When I started my web hosting business back in the year 2000, I had already had seven years of experience in the IT field - creating, selling, and supporting business-oriented software. By that time, life had already taught me that all I had to do was achieve excellence in whatever I was doing.
In business, I was trying to achieve excellence by carefully studying what people need, then by creating solutions sold by fair and transparent terms, and last but not least in importance - by providing swift and reliable support for my customers, thus keeping them happy as long as possible. I applied this to my new hosting business as well, and the result exceeded my expectations – ICDSoft was a definite success. The word-of-mouth phenomenon was working so well that we did not advertise at all; our customer base grew from zero to 80,000 without a single penny spent on ads.
I am aware of the fact that our competitors were and still are spending heavily on advertising, and this is allowing them to grow constantly, but my goal has always been quality and not numbers. Moreover, I have my own philosophy about the size of my team not exceeding 50 people, and this logically sets a limit of our customer base for the sake of quality. That’s why I am OK with the fact that we would stay small, and the term “a boutique hosting company” does not insult me at all.
As we provide service to businesses and people, and these businesses and people do not last forever, it is normal that we have to attract new customers constantly to be able to keep a steady customer base. Despite the fact that we are improving our services every single day, 19 years in a row now, the number of our new sales started to diminish somewhere in 2012. This didn’t bother me at all. I knew that we were attracting fewer new customers not because there was something wrong on our side, but because we did not advertise at all, while others were going crazy about luring new customers. However, now and then, we are still profitable. During all these years I was hearing that other companies were heavily advertising on Google, willing to spend more than a dollar per click. This is not just crazy, this is insane!
One day I noticed that when I search for “icdsoft” on Google, ads of other hosting companies appeared on the top of the results. I found that very strange, and I asked Google for explanation. The answer from them stated that it was not forbidden for other companies to use our name as a paid keyword, despite the fact that it is a registered trademark. They even advised me to do the same with the names of other hosting companies. No, thanks! This goes against my principles, and I will never ever accept such conduct as normal.
Recently, I had to take my first steps in marketing. The feeling is weird – I have created a successful business that has been profitable for many years without any marketing, but the World has changed and I have to adapt. I created a Google Ads account, poured some money into it, and had to set keywords. Several dollars per click if I want people to find my company when they search for “web hosting”! Well, NO, thanks! This sounds like me doing free labor for Google. I asked my colleagues to find someone who is familiar with Google Ads. So I met with two guys - very young, but with solid experience with Google marketing. We had a nice talk in my office, and my 6th sense told these guys knew what they were doing. That’s why I hired their company to conduct our Google campaigns. It turned out that they really know how to do this job, and I was curious to look under the hood of our Google Ads campaign. What I saw really shocked me – instead of creating a normal ad text with a few keywords associated, they created over 300 different ad texts. Needless to say, many of these combinations sounded quite stupid to me, as if they were created by a moronic AI. However, the campaign results revealed that more people were attracted exactly by such stupid-text-ads, simply because the ingenious Google technology liked them more. That's why the Google Ads gurus came up exactly with these texts – as to please God Google. Examining further the campaign, I bumped into a number of stupidities that were actually working. This reminded me of the “Simon says” game. This old game resurrects as a “Google says”: Google says “use your competitor's name as an ad term” and people do it, Google says “Bid 5 dollars per click if you want to sell a $1 ice cream” and people do it, Google says “Pay or get lost”, and people pay before they get lost...
What amuses me is that people still p(l)ay it despite the fact it is already obvious that there is only one winner in this game: Google. What else amuses me is that companies have to spend more effort on pleasing God Google than on actually improving their own products. When you pay $100 for a product, half goes to Google for your click, and the other half is to pay for the time of the people who had to please God Google to make sure you will click on that ad. Think about what is left for the value of the product you will get for your money. Finally, what amuses me most is the fact that this whole thing still stands tall and hasn’t collapsed yet. I had no choice but to advise the ad gurus to lower our Google Ads budget to a minimum, as this works neither for me, nor for my customers, nor even for my competitors. Businesses and consumers have to realize that what stands between them does not work for them anymore.
Don't get me wrong: Google is a great achievement, and it changed our life for the better, by helping us find, communicate, translate, and share. However, folks who run it have to understand that they have to take seriously the great responsibility that comes along with the great power – to make sure they will not deviate the way our civilization trades into something that works against interests of both consumers and sellers. For now, whenever I need to buy something, I will not click on sponsored results, as I do not want to sponsor any unfair trade practices.