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Google Ads and SMBs: How to drive results on a low budget



Whether you’re a small business owner or an agency that works with SMBs, you’ve likely encountered issues with low ad budgets. SMBs are often spread thin and, especially in light of business shifts due to COVID, their ad budgets are, too.

However, low budgets don’t have to mean small returns for SMBs or their agency partners.

What is Google Ads? How does it work?

If you’re an SMB owner just getting started, here’s how it works: Google Ads offers paid advertising options for businesses of all sizes to promote their products and services across Google platforms like Search, YouTube, Shopping, and more. Ads display at the top of search results, in the local map packs, before and during YouTube videos, or on websites across the internet that opt into Google’s AdSense.

Google Ads, often referred to as pay-per-click (PPC), works on an auction system. Individual businesses submit a bid for their ads to show up in these ad locations for a greater chance at visibility with their target audiences.

At a fundamental level, Google looks at your bid amount, multiplies it by your Quality Score (a numeric estimate of the quality of your ads and their associated landing pages), and ranks the top ads in their advertising spots. If your ad is displayed, you pay only when your ad is clicked (hence pay-per-click).

How do small businesses use Google Ads?

The Ads bidding process may seem intimidating or cumbersome for small businesses investing in paid online advertising for the first time, but Google estimates that businesses profit $8 for every $1 spent on Google Ads. This can be a huge gain for SMBs and local businesses.

PPC allows businesses to target their audiences based on their particular demographics and locations — a big deal for franchise and brick-and-mortar businesses. SMBs can show up in maps, above search results, on affiliated websites that opt-into Google’s display ads, and even in pre-roll ads on YouTube.

In her SMX virtual session, “Small Budget Tactics That Pack A Serious Punch,” Amalia Fowler, director of marketing services at Snaptech Marketing, emphasized how paid ads can take a small business to the next level.

The critical element for low-budget Google Ads accounts, though, is ensuring the integrity of your account foundation and structure. A poor setup can ruin a business just as quickly as a wasteful campaign.

How much should a small business spend on Google ads?

How much your individual SMB should spend on online advertising depends on multiple factors like your industry, your total ad budget, and the competition in your space. 

When determining your SMB ad budget, it’s critical to look at how many of your leads become customers and how much each new customer is worth to your business. If a new customer pays $500 for your product or service, how much are you willing to pay to get them as a lead?

Fowler quickly pointed out that leads do not always equal clients or customers. So, knowing your conversion rate is also critical to determining how much your business should spend.

Choosing an insufficient budget means you’ll run out of money fast and see minimal results. However, there’s also the potential for wasted ad spend when you throw money at paid advertising without a strategy.

Is it worth using Google Ads for SMBs?

As with most PPC questions, it depends. “With very small budget accounts, you typically only have the ability to capture demand or create it — not both,” Fowler said. Prioritizing your SMB’s goals, budget, and capacity to respond to new inquiries can tell you if it’s worth investing in paid advertising.

For example, if your lawn care franchise can only handle 100 customers a week, then an ad campaign that drives 200 inquiries may be too much (and could hurt your business if you can’t positively respond to all the leads in a timely manner).

Small businesses also have to understand the ad process. When campaigns don’t get instant results, small and medium-sized companies can’t rely on upping their ad spend as a band-aid measure like larger accounts might. Instead, you have to employ patience and sometimes even reduce other campaigns to focus on a few that work well.

What is a low budget Google Ads account?

Certain industries have higher budgets by nature, like law, finance, and other competitive local businesses, so “low budget” will differ by category. Fowler categorizes small business spend on Google Ads by accounts that have budgets under $5,000 a month. Some even spend less than $1,000 a month and can still see a positive impact.

“In low budget accounts, when you have less to work with, maximizing your returns becomes that much more important,” she said. Low budget accounts should focus on a few effective campaigns instead of spreading money over too many campaigns. Fowler recommends looking at what campaigns get the most qualified leads per month (those leads that turn into clients) and to invest your spend there.

