Cutting Out the Local Advertising Agency: Google Goes Direct

, ,

Google just debuted their new Local Service Ads (LSA) in 30 markets, and are calling plumbers, locksmiths, electricians and HVAC companies directly. Participating businesses must pass “Advanced Certification” guidelines to verify they are established and have safe employees.  When certified, they may purchase the GOOGLE GUARANTEED ads at the top of local search listings. A good article about LSA can be found at Street Fight.

Advanced Certification is really ad verification. Generally speaking, advertising verification is designed to decrease online fraud. For example, Facebook recently started verifying all political ads in wake of Russia’s tampering in US elections. From an advertising agency point of view, verification improves the industry. Digital ads have more trust with consumers. Verification should be a win for everyone – consumers, ad agencies and publishers alike.

However, in this verification case, we are talking about Google. Part of their business model is based on industry disruption. Paid search has disrupted the Yellow Pages.  Free Google Sheets and Docs continue to target Microsoft Office revenue.  Google Analytics eroded paid analytics services like HitsLink. With LSA, verification is a tool to disrupt the advertising agency model. Now companies like Royle Media are in their cross-hairs. Our active clients include electricians, plumbers, and HVAC contractors.

What’s Wrong with Google Going Direct?

  • For 18 straight years, we’ve been telling business owners that, “Google never calls you,” and telemarketers posing as Google are frauds and scammers. That all changes now as Google makes outbound sales calls. They have opened Pandora’s box and created more opportunities for bait-and-switch advertising criminals. Business owners beware.
  • Google AdWords was introduced Q4 2000. Since then, local digital agencies have been Google’s bread and butter, their biggest advocate, and sales force. Going direct means Google is cutting off the hand that feeds them. There is no loyalty in Mountain View. Will the direct sales model backfire as agencies shift more budget to Bing, Facebook, Pandora and programmatic ad networks? Why send business to Google when they are a competitor?
  • Now that Google will “guarantee” a company’s trustworthiness through LSA, does that mean their other paid and organic listings are full of unethical companies? Did Google create verified ads because AdWords and Google organic search results have always been full of predators?
  • Removing the agency reduces accountability. Google only cares about Google. Facebook ads often CRUSH Google AdWords when it comes to ROI. Pandora and Bing regularly provide better return than expensive Google AdWords. Digital agencies measure ROI, verify that ads were properly delivered, and recommend the best advertising options for the business owner.
  • Google’s new Local Service Ads push the organic listings further down the page, maybe even page two. For the businesses that have invested heavily in search engine optimization (SEO), they now need to pivot to Google paid advertising. That does not diminish the value of SEO with Bing and their partners.
  • For the last couple years radio, television and newspaper companies have moved to the “agency model”, where they build and optimize websites, sell Google AdWords, and programmatic banner campaigns. Now LSA will be competing directly with broadcasters and publisher-sold AdWords campaigns. These media companies will surely drop Google from their digital advertising toolboxes once they figure it out.

Ten years ago, I held a corporate position with Entercom Communication, and Google was courting our radio group to sell AdWords. I attended a conference in Mountain View where they wined and dined us broadcasters, as well as newspaper and phone book publishers. Google wanted us “partners” to sell their ads. We had the sales teams, and AdWords seemed complimentary to local radio spots.

The Stanford MBA’s at Google created complex formulas to determine commission rates. The commission tables were difficult to understand, much less explain to a commission sales rep in the field how they got paid.  A simple percentage of gross sales was unreasonable to Google. They needed to have leverage over their partners. When it comes to partnerships, win/win is not in Alphabet’s vocabulary. One decade later, and Google is still up to their same tricks. There is no loyalty or win/win in Mountain View.

Previously when we had problems with Google, we simply called them and were routed to Mountain View or Arizona. Now Google customer service calls are routed overseas. Unfortunately, the new customer service folks do not have the same depth of advertising knowledge as the North America-based client service professionals. This makes Google frustrating to work with. Will the Google Guaranteed customer service people be overseas also? I’m not sure the busy plumbers and electricians will have the patience for off-shored customer service.

