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.

PPC-Part of the Band-Not a Solo Performance

In digital marketing, it’s easy to get excited about pay-per-click ads (PPC).

Thanks to Google Ads, PPC is one of the most reliable channels for digital marketers. It also offers the kind of analytics that marketers love, with clear and immediate data on what works and what doesn’t.

This can lead some brands and businesses to over-invest in PPC, with marketers pouring more and more dollars into PPC campaigns. Meanwhile, they ignore channels that are harder to track or take longer to develop.

But PPC should never be a solo performance. Focusing too heavily on paid search ads can make you invisible to most of your target audience, impeding your ability to generate awareness. It can also put your brand at risk by taking an all-eggs-in-one-basket approach.

By making PPC part of a group effort, you’ll avoid these problems. In fact, several case studies have shown that PPC campaigns benefit from a coordinated and holistic approach to digital marketing.

The Risks of PPC as a Solo Performance

Overinvesting in PPC ads carries a number of risks for brands and businesses.

These include…

RISK #1: Missed Funnel Stages

When users are already interested in a product, service, or brand, PPC ads can capture this interest and translate it into conversions. But PPC doesn’t work as well for generating that awareness and interest in the first place. Other digital channels, like social media and programmatic, do a better job with up-funnel prospects.

RISK #2: Eggs in One Basket

When you over-invest in PPC marketing, your marketing strategy becomes more and more risky. Variations in consumer preferences, increased competition for keywords, or changes to the Google Ads platform itself could tank your PPC efforts. Without a diversified strategy, your web presence may be at risk.

RISK #3: Narrow Web Presence

While Google is one of the world’s most powerful and popular websites, users only spend a fraction of their time on Google properties. When they’re on social media networks like Facebook, or when they’re browsing content on their favorite websites, your PPC ads aren’t there. To maintain a broader web presence, you need a broader strategy.

RISK #4: Shallow Pool of Data

Marketers love PPC for its rich data and the strength of its analytics. But if you’re not pulling data from other sources, you’ll miss out on key insights about your audience. You’ll also lack data sources that can power your PPC campaigns, like remarketing lists that allow you to target past visitors to your website.

How to Make PPC a Part of the Group

It’s one thing to say that PPC needs to be a part of a larger group. It’s another thing to put that into practice.

To get you started, here’s a look at how to coordinate PPC with other digital channels…

PPC + Social Media

While PPC is great at capturing down-funnel prospects, social media thrives at capturing an up-funnel audience. It’s also great for sustaining interest in your brand and moving users down your sales funnel. When they’re getting closer to a purchase decision and start conducting Google searches, your PPC ads will be ready.

At the same time, social media gives you valuable audience data that can be used for PPC campaigns. Audience insights on social media can provide you with new PPC keywords, identify new target audience segments, and help you tailor your ads to your audience. And if you can direct social media followers to your website, you can retarget these users with PPC ads.

PPC + Organic Search

In the area of search engine marketing, PPC should only be one part of your overall strategy. You should also be targeting organic search results, targeting national or local rankings, depending on your business.

A strong organic search presence takes longer to build. But with routine site maintenance, it can be maintained for years and years. At the same time, it can help boost your PPC campaigns, as users are more likely to trust your ads if they see organic results for your business on the same page.

Organic search is also more effective than PPC at capturing up-funnel prospects. Once on your website, these prospects can be added to your remarketing lists, allowing you to serve them with uniquely tailored PPC ads.

PPC + Programmatic

PPC ads work great at capturing search traffic. But users spend less than 5% of their time on search engines. But with programmatic ads on the Google Display Network and the Facebook Audience Network, you can serve ads to users across millions of websites, social media networks, and apps.

Both the Google Search Network and the Google Display Network are controlled via Google Ads. This allows you to create coordinated campaigns where you target users with PPC ads after interacting with programmatic ads and vice versa. And if you coordinate your messaging across PPC and programmatic ads, you can increase your click-through and conversion rates on both types of campaigns.

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.

Why Local Marketers Can’t Ignore Programmatic

Display ads are one of the oldest digital marketing formats. But recently, they’ve fallen out of vogue with local marketers. Instead, these marketers are choosing to focus on other channels and formats, like local SEO, paid search ads, and social media.

In doing so, they’re ignoring the advancements and advantages of modern programmatic advertising.

The programmatic ads of today represent a big leap forward over display ads of the past. Programmatic ads offer extraordinarily precise targeting and tracking capabilities. They’re available in a range of dynamic and interactive formats, encouraging clicks and conversions. And through programmatic ads, you can reach consumers on the websites and apps they love to use.

