September 9, 2005
“Wow! So you and I are playing poker but you get to see my cards?”
Google Employees have their own AdWords and AdSense accounts… and they have access to yours. Shouldn’t you be a little bit concerned about that?
The Webmaster World forum went into spontaneous combustion the other day when a Google employee disclosed that Googlers are allowed to have their own AdWords accounts – ‘but not to worry, Google keeps an close eye on ‘em to make sure they don’t do anything unethical.’
The guy actually said this:
By policy, AdWords employees may certainly have AdWords accounts. Please rest assured, however, that they are thoroughly monitored and governed by a list of requirements as long as your arm – designed to ensure no conflict of interest.
It is perhaps worth noting that everyone concerned with AdWords, whether an engineer working behind the scenes, or the person that answers your email, is actually encouraged to have a small AdWords account. The purpose of this is to make sure that everyone who works on AdWords knows exactly what it feels like to be an AdWords advertiser.
Bottom line: Many Googlers have AdWords account. IMO, It’s a good thing, and it certainly is no secret. I can understand why this is concern to some of you, and I can also say with a great deal of confidence that you may rest easy.
The most angry people of all are people playing the “Google Cash” game, driving traffic directly to affiliate sites and profiting from the difference between commissions and clicks. The issue there is that only one advertiser’s ads can be shown for one particular URL, and Google’s ad rank formula is murky. So a Google employee could scoop you by knowing more about Google’s algorithm than you do.
Is it a good thing for Google employees to have AdWords accounts?
Can Google employees use insider knowledge to compete with you?
What’s interesting to me is that people are actually surprised about this, as though they’d never thought about it before. What, it never occurred to you that the friendly Google AdWords employee on the other end might see what you’re doing, go home and set up an account in his mother’s name and compete with you?
To Google’s credit, the company has managed to have such a darling reputation in the world (“Don’t Be Evil” and all that), people somehow think Google and Google employees are more righteous than other companies and other people. That is beginning to change, by the way, as people realize Google is here to stay, and like Microsoft, wield immense power that can be easily abused.
But anyway, back to the subject at hand.
This is nothing new. If you’re a Google advertiser, then Google is your vendor. And vendors always know things about your business that others don’t. Consider newspaper advertising: If a true direct response advertiser runs the same ad in the newspaper month after month after month, that’s because it’s working. The advertising sales person at the newspaper can buy advertising too, possibly even at a discount. Ain’t nothin’ to keep him from setting up an identical mail-order business and going into competition with his customer.
Or let’s say you’re a manufacturer of MP3 players. Somebody buys the units from you for $20 and sells them for $89.95. You know he’s making a huge markup. Do you have insider knowledge of his business? Of course you do.
That exists in every industry.
And you don’t have to be an employee at a vendor to figure this kind of stuff out. You just have to keep your eyes and ears open. You see the same direct response advertisement running in the newspaper or on the Internet for several months, you know it’s working for somebody. Observant people always pay attention to what’s working for other people.
I have a friend named Brad who used to work at the rail yards in Western Nebraska. He would watch huge trains pass through the switchyard on their way from one coast to another, full of commodities like corn and soybeans and coal. One day he realized that just by watching the flow of commodities in the rail yard from day to day, he could figure out what the fat cats were doing on the futures markets. He used this “insider information” to buy futures and make money.
Most people see trains. Brad sees money changing hands. That’s the difference between a clock puncher and a businessman. And I can guarantee you, most Google employees are employees just like at any other company (plus they like the lunches served up in the employee cafeteria by Jerry Garcia’s chef, and they like to go to cocktail parties and hear the “ooohs” and “aaahs” when they tell people they work at Google) and believe me, at five o’clock, they’re TIRED OF LOOKING AT GOOGLE ADWORDS ACCOUNTS and they don’t want to think about it for a single minute after they go home.
They’re not obsessed with their Google AdWords accounts like you are.
Now all that may be true, but it’s not my point. Here’s my real point:
If you have a business where ONE single piece of information (a low price, a click thru rate, a special supplier, a piece of ad copy, the name of a major customer, or whatever) which, if possessed by someone else could destroy your business, then you have a very, very fragile business.
And if you don’t do something about it, you will wake up one day with NO business and wonder what happened.
I have a student in my personal AdWords coaching group who went from $50,000 per month in May to $85,000 a month in August. One of the keys to her success is that her #1 keyword has a 31.5% Click Thru Rate. Now is that great or what?
It’s superb, and it’s a testament to the tremendous power of Kaizen continuous improvement and good coaching. But that also means she’s vulnerable. And my #1 advice to her earlier this week was to diversify her traffic sources as much as possible so that if something goes wrong on the Google end, she’s not hung out to dry.
Let’s talk about Google Cash and affiliate marketing again for a minute.
I’ve said many times that the first time I saw Chris Carpenter’s Google Cash book I thought it was the nuttiest thing I’d seen, but over time began to see the genius of it. And I still think it’s ingenious, and I have a LOT of customers who use it to make their car payment every month. I’ve even got some customers who’ve used it to buy a Mercedes or two. I’ve certainly made money with it.
But as the people point out on the forums, a Google Cash business is highly vulnerable to replication by a rogue Google employee. Or by a highly observant person who pays attention to Google ads out there in cyberspace. Which is why I taught in my Google drops the hammer on affiliates call that, long term, you need to become a value added affiliate.
But really, it goes still deeper than that. If you want to insulate yourself from competition, you need to have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that clearly shows why people should do business with you over anyone and everyone else. And your USP needs to be based on a combination of things that are, collectively, difficult for others to quickly and easily replicate.
If you have a strong USP, you’re not terribly concerned about things like competitors’ prices, or what Google employees know about your business. If the uniqueness of your entire business, on the other hand, is the fact that you know how to do Google AdWords better than everyone else – well, that’s a nice advantage, one that’s my job to teach. But I wouldn’t bet my kids’ entire college education on that one advantage.
That’s why in my coaching programs we only spend maybe 25% of our time talking about Google. The rest of the time is spent on tracking and testing, copywriting, positioning, USP, email, autoresponders, offline markeitng, pricing strategy, back-end sales, up-sells, cross-sells and joint ventures. You don’t have to have all of those things, of course, but three or four of them makes for a MUCH stronger, healthier business.
That’s the whole premise of my Toe Hold -> Foot Hold -> Strangle Hold strategy. If you have something that’s working, then the clock is ticking – your job is to secure your position by improving your conversion rates, advertising in more channels (both online and offline), and putting down a system of roots so that when the inevitable hurricane comes along, your tree is still standing while all the other ones are pulled out, with their ugly roots sticking up in the air.
To your success,
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