Google Ads Retires Average Position: What This Means for PPC

Earlier this year, Google announced that it would retire the “average position” metric from Google Ads. The news was both surprising and unsurprising for PPC marketers. On the one hand, this metric has been used for 15+ years, and it feels like a part of Google Ads’ DNA. On the other hand, it has become steadily less reliable and useful in recent years, both as a measurement of where ads appear on page and as a tool for bidding on ad slots.

Despite average position’s shortcomings, it remained popular with brands and marketers. With Google’s announcement, many wondered how they would manage without this metric.

Thankfully, Google introduced new metrics in late 2018 that can be used in place of average position. In most cases, these metrics will offer a more accurate sense of where ads appear in search results.

Wondering how this change will affect your business? Let’s find out…

Why Is Google Getting Rid of Average Position?

In the early days of Google AdWords, average position was one of its most important metrics and tools. But over time, its accuracy and utility have steadily decreased.

Originally, average position was a reliable measure of where your ad was located on the page. Based on the average position metric, you had a strong sense of where your ads appeared in search results. But as Google made changes to ad layouts and ad formats, that started to change.

Today, a #1 position can have you at the top of the page for certain search results. On others, it will appear near the bottom. But that change in ad location isn’t reflected by the average position metric.

What’s more, there’s a much bigger gap today between top-of-page and bottom-of-page ads. When Google removed ads from the right column of search results, it eliminated valuable real estate for mid-ranked ads.

Now, the question isn’t: “What’s your ad position?”

Instead, it’s: “Does your ad appear at the top of the page?”

What’s Replacing the Average Position Metric?

Google didn’t want to get rid of average position without replacing it. So in late 2018, it introduced a set of new metrics, including:

  • Absolute Top Position Rate: The percentage of your ads that appear at the absolute top of a given page.
  • Top Position Rate: The percentage of your ads that appear within the top section of ads on a given page.
  • Absolute Top Impression Share: The number of impressions you’ve received in the absolute top position divided by the estimated number of top position impressions that you were eligible to receive.
  • Top Impression Share: The number of impressions you’ve received in top-of-page positions divided by the estimated number of absolute top position impressions that you were eligible to receive.

These metrics give you a much more accurate sense of where your ads are actually appearing in search results. So if your goal is to measure the placement of your ads or maximize the number of impressions your ads receive, these new metrics will be a welcome change from average position.

How Will Brands & Marketers Adapt?

In the vast majority of cases, the retirement of average position will have a neutral or positive effect on Google Ads campaigns. Brands and marketers will have a more accurate sense of ad placement, and it will be easier to target top-of-page positions.

The important thing is that you’re proactive. If rely on average position until it disappears, you’ll have a rocky transition to the new metrics. But if you familiarize yourself with the new metrics ahead of time, you’ll make the switch much more easily.

Google My Business Adds Short Names & Custom URLs

Want to make it easier for customers to find your Google My Business profile? That’s a lot easier now that Google My Business has added short names and custom URLs.

Sharing the URL to your Google My Business listing can encourage reviews and help customers find info about your business. But before this change, finding the URL was unintuitive, and the URLs themselves were overly complicated.

With the rollout of Google My Business short names, that’s all changed. By claiming a short name, you’ll create a URL for your listing that’s easy to use and easy to remember.

Here’s what it looks like: g.page/[yourshortname]/

Google suggests including this URL on your business card and other non-digital promotional materials, so that users have an easy way to find your Google My Business listing. When mobile users visit the URL, they’ll be directed to your search profile page. On desktop, users will be directed to your Google Maps profile page.

Right now, Google says that short names are a great way to encourage reviews and help customers find quick info about your business. And as with other Google features, there’s a good chance that it will have even more uses in the future.

Claim Your Google My Business Short Name Early!

Google My Business only introduced short names in April, and the feature is still getting rolled out. So at this point, 99% of businesses have yet to claim a short name.

But even if you don’t expect to use this feature now, it’s a good idea to claim your short name as soon as possible. As with social media handles, you don’t want to risk losing your short name to another business. Claiming your short name now will also save you the time and trouble of having to worry about someone posing as your business.

Plus, there’s a very real chance that Google My Business will start using short names in new ways. Google has never been shy about changing its services. Often, smaller features take on bigger roles over time. So, it’s possible that Google My Business short names will become a lot more prominent in the future. If that happens, you don’t want to be stuck with a second-rate short name.

How to Claim Your Google My Business Short Name

Google has made the process for claiming your short name simple for business owners. Here’s a quick overview of how this process works:

On Desktop

  1. Sign into your Google My Business account.
  2. Choose the location that you’ll be creating a short name for.
  3. Go to the menu, click on “Info,” then select “Add profile short name”
  4. Enter your short name.
  5. Click “Apply.”

On Mobile

  1. Open the Google My Business app.
  2. Select “Profile,” then tap “Add profile short name”
  3. Enter your short name.
  4. Tap “Save.”

Google My Business Short Name Guidelines

When creating a Google My Business short name, you’ll need to keep certain guidelines in mind. In particular, you’ll need to be mindful of the length of your short name and how often a short name can be changed. If you operate a multi-location brand, you’ll also need to think about how you’ll create unique short names for each location.

