My Visit To Google…

I was recently invited to a Google seminar themed “Accelerate,” which was held at the company’s San Francisco headquarters. The event tailored itself to advertisers who are relatively new to Google’s various advertising platforms and applications.  There were plenty of GoogleAdwords team leaders on hand to answer questions and network with the 40 or so attendees, many of whom were online start-ups.  Google being Google, the event was choreographed so that everyone had his or her own place.   When I tried to sit at one of the round tables so I could more comfortably use my laptop instead of the theatre set-up on the another side of the room,  I was encouraged (directed) to move, as I was told the roundtables were reserved for Google team leaders during the presentation.

 The content during the morning session of the event provided great information and insights in advertising trends using paid search, mobile and video.  Among  those present were some familiar travel marketers,  including the advertising agency for the Napa CVB and, Hipmunk.com , an airline aggregator that has attracted a great deal of buzz and YourTour.com.

The Right Words @ The Right Price: Since 2005, Google’s Adwords product is the cash cow that has built it $45billlion in cash reserves.  Now, six years later, the bidding competition for most obvious keywords and brands is expensive and marketers must understand how to use keywords to identify niches and nuances within niches to find affordable bid terms. For example, a destination bidding for “cheap hotels in ___” will compete with OTAs and hotel suppliers as well as unofficial city websites  that may be owned and operated by an independent company or entrepreneur.

 Google Adwords is so profitable and powerful because it has been built as a self-service  system, which works well if you can find keywords and phrases that are affordable and have high quality scores.

 But for most travel marketers who are hesitant to entrust their Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to a search agency because of their mark-ups, they need to access some direct form of customer service.    Currently, the Google threshold at which they assign a relationship manager to an account is $15,000 per month in spend.  Anything below that level of requires reading through a host of FAQs and instructions and having your questions answered via an 800 number call center.  One owner of an advertising agency told me it was like asking him to purchase a mountain bike that he had to assemble yourself. “I don’t have the time to read through all the instructions and learn it myself. “

 Some of the Insights from the Google Seminar that Clicked with Me:  

• “Remarketing”—the concept of identifying non-converters as high prospects—is an little-noticed area of online marketing via Google that is a profoundly under-utilized opportunity for travel marketers.  Google has applications and tools that can be used to track and remarket by delivering targeted text ads.

Google’s “site-links,” essentially expanded text ads that include video and links to specific landing pages on websites, is receiving greater lift and helps to increase quality score. 

•Google Adwords is a game of incremental improvements.  For example, Google designers tested 42 different shades of the blue to find the exact hue that would product the  greatest click through results (it uses a tinge of red).

•Quantifying Quality Score—here’s the formula to determine Ad Quality score:  Q Score=Click through rate (CTR) x Bid Price $. (And bounce rate is included, too).

•Two suggestions for increasing Q score: (a) Own your company’s name as a keyword term. It’s going to be less competitively priced and will result in a high click through rate that will build a foundation for a positive history that will raise Q scores.  (b)  Break down keyword applications into smaller groups and phrases that will result in more granularity in click-throughs.

•Google offers many applications and free tools that few people know about.  For example, they have tools for pre-testing website designs by featuring rotations and analytics that employ variant testing. Google intelligence is also used for anomaly detection and they have applications that attribute credit for click-through to various media along the path to conversion.

•Asked what books one might read to better understand the field of SEM , one presenter intimated that “Adwords for Dummies”as the easiest and fastest way to learn the basics of the field.

 A Trip to The Restroom.  The Google culture is truly unusual and it even extends to the company’s restrooms.  Many restaurants post the daily newspaper section on the wall in their bathrooms.  In the men’s room at Google’s San Francisco offices, however, a Boolean logic puzzle was posted  that, if coded correctly,  resulted in a humorous result. Essentially an engineer’s idea of a practical joke.

 Note: E-Tourism Summit 2011 will feature a pre-conference site visit, lunch and 2 hr workshop at Google’s headquarters and several other innovations on September 28th from 10-2pm.  Transportation from San Francisco will be provided.  To register go to: www.etourismsummit.com

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