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Google Ads Changes Affecting Small Businesses

Google Ads Changes Affecting Small Businesses

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch on Changes to Google Ads

Google has recently made some drastic changes to their ads program—starting with a name change, from Google AdWords to Google Ads. Some of the changes are technical, like tweaks to the interface. Others represent fundamental shifts in the way Google views advertising. These will affect more than just your Google advertising efforts, but also how you approach other marketing tactics, SEO, and content.

Google is the dominant force in online advertising, so you can’t afford to ignore what they’re doing. Here, I’ll walk you through the most important changes and new features that small business owners need to be aware of.

Goodbye, AdWords

The biggest change is that we have known the primary Google ad tool as AdWords. Now, they’ve dropped Words, and it is just Google Ads. This is more than just a technicality, I think it signals a fundamental shift in the way they’re viewing advertising.

When Google originally launched their ad product, advertising was all about keywords, but times have changed. Google is so much more than just a search engine at this point, and the change in name reflects their omnipresence on the web.

The new name indicates a move towards a more comprehensive approach, one that will incorporate machine learning and behavioral tracking to better understand the true intent behind people’s actions online.

Google Ads on Your Desktop

One of the other significant changes small business marketers will see is that there is now an application you can download to your desktop: AdWords Editor.

Similar to the Facebook editor, the idea here is that you can now download your campaigns, work on them offline, and then upload them again. This means that you’re not stuck sitting on the platform the entire time, and can now get more work done if you’re offline and on the move.

Google Sheets Integration

If you’re not already familiar with Google Sheets, it’s essentially a free, online version of Microsoft Excel. The integration with the new ads program allows you to pull reporting from Google Ads and into Google Sheets.

Doing so allows you greater flexibility in parsing the data. You can filter by your own criteria, create reports, and track data more easily. This will be particularly useful for agencies or consultants who need to create reports for multiple clients.

New Comprehensive Campaigns

With their new advertising program, Google is providing additional support to small business advertisers, allowing those who don’t have the time or energy to create their own campaigns to leave that all in Google’s hands.

The skeptic in me feels that there is a tradeoff between convenience and value. They make it very easy for you to give them a budget and they’ll do the legwork, but you’re also handing over control and the appropriate measures to monitor and adjust how that money is spent. Without visibility into what’s actually being done to market your business, how can you understand how to get better results in the future?

  • Google Local SearchLocal Ads: Google allows you to create one campaign that will propagate against search, maps, places, pages, display, and even YouTube. This means you only have to design one campaign to be used across all of their many platforms, while Google makes the decisions about how to best tailor the approach in each place.
  • Lead Ads: A new unit on YouTube, Lead Ads allows you to collect an email address through an ad message. This is similar to Facebook’s Lead Ads, which have been around for a while.
  • Responsive Search Ads: You create a pool of headlines and descriptions, and Google tests each of those possible combinations to determine which is most successful. Depending on how many concepts you create, you can end up with thousands of possible combinations—it’s A/B testing in hyperdrive. This is designed to help you lift click-through and conversion rates significantly.

Responsive Search Ads

What About Organic Search?

While these new campaigns are great for those who are taking advantage of the Google Ads platform, what about those marketers or small business owners who are putting all of their faith in the power of organic search?

These new ads will drive up conversion rates, as Google continues to do the analytics on what makes the most successful campaigns for its paid advertisers. In addition to being successful, these ads are also huge. They still contain extensions, and so they are going to take over. This will only serve to force organic results further and further down the page. Those users searching on a mobile device will have to scroll for a very long time before hitting the first organic result.

The message here for small business marketers is that you can’t ignore Google Ads. You still need to have a comprehensive marketing system with other tactics, including social media and content, as a means to get into organic search. But at the same time, you can’t ignore paid advertising.

Google Local Services Ads

The last item, which does not impact everyone yet, is Local Services Ads from Google. Formerly known as Home Service Ads, Local Services Ads are currently focused on tradespeople, technicians, and providers of other services to homeowners, with plans to expand to additional categories.

Business owners must apply to be in this program and become “Google Guaranteed,” which means that they’ll have to clear a background check and Google will provide a money-back guarantee to anyone unhappy with the company’s services.

Google Local Services Ad

This comes at a price: Google does not send users directly to a website when they click on this type of ad. Google uses a tracking phone number so that they’re able to see which leads are generated from these ads; the business owner is then charged for those leads. And rather than charging a nominal fee per click, Google will now ask for $25-$100 per lead, depending on category and competition, because they’ve delivered a verifiable lead.

This new approach allows Google to be fully involved in the lead generation process, which gives them valuable information about the way people are searching for services and also allows them to charge small business owners a greater fee than they would for pay-per-click advertising.

