Ann Arbor Area BUSINESS MONTHLY magazine brings the reader the latest business news and information important to the businesspeople in Washtenaw County. Each month articles cover real estate, legal, Internet, employee concerns and the climate of business in the greater Ann Arbor area. There is news about company employees and feature articles on local businesses. We cover business news from Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, Milan, Saline, Whitmore Lake, and Ypsilanti.
Google's AdWords The Driving
Force For Huge Growth
New Ann Arbor Sales Office Holds Grand Opening
Governor Granholm and Grady Burnett, head of online sales and operations for Google, welcomes guests and 'Googlers' to the grand opening celebration of the new Google AdWords sales office. Photo by Bryant Toy.
By Chris Balas
When Linda Girard started her search engine marketing business Pure Visibility back in 1997, she began with a vision and a hunch. Knowing Internet marketing was going to be a hot enterprise, she shrugged off skeptical friends and family members and went to work on her own learning what search marketing was all about through online forums with others like her, exploring different avenues that would lead her down her path to success.
What she didn't know was that 10 years later, the company that helped get her there would be moving in down the street. After using Google's AdWords product as a primary tool to satisfy several of her clients, Girard was all too pleased to officially welcome Google to Ann Arbor when the online giant officially opened its office in downtown Ann Arbor with a May 17 open house.
"Google changed my life... it's because of Google we're in business," said Girard, joining Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Debbie Dingell, wife of Rep. John Dingell, and several others in the celebration. "Google AdWords is a phenomenal service. It's changed lives of many other businesses. I can testify to that through my clients, though watching them grow based on what's happening through AdWords.
"AdWords is a large piece of the internet marketing strategy we build for our clients. When you think about how much market share Google has, and how many searches are done online... 54 percent, according to the Nielsen ratings last month." Companies like Pure Visibility, as well as retailers like Ann Arbor-based AmishTables.com, another beneficiary of the expanding Internet marketing universe, are big reasons why Google continues to thrive.
Now 100 employees strong in Ann Arbor, the company, Fortune Magazine's No. 1 place to work due to its emphasis on taking work seriously, but not taking themselves too seriously (evident in everything from the bright color scheme to hammocks and bean bag chairs in cubicles to a company massage room) plans to be 10 times that within five years.
After starting in a temporary office with cubicles in the hallways, Google is expected to occupy 80,000 square feet, or about 70 percent of the McKinley Towne Centre, by early fall, according to reports, turning an old bank headquarters with private offices into a completely revamped, open structure decorated in red, yellow, blue and green. Its arrival comes at the right time, easing the sting a bit from the loss of drugmaker Pfizer Inc., which in January announced plans to close its Ann Arbor research and development center. Recruiting good people, meanwhile, continues to be a priority. While Michigan's economy continues to struggle under the cloud hovering over a sagging automotive industry, Google's opening signifies a step in the right direction. Employees are hired from a variety of disciplines, many holding education or liberal arts degrees.
"Google is perhaps the most obvious example of what we are trying to build as we shape the next Michigan," said Granholm. "We love the Michigan that has been, and is. We love our auto industry. But we also know we've got to enlarge this economy, and by enlarging it you want to move into sectors you know can really excel at; that will create jobs that will keep young people here.
"We don't want you all going to Chicago, San Francisco or Boston!" she added, pointing at the labor force seated in the back of the room.
Instead, with Google's arrival in Ann Arbor, it's been just the opposite. While the majority of the company's new employees came from southeast Michigan - and more undoubtedly will follow - employees already hail from all over the country, one from Poland, even. The driving force behind the growth is AdWords, started in 2000 and growing annually.
With AdWords, Google advertisers specify the words that, when typed into the search engine (at www.google.com), they believe will lead people to their ads, and determine the amount of money they are willing to pay when people click on their ads. When an Internet user searches Google's search engine, ads are shown as a "sponsored link" to the right of the search results, sometimes above the main search results.
Where the ad shows up depends on how much an advertiser is willing to pay for premium placement. Google calculates how much advertisers pay for clicks, whether ads are eligible to compete with others for placement and an ad's rank in the "auction" for keywords, then evaluates all keywords to assign a minimum cost per click bid. If the keyword's bid meets or exceeds it, the ad is eligible to run.