Note: Short names and custom URLs must adhere to relevant Google, Google My Business, and Google Maps policies. This means that you cannot impersonate a business, try to mislead users, or include obscene language when creating your short name.

General Short Name Guidelines

  • Short names must be at least 5 characters long and have a maximum of 32 characters.
  • Businesses can change their short names, up to a maximum of 3 changes per year.
  • If you choose a new short name, the old short name could be claimed by someone else.

Guidelines for Multi-Location Brands

  • For multiple locations, you will need to claim the short name for each location individually.
  • Every short name must be unique, so each location will need a unique short name.
  • Google suggests creating a unique short name by combining your brand name and a geographic identifier, such as your city or neighborhood.

To learn more about how you can take advantage of Google My Business solutions, contact us today!

The Science Behind Page Ranking

Before you ask, “How do I get my pages to rank #1 on Google?”, there’s another question you should ask first…

“How does Google decide its page rankings in the first place?”

To answer this question, you’ll need to learn how Google interprets search queries, how it matches different queries to relevant web pages, and how it ranks relevant pages in search results.

By understanding this process, you can start looking at keywords and content the way Google’s algorithm does. At that point, it’s much easier to create relevant content and craft it in a way that boost its ranking.

Determining Search Intent

Before Google calculates page rankings for a query, it first attempts to determine the query’s search intent. In many cases, this is an even more complicated process than the actual ranking of search results.

In determining searcher intent, Google looks at a range of signals. Some of these signals come from the query itself. Others come from data generated by billions of past Google searches. Google can also use data about your device and your Google history to make assumptions about your search intent.

This process has a lot of moving parts. So, to give you a sense of how this process works, let’s take a look at an example to see how Google might determine search intent…

Search Intent for “Restaurants Near Me”

Google has a gets over 20 million searches each month for “restaurants near me.” So, it has a ton of data to work with to figure out search intent.

Based on that data, Google knows that searchers who make this query are looking for restaurants in close proximity. But the user hasn’t told Google where “near me” is. Google has to look at the location of the device to determine where the user wants to search. So in addition to the query itself, Google will look at your location to determine search intent.

But Google’s analysis of search intent doesn’t stop there.

Google will also draw on data from other users searches to make educated guesses about your intent. For instance, Google knows that most people who search for “restaurants near me” are looking for restaurants that are currently open. So, Google might assume that you’re looking for restaurants with hours that line up with the time you made your search.

Google can also look at information from your Google history to narrow down your search intent. For example, if you tend to search for and visit burger joints and ramen shops, Google might assume that you’re looking for fast-casual restaurants based on your Google Maps history.

These factors — along with several others — help Google figure out the search intent for any given query. But once it’s determined that intent, how does it actually rank its search results?

Calculating Page Rankings

Once Google has determined a user’s search intent on a given query, it needs to do two things. First, it needs to sort out the relevant search results from the non-relevant results. Then, it needs to rank those results from most-helpful to least-helpful.

To sort and rank search results, Google’s algorithm looks at over 200 different signals. These signals include your site’s security certificate, the frequency of keywords and related terms in your content, the layout of your webpage, the backlink profile of the page, and many, many more.

What’s more, Google will weight these signals differently for different queries. For example, if Google believes that searchers are looking for detailed information on a topic, it will reward pages with a higher word count. In other cases, Google might believe that users are looking for shorter, to-the-point content. In these cases, it may reward pages with a lower word count.

Google can even weight these signals differently for the exact same query, depending on contextual signals. Here’s an example of how that can occur…

Calculating Page Rankings for “Black Hole”

If you searched for the term “black hole” on March 10, 2019, Google would assume that the intent of your search was to find general information about black holes. It would then adjust its ranking factors accordingly.

To do so, it would look for pages on trusted domains that specialize in general information (like Wikipedia) or space science specifically (like NASA). It would give higher rankings to pages with longer word counts and keywords related to the subject of black holes. And it would look for pages with high volumes of inbound links from trusted sources.

But if you conducted the same search on April 10 — the date that the first-ever image of a black hole was published — the results would look entirely different.

Based on signals from news sites, social media, and search habits, Google would assume that most searchers were looking for content about the black hole image. So, it would reconfigure the weighting of ranking factors to find pages related to the breaking news story.

To do this, it would prioritize more results from trusted news sites, like The New York Times and CNN. It would also prioritize recently published pages, rewarding newly posted content. And it would reward pages that contained trending keywords in other news stories and on social media.

The end result? A completely different set of rankings.

Bottom Line = Finding the Most Helpful Results

Based on this overview of how Google calculates page rankings, it’s clear that the process is complicated. At this point, even Google’s own engineers don’t fully understand why some pages rank ahead of others.

But if you’re looking for a general guideline on how Google’s algorithm ranks pages, look at this this way…

Google is trying to serve users with the content that they consider most relevant and most helpful for any given search. The best way to achieve high rankings is to approach content creation with the same goal: try to anticipate the pages that users are looking for, then create your content accordingly.