As we see advertising moving more towards a focus on intent, a shift that is powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence, we will see Google Ads encroach more and more in the search space. Google has created a system that encourages you to give them more of your ad budget, and while you certainly can’t ignore Google Ads as a part of your overall strategy, I would argue that there’s still great benefit in attending to your other marketing channels.

If you are struggling with managing the rapidly-changing online advertising landscape, Duct Tape Marketing can do an audit for you. Our Total Online Presence Audit is a comprehensive review of your assets online, including your ads. We can assess your strengths and weaknesses, and point you in the right direction.

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Facebook and Google Ads - The Keys to Small Business Paid Search

Facebook and Google Ads – The Keys to Small Business Paid Search

If you want to run a business today, you need to be advertising on Facebook and Google. These two tech giants dominate the online advertising market, and their reach is so incredibly broad (both have billions of users each month) that to leave them out of your strategy is to not have an online strategy at all.

However, if you take a look into how to approach advertising on these sites, you’ll find some conflicting opinions online. And of course the advertising approach for a large company is going to be very different from the one undertaken by a small business with a limited marketing budget.

Here, we’ll look at how to make Facebook and Google work best for you, the small business owner.

Determine Your Budget

Before you go off down the marketing rabbit hole, the first thing you need to do is set a realistic budget for yourself. It’s entirely possible to run an effective marketing campaign online with an outrageous spend, but you’ll need to understand what you’re willing and able to spend before you can develop an approach to using these tools effectively.

When you’re thinking about budget, it’s critical that you consider the budget for the year, not just month to month. Your online marketing campaign will not be successful if it comes in fits and starts—as one of our guest bloggers noted here, being a consistent presence online and in front of customers is a key component of building trust and driving conversions. That means that when you think about marketing budget, you need to think about your long game.

Have a Gameplan

After you’ve determined what you’re willing and able to spend, you’ll also want to set really clear objectives for your marketing campaign. Sure, you’re hoping to win more business, but how do you measure success? Number of conversions? Number of sales? Percentage of revenue growth?

Understanding what your expectations are for your marketing efforts will allow you to better understand the results of your campaign and refine your approach further in the future.

Understand Your Prospective Customers

Each small business is solving a unique problem, and therefore has their own unique cohort of prospective customers that could benefit from their good or service.

One of the key benefits to using Google and Facebook advertising is that they allow you to get really specific about the people who will see your advertising.

How to Find Your Audience on Facebook

I go into greater detail on this podcast about setting up your Facebook Business Manager account, but once you have that up and running there are a number of tools you’ll want to take advantage of to identify your most promising prospects.

  • Facebook Pixel is a line of code that you can install on your own company’s website. This code will allow you to track those who visit your site and send them targeted ads on Facebook based on their behavior. If someone’s already expressed interest in your business by visiting your website but hasn’t yet become a customer, you’ll want them to encounter you again on Facebook. The more consistently someone sees your brand across various channels, the more likely they’ll be to go and check you out in greater depth.
  • Creating lookalike audiences is another key component to optimizing your Facebook advertising. Facebook allows you to upload a list of your current customers, and then they generate a list of users who have similar attributes to those with whom you already do business.

How to Find Your Audience on Google

Google also provides business owners with a number of avenues to target specific users with their advertising.

  • Google Ads (formerly AdWords) allows you to target your ads by location and search words. There is some legwork you need to do up front to research the most effective keywords for your business. Putting in the time at the start to do the research phase correctly can result in really stellar results for your business and will get you the most bang for your advertising buck.
  • Google Local Services Ads are an important tool for tradesmen, technicians, or those who offer services to homeowners. Local Services Ads curates a list of providers of a particular service in a particular area (i.e. “electricians in San Francisco”). This puts your business front and center with those homeowners who are in immediate need of the service you provide. Your contact information is available, and so it’s a direct way to not only generate a lead but gain a new customer right on the spot.

Understand How to Best Use Each Platform

Facebook and Google both allow you to target your most promising prospects and to get detailed analytics about the success of your campaign, but there are some differences between advertising on the two sites, and so your approach to each should be unique.

Facebook’s ethos is all about creating community, so when someone searches for a business there, the first thing they see is how their friends are interacting with the brand. Once they head to the business’s page, they’re encouraged to invite their friends to “like” the page. The advertising is visually-driven, allowing you to paint a picture (literally) of what your business can do. The endorsements of friends and other Facebook users and the image-rich pages all allow you to present your business as one that’s trustworthy—you’ve earned the kudos of real people and you’re not afraid to share pictures and videos that show who your company really is.

