Google’s new slogan should be, “Helping Goliath pummel David.”
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, then you already know how we feel about Google and their reckless behavior towards the little guy. But for newcomers, here’s a quick recap:
Google’s motivation will always be to maximize profits for themselves. This runs in direct opposition to the best interests of small businesses that can’t spend a fortune advertising themselves online.
And it’s getting worse.
Now, with Google’s Local Services ads, in addition to Google Ads (formerly AdWords), Google is siphoning limited SERP (search engine results page) space and handing that space to their own paid platforms. The consequence of this action is that Google is slashing available organic traffic for everyone else, particularly small businesses that can’t afford a big ad budget.
At this point, the notion that Google’s local search platform is pay-to-play is no longer up for debate.
In this blog post, we’re going to look at how the bloated presence of paid ads on Google’s SERPs are hurting small businesses’ web presence in real, tangible ways. We’re also going to tell you what you can do to protect yourself. Keep reading!
Paid Ads Are Taking Over
In the 30-or-so major U.S. cities where the Local Services platform has rolled out, small businesses are seeing a substantial decrease in website traffic.
Why? Because now, when someone searches for a local service provider in their city, like a plumber or electrician, they’re confronted with several paid ads right away. They have to scroll multiple times before even getting to the first organic website listing. This puts all organic listings at a major disadvantage.
Just take a look at this local SERP for “appliance repair service.” This is how much Google-sponsored content users see before they even get to the first organic listing!
In fact, a 2018 Bright Local study shows that the presence of Local Services ads has a significant, negative effect on other SERP listings:
- Local Services ads receive 13.8% of all local SERP clicks
- At the same time, 25% of all local SERP clicks are on paid ads in general (including Google Ads) when Local Services ads are present.
In other words, websites are missing out on a full quarter of their potential traffic due to the presence of paid ads. This is doing tremendous damage to website traffic for local service providers.
And here’s the thing: It’s not an accident that Google’s paid services are taking up so much space and hogging so much traffic. That’s by design. Again, Google’s interests conflict with yours: Their goal is to line their pockets through paid ads, which means they have to get the most clicks possible. Organic listings are, therefore, Google’s competition.
So, it’s no wonder that Google takes up the whole, top half of the SERP with paid ads. The more clicks those paid ads receive (and the fewer clicks organic listings receive), the more profit Google rakes in!
Plus, add to all of this the fact that Google is floating the idea of adding paid features to their Google My Business platform, and you’re looking at a steep price just to be visible online.
Play the Game but Protect Yourself
By now, it’s clear that Google’s pay-to-play model favors big businesses with big budgets. On local SERPs, the winner is whoever can afford to spend the most on paid ads. And if you’re a small service provider who can’t afford to dump money into advertising? The best Google can say is, “Good luck.”
Your takeaway? Don’t trust Google to have your back.
Maybe it’s just us, but we don’t like the idea of putting the fate of our company into the hands of a giant corporation whose sole objective is to empty our pockets.
And because of Google’s greed, organic traffic ain’t what it used to be. SEO is still crucial, but relying on SEO alone simply won’t cut it anymore. That’s why we advise our clients to diversify their advertising as a form of protection against the unstable nature of organic SEO.
To that end, we very begrudgingly admit that Google Ads is a necessary evil. It’s an unfortunate truth that Google owns the local search arena, so we all have to play by their rules. It pains us to say this, but as we demonstrated above, you need to set aside some money each month for a Google Ads PPC campaign if you want any degree of prominence or visibility on the local SERP.
Pro tip: Having a savvy marketing specialist manage your PPC campaign for you will help you keep costs down.
However, to only invest in Google Ads would be a mistake.
Again, diversifying your web presence is the goal here. That’s why we also recommend using paid ads on whatever social media platform(s) or directories your customers connect with most. For many businesses, this is Facebook, but Instagram and Yelp are also popular choices. And the good news is, most social media ads are substantially more budget-friendly than Google Ads.
In addition, we always remind our clients that old-school, real-world marketing is still effective, too! With memorable branding (including logos and signage), word-of-mouth, and face-to-face networking in your community, you can supplement your online efforts and really stamp out a place for your business on the local scene.
So, don’t get down about your diminished website traffic. There are still several ways to promote yourself online (and off) without blowing your budget. Even though your organic website traffic may drop, you can still get plenty of calls, leads, and booked revenue from other sources.