Most importantly, programmatic ads have a proven track record of boosting awareness and sales. Studies have found that programmatic ads can boost:

  • Branded search queries by up to 25%
  • Conversion rates by up to 30%
  • Word-of-mouth recommendations by up to 10%
  • Event registrations by up to 25%

And thanks to their targeting capabilities, programmatic ads are a gift to local marketers in particular.

The Importance of Programmatic for Local Marketers

For local marketers, precise targeting can make or break a campaign. To connect with the right consumers, you need to carefully target your audience based on who they are and where they live/work. At the same time, you’re typically working with smaller budgets, which means that every single dollar needs to count.

In the past, display ads offered limited capabilities when it came to user targeting. Essentially, the only control marketers had over targeting was which website the ad ran on.

With programmatic ads, you can target users with the level of precision that local marketing demands. Thanks to the reach and targeting methods of the Google Display Network and the Facebook Audience Network, you can target your ads based on individual users’ characteristics, behaviors, and location.

This way, you aren’t limited to local websites for targeting local consumers. Instead, you can serve ads to local consumers wherever online they happen to be.

5 Advantages of Local Programmatic Ads

1. Awareness & Trust

Programmatic ads are highly effective at building awareness and trust with local consumers. Compared to paid search, local SEO, and social media, you’re less dependent on user actions. You don’t need to wait for users to find you. Instead, you can serve ads directly to your audience. What’s more, you’ll be doing so on the websites and apps they trust most.

2. Precision Targeting

The core strength of programmatic lies in its targeting abilities. Local marketers can target programmatic ads via a user’s location, either via a set geographic radius or by targeting specific ZIP codes. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You also have the option of targeting users based on their demographics, interests, search behaviors, and their history of online interactions with your business.

3. Dynamic Ad Content

On top of serving your ads to a highly targeted set of users, programmatic allows you to tailor your ads according to users’ features and behaviors. If a user has recently searched for a product you offer, you can serve them an ad with an image of this product. If they’re within a short distance of your location, you can serve them an ad with directions to your business.

4. Detailed Analytics

Like other digital marketing formats, programmatic ads are extraordinarily rich in terms of data and analytics. The same level of precision used to serve ads can be harnessed to measure their performance, with the ability to micro-segment data for specific campaigns, specific ads, and specific audience groups. Programmatic ads are also ideal for A/B testing, allowing you to quickly optimize your campaigns for higher click-through and conversion rates.

5. Cost-Effectiveness

One more reason why local marketers should use programmatic ads? Their cost-effectiveness. While programmatic campaigns cost more than traditional display ads, they remain much less expensive than other types of digital marketing campaigns. They also deliver more immediate and tangible results, allowing you to measure the ROI of your ad spend more easily and more quickly.

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.

Optimize Your PPC Campaigns With These Tips

With the right approach, pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns are one of the most effective channels for digital marketing. In fact, the largest PPC platform right now, Google Ads, is so popular with marketers that it rakes in more than $100 billion each year. What’s more, returns are so strong that 78% of marketers increased their Google Ads budgets in 2019.

Despite the strong returns on Google Ads, few brands take full advantage of its tools and capabilities. Rather than eye-popping ROIs, their campaigns generate middling returns. This is usually a case of poor optimization. If you skimp on important investments (like keyword research and split-testing) or skip over powerful features (like ad extensions and RLSAs), your campaigns will suffer.

But if you optimize your PPC campaigns using the 7 tips below, you’ll see much stronger returns from Google Ads.

7 Tips for Better PPC Campaigns

1. Keyword Research

Keywords are the foundation of any successful Google Ads campaign. If you target the right keywords, Google will serve your ads to the right users at the right times. That means higher click-through and conversion rates, stronger Quality Scores, and lower Costs per Click.

Unfortunately, many brands fail to invest the kind of time and effort required for effective keyword research. This typically results in a list of broad, generic keywords, which tend to be more expensive, more competitive, and less conversion-friendly.

2. Negative Keywords

One of the best ways to target a broader range of keywords is to use Google Ads’ broad match or phrase match feature. However, these features can result in mismatches. For example, if one of your keywords is “men’s jeans,” broad match could serve your ad to someone searching for “men’s khakis.” That’s not very helpful if you only sell jeans.

To avoid theses mismatches, you can use negative keywords. Google will not serve your ad to searchers whose queries contain these keywords. So if you’re only selling jeans, you can add “khakis” as a negative keyword. This way, your ad will never appear in searches for “khakis.”