What Brands Need to Know About Local Service Ads Part 2

In a recent post, we talked about Google’s Local Services ads, including how they work, why they’re so effective, and the benefits they offer compared to traditional Google Ads.

Today, we’re going to talk about how you can get started with this platform, including the process for creating your Local Services ads account.

We’ll also give you an overview of the service categories and markets where Local Services ads are available, plus quick tips for how to generate more leads using the Local Services platform.

How To Get Started with Local Services Ads?

Google offers a simple, step-by-step process for getting started with Local Services ads. Before you get started with this process, here’s a quick preview of each step.

1. Confirm Your Eligibility

Before you get started with Google Local Services, you’ll need to confirm whether you’re eligible to use the platform. Eligibility will depend on your location, type of business, and whether you’re properly insured and licensed.

When you sign up for Local Services, you’ll be prompted to enter your ZIP code, your job category, and confirm insurance and licensing. At this point, you can check whether or not you’re eligible and create your business profile.

If you want to check your eligibility before starting this process, we’ve included a list of currently supported service categories and metro markets later in this post.

2. Create Your Business Profile

If you’re eligible for Google Local Services, you will be prompted to create a business profile.

The first step will be to establish your estimated weekly spend on Local Services ads. Because ads are priced by lead, you’ll be setting both your weekly budget and the leads per week that you wish to receive.

Next, you’ll be prompted to enter basic business information, including your business name, your business phone number, and your business website. Google will then ask for your email address, at which point it will create a Local Services account for your business.

Once your account is created, you’ll create a business profile. At this point, you will enter business hours, service areas, and the types of jobs that you want to receive. You can also create a short business bio that highlights key features about your business.

3. Add Your Insurance, Licensing, & Registration Info

After you’ve completed your business profile, Google will ask you to add details about insurance and any licenses and registrations held by your business.

For your insurance, you’ll be asked to provide the amount of your insurance coverage and your insurance expiration date. You’ll also need to upload a copy of your insurance certificate.

For licenses and registrations, you’ll need to specify the type of license/registration, the expiration date, and the license/ registration number.

Keep in mind that the above information is necessary if you want to earn the Google Guarantee and use the Local Services platform. So it’s important that you provide full and accurate information.

4. Complete Your Background Check

Before Google runs your Local Services ads, your business will need to pass a background check. This involves background checks for the business and the business owner. Some service categories also require background checks for service professionals.

The background check for your business is comprised of a civil litigation history check. Business owners and service professionals are required to pass an identity check and a criminal history check.

Note that background checks are performed at no cost to businesses.

Will My Business Be Eligible?

Unsure if you’re eligible for Local Services ads? Here’s a quick rundown of currently supported service categories and markets.

Eligible Service Categories

Currently, the following service categories are supported in all or most U.S. markets where Local Services ads are available.

  • Carpet cleaner
  • Electrician
  • Garage door pro
  • House cleaner
  • HVAC pro
  • Locksmith
  • Plumber

Additionally, the following service categories are currently supported in select markets.

  • Air duct cleaner
  • Appliance repair service
  • Auto glass service
  • Auto service technician
  • Estate lawyer
  • Event planner
  • Financial planner
  • Handyman
  • Home improvement pro
  • Immigration lawyer
  • Junk removal provider
  • Lawn care provider
  • Mover
  • Painter
  • Pest control technician
  • Pet care provider
  • Pet groomer
  • Photographer
  • Real estate agent
  • Roadside assistance service
  • Roofer
  • Tree service provider
  • Tutor
  • Upholstery cleaner
  • Water damage service provider
  • Window cleaner
  • Window service provider

Note: Google is continually adding new service categories, so even if your service category isn’t listed above, it may soon be added to the list.

Eligible Metro Markets

Local Services ads are currently supported in the following metro areas within the U.S.

  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Charlotte
  • Chicago
  • Cincinnati
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Houston
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • New York City
  • Orlando
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Pittsburgh
  • Portland
  • Riverside
  • Sacramento
  • San Antonio
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • St. Louis
  • Tampa
  • Washington, D.C.

Note: Google is continually expanding its coverage, so even if your market isn’t listed above, it may soon be added to the list.

Tips for Success with Local Services Ads

Now that you’ve got your profile set up, how can you get the most mileage out of your ads?

