Google (Search Marketing) Agency policy. Is there one?
After the rumors that were spread last week concerning whether or not Google would alter or shut down its AdWords reseller program, I started rethinking our relationship to Google. As a search marketing agency we have a 'partnership' with Google. How are we being treated by Google? Or maybe more correctly: "How are we, agencies, being neglected by Google".
Google makes great products, without any doubt. Many search agencies understood this from the beginning: when search was still small, when AdWords barely existed. Together we started building the market. And Google had good intentions regarding partnerships.
Today, Google is still doing great things. But partnership management sure isn't one of them.
Yes, we receive an agency Newsletter and yes, we can send junior consultants to free training courses and yes there are free online trainings available. And let us not forget several YouTube channels.
Sure, Google makes tools available to the market and combines them into the "Agency toolkit" http://www.google.com/agencytoolkit/
. But these tools are all publically available. So, where is the agencies' advantage? I don't see it. It's all in the mind, I guess. Even blog search is categorized as an agency tool. Let's call it marketing.
You all know Google has several certification programs: ranging from Google Adwords Qualified Company, Authorized Consultant, Conversion Specialist, Website Obtimizer, etc.., even YouTube partnerships these days.
Certifications are great. You need to prove your professionalism before you receive one (in most cases), which is great for customers. It shows them they are dealing with a professional firm.
As a global company, and knowing that agencies are more and more international, starting these certifications in only a few countries creates a certain unfairness between agencies. International agencies that receive the certification in country x, can make use of it in country y. Thinking global in one program (you need to send consultants to the USA for training yearly) and acting local in an other is absurd. If you act like this, don't come and tell these neglected markets (read: markets that aren't spending as much as foreign countries) they are lagging. Of course they are!
Some of you, most of the European agencies, probably can remember the agency commission system (BPF, Best Practice Funding) Google had in place before 2009. The higher the qualified agencies' quarterly spend, the higher the kickback. It was nice having a real revenue-stream from this kickback. And it sure was win-win (Google-Agency) because the market was being developed faster. But I'm not so sure it was win-win-win (Google-Agency-Advertiser) because AdWords advice wasn't objective anymore. Sure, more spend probably meant more clicks, with a high probability of more conversions. But at what cost?
Anyway, Google quit the program with as main raison: playfield leveling. To be clear, I am not asking to go back to those times, because objectivity is the reason why customers need agencies. Objectivity and expertise.
But that being said, we recently were very surprised that Belgian newspaper companies like Corelio and Roularta became 'Google Adwords Resellers'. Fact is these resellers receive 'special tools' and performance based commissions or media margins (or whatever you'd like to call it). I heard that in some cases these resellers are pocketing 40 to 50% of the media budget. Where is the playfield leveling idea? What about the objectivity of these new players in the market?
These tools should allow the resellers to manage the small business adwords campaigns with only 1 hour of management per year. Yeah, right!
Another real advantage of being a reseller that might be linked to the automation of adwords management would be the fact that Google doesn't charge resellers for the use of API transactions. At least for the first three years of the program. That's what I call a real partnership advantage.
In the past couple of weeks there has been a rumor that the program is being shut down by Google, but Google issued very quickly that it's still "committed to building relationships with third party partners that enable small and medium-sized businesses to realize the benefits of cost-efficient, targeted and measurable online advertising solutions like AdWords.“
The 'new' Belgian 'resellers' now know what to expect when Google after some time prefers to take a more 'direct' route to SMB customers. But, partners are important to Google. At least for a while.
Customers & Legal Issues
Over the years agencies have been experiencing several problems at agency level concerning customer and legal issues. Often these go hand in hand.
Is it ok that Google tries to contact our customers directly? Is it ok that Google grants customers administrative rights of accounts managed by and paid by the agencies? without their consent? Is it ok to organize an auction and play along? Isn't it like organizing a poker game, being a superplayer, knowing all the cards of the other players? Is it ok not to solve and answer these issues?
Conclusion is that agencies are very confused by what Google is doing and saying. It sure isn't always consistent. It would be great to have some feedback on these thoughts. Especially from other (European) agencies. It would be even more valuable that Google started to listen to the issues we, as sem agencies have, but also more traditional agencies, have. Maybe, just maybe, this blog-article could be seen as an invitation to discussion.