3. Location Targeting

If you operate a hair salon in Pittsburgh, you don’t want to serve ads to users searching for “hair salon” from a device in Houston, Salt Lake City, or Portland. In fact, you probably don’t want to serve ads to anyone who’s more than a few miles from your business.

With location targeting, you can narrowly target searchers within a certain radius or a defined geographic area. This way, your local business can serve ads exclusively to local consumers. You can even create different campaigns for different geographic settings.

4. Remarketing Audiences

If you’re not already using remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA), you’re missing out on one of Google Ads most effective features. RLSAs allow you to target visitors who’ve previously visited your site. These users are already more likely to click on your ads and convert. Plus, you’ll be able to tailor a set of ads to this group.

Once you’ve started using RLSAs, you can also take advantage of Google Ads’ similar audiences feature. This feature automatically finds users with similar characteristics and search behaviors to the users on your RLSA lists. This gives you an entirely new group of users to target with similarly strong conversion rates.

5. Ad Extensions

Google Ads aren’t nearly as visible as other ad formats, relying largely on compelling headlines and copy. To make your ads more visible and more compelling, we recommend using ad extensions. Ad extensions allow you to include additional information, which can make your ads more compelling to users. At the same time, they increase the visibility of your ads, giving you a new way to grab users’ attention.

Some of the most popular and effective ad extensions include:

  • Call Extensions. Allow mobile users to call your business by pressing a button.
  • Callout Extensions. Add short blurbs to your ad, like “free delivery.”
  • Location Extensions. Include business information for your local business.
  • Message Extensions. Allow mobile users to send text messages to your business.
  • Sitelink Extensions. Add links to specific pages on your website.

6. Split-Testing

Split-testing has been a cornerstone of paid search campaigns from the outset. Yet many brands only perform limited A/B testing on their ads. After testing an initial set of ads at the start of a campaign, they fall into a groove. Rather than continually testing and refining ads, they allow them to stagnate.

Today, this kind of approach simply isn’t feasible. Consumer behaviors are evolving at a breakneck pace, and other advertisers are evolving just as quickly. If you’re not continually testing and refining your ads, they’ll fossilize before your eyes.

7. Conversion Tracking

Advertisers are charged for PPC ads on a click by click basis. What’s more, Google determines the cost of each click based on a Quality Score, which is determined by each ad’s click-through rate (CTR). This has made CTR the leading metric for measuring PPC ads and campaigns.

But if you’re measuring PPC campaigns by CTR alone, you’re missing the big picture. The real measure of a campaign’s success is in its conversions.

In Google Ads, you can solve this problem by adding conversion tracking to your campaigns. Conversion tracking uses HTML codes to track which users convert after clicking on PPC ads. It can be integrated with Google Analytics to track conversions through your website, and it allows you to measure important data like cost per conversion, conversion rate, and value per conversion.

Make sure you’re asking your digital marketing partner about these PPC tactics to ensure you’re getting most out of your campaigns. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you get real results from your Pay Per Click marketing.

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.

6 Facebook Metrics You Can’t Ignore

One of the perks of marketing on Facebook is the sheer amount of data. On other platforms, key metrics are impossible to track or require third-party analytics. Meanwhile, Facebook gives you all kinds of data about your page, your posts, your audience, and your ads.

All of this data is invaluable for marketers. But with all of the different charts and figures on Facebook Insights, important data can get lost in the noise.

Unsure which Facebook metrics your business can’t afford to ignore? Here are 6 that you need to be tracking.

1. Cost Per Click/Impressions

What it is: These are the two most popular pricing options on Facebook Ads. With cost per click (CPC), you’re charged every time a user clicks on one of your ads. With cost per impressions (CPM), you’re charged for every 1,000 impressions.

Why it matters: Whether you opt for CPC or CPM on a given ad campaign, you’ll want to track the figure carefully to avoid overspending on ads.

2. Post Impressions & Reach

What it is: Impressions count how many views your posts receive, while reach measures how many users see your posts. If an individual user views one of your posts twice, that counts as two views for impressions, but only one view for reach.

Why it matters: These metrics allow you to track the visibility of individual posts. By measuring the engagement count for each post against its reach count, you can measure the rate of engagement.

3. Page Engagement, Impressions & Reach

What it is: Facebook also tracks your engagement, impression, and reach metrics in aggregate for your entire page, which can be viewed in line chart form over time.  