Below, we’ve collected 5 tips to help you succeed with Local Services ads…

  • Focus on What You Do Best
    When selecting the types of jobs that you want to perform through Google Local Services, think carefully. It may feel tempting to sign up for as many types of jobs as possible. But if you sign up for jobs that you’re inexperienced with, you could run a higher risk of bad reviews or dissatisfied customers. That puts your Google Reviews rating and your Google Guarantee certification at risk.
  • Work Close to Your Customers
    Google Local Services rankings are partly determined by proximity. The closer you are to the searcher’s location, the higher your ad or listing will rank. This rewards service providers whose businesses are located close to their primary customer base. If your business is based at a significant distance from your main service areas, you may struggle on Google Local Services.
  • Respond Promptly to Inquiries
    Another ranking factor for Local Services ads is how promptly service providers respond to customer inquiries. The more responsive you are to your customers, the higher your ads will rank in Local Services listings. By responding to customer inquiries as promptly as possible, you can boost your visibility within Local Services rankings.
  • Generate Excellent Reviews
    Local Services rankings are also driven by your Google Reviews profile. The higher your average rating and the more reviews you have, the better. The Local Services console will allow you to request reviews from customers, so be sure to take advantage of this feature. At the same time, make sure that you’ve got protocols in place for responding to less-than-stellar reviews.
  • Keep Your Google Guarantee
    Coverage under the Google Guarantee has a lifetime cap of $2,000 for every business. Once you’ve reached this cap, you can still run ads via Local Services, but you’ll no longer be backed by the Google Guarantee. If this happens, your rankings will plummet, and you’ll receive far fewer leads. So, it’s important that you do everything in your power to retain your coverage. That means resolving claims from unsatisfied customers before they reach Google.

What Brands Need To Know About Local Service Ads Part 1

For most businesses, advertising on Google takes place on Google Ads or Google Ads Express. But if you’re a plumber, a locksmith, or another type of local contractor, Google offers an alternative platform that’s perfectly tailored to your needs: Local Services ads.

Local Services ads are precisely what they sound like — an ad format built exclusively for local service providers.

Google originally launched Local Services ads for a handful of service categories in select cities back in 2015. Since then, the program has expanded to every almost major metro area in the U.S., and it has added numerous service categories to its roster. More importantly, it has proved a major success with both service providers and consumers in the markets where it has launched.

If you’re new to Local Services ads and aren’t quite sure where to start, this guide will tell you everything you need to know.

What Are Local Services Ads?

Google’s Local Services ads are a special ad format and platform for local service providers, such as locksmiths, plumbers, and electricians. Local Services ads are distinct from usual Google Ads, offering a different appearance, different features, and a different pricing model.

Many of these differences resolve problems that local service providers have with Google Ads. In the past, the ad formats and pay-per-click model of Google Ads have hurt local service providers. Text ads lack features that consumers are looking for from local contractors. Meanwhile, these ads generate low conversion rates for a number of local service industries, leading to higher costs and limited returns.

With Local Services ads, Google has created a format that encourages clicks and conversions. What’s more, Google doesn’t charge for Local Services ads on a pay per click basis. Instead, it charges per lead.

How Do Local Services Ads Work?

When a user performs a Google search for local service providers — e.g., “plumber in Bronx” or “HVAC technician Anaheim” — Google will include a Local Services section in the search results.

This section will appear at the top of the results, ahead of text ads and organic results. Google will display its top three ads (on desktop search) or its top two ads (on mobile search), as well as an option to explore more results.

Each Local Services ad contains the following information and features:

  • Your business’s name
  • Your Google Reviews rating
  • Your approximate location
  • Your Google Guarantee badge
  • Your business hours
  • Your contact information

When a user clicks on one of your Local Services ads, Google directs them to a detailed business profile that includes the above information, as well as additional information like your list of services, a short business bio, and your Google reviews.

Rather than click on one of the top-ranked Local Services ads, users also have the option of exploring a longer list of Local Services providers. This list is presented based on the type of job needed and the user’s ZIP code. The user can then choose from a full list of Local Services providers in their area.

In addition to appearing in the search results, Local Services ads also appear in results for Google Assistant. Searches made using Google Assistant prompt the user to confirm the type of job they need performed and their address, minimizing the chance of a mismatch.

How Are Local Services Ads Priced?

Unlike other Google Ads, businesses are not charged when a user clicks on a Local Services ad. Instead, Google will only charge your business when the user sends you an email or text, calls and leaves a voicemail, or calls and speaks with a representative. This way, you pay per lead instead of per click.

The average cost per lead varies from service category to service category, and from region to region. Some leads cost as little as $6. Others can cost upwards of $30.

If you receive an invalid lead, you can dispute the lead. If Google finds that the lead was a case of solicitation or spam, from a customer outside your service area, or from a customer who needed a service that you do not provide, Google will credit the cost of the lead to your business.

What Is the “Google Guarantee”?

Business that use Local Services ads can build trust with users through the Google Guarantee. This results in a badge on your Local Services ads.

Under this policy, Google guarantees customer satisfaction on any job booked via a Local Services ad. If a customer is dissatisfied with the results of a job, Google will refund the customer up to the amount of the invoice. This way, customers can book jobs through Local Services ads with greater confidence.

However, each business has a lifetime cap for coverage of $2,000 under the Google Guarantee. If a business exceeds its cap, Google rescinds the guarantee and removes its “Google guaranteed” badge from your Local Services ads.

Thankfully, you’ll have the opportunity to make things right with any dissatisfied customer before Google provides a refund. Additionally, Google will only issue a refund after investigating a claim.

Why Use Local Services Ads?

Wondering whether Google’s Local Services ads are worth it for your business? Below are five of the biggest reasons why the Local Services platform has been a hit with many local service providers.

