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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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What You Need to Know About Google Local Services Ads

Oh, in my truest Bob Dylan voice, the times they are a changing for local marketing and SEO.

Local search is one of the last places left for Google to wring a little more ad spend out of small businesses.

The local map listing today is pure gold for mobile searches for certain types of businesses and Google knows it so they are expanding their Local Service ads accordingly.

Google recently expanded their Local Services ads (formerly known as Home Services ads) to include 17 cities, with plans to expand to 30 cities by the end of 2017.

Current cities include: (Update July 2018It’s pretty much in every major city now for the key industries listed below)

  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Riverside, CA
  • Sacramento, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • San Jose, CA
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Miami, FL
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Chicago, ILLocal Service Ads
  • Boston, MA
  • Detroit, MI
  • New York, New York
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Dallas, TX
  • Seattle, WA

The categories that currently qualify include:

  • Locksmiths
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • HVAC
  • Garage Door Services

With the expansion of these ads coming up fast, I thought now would be a good time to discuss exactly what they are so that you can consider them for your business or your client’s business moving forward.

What are Google Local Services ads and how do they work?

Google Local Services Ads

With Local Services, you have the ability to advertise your business on Google and receive leads directly from potential customers. Local Services ads appear at the top of Google Search results (see above) when people search for the services in a given area. Once you click on “50+ plumbers serving Los Angeles,” you will be taken to a separate results page where you’ll see a list of all of the participating local services businesses. You’ll also see a drop-down menu of relevant services next to a zip code search box. We’ll discuss later on how to optimize your chance of getting found in the first three spots on the first page of Google and not just in the list on the full list page.

local services ads

People have the choice to call a business or send a message by clicking on the ad. By using the Local Services app, businesses can reply to messages, manage leads, track bookings, manage campaigns and budget (it’s easy to turn your ads on and off depending when you want them), view an ad’s performance, and review ratings (ratings can come from Google My Business or through Local Services). Businesses can personalize their profile page and select the areas and predefined services where their ad will appear.

To be clear, the ads you run are simply a way to get leads. It’s still your job to turn them into customers.

Businesses that want to participate need to apply and go through a verification process (including meeting certain insurance and licensing requirements) and each employee must go through a background check, so be prepared that you likely won’t be able to get these ads up and running overnight. Once a business is screened and approved, they will receive a Google guarantee badge which builds trust and ensures Google will cover claims as high as the job invoice amount if a customer isn’t satisfied.

Benefits of Local Services ads

Hearing that the beta version of these ads was a success isn’t really a surprise, and the fact that Google is planning to expand significantly by the end of the year suggests the many benefits these ads provide to the businesses who use them. Some of the many benefits include:

  • Increased exposure
  • The ability to connect with customers at the moment they’re looking for services you provide (which, in turn, can lead to higher conversion rates)
  • Access to an easy-to-use management platform
  • Receiving the Google Guaranteed badge (which, along with Google reviews help to build trust)
  • Limited wasted time, as customers choose you (no chasing)
  • Increased odds of turning more leads into customers

How to get Google Guaranteedhere’s a good write-up on the steps, including background checks from a 3rd party provider

How much does this cost?

The beauty of these ads is that you only pay for leads related to your business and the services you offer. The actual costs may vary depending on the type of lead, your location, and the type of job needed. You only pay if you receive a message or phone call through the platform.

You also won’t waste time with spammy leads because if one of your leads isn’t legitimate, you can dispute it with Google (you may not always get your money back, but it’s worth a shot!). The other nice thing about this payment plan is that you’ll never exceed your monthly maximum budget. If for whatever reason you get leads that exceed your monthly budget, they will be credited back to you.

Your cost is easy to manage. You can set a weekly budget based on the number of leads you want to receive, and you can always track your progress in the app by viewing your payment and charge history.

How to get the most out of Google Local services

Google won’t say specifically what factors go into their rankings, but there are some speculations out there that could help. I’m a big fan of building up your total online presence, so if you’re like me, the best practices below shouldn’t be all that surprising and should be things you’re already considering in other aspects of your marketing:

  • Focus on quality
  • Focus on increasing your 5-star ratings and reviews
  • Respond immediately to your messages and phone calls (failing to do so may lower your ad ranking)
  • Maintain consistent NAP (name, address, phone number) across directory sites online
  • Optimize your Google My Business Listing
  • Stay in good standing with Google. If they receive numerous complaints about your business, it will likely work against you.

In addition, Google is a business after all, and they want to make money, so increasing your weekly Local Services ad budget isn’t the worst idea. Your proximity to potential customers’ locations may also impact your rank (Google wants to provide a good experience for the user, not just your business).

Only time will tell what these ads will become, but if you fall into one of the categories and locations, I’d recommend testing them out.

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