We’re all paying a Google tax. It has a monopoly, or near enough, in online search around the world. Some countries want to enforce fair competition but the juggernaut, based in the US, ploughs on. Alphabet Inc, created through a corporate restructuring of Google in 2015, posted revenue of $136.8bn in 2018.

Google built and cornered the market in online ad space to become the internet’s landlord. Businesses pay to bid against each other to buy traffic from Google, and because its revenue model is built on both direct marketing and an auction, it keeps a chunky margin from many industries.

Meanwhile it’s made it harder for sites to be found, so that new web companies are harder to fund and build. The monopoly is blocking the market’s ability to respond to the needs of consumers, creating distortions or even a bubble. Just look at how much the average dental practice is spending on online marketing.

Among our clients it’s £2,500 a month. Small practices might spend £500 but others spend over £5,000. It was totally different 10 years ago. Ad spend has increased as competition has increased, and marketing budgets have shifted from print and radio to online, not always wisely. You could do a lot of traditional PR with a budget of £2,500 per month.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be spending generously on online marketing, but the key point is not to spend sloppily. There is a danger, as with any fashion, of following the herd and not really understanding why. For instance, if you have a small budget you could target longer tail phrases that are easier to rank well in. With social advertising you can gain exposure with a modest budget by using the correct filters and targeting a mile radius with very specific search criteria, such as implants targeting 50 to 60-year-olds.

Online search is hyper targeted and fully trackable, that’s its big advantage. But be careful. Don’t allow you practice to be one of the ones paying for unnecessary wastage within their campaigns. You can spend carefully and still get great exposure for the right target audience rather than go in gung ho and target everyone.

When we pitch for business we critically look at what they’re doing and identify all the gaps, because online marketing needs to be efficient and well run these days if your business is going to be competitive. Of course, many practice managers are doing the job of business managers and don’t have time to read online marketing reports, never mind direct campaigns.

That’s fine, even small practices with low budgets can get decent results — one of our clients has had a low budget for years but our highly localised strategy has helped her rank first for all dental search terms in her village. A client in a city centre that we began working with six months ago (with a bigger budget) wasn’t ranking in the top 15 for ortho phrases, but is now first for a lot of those. The owner has invested heavily for four days SEO a month, at £650 a day. He’s doing everything: SEO, PPC and social advertising, so that social ads generate leads through Facebook and Instagram, and some of those are retargeting users when they first visit the site. For users who are browsing lots of sites, this is a great way to ensure he’s the stickiest.

Is your Google tax doing everything it should for you? Let us know if you’d like a review of your online marketing to find out.

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Stewart Roode

“Don’t pay for unnecessary wastage within your campaigns”

Stewart Roode, PPC director

Author: Stewart Roode