I’ve been an AdWords consultant for 15 years so I’ve seen a lot of changes in technology and the advertising industry as a whole. But I’m now starting to see something that is having a profound impact on many small businesses. It is very concerning and I have nothing but empathy for many of these small business owners. I call it the death of the Yellow Pages.
Many successful small businesses that have been around for decades, built their business almost exclusively on Yellow Page advertising. Even though the costs kept going up, it was worth it because it kept the phone ringing and profits rolling in. But as the age of the internet began to take hold, the Yellow Pages book got pushed further and further back on the shelf, until it eventually landed in the trash, mostly because of one phenomenon, Google.com.
Some business owners were quick to see the trend and turned it into a competitive advantage, while others went kicking and screaming into the internet and smartphone age. Many of these reluctant business owners built minimal websites that quickly became out-dated and they resisted learning anymore than they absolutely needed to know about online advertising. They quickly became overwhelmed and confused, but the Yellow Pages were still producing enough leads to make this only a mild frustration. They could still make ends meet.
To make matters worse, many unscrupulous online marketing firms seized on the opportunity to sign up naïve businesses by making flowery claims of “being on the first page of Google” and promising a flood of qualified leads. These firms kept a sizeable list of unhappy clients too scared or confused to make a move, even though the business owners became increasingly disenchanted with their online advertising performance.
Then came the tipping point, the Yellow Pages finally died. This left many business owners stranded. In spite of cutting back staff, reducing inventory, hours of operation, geographic territory and advertising spend, it became an unstoppable downward spiral. They became stranded because they had not invested the time or resources to keep up with changing market conditions.
Many of these same businesses depleted their resources to the point where they simply couldn’t afford to make the investment necessary to catch up. And quite frankly, they simply don’t have the will.
One thing is now clear, if they have any chance of surviving, they must be able to be found on Google. But they don’t have the knowledge to make an informed decision on how best to do it. So they look for anyone who promises to make the phone ring again. And there are still plenty of firms out there that will imply or even promise to make that happen. Even Google will sometimes over promise and under deliver. I go out of my way to make it clear what I can and cannot do for clients and I never promise to make the phone ring.
This is when having an appreciation for the end-to-end online selling process becomes so important. See my post titled PPC Essentials. That’s because even a perfectly designed, developed, implemented and fine-tuned Google AdWords campaign can’t make the phone ring. All an AdWords campaign can do is deliver a qualified visitor to your website. The website must convince the visitor to take the action you want; fill out a form, call you on the phone or best of all, purchase something. If the website doesn’t look professional, if the landing page isn’t relevant to the user’s search query, if the offer isn’t compelling, the visitor will simply hit the Back button. But you still pay for that click.
Most business owners will get that. But what they find difficult to comprehend is how many clicks they must buy to get a lead. They focus on the number of clicks they are buying and can’t understand why the phone isn’t ringing. There are usually two reasons why this happens.
- The campaign was poorly constructed. The keywords used were too broad in scope and in many cases, the campaign manager didn’t have a good understanding of keyword matching options and they used too many broad match keywords. See my post titled The Broad Match Effect.
- The probability factor. The average conversion rate for a well designed campaign is 3-5%. That means you need to buy about 25 clicks to get one lead (phone call, form-fill, etc.). Multiply your average cost-per-click (CPC) times 25. If your campaign isn’t well designed, that number goes up considerably. And remember, that’s only a lead, not a sale. See my post titled A Game of Chance.
If the campaign isn’t designed properly, it is also reflected in the quality of the lead. You probably know what I’m talking about. You just spoke with someone on the phone and say to yourself, “why did they call me? Did they not read my ad? Did they not look at my website?” The answer is, probably not! The sad truth is that users (of search engines) don’t read ads and they only scan web pages. They click on your ad, go to wherever you send them on your website and in 3-5 seconds, decide if they want to stay.
This situation only reinforces the need to design an AdWords campaign that is laser focused on the best prospects. That your keywords are relevant to your ad copy and your ad copy is relevant to your landing page. See my post titled A Chain of Success.
If you ask me to design a campaign for your business, I will rely heavily on what you tell me is a good search query from a qualified user, because you know your business infinitely better than I do. You know the market, your product or service, your competition and your geographic territory. You will need to teach me about your business, and to the extent you are interested, I will teach you about online advertising and Google AdWords. It’s a collaborative process.
So whether you decide to hire me or someone else, be aware of what an AdWords campaign manager is capable of and what they are not. If your objective is to get the phone to ring, I can’t make that promise and anyone who claims they can isn’t being honest with you.