Google sent me mail today. Real mail. Actual paper in an envelope with my home address kind of mail. It was sent from ‘Google New Zealand’, which is actually Google Ireland Limited and, of course, sent from Switzerland.
The reason ‘Google New Zealand’ is actually Google Ireland Limited (based in Switzerland) has made the headlines recently. Dubbed the “double Irish” and “Dutch sandwich” tax avoidance scheme, Google avoided about US$2 billion in worldwide income taxes last year by moving $9.8 billion in revenue into tax havens. Despite making an estimated AU$1 billion in advertising revenue from their Australia and New Zealand AdWords and AdSense advertising platforms last year, ‘Google New Zealand’ posted a financial loss. By deviously booking their Australian and New Zealand search ads through the tax haven of Ireland, ‘Google New Zealand’ has drastically reduced its local tax liability, to the point of being morally criminal.
Now, back to my mail from Google New Zealand aka Google Ireland in Switzerland. It was from their AdWords advertising platform which I occasionally use when clients request it. As a search engine optimisation (SEO) specialist I never advocate for Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising over organic SEO – the economics and return on investment (ROI) just don’t add up. But every now and then, like when a client wants to be seen immediately online, I cave in and let them have their way.
Here’s where the lies start to set in, and they are starting to be a daily occurrence from the overlords at Google. The letter reads as follows:
Hello from Google,
Since you started using AdWords, your ads have appeared 567,954 times and have sent 745 visitors to your website*
People are still searching for businesses like yours but recently your ads have not been attracting customers. This could mean you’re missing out on potential business.
To get you back on track, there’s an AdWords expert available on 0800-726230. On your free call, we’ll help you select effective keywords, write ads that attract customers and create a daily budget that’s right for your business.
We want your ads to get customers to your website, and we’re here to help. So give us a call and lets get your ads back working.
See you online,
The Google AdWords Team.
*Data was correct at time of print
I have to say I laughed out loud when I read it. Apart from being a blatant attempt to extract more tax-free money out of my client, the inaccuracies of the figures were staggering. A quick log-in to the associated AdWords campaign page shows that Google had inflated my clients newly created AdWords figures enormously. Google had inflated the number of visitors attributed to the campaign by 83 times and the number of impression attributed to the campaign by a whopping 330 times!
With a small niche website that has only just launched, the total number of visitors that have ever been to her site, by any means, is less than the the total number of visitors that Google claims to have referred to her site via the AdWords campaign. Moreover, the reason behind this letter become clear when you realise that the only recent change in this campaign has been a lowering of the daily budget and a lowering of the maximum bid per click (clients often freak out when they realise that they are paying upwards of $12 per click and most of those clicks are staying on their website for 0.00 seconds). Google freak out when you start to spend less money with them, clients freak out when they realise how much money Google really costs.
An honest mistake by Google? I think not – I’ve never actually seen them get their numbers right. For instance, as a daily user of Google Analytics I have come realise that Google likes to lie about clicks. It is a painstaking task to tell a client that their historical data has changed, e.g. those 200 extra clicks you had on the second Tuesday of last month has suddenly disappeared and you now have less total clicks than you had last month. That’s right, Google either lied about you getting those clicks in the first place or lied about you not getting them. It would actually work better for everyone if they picked a lie and stuck with it – it would be harder to catch them out that way.
And to top things off, when you call ‘Lisa Smith your dedicated AdWords specialist in Auckland, New Zealand’ on the toll-free number (previous mail correspondence), it’s really Suryaprakash Chatterjee in Mumbai, India (do they train them to lie about the local weather or is that just an added bonus: ‘It’s a beautifully sunny day in Auckland today,’ says Suryaprakash as I stare out the window at the thumping rain). It seems that clicks aren’t the only thing that Google likes to hide.
I’m not at all surprised that Google ‘lies’ about their income to avoid tax. From a company that has a slogan of ‘Don’t be evil’ they do a remarkably good job of being VERY evil. As the backlash against Google grows from their collection of mass amounts of YOUR private data (they even know when you had your last date – I’m not kidding), people will realise that it’s not a very good idea to trust this company with this information. Google started out as a search engine, morphed into a spam engine and now is just an aggressive advertising platform that holds a virtual monopoly in many countries. (Ever tried to launch a PPC in Bing from New Zealand? You can’t.)
As I place the junk mail in its rightful place (the recycling bin), I stroll back to my desk and type the search ‘how to build a search engine’ into DuckDuckGo. Yes, in case you haven’t realised there are less evil search engines out there.