Optimizing Google Ad Structure
In this slide, we can see that it might be worth adjusting our budget to invest in the campaigns driving the most leads depending on our business goals and capacity for new inquiries.

How long does it take to see results in Google Ads for SMBs?

Patience is key when it comes to seeing results for small businesses. How quickly you see results can depend on your advertising budget and strategy, but partnering with an experienced expert in small business advertising can help.

If you don’t see immediate results, the answer may not be to fiddle with everything in the account right away. In fact, that could hurt your visibility and waste money. Many small businesses panic when they see clicks and impressions numbers increasing and conversion (phone calls, form fills, and sales) numbers flat-lining.

Seeing real revenue-boosting results can take time, though, especially on a lower budget. Here are a few of Fowler’s best tips from her SMX virtual presentation:

Low Budget Ad Tactics for SMBs

Avoid head terms and broad match/broad match modified. Fowler recommends SMBs with lower budgets focus on middle- and longer-tail keywords and add locations where possible. This helps you find qualified leads searching in your specific area who may be further down the funnel and ready to purchase.

Focus on quality score. Fowler calls it a “low budget advertiser’s best friend.” If Google’s auction system has two critical elements (how much you can pay and your Ads Quality Score) and you’re at your budget cap, the next area of focus has to be QS.

Focus on Quality Score

“Quality Score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. Higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions,” says Google. If you don’t have money, invest time in improving those key elements.

Adjusting by audiences. “If you find an audience that’s taking off like gangbusters, create campaigns around those audiences,” Fowler recommended. Strategies include using competitor data and using your best-performing keywords to target landing pages. She also recommends focusing on how-to searches that don’t have direct purchase intent and using your FAQ pages as landing pages.

Exclude what’s not performing well. If you’ve given it time and you’re seeing that certain campaigns or elements are NOT bringing in as many leads or customers as others, nix them. Fowler recommends assessing geographies, demographics, keywords, and landing pages that are underperforming and putting that money into the campaigns that are getting your best results.

React quickly to Google changes. As Google adjusts and experiments, it’s critical that low-budget small business accounts adapt quickly. When your budget is under $5000 a month, any wasted spend can be a big hit to your leads.

Adapt as Google changes

Fowler mentions that her team noticed their ad copy was being truncated, so they adjusted their descriptions and moved up calls to action to ensure they weren’t missed.

Having a small budget doesn’t mean you have to settle for small results with online advertising. To watch the full session from Fowler on “Small Budget Tactics That Pack A Serious Punch,” register for the on-demand sessions of SMX virtual.

Author: Carolyn Lyden serves as the Director of Search Content for Search Engine Land and SMX. With expertise in SEO, content marketing, local search, and analytics, she focuses on making marketers’ jobs easier with important news and educational content.

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Google Brings Bard Students Math and Coding Education in the Summer



Google Brings Bard Students Math and Coding Education in the Summer

Google is stepping up its AI efforts this summer by sending Bard, its high-profile chatbot, to summer school. The aim? To boost the bot’s math and coding smarts. These developments are excellent news— when Bard first debuted, it was admittedly not a finished product. But Google is steadily plugging away at it, and have now implemented implicit code execution for logical prompts, and handy Google Sheets’ integration to take it to the next level.

Thanks to implicit code execution, Bard can respond to inquiries requiring calculation or computation with Python code snippets running in the background. What’s even more amazing is that coders can take this generated code and modify it for their projects. Though Google is still apprehensive about guaranteeing the accuracy of Bard’s answers, this feature is said to improve the accuracy of math and word problems by an impressive 30%.

In addition to this, Bard can now export directly to Sheets when asked about tables. So, you don’t need to worry about copying and pasting, which comes with the risk of losing formatting or data.

From the company’s I/O keynote address, it is clear that they are focused on making the most of what Bard can offer. As they continue to speak highly of the chatbot, we’re sure to expect more features and capabilities when the summer comes around.

