I admire Google. I won’t go as far as to say I love them- far from it- but I sure as heck admire them. They’ve got a great combination of devil-may-care pluck coupled with an underlying business shrewdness that is emblematic of US business at its finest. The Gang from Mountain View have displayed these qualities in spades with their latest endeavor, Google Adwords Business Credit. On Sunday Google announced that the new program, which is targeted to small businesses (SMBs represent the majority of AdWords users), will go live today in the UK and roll out to US businesses in the coming weeks.

So what gives? Why is Google offering this innovative resource for SMBs? Here’s an excerpt from their blog post announcing the program:

“Small business owners are used to being pressed: for resources, for time, and especially for credit. Juggling expenses across different credit cards and managing seasonal business spikes and valleys doesn’t leave much room for other spending, like investing in a new oven at a pizzeria or treating a great customer to dinner”

Or spending a bunch of dough on Google AdWords.

THE NITTY GRITTY

Here are the details, taken from Google’s blog:

  • In the UK, AdWords Business Credit will have a representative APR of 11.99%; in the US, APRs will be “as low as” 8.99% (There is an asterisk after this 2nd number: *Depending on creditworthiness, rates range from 8.99% to 18.99%).
  • Neither card will have annual fees, and they will both have “an ample credit limit” for AdWords (I bet they will).
  • Cards in the UK will be underwritten by Barclays (that’s a relief; I was worried they might settle on some shady bank currently under criminal investigation for widespread fraud abuses.
  • Cards in the US will be underwritten by Comenity Capital Bank (who?); both are MasterCards
  • AdWords Business Credit cards can only be used for purchase of Google AdWords credits (so you can’t use the card to finance your next “business” trip to Mexico).

Apparently, Google’s been working on this idea for some time now. They launched a pilot program of AdWords Business last July in the US with over 1400 companies participating. In a survey conducted after the pilot launched, 74% of respondents said they now use AdWords Business Credit as their primary form (my emphasis) of AdWords payment.

I guess simplifying the path to the sale really works after all.

ONE FOR ME, ONE FOR ME

So let me get this straight. They make money on the sale of the ad, and they make more money on the interest from the sale of the ad? Bravo, Google, bravo.

Moreover, if a company defaults on their AdWords Business Credit payments, what is Google really out, but perhaps some opportunity cost in that they could’ve theoretically sold those ad slots to some other business. Given the size and scope of the Internet, though, this is hardly an overwhelming risk.

Big money aside, Google may be rolling out AdWords Credits partly out of concern over recent trend suggesting a slow decline in paid search usage by B2B companies as businesses shift resources into online content marketing. I wouldn’t read too much into this as a primary motivation, though, especially considering Google has spearheaded the movement toward fresh and original content to feed its ever-growing semantic search engine.

As with many of Google initiatives, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, to praise their brilliant innovation or criticize their wonton overreach. In a way, I suppose it doesn’t matter; Google has become far bigger than any petty opinion can circumscribe.

It is for this reason, and many others, that I suggest you keep an eye on them.