25/09/2015 8:22 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Using Google To Market Your Brand? Get Your Math Right!

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Campbell Soup Co. letters spell out the word 'Google' on a spoon in this arranged photograph taken in New York U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. Google Inc. rose as much as 6.5 percent after reorganizing into a holding company called Alphabet Inc., breaking out its main Web operations from ambitious new endeavors such as research lab Google X and Calico, which seeks to extend human lives. The structure, announced Monday, will give greater clarity into how Google invests in various ventures, including driverless cars, high-speed Internet service and health-related technologies. Photographer: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"Needless to say, Google delivers us the best ROI," said a client as we kicked off a meeting. This client was rational, understood his math well and this was the best chance I had to dive deeper into the digital return on investment (ROI) jigsaw vis-a-vis Google. There are many myths propagated about digital marketing and Google is the biggest beneficiary. In most meetings, I found myself defending niche portals. The benchmarks set by Google for its scale, size, credibility and transparency can be countered by equally strong content/product-oriented portals with everything Google offers.

Every marketeer must evaluate Google against niche portals, using parameters such as periodicity, tenure, keywords etc. Here are just three illustrations that dismantle the myth of better ROI on Google Adwords.

"Google makes your competitors bid and buy what is your trademark/IP. It forces you to defend your own brand... to draw an extreme parallel, it is like hafta or 'protection money'."

1. Have you calculated separate ROI for branded and non-branded keywords?

Google makes your competitors bid and buy what is your trademark/IP. It forces you to defend your own brand by buying the same from Google. To draw an extreme parallel, it is like hafta or "protection money" that you spend to maintain peace for your business. Assuming you don't buy what is legally your own, it sells your brand adwords to your competitors and makes them sit on top of you on any search, thus passing your audience on to your competitors.

Without digressing into the legality of this practice, this is my illustration:

When a brand, let's call it "Alpha", talks of the average ROI per enquiry being Rs 300, ask them to split it between branded and non-branded keywords. Marketeers and advertisers must remember that people searching for "Alpha" would still come to them because that was the primary search. Niche sites like Tripadvisor or Zomato or Careers360 deliver non-branded audiences (audiences not looking for "Alpha" in this case). The real cost is when you compare the non-branded keywords cost on Google with niche sites.

In this case, the following happened.

Enquiries generated: 1000

Average cost: Rs 300

Total cost: Rs 300,000

"Alpha" branded keyword search cost: Rs 100,000

Total enquiries with "Alpha": 800

That means that non-branded keywords cost them Rs 200,000 for 200 enquiries. That is Rs 1000 per enquiry.

2. Has the campaign been launched simultaneously on all portals including Google? Many marketeers kick off with the Google campaign while negotiating and closing deals with niche portals.

Let us take an illustration of a car being launched.

Car launched: Zenith.

Date of launch: 15 August 2014

Print campaign launched: 15 August 2014

Google campaign launched: 15 August 2014

Other auto portals launched: By 1 September 2014.

Total enquiries generated in three months: 100,000

It is most likely that more than 30,000 of these enquiries were generated in the first 15 days because of launch euphoria and visibility.

The average CPL (cost per lead) should be separated from when Google was operating alone at the launch phase. In all possibility, the niche sites, if compared with Google only for the next 75 days (from 1 September), will deliver a better ROI than Google. At least, this has been the experience of Careers360. Once again, the comparison must be for the same period.

"If I were the marketeer, I would remove any and all advertising for non-branded keywords and move those budgets to niche portals."

In our experience, when you are inviting applications/bookings with a pre-defined opening and closing date, the bookings you get at both ends of the dates illustrate the genuine brand traction. This audience always belonged to the brand, notwithstanding the marketing. What you get in the middle is the benefits of marketing. The better the brand traction, the more is the traction at the opening dates.

3. Have you measured month-wise ROI for the current year?

Let us take an illustration of an educational instruction, AAA. As the campaign gets deeper into the season (which is about four to six months), the rate increases month on month because of greater competition on non-branded keywords. And most buyers ask the niche sites to match the benchmark Google ad rate of the previous year too, while paying more in the current year.

Recently, I told a client: "I will trust you. I will bill every month at a 10% discount to the average Google CPL on non-branded keywords for each month." It set the cat amongst the pigeons. He increased the rate by 40% instead. This ensures the benchmark rate is current and moving month on month.

If I were the marketeer, I would remove any and all advertising for non-branded keywords and move those budgets to niche portals. You are most likely to get more bang for your buck! And please stop selling Google as if it is a not-for-profit organisation. There are plenty of other players who are as ethical, transparent, can deliver impact and still be cost-effective.

We at are happy to compete with Google if any marketeer is willing to put in the effort and do his math as it should be -- a 10% discount to Google rates measured properly. Are you up to the challenge?

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