Why it matters: Page-level engagement, impression, and reach metrics allow you to track the impact of your Facebook marketing efforts and identify macro-level trends.

4. Page Likes

What it is: On the Likes tab, you can view the number of new likes and unlikes for your page charted over time. This tab also includes net likes (calculated by subtracting unlikes from likes).

Why it matters: Tracking your likes will allow you measure the growth of your Facebook fanbase. It can also help you pinpoint negative actions that cause your net likes to drop.

5. Referral Traffic

What it is: Facebook referral traffic tracks user activity on your brand’s website that originated from Facebook. Unlike the other metrics on this list, it’s found in Google Analytics, not Facebook Insights.

Why it matters: If you rely on Facebook as a source of traffic for your website, this will allow you to track and measure how successful your page is at funneling traffic to your website.

6. Post Engagement

What it is: Every time a user takes action on one of your posts, that action counts as an engagement. Facebook tracks engagements on each post in two categories, “Post Clicks” and “Reactions, Comments & Shares.”

Why it matters: Engagement shows you which posts on your page are resonating with Facebook users. This can help you choose which posts to promote and which types of content to create in the future.

Best Practices for Managing Online Reviews

Most shoppers now trust online reviews as much or more than recommendations from close friends. Meanwhile, roughly 8 in 10 users will check online reviews before making a significant purchase. Needless to say, businesses can no longer take a laissez faire approach to their online reviews. Without a proactive review management strategy, you’ll be leaving your reputation up for grabs.

It’s never a bad time to brush up on review management best practices. Below, we’ve compiled a quick set of guidelines to help you:

  • Manage bad reviews
  • Preempt negative feedback
  • Encourage customer reviews
  • Leverage online influencers
  • Engage with positive reviews
  • Avoid dishonest practices

Manage Bad Reviews

Best practices for review management tend to focus on negative reviews — and with good reason! Negative reviews attract far more attention than positive feedback, and many businesses make things worse by responding unprofessionally.

If your business receives a negative review, adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Respond as promptly as possible. The longer you wait, the lower your chances of resolving the issue in a positive manner.
  • Be professional and empathetic. Avoid treating the review as a personal attack. Instead, acknowledge and apologize for the customer’s poor experience.
  • Offer to fix the problem. Many businesses make the mistake of trying to explain the poor experience. Rather than make excuses, offer to resolve or remedy the problem.
  • Continue the conversation offline. At the end of your response, invite the customer to contact you directly by phone or email to resolve the situation. This way, you can handle any further complaints out of public view, and you’ll be able to better address the customer’s concerns.

Preempt Negative Feedback

The best way to mitigate negative reviews is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. This can often be done by giving customers a better way to have their complaints addressed. Provide customers with clear instructions on how to contact your business if they’re unsatisfied with your product or service. Often, you can resolve the issue to the customer’s satisfaction before they review your business, reducing the risk of one-star feedback.

Encourage Customer Reviews

Many businesses fear bad reviews so much that they avoid encouraging their customers to leave reviews at all. But this actually makes you more vulnerable to negative reviews. A one-star review will hit you much harder if you have only a handful of reviews. A high review count will also boost your rankings in local search results, and it signals to customers that your business is popular.

Leverage Online Influencers

One of the best strategies for generating new business and higher volumes of reviews is to seek out online influencers. Creating positive relationships with influencers can help you get seen by more users in your target demographic. Influencers also play a key role in shaping the narrative around a given business. When influencers highlight what they love about a business, your customers will pay more attention to these features and highlight them in their own reviews.

Engage with Positive Reviews

Many businesses prefer to let positive reviews speak for themselves, responding only to negative feedback. But this can be a missed opportunity. Engaging with positive reviews can build loyalty with satisfied customers, showing them that you value both their business and their feedback. It also gives you the chance to show off your customer service bona fides. For example, if a reviewer is raving about the TV they bought from your store, let them know where to turn if they need anything or want help finding accessories in the future.

Avoid Dishonest Practices

These days, shoppers overwhelmingly trust online reviews. That trust is hard won. In the past, it was easy to spam review sites to boost your business’s reviews and tank the ratings of competitors. Since then, sites like Yelp, Google, and Facebook have put systems in place to prevent these kinds of dishonest practices. So if somebody tells you they can buy good reviews for your business, or if you’re tempted to have your employees post a wave of five-star reviews, think again. Doing so could actually tank your average rating or result in your being suspended from major platforms.

Learn more about Qiigo’s Review Management Services and Download our Free Guide.