  1. Pay per Lead Instead of per Click
    Local services providers usually struggle with the cost of traditional PPC ads, since many clicks result in poor leads. By using Local Services ads, you will only ever pay for actual leads, so you don’t end up wasting money on useless clicks.
  2. Visibility in Google Search Results
    Google has designed its Local Services ads for visibility, appearing at the top of search results in an eye-catching format. This makes them much more prominent and noticeable than standard Google Ads.
  3. Integration with Google Voice Search
    In addition to appearing in Google desktop and mobile search results, Google also provides Local Services results via Google Assistant. According to Google, the number of Google Assistant users quadrupled in 2018 — a market uniquely available to Local Services providers.
  4. Increased Trust with the Google Guarantee
    Trust can be an obstacle for local service providers who advertise through regular PPC ads. The Google Guarantee on Local Services ads gives customers a greater and more immediate sense of confidence.
  5. Simplified Campaign Management
    PPC campaigns on Google Ads require extensive keyword research, compelling ad content, and split-testing different ad groups. For Local Services ads, Google takes care of keyword research and ads are automatically generated. The result is a much simpler and easier approach to paid search ads.

A Breakdown of Google Maps Marketing

According to Google, local searches on Google and Google Maps drive consumers to 1.5 billion destinations each year. That makes Google Maps a uniquely potent tool for local digital marketing. In fact, many brick-and-mortar businesses now treat Google Maps marketing as its own marketing channel.

Google Maps marketing takes a combination of local SEO, paid search, and reputation management, with an assist from local listings management. In this post, we’ll look at how local businesses can use these tools to boost their visibility on Google Maps.

The Basics of Google Maps Marketing

Before we get into the details of Google Maps marketing, let’s cover some basics.

When we talk about Google Maps marketing, we’re not talking about a single platform. Google Maps results are shown on multiple platforms, including the Google Maps app and the Google Maps mobile and desktop sites. Google also includes Google Maps results in a feature called the Local 3-Pack on Google.com search results, which includes the top 3 local search results from Google Maps.

The good news is that your Google Maps marketing efforts can pay dividends across all of these platforms. The same actions that boost your visibility in the Google Maps app will also boost your visibility on the Google Maps website and in the Local 3-Pack.

But is Google Maps marketing really worth it? That depends on the type of business you run. But for most local businesses, the answer is a resounding YES!

Just consider the following stats:

  • 84% of Google users conduct local searches
  • 46% of all Google searches are local queries
  • 75% of local searches result in a store visit within 24 hours
  • 28% of these store visits result in a purchase
  • 92% of local searchers choose a business on the first page of results

Based on this data, it’s clear that Google Maps drives a massive amount of purchase traffic. So, let’s examine how Google Maps marketing efforts can boost your organic visibility in local search results.

Organic Google Maps Marketing

There are two types of organic results on Google Maps: proximity results and ranked results. Here’s a quick look at how both work…

Proximity Results. If a user performs a local search with location data enabled on their device, Google will use that location data to serve results based on proximity to the users’ device. In simple terms, this means that if you search for “coffee shop” on the Google Maps app, Google will show you the coffee shops closest to your current location. The closer the coffee shop is, the better it will rank in the results.

Ranked Results. Ranked results in Google Maps include all businesses within a given area, with no preference given to proximity. Google Maps will generally serve ranked results for one of two reasons. The first is when a user has location data disabled, so Google can’t judge their proximity to local businesses. The other is when a user is in one location, but they’re performing a local search for another location (e.g., when a user in Houston searches for “restaurants in Memphis”).

Google Maps Optimization

So, how can you boost your rankings in Google Maps results?

In proximity results, the distance between the user and your business is the biggest ranking factor. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to change that. However, if you have strong Google Reviews and an excellent Google My Business profile, you can leapfrog nearby competitors in proximity results.

For ranked results, optimizing for Google Maps can give you a significant boost. These results are mostly based on your Google Reviews and Google My Business profile. So if you optimize these two areas, you can dominate ranked results.

For higher rankings, your Google Maps marketing strategy will need to focus on these three areas:

  • More & Better Reviews. The higher your average rating on Google Reviews, the higher you’ll rank on Google Maps. But Google also rewards businesses based on their volume of reviews. A 4.4 rating based on 100 reviews is more valuable than a 4.6 rating based on 10 reviews.
  • Optimized GMB Profile. Google rewards businesses with rich Google My Business profiles by awarding them higher positions in Google Maps. Make sure that your profile is as detailed as possible and includes multiple photos.
  • Local Listings Management. To avoid confusing Google, you need to make sure that your NAP (name, address, and phone number) are listed exactly the same across the internet. If your NAP is inconsistent from one website to another, Google may exclude your business from Google Maps listings. Alternatively, it might overwrite your preferred NAP with one that it scraped from another website.

Paid Google Maps Marketing

Every local business should invest in a strong organic strategy for Google Maps marketing. But once you’ve done this, there’s an easy way and cost-effective way to further boost your visibility: local search ads. These ads appear at the top of local search results on Google and Google Maps, ahead of organic results.

Local search ads are part of Google Ads. So if already have a Google Ads account, it’s easy to start advertising through Google Maps. However, you’ll need to make sure that you have location extensions enabled on your Google Ads account, and you’ll need a complete Google My Business profile. When running local search ads, you’ll also need to use location targeting, bid by location, and optimize your keywords for local search.

