Smartphones continue to reshape how people search for information on the internet. Today, 52% of all global internet traffic comes from mobile devices, and 60% of searches are from smartphones. That’s pretty impressive, considering just five years ago only 34% of searches were from mobile phones.
To continue providing a smooth search experience in our increasingly mobile world, Google just announced new ad labeling changes. These changes make organic search results and Google ads look more similar to each other than they ever have before. Depending on your perspective, it’s a good or bad update.
For service-based B2B companies, this can be a very good thing. It means Google ads are incorporated more seamlessly into users’ search results, providing meaningful ads from relevant advertisers. Or, to put it another way: It gets you seen.
If you’re not using Google ads, it’s time for a fresh look at this effective and budget-friendly option for your service-based business. Let’s look at how Google ads work, how they interact with SEO, and how they could enhance your online strategy.
A Short History of Google Ads
When Google Adwords launched in 2000, most people were still Googling from desktop computers. There was a “wild west” approach to presenting search results. Ads appeared in various places as Google saw fit - including tucked deep within the search result listings.
Unfortunately, a world full of newbie internet users mistook Google ads for actual search results. Plus, advertisers watched their competitors use sneaky tactics, like making their ads look exactly like Google results.
To ease the confusion, in the early 2000s Google introduced a set of specific advertising locations within the top bar and sidebars of the web page. Visually, ads were now separate from search results. Everything seemed okay.
Until, that is, the explosion of smartphones and iPads. Everyone started Googling from their mobile devices, making the desktop format obsolete. Suddenly, organic results and ads were blending together all over again due to small-screen layouts.
Google Ads Today
Fast forward to 2019. Google is living in the grey area of US FTC guidelines, introducing new layout and labelling changes that continue to blend ads with organic results.
Why? Because that’s what mobile users want, according to Google executives. Today’s savvy internet users prefer that their search results are visually sleek and clean. Google stays technically within FTC rules with features like the green ad label, which signifies that something is defined as advertising.
Today’s Google Ads mix spectacle with subtlety. They vie for your attention, but only when relevant to your search terms. You’re far less likely to search for “local gutter repair” and get ads for tummy-slimming secrets.
For advertisers, this is terrific news. It means your ads are blended carefully into users’ search results, so they’re presented in a tasteful, welcoming way. It also means your dollars are spent wisely because you can custom-target precisely the audience you desire.
What You Should Know About SERPs
Is your head already spinning with new info about Google? Well, take a deep breath and keep reading. It’s important to have a working knowledge of SERP - search engine results pages.
Every SERP is full of information you don’t necessarily think about as a casual Google searcher. A SERP includes things like snippets, image packs, local packs, knowledge cards and panels - all of which push organic results down and push ads up.
Here’s a quick rundown of common SERP features.
Snippets - A snippet, also called a rich snippet or featured snippet adds a visual layer of meaning to search results. The classic example of a snippet is a review star rating.
Image packs - Image packs, or image carousels, provide a slider view of images to accompany search results. They’re very eye-catching to the user.
Local packs - Local packs are geographic features that provide location-based results to the searcher. Local businesses, especially restaurants, benefit from local packs.
Knowledge panels - These appear next to search results to deepen the searcher’s knowledge of a subject. They’re common to see after searching for a celebrity or historic landmark.
There are also many other SERP features, like top stories, videos, site links, “People also ask” boxes and more. Familiarize yourself with these features, and you capitalize on them to enrich your customers’ search experiences and ensure you are their top result.
What’s a Good CTR, CPC, and Conversion Rate?
If you’re wondering what kind of click-through rate (CTR) you should be looking for from your Google Ads, you’re not alone. It’s a common concern among businesses launching new campaigns.
Across all industries, the average Google Ads CTR is 3.17% for search and .46% for display. Notice where the decimal points are there - that was point-four-six percent. So don’t worry if your CTR is in that range, because it’s quite normal. Even the industries with the highest CTRs, like airlines and hotels, are only getting about 6%.
That’s because consumers often do a lot of digging and online searching before settling on a final decision. The click all around, jumping from option to option. They might not click on everything they see, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t seen your ad and thought about your company.
In terms of cost per click, the average Google Ads CPC is $2.69 for search and $0.63 for display. That’s what you’ll pay each time someone clicks on your ad. It’s a cost that has stayed fairly stable over the past few years, so it’s pretty easy to estimate for your budget, depending on your industry.
What about conversion rates? You’re looking at an Adwords average conversion rate of 3.75% for search and 0.77% for display, with some significant variation by industry. If you’re not seeing this kind of rate, consider improving your offers, adding calls-to-action (CTAs) on your landing pages, and refining the Google target audience you’re selecting for your Ads.
As you think about your CTR, CPC, and conversion stats, remember how B2B businesses are different from a B2C business. When you sell directly (B2C) to consumers, your customer lifetime value (LTV) is often quite low, maybe a few hundred dollars.
But a B2B company’s customers bring a much higher LTV, probably in the thousands. An investment in Google Ads and your probable cost per lead is a drop in the bucket by comparison. This makes Google Ads well worth the expenditure, even with a high CPC and low CTR.
The Duo of Google Ads and SEO
Let’s not forget the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) as it relates to your Google Ads. Keep in mind that SEO is never a replacement for Google Ads and vice versa. The two work in tandem to drive traffic to your site.
Proper SEO makes your website play nice with Google, Bing, and other search engines. SEO sends a signal that says, “Hey, I’m following your rules! I’m exactly what everyone wants!”
If you’re in the process of optimizing your website or preparing to launch a website redesign, you may want to consider running a Google ad campaign during this time. It will prevent your competitors from sneaking in and stealing your audience while your site experiences a transition. Google Ads can also offset an expected temporary reduction in organic website traffic that typically comes from launching a new website. How temporary that organic traffic is will depend on the level of SEO planning you did prior and immediately after launching your new website.
It’s also wise to run a Google ad campaign when you have something of value to provide, like a whitepaper, research study, webinar, ebook, checklist, or helpful new tool your audience can use. There is significant competition for attention to your content, Google Ads help to kick start awareness and consumption of your new content. And if you’ve done a good job setting up your campaign landing page, or conversion paths, the Google Ad campaign will have trackable ROI. This will help you further analyze the campaign performance as well as your landing page performance enabling you to make enhancements to optimize conversion.
If you’re ready to take a fresh look at your digital strategy, we’re ready to help. Request a free consultation.