Account management, meanwhile, is made easier with AdWords Editor, which allows clients to easily make changes and upload their revised ads, copy and paste keywords and ad text and circulate proposed changes. The entire package differs from offline advertising in that an advertiser is only going to pay for ad when someone does a search of one of the terms they have determined, sees the ad, clicks on the ad and visits the advertiser's website. And because it's self-managed, advertisers have plenty of flexibility in how much they want to pay.
Google's Grady Burnett, a standout tennis player for the University of Michigan in the mid-1990s and a U-M graduate, now head of online sales and operations in Ann Arbor, said the vast majority of employees at the new facility, now and in the future, would ultimately work customer service, account management and sales with the AdWords product. "That's the primary revenue provider for Google strategy search, ads and (applications), and AdWords is driving most of that," said Burnett. "We're supporting customers all over the country in all different industries, working with those customers, answering their questions, helping them get a better return on their investments and their marketing dollars.
"Some of our employees will be in sales finding new customers, then passing to account managers who will grow those relationships. Other people will play more proactive roles, some more reactive, answering customer questions and concerns, reactively addressing those. But almost exclusively it will be proactively working with customers, building relationships, helping people understand our products and introducing new ones to them." Recruiting, human resources, facilities jobs and others will round out the staff. All employees will be involved in a great growth opportunity, Burnett promised. "There's a lot of opportunity to challenge yourself and take on relationships with larger and larger customers, maybe be an expert for a new product we launch," he said. "As we grow, hopefully we'll continue to support other products as well."
One, Google Checkout, is already up and running. Google Checkout is a fast, convenient checkout process that complements an existing online business. Customers who use Checkout can buy from merchants quickly and securely using a single username and password and can use Checkout to process their orders and charge their credit or debit cards. Consumers can quickly and easily buy from stores across the web and track all their orders and shipping in one place, with fraud protection policy coverage against any unauthorized purchases made.
Other applications - appropriately named Google Apps - offer free services to both individuals and merchants, and from small businesses to universities and large enterprise. Google's free, well-known e-mail product, called Gmail, offers several GB of e-mail storage free to anyone who wants it, a huge benefit to companies looking to cut expenses.
Eight years ago, firms in need of their own company-wide e-mail might have had to purchase their own servers for multiple thousands of dollars, buy all the software (such as antivirus) and keep it upgraded and patched, requiring some sort of expertise to install and maintain it. Today, Google provides it free through its standard edition of Google Apps; or for a nominal annual fee per user, a premium edition is offered, complete with support.
Other applications allow for home pages with personalized computer "dashboards," in which calendars, weather, realtime satellite shots , etc., are only a click on the desktop away. Other applications include mail search tools with integrated chat, allowing users to contact one another immediately, sharable calendars to schedule meetings and company events and Google Docs and Spreadsheets that allow users to create, store, and collaborate on documents in real time.
Access to Google Apps and partner technologies to integrate with existing IT solutions and 24/7 assistance, including phone support, is available in the Premier Edition. For merchants, Google Analytics, another free service for advertisers, answers the questions, "how are people finding my web site, how are they getting here and how are they abandoning it?" It tracks "bounce rates" (how many Internet surfers are visiting one page of a site and leaving), new users, average time spent on a site and more, helping the merchant optimize performance.
These and all other aspects of Google's business continue to grow as more and more companies evolve with an online presence. Paid clicks on the ads within Google's vast network reportedly increased 52 percent in the first quarter over a year ago, and in April Google reported quarterly earnings of $1 billion, up from $592 million in the same period last year. The AdWords business last year generated $3.4 billion for Google, or 55% of its total revenue.
As big as the business has become, however, it hasn't lost its small company charm. Employees are treated to free gourmet lunches, a cafeteria stocked with goodies and - coming soon - gyms and exercise rooms to help counter the calories. Cubicles are decorated any and every way, some with shrines to the Detroit Red Wings, others to meet a predetermined theme in a decorating contest. Conference rooms, meanwhile, are named after Michigan cities and are decorated with photos and symbols of those cities, including towns like Munising and Houghton. When officials in these towns learn of the honor, many contribute trinkets of their cultures to help decorate.
Google's presence in Ann Arbor, meanwhile, has been met with open arms, evidenced by the reception it received at its May 17 open house. But even those most familiar with the town and its culture have been blown away by the beginning of what promises to be a beautiful friendship.
"I expected this in coming to this community to some degree, coming from the Midwest hospitality and getting that with my family," said Burnett. "But the reception we've gotten from the community has been astounding."