Google’s paid search takes a different approach that’s more about immediacy. With a paid search ad, your company appears in line with results to a particular query. That means that if you’re a florist in San Diego, and someone is in desperate need of flowers in that geographical area, you can ensure you’re the first name they see when they type “florist near me” into their Google search. This allows you to become the immediate solution to their pressing issue. Google’s platform also incorporates ratings and reviews into some of its advertising (specifically as a part of Local Services Ads) and those with the highest ratings are often bumped up to the top of the results list. This means that reviews and trustworthiness are still a key component of the game on Google.

Two Advertising Tactics are Better Than One

While each platform has their own unique strengths, there is even more value in using the two together. Facebook cites a case study from the digital marketing technology firm Kenshoo, to illustrate this point. Kenshoo looked at Experian’s paid search approach and found that using Facebook and Google ads together helped to improve the overall effectiveness of their campaign.

Because users often turn to Facebook first and go there for personal recommendations from friends and other users, having advertising present on Facebook is a valuable first step to gaining a prospect’s attention. As I’ve noted before, 90 percent of consumers say they trust a recommendation from a friend or family member, and 70 percent say they trust a personal recommendation from any fellow consumer (even a stranger online).

In their case study, Kenshoo noted that when Experian advertised on both Facebook and Google, they saw a 19 percent increase in total conversions, while spending 10 percent less overall per acquisition. Using both platforms together allows you to get in front of prospects across multiple channels, build trust, and make the conversion.

Pay Attention to the Analytics and Pivot Accordingly

Both Google and Facebook ads provide you with a lot of information about how your ads are performing.

Do you have an ad that’s reaching the right people but isn’t resulting in leads or conversions? If you’ve put together an expensive television ad or print campaign that isn’t generating results, you’ve already spent the money and can’t take it all back.

Fortunately, with online advertising you’re able to quickly scrap ideas that aren’t successful and test out new approaches. And if you make tweaks to your advertising one step at a time, applying the principle of A/B testing, you’re able to see what change you’ve made that’s generating the most positive results from your audience. From there, you can hone in on that approach and expand it to other marketing and advertising efforts.

Facebook and Google ads are really great for small businesses because they’re a low risk and potentially high reward way to reach new customers. Both platforms make it easy to find those who are most likely to want to interact with your brand, which makes lead generation and conversion an easier task. And if you’re willing to go the extra mile and sort through the analytics that come back from your campaigns, you can use that information to further refine your approach in the future, thereby creating more and more effective advertising campaigns each time.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Advertising.

Small Business Guide to the Google Universe

The video above is a replay of a recent live webinar I conducted. Combined with the text below you should have a pretty good feel for how to use Google for small businesses.

While Google has a lot of different products and services, to me, the following are what truly make up Google’s Small Business Universe for marketers and small business owners:

These are all great tools to help you grow your small business, so I thought I’d dive into each of them to give you a better understanding of how to use them and how they can benefit you.

Google My Business

This tool is critical for local businesses. This is one of the top ways, if not the way, businesses are getting found in their local community, which is why I spend so much time talking and writing about this topic.

Google My Business

Google My Business and the 3-Pack (above) show up when a person does a search for a term that is clearly for a local business. Getting your business to show up in the maps listing, as seen above, is extremely important and a good goal to achieve for local businesses today. There are a lot of factors that go into this, but the first one to focus on is ensuring your Google My Business listing is accurate and well-optimized. To optimize the listing:

  • Claim the listing
  • Make sure you don’t have any duplicate listings (this is rather common with the various iterations this tool went through)
  • Select a specific category for your business (avoid being too general)
  • Ensure your name, address, and phone number (NAP) match the NAP on your website
  • Add images and videos
  • Put efforts together to help your business increase positive reviews on the listing (reviews are a huge ranking factor)

In addition to the tactics above, there are some things you can do on an ongoing basis to increase your chances of being found in the 3-Pack.

Google Posts

  • Respond to all reviews (both positive and negative) – Be sure to turn on notifications so that you are alerted when a new review has been posted so that you can respond promptly.
  • Use Google Posts – This is one of the newer features within the Google My Business listing and typically speaking, if Google really starts to pay attention to something, I’d recommend you spend time on it as well as it could imply that it will influence search rankings. This is one of those things. This new feature allows you to essentially showcase mini blog posts within the Google My Business listing that can be educational or promotional. It’s another area to really showcase your business.
  • Another thing to check frequently is making sure nobody is suggesting inaccurate edits to your listing, which people have the ability to do by clicking the Suggest an Edit feature in the public listing.
  • With the new messaging feature on mobile devices, people can actually text you now from the Google My Business listing (your number will never show publicly). This can be a great tool for businesses who are appointment-focused or need to respond to messages quickly.
  • You have the ability to set up your website as a tracking URL (UTM code) in the edit screen of your listing (it will still show as your URL when it’s public-facing). This allows you to clearly see where your marketing efforts are having an impact, where people are coming from, and so on. If you don’t create a tracking URL, and just put in your web address, all of that traffic in Google Analytics will say it came from Direct traffic and won’t segment out that it was from your listing, which I think is important information to have. By adding the UTM code, it will filter under the Organic traffic bucket, which is where it really belongs.

