Boost is one of the latest products from Google that makes me think I should start shorting their stock. Designed as a simple way for small businesses to get into Google Maps advertising without understanding keywords, it's an extraordinary failure that gives business owners yet another online marketing headache.
You might have noticed some of Google's recent bad habits. Try to buy a company (Yelp), copy it when they don't agree (HotPot) and then shut it down. Or try to buy a company (Twitter), copy it poorly (Buzz) and then wonder why nobody uses it. Or try to buy a company (GroupOn), copy it in the very definition of "half ass" (Google Offers) and then comfort investors that at least the search engine business is strong.
Recently, Google announced the retirement of Google Tags which offered a simple way for owners of Google Maps listings to stand out from their competitors for $25 a month. It was similar to Boost except that it worked so they killed it. In their rush to roll out a replacement, Boost fails at every possible level:
The administration page is buggy
Ads frequently remain inactive for no apparent reason
You get charged randomly and it's hard to correlate clicks to new customers
The account management and support is nonexistent.
If you are a small business owner looking to get into advertising, there are a variety of options available to you that are both more effective and less expensive than Google Boost, including: Facebook Ads, Yahoo/Bing ads, Google AdWords, and hiring someone to stand on the street corner with a dancing signboard.
Looking through the Internet for complaints about Google Boost, I think some business owners nailed the problems perfectly:
"I am testing Boost ads and what I find troubling is the amount the boost ad is charging me per click... Google set my clicks at $5.61 this is way to costly for me. Also they way they choose the keywords and then give them a low-quality score"
"The dashboard in our account is broken... After two complaints and 2 robo-responses, it is still not fixed. The salesman knew about this issue when he set up our ad for us. He promised to look into it."
"After letting it go for a month, we’ve received a bunch of clicks, at a high cost with no perceivable gain in customers. Biggest problem? Not being able to edit the keywords and that is the rub. Google sets the business name as a keyword so when my existing customers type the name of the business into google they see an add pop up with the business name and click on it not aware that it is an ad. This is a really shady way that Google is making money off all the businesses that use boost when the customer should be seeing an organic result for the name search (free). We are NOT happy."
My personal experience
Helping a client of mine set up Boost exposed a variety of interesting problems. The first road bump was that the billing interface continuously rejected any credit card and the Boost account rep's response was "it does that sometimes". After somehow getting through the first trial on the sixth attempt or so, we moved on to keyword selection and ad creation.
The keywords are preselected and you have to place check-marks against the ones you want - you can't add or change the keywords. They're comparatively expensive compared with other systems because they're overly broad. Not good.
Two weeks after setting up the ad, it had zero impressions. Our attempts to reach the account manager ran the gamut of frustrating to annoying to comically bad. Over a dozen voice mails later, it was pretty clear she had no interest in contacting us back. In the meantime, we had initiated over a dozen other campaigns without any issues at all.
Finally, I attempted to reach a manager or supervisor, but on all three attempts was either cut off or transferred to the voicemail of the account rep who didn't care. On the very final try, I reached some kind of manager who said he had no understanding of how the system worked and that he could raise an "escalation ticket". Turnaround time? About 4 to 6 weeks.
Having worked in online marketing for quite a while, it's a world first to hear a company take over a month to extract money from your advertising campaign. It's obvious at this point that Google Boost is neither a serious or professional advertising platform for businesses, and it won't surprise me when it gets shut down by Google just like its predecessor.
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About the reviewer
James Beswick (jbeswick)
Lunch.com's "token Brit".
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