Starting in January of 2018, Google introduced three new features to local search ads that can be used for Google Maps marketing.

  • Promoted Pins. In addition to displaying your ad in Google Maps results, Google will display a custom pin with your logo in the Google Maps display.
  • In-Store Promotions. If you’re running an in-store promotion, you can list this promotion in your local search ad.
  • Local Inventory Search. Users can tap a button to search your store’s inventory and find out if a specific product is in stock.

If you’re just introducing local search ads to your Google Maps marketing strategy, we suggest starting with basic ads. But if you’ve had success with paid ads on Google Maps, these features could drive additional traffic to your location.

Everything You Need to Know About Google Job Search

When you’re searching for a new job, where do you look first? While some job seekers head to sites like Monster or Glassdoor, a lot of candidates — if not most — start their search with Google.

The launch of Google Jobs in the summer of 2017 reshaped the landscape for sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Monster. These sites depend on Google for a huge chunk of traffic, so they had to adapt quickly to this change. To do so, many of these websites decided to integrate their postings directly into Google’s new search engine, ensuring they appeared in search results.

But Google’s job search also affected other businesses, like staffing firms, recruiting companies, and employers who post jobs to their own websites. Unfortunately, many of these businesses have struggled to adapt. Their job postings either rank poorly on Google, or they don’t rank at all.

If you’re one of these businesses, you’re probably losing out on a huge chunk of qualified applicants. To regain these candidates, you’ll need to rank well on Google job search. And to do that, you’ll need an SEO strategy tailored specifically for Google’s job search engine.

The good news? That’s not nearly as tough as it sounds…

How Google Job Search Works

Before we get to how your job postings can rank well on Google, let’s take a look at how this service functions.

While Google uses a distinct search engine for job postings, this service is integrated into the company’s main search engine. This means that when a user searches for jobs using Google, they get slightly different search results.

  • While the user will still see the usual organic search results, they will also see a “Jobs” panel above the organic results. This panel will include the three top-ranked job listings. The job listings include basic information, like the job title, the job location, and the site on which the job was posted.
  • If the user clicks on a job listing (or clicks on the link for “more jobs”), they are taken to a separate page of search results. On this page, they can view job details for individual listings. If a user is interested in applying for a job, they can click a button that allows them to view the job posting on its original website.

That might seem fairly simple. Where things get a little more complicated is on the back-end.

One of the key features of Google’s job search engine is the information that it includes for each job listing. To ensure this information is accurate and complete, Google relies on structured data markup. This means that your job postings won’t appear in these search results if they don’t include the right kinds of markup.

On a very basic level, this means you have two options if you want your job postings to appear on Google:

  1. You can post your jobs on a site like Monster, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. These sites are integrated into Google’s search engine, so their postings automatically include the right markup.
  2. You can implement markup on job postings by yourself, either through in-house efforts or with the help of an outside agency. This means you’ll be responsible for including the right markup.

Whichever route you choose, you’ll need to do further work on your posts. Even if you include the right kinds of markup, you won’t rank well unless you’ve taken further steps to optimize your job posts. That requires a specialized form of SEO designed specifically for Google job search.

Optimizing for Google Job Search

search algorithm picture

Search engine optimization for Google job search is a niche form of SEO, similar to local SEO or eCommerce SEO. You’re targeting a specialized search engine, which requires a unique SEO approach.

Given the specialized nature of Google job search, you can’t rely on generic SEO strategies. While job search SEO uses some of the same strategies, job postings won’t rank with basic SEO methods.

We’ve compiled a few steps that we take when optimizing our multi-location brand clients SEO strategy for Google job search:

  • Essential Markup. There are eight types of structured data markup that Google’s job search engine requires. If any of these tags are missing or incorrect, Google will exclude the job posting from search results.
  • Additional Markup. There are several other types of markup that you can include in job postings. Strategic use of additional markup can boost your rankings in Google job search. However, it’s important that any additional markup is both relevant and properly implemented.
  • Keyword Targeting. As with any other form of SEO, you need to target the right search terms. First, you’ll need a sense of which terms job seekers are using to search for the types of jobs you offer. After that, you’ll need to include these terms in the right parts of your job postings.
  • User Experience. Google’s search algorithm will rank job postings based on how useful and relevant those postings are to users. Top-ranked postings will be easy to read, include detailed information, and answer job seekers’ most pressing questions about the position.
  • Campaign Tracking. Google Analytics now includes specific tools for tracking the performance of job postings. However, many third-party SEO tools aren’t built for job search. Chances are, you’ll need to set up a DIY system for tracking your job search campaigns.

Given the distinct nature of Google job search, you’ll need specialized talent if you want to optimize your job postings. If recruitment plays a critical role in your multi-location brand strategy, connect with one of our digital marketing experts  to learn more about our SEO and Google job search solutions.

