Simplicity: Google's Secret Pay-Per-Click Tax

  |  July 16, 2010   |  Comments

Google's PPC platform is a marvel of simplicity, but the price of that simplicity is high.

We want it simple!

Given a choice, human beings choose simple over complicated virtually every time.

Searching with Google is simple. You type in a few words and Google delivers the most relevant results.

So, what could be simpler than Google pay-per-click advertisements? People search for stuff, you craft a 95-character advertisement with a URL based on that search, you make a bid telling Google how much that searcher is worth to you, searchers click on your ad and go to its URL, and only then does Google get paid. That's simple!

It's so simple and powerful that it's addictive.

Making things simple is hard work. Nobody does a better job of that than Google. That's why in 2010, Google will sell well over $20 billion in PPC (define) advertisements.

Google's PPC platform is a marvel of simplicity. The price of that simplicity is high. In reducing the inherent complexity, the opportunity to fine-tune becomes hidden, practically lost. Simplicity is a large part of what makes Google's business model so great.

If you want it complicated, more powerful, and enhanced through the API to make your PPC efforts more efficient, that's completely available, as long as you're prepared to dig.

If you want it simple, then you overpay.

Thus, simplicity acts like a tax.

You could easily be paying 20 to 60 percent of your Google PPC budget to the "secret simple tax." That was the case for one of our audit clients with a six-figure monthly PPC budget who was overpaying by over 50 percent. That's right, millions of dollars could have been better invested if they realized that simple simply costs.

The secret simple tax affects small, medium, and large clients.

The secret simple tax affects in-house and agency clients.

The secret simple tax affects everyone who thinks of PPC as simple.

Google's pay-per-click advertisement platform is not simple. It's mindnumbingly complex. It's hard and it's humbling.

Can you handle the truth?

The truth is that Google's PPC advertisement platform is simple to use but hard to master.

Our friends include some of the smartest, most up-to-date search marketers on the planet. We picked their brains when we started seeing quality score drastically affect our clients. We all considered ourselves smart, but our ignorance was astonishing. Every obvious question brought up at least seven less obvious follow-up questions. The complexity of the platform is profound, and when you overlay the complexity of a business' products, services, customers, semantics, competitors, internal politics, and budgets, it makes your head hurt.

It can make you feel like a simpleton.

So, should you throw your hands up in the air, give up, and pay Google's secret simple tax?

Heck no! Repeat after me: "We won't pay that stinking tax no more!"

Hopefully you're prepared to replace unconscious incompetence with conscious incompetence. Don't worry, that's a great thing. If you don't understand why, then learn about the Four Stages Of Competence.

There are seven indications that you may be paying Google's secret simple tax:

  1. You favor audience reach instead of focusing on messaging relevance for every query
  2. You favor audience reach instead of targeting, qualifying, and excluding searches
  3. You don't know how Google calculates your Ad Rank or the true impact of Google Quality Score
  4. You favor brand messaging instead of focusing on the searcher's buying intent
  5. You organize using keywords instead of Ad Groups
  6. You have many keywords but much fewer landing pages
  7. You don't constantly test ads and landing pages

There's a lot more to say on the subject, I've said more here, here, and here. I won't even start to ask what you're measuring.

Are you willing to be wrong? Are you willing to question what you've been doing? Are you willing to unlearn what you think you know? Are you ready to handle the complexity of the world's most powerful ad platform?

Or perhaps, I'm overcomplicating it all and you have everything under control.

Jeffrey, my brother and business partner, and I hope that you're truly as smart as you think you are. We wish every one of our readers the best of luck in all their endeavors.

P.S. If you'd like to calculate your Secret Simple Tax, download a spreadsheet here.

ClickZ Live New York Want to learn more?
Attend ClickZ Live New York March 30 - April 1. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live brings together over 60 expert speakers to offer an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Register today!


Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES,, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Analytics newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

A Buyer's Guide to Affiliate Management Software

A Buyer's Guide to Affiliate Management Software
Manage your performance marketing with the right solution. Choose a platform that will mutually empower advertisers and media partners!

Google My Business Listings Demystified

Google My Business Listings Demystified
To help brands control how they appear online, Google has developed a new offering: Google My Business Locations. This whitepaper helps marketers understand how to use this powerful new tool.



    • SEO Specialist
      SEO Specialist ( - New YorkBankrate, Inc. operates a network of personal finance related web sites for consumers.  Our sites provide...
    • Search Manager
      Search Manager (LOYAL3) - San FranciscoThe Role: We are looking for a bright, driven and personable performance-based marketer to join LOYAL3’...
    • Product Manager - Contract position
      Product Manager - Contract position (Wiley Publishing) - HobokenThis position can be located in either Hoboken, NJ or Indianapolis, IN. We are...