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Google Bard vs. ChatGPT: which is the better AI chatbot?



Google Bard vs. ChatGPT: which is the better AI chatbot?

Google Bard and ChatGPT are two of the most prominent artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots available in 2023. But which is better? Both offer natural language responses to natural language inputs, using machine learning and millions of data points to craft useful, informative responses. Most of the time. These AI tools aren’t perfect yet, but they point to an exciting future of AI assistant search and learning tools that will make information all the more readily available.

As similar as these chatbots are, they also have some distinct differences. Here’s how ChatGPT and Google Bard measure up against one another.

Which is better, Google Bard or ChatGPT?

This is a tricky question to answer, as at the time of writing, you can only use Google Bard if you’re part of a select group of early beta testers. As for its competition, you can use ChatGPT right now, completely for free. You may have to contend with a waitlist, but if you want to skip that, there’s a paid-for Plus version offering those interested in a more complete tool the option of paying for the privilege.

Still, when Google Bard becomes more widely available, it should offer credible competition for ChatGPT. Both use natural language models — Google Bard uses Google’s internal LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications), whereas ChatGPT uses an older GPT-3 language model. Google Bard bases its responses to questions on more recent data, with ChatGPT mainly trained on data that was available prior to 2021. This is similar to how Microsoft’s Bing Chat works.

We’ll have to reserve judgment on which is the more capable AI chatbot until we get time to play with Google Bard ourselves, but it looks set to be a close contest when it is more readily available.

Are Google Bard and ChatGPT available yet?

As mentioned, ChatGPT is available in free and paid-for tiers. You might have to sit in a queue for the free version for a while, but anyone can play around with its capabilities.

Google Bard is currently only available to limited beta testers and is not available to the wider public.

Banner of Google Bard intro from February 6.

What’s the difference between Google Bard and ChatGPT?

ChatGPT and Google Bard are very similar natural language AI chatbots, but they have some differences, and are designed to be used in slightly different ways — at least for now. ChatGPT has been used for answering direct questions with direct answers, mostly correctly, but it’s caused a lot of consternation among white collar workers, like writers, SEO advisors, and copy editors, since it has also demonstrated an impressive ability to write creatively — even if it has faced a few problems with accuracy and plagiarism.

Still, Microsoft has integrated ChatGPT into its Bing search engine to give users the ability to ask direct questions of the search engine, rather than searching for terms of keywords to find the best results. It has also built it into its Teams communications tool, and it’s coming to the Edge browser in a limited form. The Opera browser has also pledged to integrate ChatGPT in the future.

ChatGPT Google Bard
Accessible through ChatGPT site. Only text responses are returned via queries. Integrated with Google Search. You only need to change a Google setting to get your regular search results when using Google Bard AI, and vice versa.
ChatGPT produces answers from its trained database from 2021 and before. Google Apprentice Bard AI will be able to answer real-time questions.
Based on GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer). Based on LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications).
Service has a free and paid plan option (called ChatGPT Plus). Service is free.
Has built-in plagiarism tool called GPT-2 Output Detector. No built-in plagiarism detection tool.
Available now Still in beta test phase

Google Bard was mainly designed around augmenting Google’s own search tool, however it is also destined to become an automated support tool for businesses without the funds to pay for human support teams. It will be offered to customers through a trained AI responder. It is likely to be integrated into the Chrome browser and its Chromium derivatives before long. Google is also expected to open up Google Bard to third-party developers in the future.

Under the hood, Google Bard uses Google’s LaMDA language model, while ChatGPT uses its own GPT3 model. ChatGPT is based on slightly older data, restricted in its current GPT3 model to data collected prior to 2022, while Google Bard is built on data provided on recent years too. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it more accurate, as Google Bard has faced problems with incorrect answers to questions, even in its initial unveiling.

ChatGPT also has a built-in plagiarism checker, while Google Bard does not, but Google Bard doesn’t have the creative applications of ChatGPT just yet.

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say



Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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