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

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

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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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5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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Student writing on computer

With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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