Why Brands Can’t Afford to Ignore Similar & Lookalike Audiences

Modern digital marketing campaigns make extensive use of retargeting, showing paid ads to users who have already interacted with a brand’s website, paid ads, or social media content. When implemented correctly, these types of campaigns have far stronger metrics than their non-retargeted counterparts, making them attractive to business and marketers alike.

While retargeted campaigns are well worth the investment, there are drawbacks to retargeting. For one, it takes time and money to develop retargeting audiences. For another, these audiences are limited to users who’ve already interacted with your brand. If you’re looking for new prospects, you won’t find them in your retargeting audience.

While some digital marketers will use the terms “similar audience” and “lookalike audience” interchangeably, it’s important to note that these are two separate tools.

Similar audience is a feature on Google Ads. This feature is based on remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs), i.e., users you are retargeting because they’ve interacted with your website. When you use RLSAs in a paid search campaign, Google will analyze the search behavior of your RLSA audience. It will then give you the option of expanding your campaign to target a similar audience. This is a group of users whose search behavior closely mirrors your RLSA audience.

But what if there was a simple, low-cost way to double or triple the size of this audience? And what if you could target new users in the process? That’s where similar audiences (on Google Ads) and lookalike audiences (on Facebook) can make a huge difference in your digital marketing strategy.

Lookalike audience is a feature used for Facebook ads, which works similarly to Google’s similar audiences feature. However, Facebook isn’t using search behavior to build this audience. Instead, it bases your lookalike audience on features like user interests and demographic data. Facebook also allows gives you control over the size of your lookalike audience. Smaller audiences will mirror your original audience more closely, while larger audiences reach more users.

In both cases, there are limitations to these tools. Both features require a large enough sample size to create a mirror audience. Google will only give the option of a similar audience if your original RLSA has “at least 1,000 cookies with enough similarity in search behavior.” Facebook requires at least 100 users in your source audience, but it recommends using a source audience of at least 1,000 users.

These concerns aside, the question for marketers is simple: Do similar and lookalike audiences work?

Why You Should Invest in Similar and Lookalike Audiences

If digital marketers have learned one thing over the past decade, it’s that Google and Facebook know what they’re doing. So it should come as no surprise that brands who’ve adopted similar and lookalike audiences have seen impressive results.

In simple terms, these features allow you to target a larger base of potential customers while retaining the positive metrics of retargeted marketing. In numerous case studies, mirrored audiences on Google and Facebook have had similar engagement and conversion metrics to the audiences on which they were based. In terms of purchasing behavior, it’s almost like cloning your most promising leads.

Even better, mirrored audiences can significantly reduce the cost of acquiring new customers. While there is an investment of time and money to develop your initial retargeting audience, it costs much less to mirror that audience via Google or Facebook. Not only are you practically cloning your best leads, but the cloning process also costs pennies on the dollar when compared to traditional lead acquisition.

Ultimately, similar and lookalike audiences are a near-foolproof way to get more value out of your current retargeting data and increase the overall efficiency of your digital spend. However, there’s one important catch. For these features to work, you need to be targeting the right people in the first place. That means investing the time and money it takes to build high-quality source data for your brand.


5 Google Ranking Factors You Need to Know

Google Analytics ScreenIf your business relies on organic search traffic, Google’s algorithm can make or break your business. Websites that rank number one for popular search queries can rake in millions of hits per month. Meanwhile, websites that rank outside of the first ten results are often left fighting for scraps.

 

The good news? Effective search engine optimization (SEO) practices can launch you from the bottom of the pile to the top of the pack. The bad news? Google’s algorithm relies on literally hundreds of ranking factors. 

 

Thankfully, you don’t need to know every line of code from Google’s algorithm to boost your rankings in search results. So long as you optimize for the following five need-to-know ranking factors, you can achieve first-page rankings for key search terms.

 

1. On-Page Content

Bill Gates coined the phrase “content is king” back in 1996. Now, more than twenty years later, his words ring as true as ever. Content is far and away the biggest factor for Google search rankings. Barring a total-overhaul of Google’s algorithm, content will hold its crown for years and years to come.

 

When evaluating content for its search rankings, Google’s algorithm judges content in three key ways:

 

  • Relevance. To determine content relevance, Google looks for keywords from the user’s search query, other words and phrases related to the user’s query, as well as the density and placement of these keywords in the text.
  • Quality. In addition to content relevance, Google’s algorithm searches for signals that indicate high-quality content. These signals include the length and readability of content, user engagement metrics, and on-page errors like spelling mistakes or broken images.
  • Uniqueness. Google doesn’t want to show users several near-identical results of the same page. So if Google determines that two or more pages are overly similar, it will exclude all but one of those pages from search results.

 

2. Strong Backlinks

While Google’s algorithm measures certain signals of content relevance and quality, the search engine still relies on users to tell it which pages are best. This is accomplished by evaluating a page’s backlink profile:

 

  • How many backlinks point to this page?
  • How trustworthy and popular are the sites where these backlinks are found?
  • What keywords are used in the anchor text of these backlinks?

 

To achieve a first-page ranking for a competitive search query, both your page and your overall website will need a strong backlink profile. You’ll also need to make sure that your profile isn’t filled with low-quality or untrustworthy links, which can result in Google punishing your page in search rankings.