This blog post may seem overly critical of Google, but sorry Silicon Valley, you can’t always have your cake and eat it too.  Maybe we’ll lose our Google Partner status for slamming them. If that’s the case, then so be it. We can buy around Google with Facebook and programmatic display ads and hot beholden to Alphabet’s cold soup.

Mobile Marketing: Don’t Get Left in the Digital Dust

,
Mobile Ready Images

In October 2016, web browsing on mobile devices overtook desktop browsing for the first time. With this rise of mobile web surfing, it is more important than ever that your website is optimized for mobile viewing. Right now, mobile sites are lagging behind desktop sites in many key metrics, including average time on site, pages per visit, and bounce rate. Driving conversions on a mobile site is done differently than on a desktop or tablet and must be approached differently. If you aren’t focusing on mobile moving forward, you are already falling behind.

Need for Speed

According to a study done by Google in January of 2017, the average mobile landing page takes 22 seconds to fully load; a majority of people won’t wait more than three seconds for a page to load, let alone 22. For every second delay in mobile page load, conversions can fall by up to 20%. Trimming the fat by compressing and removing images is one way to dramatically increase speed and conversions. Speed is additionally important when it comes to mobile versus desktop due to the inconsistencies of cellular data network speeds versus wi-fi and wired connections that are generally used by desktops. 70% of cellular network connections globally will occur at 3G or slower speeds through 2020, so ensuring your mobile site is speedy is important in reaching as many users as possible.

Content is King

This digital marketer’s golden rule is just as important to mobile site optimization as it is to all other parts of internet marketing. Content on your mobile site should be quickly consumable and easily accessible by fast-moving mobile users. Be aware of things like paragraph length, which may look fine on a desktop but is an imposing wall of text on mobile. Avoid the dreaded pinch and zoom that will drive away users by ensuring that buttons and form fields are easily clickable and accessible to thumbs and fingers. Many users will also favor scrolling over clicking because it is easier to maneuver with a finger. Be aware of how your images will take up valuable space on the smaller screen and how intrusive pop-ups are to your user.

Site Metrics You Should Be Watching

Analyzing mobile metrics in the same way that you are analyzing desktop metrics is ineffective in understanding your mobile users and how you can better their time on your site. The mobile experience is different than a desktop one, and website analytics will reflect that. For example, a lower rate of pages per session and time on site is a worrisome metric, but on a mobile site, it may mean that users were able to find the information they needed quicker and easier. If your mobile users are spending longer on your site and visiting more pages, its might be a sign that they are not finding what they need, especially if your conversions are low. Bounce rate is also vital in understanding the success of your mobile site. Your landing page should be attractive and easy to navigate for the mobile user. If users are leaving immediately, it’s a bad sign.

Know Your Mobile Audience

Mobile users and desktop users have different needs and goals, and to best serve those needs and meet those goals, it’s vital that you understand what they are. Many mobile sessions are driven by search, so if you are looking to drive mobile conversions, making sure your SEO is updated will help drive users to your site. Mobile users are often looking for information quickly and don’t want to have to spend too much time searching your site, unlike desktop users that are more likely to browse a site for a longer period of time and explore more pages on a site. To ensure users don’t leave your site for a competitor’s, make information easy to find and digest. Additionally, Google and other search engines prefer mobile sites that are fast and optimized for users, so you have a better chance of ranking higher in search results if you have a good mobile site.

Three-quarters of Americans now own smartphones, and if you are not catering to those smartphone users, you are getting left in the digital dust. Optimizing your mobile site is vital to cutting ahead in your industry and driving conversions. Speed, mobile-friendly content, and understanding the mobile user and how they will use your site should be the foundational pillars of your mobile marketing game plan. Mobile can no longer be an afterthought, it needs to be a priority in your digital marketing strategy.

