court

Google was involved in two courtroom dramas recently, one of which resulted in a 20 million dollar settlement, and the other regarding an amount not quite $800. Which one garnered more attention? Well, it depends who you ask...

Google goes to court for class action settlement and appeal

Their 20 Million Dollar Class Settlement:

We'll start with the big money story first. On March 31st, the courts decided to award two advertisers $20,000 each in AdWords credit as a result of Google exceeding the advertisers' daily budget. Now it's finally coming to light what's happening to the rest of the cash. Barry Schwartz has a great article on Search Engine Land summarizing what you need to know and whether you're qualified for part of the payout.

Remember, though, that Google didn't do anything wrong. As the settlement reads, "[the payout] is not and shall not be construed or deemed to be evidence or an admission or a concession on the part of Google of any fault or liability or damages whatsoever, and Google does not concede any infirmity in the defenses which it has asserted in the Action."

Hmm... what's the 20 million dollars for then, eh Google??

Google Goes to Bat for $761 And Loses... Then Wins

You could say that Aaron Greenspan perfectly positioned himself as the small business owner unfairly punished by the Big, Bad Bureaucracy that is Google. Long story short: Greenspan's AdSense account was shut off by Google in December, 2008 due to "invalid click activity." After repeated attempts to figure out why he was penalized, he took Google to small claims court. Since Google's paralegal was unable to explain why Greenspan's account had been shut off, he was awarded $761 in restitution and wrote about his story in The Huffington Post, encouraging others who had their account shut off to follow suit and file a claim against Google. 

Fast-forward to late May 2009, Greenspan found himself back in court and Google's paralegal was joined by a lawyer ("recognizable as such by his fancy suit,' says Greenspan) and an engineer. This time, things didn't go his way as Google's legal team was able to prove that Greenspan had, in fact, violated Google's terms of service.

Oops... sorry, Aaron. You can read his side of this story again on The Huffington Post where Greenspan makes no secret of his bitterness towards Google. I'm not quite sure what the lesson is here. Google will pay $20 million to people they didn't wrong, but they'll also spend thousands to retrieve $761 from one individual that wronged them? It's an interesting strategy, that's for sure.

What do you think?

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