The 7 Biggest Google AdWords Truths That Small Businesses Don’t Want to Hear
Over the years, I have interacted with many small business owners on the subject of Google AdWords. Nobody is a bigger fan of Google AdWords than myself, but sometimes I’m baffled by the amount of misunderstandings I hear.
I have tried to cover several of these misunderstandings in my blog posts over the last couple of years, and today I’m ready to spill the beans on some of the biggest misconceptions about Google AdWords.
This is not a blog post focused on keywords or ads, but about the deeper meaning of subjects that many simply haven’t heard before.
1) Your Long-Time Competitors Have an Advantage Over You
When I talk to small business owners who want to start with Google AdWords, one of the main concerns is that they have tried it before, but their competitors seem to be doing better.
Somehow this often leads to the small business owner blaming themselves for lack of knowledge or their agency for overselling their services. The truth of the matter is, your competitors who have advertised on Google AdWords successfully for years have a distinct advantage over you.
But wait, Google AdWords is supposed to be this super nice playground where everyone can play on even terms? Yeah, that’s a great theory, but the facts are different, and they should be!
The foundation of the Google AdWords platform is built on fairness. Just like we all have the same opportunities in life (not starting a debate here). But the few who start earlier, get better training or just put more time into it, thus usually do better, and then the same applies to Google AdWords advertising.
So, Why or How Do My Competitors Have an Advantage over me?
There are several reasons why your long-standing PPC competitors have advantages over you. The biggest reasons are:
- They have tested their way to better ad copy, keyword selection and bid management
- They have discovered the value of PPC, done the numbers and improved their website
- They have a better Quality Score than you
Let me explain the first one a bit more in-depth. One of the first things any good Google AdWords manager will tell you is that the initial campaign setup is hardly the end-result that will generate profit for you. It takes time and endless tweaks until you discover what truly works for you at that time. What performs well for you will change over time, but you usually have a good foundation after you have optimized your campaigns for 3-6 months.
This is exactly what your competitors have done and often they have been doing it for years.
Your competitors have therefore tested that it’s a good idea to focus on calls for specific keywords while form submissions work better for other keywords. They know that you should only bid for exact match variations of XYZ keywords because the others never amounted to anything.
And I could go on and on. It’s therefore not because the Google AdWords platform favors long-time advertisers, but merely just an understanding of something very common in life: People who have done something for a long time will usually do it better than you.
So What Can you Do About It?
Start out by knowing your Google AdWords ABC.
If you don’t find Google AdWords interesting or simply just too time-consuming, then hire someone to help you. I won’t tout White Shark Media’s horn (even though I could very well do so, we’re awesome), but just go with someone that have proven success.
Call their clients, talk to the account management team, demand excellence. Don’t just fall into bed with the first, best and most local one.
2) The Keywords With the Highest CPCs are Also the Best Ones
Even in 2015, we still get a lot of requests from small businesses who wants us to lower their CPCs. There’s nothing wrong with the request per se, but the mindset ƒor a lot business owners is that if you just lower your CPC, then you’ll be good.
Well, I hate to throw the usual PPC expert response out there, but I can lower your CPC for you easily. It just won’t result in you fulfilling your goals.
As I mention in my video, you don’t get much value from low CPC keywords simply just because they have low CPCs. We are in 2015. Google AdWords has more than one million advertisers. All keywords are there and are currently being advertised on.
That means that people are competing heavily to get in top positions for profitable keywords. If you generally only focus your optimizations on lowering your CPCs in your campaigns, then you will end up focusing on keywords that don’t bring in any business.
3) A Lot of Google AdWords Agencies Don’t Know What They’re Doing
I hate to give my industry a bad reputation, but it’s the truth. I’m amazed about the quality of work being done out there – especially for small businesses.
Without going into details or ratting out our close competitors, (who I have the highest esteem for business-wise), many of the big agencies only focus on cookie-cutter concepts. Every single small business within an industry receives the same campaign setup. I know because I have tested the various PPC management tools that list these big agencies as references and the campaigns these tools spit out are utter useless.
They build one campaign with one ad group and use Dynamic Keyword Insertion. There is no flexibility, no real ad-testing methods, and sometimes regular activities are very hard to complete. This applies to anything from negative keyword mining to installing the latest Ad Extensions.
Note: Before anyone starts mentioning that they love their PPC tool, then this post is not concerning Marin, Acquisio, Kenshoo or other enterprise solutions. It’s focused on the PPC platforms that cater to agencies that service thousands of accounts.
So I Should Choose a Boutique Agency or a Freelancer?
I would love to say yes, but I just as often see the freelancer make a mess of things as I see the big agency make a mess.
My best advice is to vet your agency: thoroughly
Go through their website
Call up random testimonials (not just the ones they provide)
Question the sales rep for things that don’t make sense
Demand transparency (ad spend, access to an account, etc.)
4) Google AdWords Is Harder than You Think
In 2013, I wrote a blog post for Search Engine Journal about why I believe Google AdWords is getting harder and harder. This is still true, and successful Google AdWords management has even become even harder.
