3 Ways Google AdWords Is Adapting for Small Business Advertising


There’s no denying that AdWords has been extremely successful in building an enterprise-level customer base. How else would it have achieved the status of the world’s most popular search marketing platform? Given that it is, by far, the most prominent player in the space at this time, I think it’s fair to speculate that the majority of its enterprise-level clients are highly committed to the advertising platform. Based on what we’ve seen here at WordStream, these big spenders tend to be actively engaged with their accounts, and their AdWords spend levels remain fairly consistent.

Small Business Advertisers

These small businesses could use some help

Now that Google has full confidence in its enterprise clients’ stability, I suspect that it is shifting its focus to small business advertising. From my own experience with the small business audience, it is clear that their patience with AdWords wears thin pretty quickly, resulting in short customer lifetimes with Google. Since many of these smaller advertisers are quick to jump ship, Google is missing out on tons of potential revenue. Keeping these small advertisers engaged with AdWords advertising is a critical area of opportunity for the search giant, but it certainly won’t be an easy feat.

When it comes to satisfying the small advertisers, Google faces a myriad of challenges. For example, among many small businesses, AdWords has a negative reputation. You don’t have to do much searching to find scathingly negative reviews of AdWords written by smaller advertisers—there is even a blog dedicated to bashing it. Their disdain for Google’s paid search platform comes as no surprise to those who are familiar with it. The AdWords interface is complicated and unintuitive (they added over a thousand updates to the system in 2013), making it challenging to complete even the most basic account management tasks. To add insult to injury, it’s ridden with complicated digital marketing jargon that is intimidating to new users.

Not only is it hard for Google to convince small businesses to use AdWords for advertising, it is also challenging to keep them on board with PPC. Part of this is simply the nature of the beast—PPC rarely turns out good results right off the bat. Plus, it takes a while for an account to gather sufficient data for an advertiser to begin making optimizations. Often, smaller advertisers get frustrated and abandon paid search before they’ve seen the true potential of their account.

Not only do these issues encourage small business advertisers to ditch PPC, they also tend to be a barrier to entry for advertisers who have not yet dabbled in digital marketing. For a long time, Google didn’t seem too concerned with these “small fish,” but AdWords’ latest updates seem to indicate a change of heart.

Here are three recent AdWords releases that prove that Google is making serious efforts to make their platform more palatable for small business advertising.

Change #1: The New Opportunities Tab Spoon-Feeds You Small Business Advertising Strategies

Google recently revamped the Opportunities Tab, which basically spoon-feeds PPC strategy to advertisers.

AdWords Opportunities Tab

Not only did this tool receive a long-overdue facelift, Google also added new algorithms to provide more impactful “opportunities” to users. This feature is hugely beneficial to SMB account managers who have limited PPC expertise and limited time to dedicate to account analysis.

Change #2: Simpler UI Caters to Small Business Advertisers

If you’ve logged into AdWords lately, you’ve probably noticed that Google has made some long overdue UI improvements. It all began back in October, when AdWords rolled out a sleeker logo and an updated navigation bar. Shortly thereafter, it released copy and paste functionality, as well as an “undo” button, which was a huge win for all advertisers.

More recently, Google unveiled a major redesign of the AdWords platform that was aimed at updating the AdWords UI to look and feel more like other Google applications. Such alignment is critical for small business advertisers who do not have time to commit to learning the intricacies of the AdWords platform. Now that it is more closely aligned with other Google products (which they are likely to be familiar with), it is easier for them to navigate. Sure, to AdWords experts, these changes may have seemed trivial, but for newbies a little help goes a long way.

AdWords Advertising for Small Businesses

Change #3: AdWords Introduces More Intuitive Conversion Counting

Finally, AdWords is redefining conversions in a way that is more relatable to non-experts. In the past, many advertisers were mystified by Google’s conversion labels, Conversions (1-per-click) and Conversions (many-per-click).

Flexible Conversion Counting

The new system, dubbed flexible conversion counting, changes the conversion labels to better reflect what these columns actually count. Here are the new definitions:

  • Converted clicks: The number of clicks that result in one or more conversions within a selected “conversion window” time period. In this case, if a customer makes more than one purchase after clicking on an ad, they will register as ONE converted click.
  • Conversions: The number of conversions you’ve received, based on your conversion counting settings. Advertisers can adjust their settings to track all conversions or solely unique conversions.

Ulterior motives aside, I’m pleased to see that Google is finally catering their platform to fit the needs of the small business customer base. Although their progress is commendable, they’ve barely scratched the surface on this initiative. To create something that is truly customer-centric, they will need to invest in bolder, more impactful changes that directly address the challenges that SMBs encounter.

For example, I would love to see AdWords develop more easily digestible reporting capabilities, to help small advertisers better understand how PPC is helping them bring in more leads. Or, provide account structure templates to help advertisers organize their accounts properly.

For all of the small advertisers out there, what changes would Google need to make in AdWords to keep you engaged with paid search?

Top image via New Old Stock

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Small Business Marketer
Mar 26, 2014

There are so many time pressures on a small business entrepreneur/owner that if it's too hard it normally doesn't get a look in.Recently in Australia, Google introduced AdWords Express and provided $150 of advertising credit. It was a good incentive for one of my clients to get started and then they saw the benefits immediately.  Their phone support was pretty good too.They eventually hired a specialist to manage, upgraded to a full AdWords campaign and have doubled their spend.Their CTR is not amazing less than 2% but their conversions are around 30%. 

Apr 01, 2014

That's awesome!  I'm normally not a fan of AdWords Express, but it's definitely a great gateway to moving to full AdWords usage!

Apr 25, 2014

Do you know where we can find more about this AdWords Express promotion?To improve your CTR, try creating an Ad Group (Search Only) with 3-6 different text ad types for EACH target keyword. Start off going for 3-5 main keywords and don't be scared to put a high bid amount for your keyword as the number 1.0 Avg Ad Posistion is a must for a good CTR.

Mar 31, 2014

Yeah, it goes without saying that Google Adwords is very useful for businesses of any kind. Hope, that new updates will make user interface easier to perceive and customize. Thanks for a good article Erin !

Apr 01, 2014

Thanks, Luis!  Appreciate the comment 

Richard McGowan
Apr 14, 2014

Great post Erin. While I also think the new Opportunities tab is a strong improvement, one of the first pieces of advice I would give to any SMB owner running his or her own campaign would be to carefully review any "keyword opportunity" list. It's far too easy to add 100 new Broad Match keywords that result in a swift depletion of your budget with little to show for it. It can sour a user's experience with AdWords, which is unfortunate because, as you point out, it has a lot to offer for SMBs.  

Apr 23, 2014

Richard, I couldn't agree more!  Many of the SMBs we work with are quick to take Google-based advice, without really investigating the impact of the change ahead of time.  Sometimes the Opportunities Tab is the culprit and, more often than not, Google's own reps are responsible for poor advice!  It's important to remember that Google is NOT an unbiased third party and therefore all recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt...Just my two cents 

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