 

3. Social Signals

Google has spent more than a decade telling users that social media signals are not a part of its algorithm. Yet multiple studies have shown an undisputable link between a website’s social media signals and its rankings in Google search results.

 

Despite these studies, many SEO experts believe that Google is telling the truth and that it doesn’t measure social media signals. Instead, they hypothesize that social media helps drive other factors that Google does measure. The more a news story is shared on Facebook, the better that page’s engagement metrics will be, the more backlinks it will accrue, etc.

 

So, while Google might not be tracking your Facebook share counts, social media plays a big — likely indirect — role in the search engine rankings. To rise in Google’s rankings, brands are wise to focus on social media.

 

4. Mobile-Friendliness

Over 60% of internet traffic now comes from mobile devices, and that number continues to grow year after year.

 

Google knows that most of its users are viewing pages on mobile devices, and its algorithm reflects this. Back in 2016, Google switched to a mobile-first format, meaning pages with mobile-friendly design would rank higher than pages with poor mobile functionality.

 

More than 80% of all webpages now meet Google’s standards for mobile-friendly content, and pages that meet these standards perform far better in search rankings. So, if you want to rank well against these pages, you’ll need invest in mobile-friendly design.

 

5. Technical Factors

In the past, technical factors played a bigger role in Google’s search rankings. While the impact of these factors has diminished in the past decade, they still play a big role in the search engine rankings.

 

Here are three of the most important technical ranking factors right now:

 

  • Meta data. Meta data continues to have a big impact on Google rankings. For best results, your title tag and meta description should include important keywords, encourage user engagement, and fit Google’s character limits (roughly 70 characters for title tags and 160 characters for meta descriptions).
  • Crawlability. Google captures data by crawling the web, jumping from link to link to link and capturing page data as it goes. If Google’s robots can’t find your page due to poor site structure, or if your page blocks them from crawling, you won’t appear in search results.
  • Encryption. Google now expects HTTPS encryption on every website. If you don’t have HTTPS encryption in place, Google will lower your pages in search results. It may even block users from visiting your website through Chrome.

 

Click here to learn more about search ranking factors and Qiigo solutions to help you navigate and manage your online presence.

Local Search Tactics That Give You A Competitive Edge

As more businesses compete for a spot in the Google local 3-Pack, search ads, online directories, and local search engine optimization (SEO), it can become increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd and get noticed by your customers and prospects. If you’re worried about your ranking and thinking about what direction to take in your overall strategy, it might be time to focus on Local SEO tactics that can set your business apart from the competition.
 
Below, we’ve outlined some local SEO strategies you can implement to help jump ahead of your competitors.

Take Advantage of Your Google My Business Page

Claiming your Google My Business (GMB) listing is an absolute MUST for local search success. If you don’t claim your GMB listing, you are severely limiting your chances of showing up in local search results.

 

But it’s also important to do more than just claim it and walk away. You need to take some additional steps including monitor the insights that Google delivers on how your prospects are engaging with your GMB. Look at the following stats to see how people are engaging with your listing:

  • Did you load good quality photos of your facility, products, and staff?
  • Do you keep your business hours for holidays or other unforeseen closures up to date?.
  • Are consumers reaching out using the click-to-call option?
  • Are consumers using the new Q&A feature? Are you responding?

Be sure to check which GMB category you choose for your business. The category set to your page can have a significant impact on your Google ranking. If you find your competitors are surging ahead of you in the 3-pack, check out their listing category. Are you in the same category? Is their category a better representation of your business? Consider making a change to see if it has an impact on rankings.

 

Don’t forget to use Google Posts to promote your business. Posts are like small ads that include a description, picture, offer, URL link, and call to action. Use posts to share information about products and services, promote sales or specials, communicate good wishes with customers, promote events, and more. Each post should include relevant keywords and your target geography.

 

Use URL Best Practices

URLs play an important role in your SEO ranking as well as the users’ experience with your site. The page URL tells visitors to your site, as well as search engines, what the page is about and guides your website structure.

 

Any new pages or blogs created should have a concise, yet descriptive structure. If you’ve written a blog post with the headline of Our Wide Variety of Custom Framing Options, you don’t need the whole headline in the URL. Reduce the URL structure to the keyword and a target geography if used.

 

Check Site Security

Google is firm in their insistence on secure websites. Sites that do not have security protocols in place will not rank as high. Users may see a “Not Secure” warning generated by Google if https:// protocols are not in place. As a result you could be losing a lot of business. When your site is secure, the https:// and the green locked padlock that appear next to your URL in Chrome demonstrating to visitors that you take their security seriously.

 

Add Quality Local Content to Your Site

Google rewards sites that have fresh content added to their site regularly. The added benefit here is that so do you customers. Adding blogs regularly to your website can help to create interest as well as improve your local rankings. Get more detailed information on creating content here.

 

The good news about maintaining your online competitive edge is that it’s relatively simple to do. Focus on increasing your visibility, monitor your traffic and traffic patterns, rely on analytics to help you improve the impact of your online presence, and you will generate more leads with the opportunity to transform them into paying customers.