The truth is that Google AdWords is much more than just selecting keywords and having ads show up. There are so many hidden truths and tricks that new (and even seasoned) advertisers aren’t aware of.
As late as two weeks ago, a long-time Google AdWords advertiser asked me my opinion about how important negative keywords really were?
That question was stunning to me and it just underlines the fact that the Google AdWords universe has become much harder for a novice than anyone in the PPC industry can grasp. That’s not to say that you can’t set up a campaign – it is still just “keywords and ads” – but getting the full potential out of your campaign will take grit in order to learn and apply everything.
5) Your Website Makes or Breaks Your Success
One of the constant surprises I see is the very low standard for small business websites.
Our new Web Product Manager explained it to me in a very direct manner the other day:
“Andrew, compare small business owners to if you or me received tools and a piece of wood, which we were asked to turn into a beautiful desk. We would figure it out, but it wouldn’t be as beautiful as the work made by a skilled carpenter.”
However, it’s only a handful of these websites I have seen go from a beautiful template to a beautiful website. The process is the same as for me and my Web Product Manager. Most small business owners don’t have the experience or skills to build a beautiful website – even when they are handed all the components.
If Your Website Can’t Sell your Company, Then That’s Where You Should Invest
Your website should be a non-stop salesman. The best way I can explain it is if you look at your website and tell yourself: “What would I do differently if instead of having this website, I was talking with a person?”.
This usually gets small business owners to understand the pitfalls of their current website.
The only businesses that can live with poorly designed websites are niche businesses. The longer it took for a prospect to find you, the greater the likelihood is that they will live through your website’s poor design.
However, if there is a large amount of competitors in your field, then any visitors to your website will easily be able to hit the back button in their browser and find at least eight other options. If that’s the case, then your website will be the bottleneck of your digital marketing efforts.
A Mobile Website Should Be a Requisite
Whatever you do, the website you purchase in 2015 should be responsive. This means that your website should change look and content based on how big the screen of the visitor is. The folks at Fast Company shared these GIFs that explain responsive design nicely:
In short, if someone visits your website from a laptop they should be able to see the entire website. If someone visits from an iPhone the website design should be small enough to fit the smaller screen. At the same time, you should also change the actual content when people on mobile devices visit your website.
6) Intangible Results Also Matter
Did you just say that, Andrew? White Shark Media preaches ROI, accountability, and tracking, so why do you say intangible results matter?
I was sitting with one of my Senior PPC Strategists discussing a case about attribution modeling. To make a long story short, we started talking about how big of a difference Google Analytics shows when you compare attribution models:
Translated into simple terms: Google AdWords generated 63% more conversions than the ones reported in Google Analytics as default.
The example above is an e-commerce store. Imagine how many more people call you, come to your office or in some way interact with you because of Google AdWords, but that you can’t track.
Only Focusing on Tangibles Will Put you in a Downward Spiral
One of the easiest things to do with a Google AdWords campaign is to cut costs. You can go into any well-performing Google AdWords campaign and cut costs off the bat. You will most likely improve ROI consistently over the first three months.
However, after that point you’ll start to notice your volume of sales is decreasing. You will start lowering the bids for more keywords, pausing ad groups and all of a sudden you get a wake-up call. What just happened? Your initial success didn’t turn into sustainable performance gains.
What happened was that you started pausing keywords that didn’t result in any direct conversions, but they “fed” the other keywords. This blog post isn’t long enough to go into detail, but know that if you don’t use other attribution models than last click, or trust your gut feeling, then you will never get the full benefits of Google AdWords advertising.
7) There Isn’t One Right Way of Doing AdWords, and That’s Why You Jump from AdWords Agency to AdWords Agency
If you talk with any small business, they have changed agency at least once because they felt someone could do a better job.
Yes, a lot of times these changes were warranted. But in some cases it’s just because you can create successful Google AdWords campaigns in so many different forms that it’s easy to fall victim to yet another sales pitch.
I can easily pick apart most Google AdWords campaigns even if they are producing good results right now. I can easily argue for why you should not split up your match types in different campaigns, but I can also provide a very strong argument for why you should.
And that’s exactly where the challenge for you as a small business owner lies. You can be told 4-5 different stories that are conflicting, but none of them are less true than the other.
The next time you want to switch agency, consider just putting more pressure on your existing agency. In our early days at White Shark Media, I can’t count how many cases where the account management team didn’t pursue more advanced tactics for clients because they didn’t expect them to increase the advertising budget.
It wasn’t until we implemented a proactive line of questions in all our conference calls with clients that they opened up our their wallets and allowed us to increase their overall returns. We were able to do by venturing out to the most advanced parts of the Google AdWords universe.
Surprised, or Was It What You Expected?
I hope that you have a better idea of why Google AdWords doesn’t work for some small businesses while others believe it’s their best marketing channel.
If you walk away with one thing from today’s blog post, then it should be these two:
You’re not playing on equal terms with long-term advertisers in Google AdWords (at least not to begin with) – Plan for it and know you have to fight harder in the beginning
Invest in a good website – especially if you’re in a mainstream industry
If you have questions about some of the topics in this post, feel free to ask below, and I’ll answer the same day.