Sources and Other Resources

Find Out How You Stack Up to New Industry Benchmarks for Mobile Page Speed

Cellular Network Connections at Slow Speeds – Think with Google

Why Marketers Should Care About Mobile Page Speed

Are Your Mobile Website Visitors Finding What They Want?

Mobile vs Desktop: 13 Essential User Behaviors

4 Things You Need to Know About the Future of Marketing

Measurement: The Secret to Growth in a Mobile-First World

The Story Ad-Blocking is Telling Us

Understanding-Ad-Blocking

The advent of ad-blocking software has caused quite the stir in the advertising community. Being a recent inductee into the marketing and advertising world and a young millennial I decided to take a look into the issue. According to a 2014 study by PageFair, an organization specifically designed to address the issue of ad-blocking, ad-blocking activity rose by 69% between September 2013 and September 2014. Although their article estimates that only about 6% of internet users deploy ad blocking software, their follow-up study released on August 10th, 2015 claimed that the advertising industry lost an estimated $21.8 billion in ad revenue throughout 2015. In the U.S.A alone, it is estimated that up to 25% of internet users have an adblocker deployed. For an industry that rakes in around $60 billion a year, that $21.8 billion is startling.

Read more

When Ad Servers Go Wrong

When Ad Servers Go Wrong

Screenshot of Crown Royal ad in prom photosEach spring OregonLive.com sends photographers to most of the local proms. My oldest daughter is a graduating senior this year, and I was glad to see 84 photos from her prom on OregonLive.com. There were some great shots in the photo gallery, as well as some ads.

As much as I like Crown Royal, I was not excited about seeing the ad in the high school gallery. The ad illustrated one of problems with programmatic display advertising. When the ad server decides placement, it does not blacklist specific content. With print publications, ad placement is crucial and an editor would never include an alcohol ad next to prom content.

Read more

WordPress Themes: Easy Misconceptions for Clients

WordPress

One of my new clients is excited about starting the design process for their website. In the sales presentation, I explained that WordPress is the preferred platform for their website; they showcase several products, need to update content themselves and understand the power of blogs and search engine optimization. Read more

Bad Contextual Advertising and Horse Meat

For several years my family and I have been making sushi at home. I buy the fresh ingredients, cook the sushi rice and everyone makes their own rolls and nigiri. It’s a fun Friday evening of chopping, eating and making a mess, and we definitely save some money. Read more

Website Emergency: My Webmaster Disappeared

Client calling for help

On Friday afternoon I received a phone call from Jose at NorthWest Landscape Care, a referral from my bookkeeper Plus Minus Accounting. His WordPress website was completely off-line after getting hacked. For two weeks Jose tried locating his webmaster, who quit returning phone calls months before. She apparently moved to California and shut down the company. Read more

Attribution Tech Allows “Seeing Through Last Click”

mac mouse

“I know only half of my advertising works. The problem is, I don’t know which half.”  – Henry Ford

Several clients have repeated this famous Henry Ford quote to me over the past 20 years, especially when I sold ads at the Seattle Times and in radio. Attributing leads and revenue to specific campaigns and media sources is difficult, but everyone wants to know where their business is coming from. Read more

Getting Pinned is Easy

Pinterest for eCommerce

With much prodding from my teenage daughter, I completed my Christmas wishlist on Pinterest. We enjoyed window shopping together. Our pin boards and shopping sites are very different, which was half the fun. Read more

Switch Gears from Broadcast to Internet

Broadcasting to Internet

Between Alpha Broadcasting and Entercom Communications I enjoyed six solid years of media. Both companies hired me to develop, integrate and sell internet advertising products. Streaming radio is a pretty incredible advertising medium. When I first looked at internet radio in 2006, I was impressed by the uniqueness of audio advertising, and how inexpensive the impressions were. The costs per thousand were a deal compared to maturing AdWords CPC’s. The record labels had not increased royalties so heavily yet, and Pandora was still a business plan. Read more