Some of us – by “some,” I mean those of us born before 1984 – are familiar with the local advertising model of the past: the Mom-and-Pop corner store would have that yearly and inevitable conversation with a yellow pages representative, wherein strategy was typically reduced to content, size and placement. Fast-forward a couple decades to a complex and nuanced playing field with online marketing channels and unprecedented control over targeting, ad rotation, keywords, bidding, etc. For those businesses able and willing to set the pace in this brave new world, interactive agencies (such as our own) are hired to take full advantage of the available keyword and targeting optimization strategies, using sophisticated reporting techniques and seasoned insight to help companies obtain a maximum ROI.
But let’s say you are running a small sandwich shop and you don’t have the money to hire a search professional or the time to teach yourself how to use the tools. Just in time for bikini season, Google re-debuted a slimmed down version of AdWords: AdWords Express. While this product has already been in existence under the name Google Boost, it has seen a recent interface makeover in line with many other Google products – Gmail, Places, etc. – providing a cleaner and more intuitive look for its users.
Made for small and medium businesses with small budgets and limited time on their hands, AdWords Express is designed to increase business exposure and sales for those who want to venture into Google’s local search market without dealing with the robust features and complex options of its parent product.
Claiming a faster and simpler way to start advertising online – in less than five minutes – AdWords Express certainly lacks the learning curve of the regular AdWords program. Less-than-savvy web users should be happy to see that creating an ad requires only five pieces of information: 1) selecting a search category, 2) a headline for the ad, 3) an ad description, 4) selecting a landing page, and 5) choosing a monthly budget ($50 minimum).
The most crucial step in the sign-up process – and the feature that best defines the appeal and utility of AdWords Express – is selecting a search category for your business. While search professionals should comb the available tools to select the most appropriate keywords to help trigger the ad when a search is performed, AdWords Express allows the small business owner to choose, for example, the category of “Italian Restaurant” and Google supplies the appropriate keyword list. What if your business sells a variety of products and services? No problem. You can sign up for more than one business category and write ads specifically for each category of products.
Since the concept of bidding on keywords might prove daunting to some, AdWords Express nullifies this concern by utilizing automatic bidding capabilities. Simply enter the amount you want to spend each month and Google will optimize your ad placement based on the keywords associated with the business category you select when signing up. Small business owners should rejoice at the thought of zero ongoing account management.
Perhaps the most intriguing and beneficial option for AdWords Express advertisers is the way the ad appears on Google’s maps. Normally, a red pin is used to show the actual location of the business on the map, but AdWords Express ads receive a blue pin. It is hard to overstate the importance of this feature as a lone blue pin will clearly stand out among a sea of red pins, drawing a user‘s attention toward the Express ad.
Is your business lacking a website to serve as a landing page? No problem, Google has you covered. Businesses can set up a Google Places account at the same time as their Express account and the ad will link to their Places page. When an AdWords Express ad is created, the system automatically creates an AdWords account with the same login email address and sets up a Places campaign – a read-only report available to give your small business vital information regarding how people are searching and finding you. You can also access this information through your Google Places dashboard.
Is your business too strapped for cash that it can’t invest in an AdWords Express trial? No problem. It has been announced last week that Google is beginning to offer and test a Google MasterCard credit card, with a modest 8.99% APR, to be used for pay-per-click spending. While many details have yet to surface on this opportunity, Google is making it very attractive for small business owners to dip their toes in the paid search pool. The efficacy of online advertising is leaps and bounds beyond the olden days of yellow pages, however, when it comes to time and know-how, not much has changed. After supplying a few basic pieces of information, the sandwich shop owner is right back where he needs to be – taking care of all of his newly acquired customers.