Google Search Console

This is another free tool that has actually been around for a while (formerly Webmaster Tools) and is one of the most important tools for you to use for your SEO efforts. Google has spent a lot of time in recent years to improve it which to me, is a sign it’s not going away anytime soon and is a significant tool for you to use.

This tool is your best source of data about where your traffic is coming from, how pages are ranking, and what people are searching for that actually lead them to your website (we used to be able to get that information in Google Analytics but are no longer able to).

They are currently in the process of releasing a new version of the tool, so right now you’ll spend a bit of time going back and forth between the old version and new, which isn’t a huge deal with how it’s set up, but it’s something to be aware of.

To set everything up, go to Google Search Console and:

  • Claim and verify your website (I’d recommend choosing the Google Analytics option in the instructions to do this)
  • Add your sitemap (if you use WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin is a great tool to submit a sitemap)
  • Check your messages – This is where Google will communicate with you about your website and any issues you’re experiencing (it may take a couple of days for the messages to populate). Google will actually be able to point out page crawl errors, HTML improvements, penalties, and if you’ve been hacked. It will also tell you how to fix all of these issues.
  • Integrate Google Search Console with Google Analytics (this will help you track goals and conversions). In Google Analytics, click Admin and then Property settings, you’ll see Search Console and it will give you the ability to add a Search Console.
  • Wait a few days (depending on your site, it may take some time for Google to crawl your site and gather the information needed).

This tool is also a great place to track the performance of your content and pages. You can:

  • Find keyword search rankings
  • Compare performance over time
  • Check out click through rate
  • Spot ranking opportunities
  • Find conversion opportunities

Google Ads

Google has recently changed the name from Google AdWords to Google Ads, and I think there are a couple of reasons why:

  • It’s more comprehensive than it used to be (it’s so much more than keywords now)
  • Advertising is now more about intent
  • Machine learning behavior and bots will dictate how advertising rolls out

How to Link Google Ads to Google Analytics

Link Google Ads and Analytics

The screenshot above is located in Google Analytics. Click Admin and scroll over to Property, where you’ll see AdWords linking (you can do this from Google Ads as well). I recommend integrating these tools because you want to know where your traffic is coming from and if it’s converting. It’s a great way to track your goals and get granular with your marketing.

New features in Google Ads

  • Local Ads (new campaign type)
    • Access by going to New Campaign
    • Local Campaign is focused on small local business and make it as easy as possible to run a campaign across various properties in the Google Universe
    • As a side note, see where it makes sense because it’ll be an easy way to spend all of your money at once.
  • Responsive Search Ad (new ad type)
    • Google does A/B testing for you and you’re able to input up to 15 headlines, 300 characters and 4 descriptions in the pool where they’ll mix up all the combinations (including extensions) and test on your behalf (leading to roughly 40K+ possible combinations) so that you know the ads give you the greatest opportunity for click-through rates.
    • These ads will essentially take over page one of Google (which is great for advertisers) and is something marketers should pay attention to.
    • These ads are currently in beta and aren’t showing up for everybody just yet (best practices aren’t currently in place in this beta phase either)
  • Local Service Ads from Google
    • This feature has been around for awhile but it is something that has been expanding rapidly. It is focused on a handful of home service businesses and if you’re one of these businesses, you need to be paying attention to these placements because they are dominating page one.
    • Reviews, proximity, responsiveness and how well your ad profile is optimized will contribute to your prominence in this space.
    • These ads are set up as cost per lead based on search term.
    • You have the ability to do search term and geotargeting.

To sign up for Local Service Ads:

  • Go to google.com/adwords/local-services-ads
  • Download the app
  • Create a profile
  • Get Google Guaranteed (employee background checks)
  • Set a monthly budget in Google Ads
  • Respond quickly
  • Focus on reviews

Local Service Ads

If I had to name a few key takeaways from this post, they would be:

  • Google My Business is a must for local businesses.
  • Google Search Console provides the best SEO data.
  • It’s important to connect Google Ads, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console.
  • You must pay attention to ads.

There you have it! Have you started to explore these areas of Google? If not, I highly recommend doing so.

Need more tips on search engine optimization? Check out our entire Guide to SEO.

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