Google Scale Fail

Like a great many UK businesses we spend money on Google Adwords, in fact I can’t think of many instances where as a business you would not be doing this, particularly if you are a consumer-focussed.

Our other business, (not directly related to CompactLaw) is aimed at a predominately urban audience, aged between 21-45, English speaking and in some respects slightly alternative. Basically they are a deeply fascinating, discerning (and demanding) customer-base. Which is brilliant and interesting for us. We are also growing like a weed and as part of that Google and Google Adwords are playing an important/vital role.

Trust me, not many businesses are getting click-through and customer signups averaging 20% using Adwords. In reality (and stated to us by Google) 1-2% is considered good. Yes, I did just have to log into our Adwords account to double-check these figures are not a figment of our imagination.

So everything is going great then? – Yes and actually No.

As previously stated we have a very distinct audience that we are hoping to attract. But now when we talk to our eminently helpful and useful Adwords account manager he absolutely tries his utmost to help us (and does to a point) – however there is a very definite limit on the help he can provide. Now let’s be clear this guy really tries as would any of his colleagues, in fact he tries so much it makes us feel for him.

But, (and please listen Google) he is limited by culture and geography. He is based in India and speaks to us over a slightly muffled IP phone connection.

When he looks through our ads he can’t really help us to think creatively, though he can suggest technical tweaks. This is because he does not have the local cultural and market references that we take for granted – and why the hell should he? I have absolutely no real idea of the culture and societal nuances that exist and the end of his line.

However, it is these shared references that help to ignite the lateral thinking we need to better target our market. We want our Google rep to say – have you thought about this? Or I have an advertiser, colleague, friend etc. who saw this or did this. Basically what we are seeking is an inherent cultural fit, where we start on the same page, and then scrawl all over it with some great (and crap) ideas. Given the amount of money we spend each month we would expect a more creative and truly localised input from Google.

Google (bless them) have approached this from a classic engineering viewpoint – basically how do we scale in a cost-effective manner?

But we the customer don’t want that. We want to talk to a person based in London or another suitable location who will instinctively get what we are trying to do. Not someone who is playing cultural and societal catch-up. Again, we can’t stress this enough – our Google rep has tried to get his head around what we do, but it is not fair to expect him to be on the same page. You can literally feel the cultural divide over the phone. (This was much less of a problem when our rep was in Dublin.)

But to truly get what we do we need our rep to be based right in our market to literally be sitting on the same tube train as us. To see exactly what we see on a daily basis, eat, drink and sleep within the same culture and all its subtle references.

Yes, people will say – we can’t bloody scale that. Yes, you might be right, but given what we pay per month that’s Google’s problem.

Scaling is not just a numbers game, there has to be a depth and quality to it – I think it’s called “adding value”. Honestly if we had this across the board our ad spend with Google would go up. We would also not be looking at diverting part of our budget elsewhere. Trust me, if we divert some of our money and it works for us, more will inevitably follow in that direction.

The pressure on Google is immense and relentless; they have to show ridiculous growth figures every quarter, otherwise Wall Street and all the assorted Google watchers will punish them.

But Google please give us more relevant quality, after all it is easier to get more money from existing customers than constantly chasing new ones.

As for our Google rep, (whom we like greatly) he is an absolute expert on the Indian market – don’t waste his talents and insight – he should be allowed to apply his undoubted skills where they can be most effective.
Meanwhile, please put us through to a 20-30 something rep that lives in London, travels on public transport etc. and gets all the rich urban quirks of living in the greatest city on Earth – in return we will spend more with you.


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