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Google AdWords and Henry's Big Blue Helicopter

Learning to fly is a LOT of work

Ever since he was a little boy, my stepson Henry wanted to become a helicopter pilot. Like any other red-blooded boy growing up, he'd build models of planes and helicopters, grab any book he could find on the subject of flight, and eagerly await the release of every new Star Wars movie. Planes and jet aircraft were quite interesting to Henry, but from a very early age, helicopters were his real passion. I think it had something to do with the incredible maneuverability and three-dimensional freedom he associated with helicopters. Or maybe it was their otherworldly dragonfly appearance. In any case, Henry was hooked. Nothing, but nothing would get in the way of his dream to become a commercial helicopter pilot.

Unless you enter the military, the road to becoming a commercial helicopter pilot is long, arduous, and expensive. You start out with several years of study along with group and private lessons in a small training helicopter, typically a venerable Robinson R22. Henry paid his dues. Once he gained enough experience and flying hours, he entered a flight instructor training program, another grueling multi-year journey. He got private students of his own, learned the nuances of wind, weather, and instrumentation, and logged valuable flying hours in all kinds of weather conditions. Henry's big break came three years ago when he landed a job in Juneau, Alaska, giving helicopter tours of Alaska's breathtaking glaciers and mountains in a large, gas turbine powered AStar Eurocopter.

Today, Henry flies a honking big blue air ambulance helicopter for an emergency medical service in mid-state New York. It is very close in size and appearance to this one.

With its huge rotors and powerful twin jet engines, this chopper is a far cry from the diminutive Robinson R22 that Henry learned on. One of the most impressive items on his helicopter is the instrument panel, a dizzying assortment of knobs, dials, meters, radios, and navigation systems. It looks a lot like this one.

Here's the Google AdWords part

So what does all this have to do with Google AdWords, you ask? Google AdWords is a lot like this huge, powerful helicopter that Henry flies. In the right hands, it can do amazing things and take you to places you've never otherwise get to. In the wrong hands, you'll spend a ton of money operating it and you'll barely get the thing off the ground. Minute-by-minute, click-by-click, conversion-by-conversion, Google makes a ton of money off of AdWords. In the fourth quarter of 2012, their revenue was $ 14.42 Billion dollars. That's Billion with a "B". Out of this tidy little revenue stream, about 62% of earnings comes from money spent on advertising, or what what Google likes to call Pay-Per-Click (PPC). With this kind of money coming in the door quarter after quarter, clearly something is working here for both Google and probably their advertising customers.

If you're trying to fly the Google AdWords helicopter yourself, you're in for an interesting and probably bumpy ride. Many of my customers and prospects have told me flat out that AdWords does not work, it's just a big waste of time. Why? Because they tried it for themselves, so they are damn certain that it does not work. Their summer intern set up the program. Or the CEO's niece did it. And these kids are no slouches. So … let me get this story straight. Google made $ 14.42 Billion dollars last quarter selling digital snake oil that simply does not work? You can sell snake oil to a naive customer once, but I seriously think that Google built their empire on this shady value proposition.

Obviously something else is going on here. Those customers that failed to get their Google helicopter off the ground fell into the classic AdWords trap. They thought they were using a toy radio controlled helicopter that could be blown by just about anyone. What they were actually using was a full-blown, jet-propelled commercial helicopter, complete with on-board radar and sophisticated global positioning and navigation. To make matters worse, most other commercial AdWords choppers are flown by some really experienced and talented pilots, just like Henry. They have training and real-world experience. And Henry can fly rings around your dinky toy helicopter. Not to mention that the AdWords airspace is really, really crowded. Like some big swarm of mosquitoes going after some fresh meat, every advertiser is trying really hard to get the best ad placement on page one, just so they can leave all their competitors behind.

You can travel great distances with AdWords. Once you unlock its secrets, you can do some incredibly heavy lifting with it and not even break a sweat. But you're not going to do this with a few hours of reading and a few weeks of experience. Underneath the deceptively simple AdWords dashboard interface lies an array of knobs, switches, graphs, and meters that rivals a helicopter control panel. So here's some advice. Take a break. Give your niece a nice sendoff party and wish her well on her way back to college. And let the pros fly your AdWords helicopter for you. In the right hands, they can take your business places you'd never get to and help it to soar to new heights. Really.

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