Google’s Ad Rank Update: Bad for SMB’s & Maybe You, Too

green-banking-for-small-businessesLast week Google announced an “improvement” to their Ad Rank calculations within AdWords. The calculation will now feature the use of ad extensions in addition to the original two factors, quality score and bid, to determine ad rank.

It’s not certain the degree of impact this will have on auctions, but we know if you’re not using ad extensions it will affect your accounts.  And it’s your job as a manager to make adjustments to impact performance. The problem is that ad extension issues aren’t like other account problems. They’re not under your control. Nope. These fall on your client’s shoulders. And this is where small businesses get hurt. Furthermore, simply enabling ad extensions for the sake of ad rank could hurt your clients in more ways than one. Let’s take a look at hypothetical problem areas by ad extension type.

Call Extensions

Small Business Problem
Many times small businesses owners are also in charge of marketing, order fulfillment, customer service, and accounting. They just don’t have the time or resources to have a dedicated person on the phones all day like a larger company might. Call centers aren’t easy to come by for small companies. The large companies will gladly put their phone numbers into the Google system, giving them an advantage in the ad rank calculation over the small businesses. For these smaller companies, the fact that they’re a small company is hurting them.

Enabling Issues
In this instance, Call Extensions might generate calls for your clients and making your stats look better, but those calls will most likely go unanswered causing two further problems: your client loses the lead that might have converted with the online form had it been the only option and your client’s company could get a bad reputation for not answering calls. A bad reputation online could be a dagger to the heart of a small businesses trying to make it big.


Small Business Problem
In September of 2012, Google began enforcing their unique sitelinks policy requiring advertisers to have different destination URLs for each sitelink. Well guess what, the advertisers that didn’t have multiple landing pages then most likely don’t have them now either. And now they’re going to be penalized for it.

Enabling Issues
Say your client’s website does have enough pages to put into sitelinks, but those are mostly informational pages from around the site. Sending traffic to pages that don’t follow best conversion rate practices might end up causing potential buyers to bounce when they have to look for what they want.

Location Extensions

Small Business Problem
Small businesses, especially those jus starting out, can often be centered in places that are less than ideal to call an office. Some people work from home, others in the back office of their friends office space for reduced rent, etc. Heck, the Macintosh people started in a garage. Long story short, you don’t always want to advertise your physical location for one reason or another. Larger businesses retail stores could benefit greatly from reduced CPCs as well as a solution for those shoppers who are more hesitant to buy online. And in that situation, your client loses out.

Enabling Issues
The problems here are a little more obvious than some others. Advertising your clients home address through location extensions would be one of those problems. Additionally, advertising a location not suited for walk-ins or in a physically unappealing location could also prove to be a customer service problem.

Seller Ratings

Small Business Problem
Seller ratings are already fairly difficult to qualify for as a small business. AdWords support outlines the criteria for the seller ratings extensions as follows:

  • To qualify, your business must have at least 30 unique reviews, each from the past 12 months, and a composite rating of 3.5 stars or higher on Google Shopping.
  • At least 10 of these reviews must be in the customer’s Google interface language.

Fitting into those guidelines could be seen as simple for some small business types, but mostly this one depends on your clients customers rather than the business itself. If your clients business has been historically a local establishment with word of mouth reviews, it might be hard to translate those to online reviews qualifying you for seller ratings.

Enabling Issues
Due to the guidelines listed above, it’s a little hard to fudge these and work the system to qualify for this extension. But if your client is to the point where they qualify and have a rating of 3.5 stars in an industry where all competitors have 4.5 or above, it might make sense to pause your seller ratings until your client can get their star count up a bit.

Offer Extensions

Small Business Problem
There are two problems facing small businesses with offer extensions. (At least two that will be mentioned here.) First, small businesses don’t always have tons of extra room in their margins to have sales on their products. Although it might gain them some incremental purchases and could help their ad rank, it might be hurting their bottom line. Second, just because there’s room in the margins doesn’t mean they have the programming skills to set their website up to accept offer codes for discounts.

Enabling Issues
Let’s say your client does have offer capabilities on their site and you decide to set up a limited time offer of 10% off everything on site. First off, shame on you! Second, you could really be hurting your clients bottom line. And giving the PPC industry a bad name in the process. Please don’t take this into your own hands.

Although these aren’t all of the types of ad extensions available in the AdWords interface, it’s not difficult to see how this change could mean trouble for some small businesses. Have an opinion? Share it in the comments!

Comments (4)

  1. I realize this wasn’t the point, but this post really highlights the benefits the new ad rank calculation has for the consumer. I would definitely want to filter out the small businesses that don’t have the infrastructure in place to manage my needs as a customer. What do you think?

  2. Hey Sam, thanks for the comment! You make a good point. Not having sitelinks or call extensions could be an indicator that the small business wouldn’t be able to fulfill your needs. But on the flip side, say that small business doesn’t take phone calls and only has one landing page, but that single page has everything you need to convert. Here the small business is doing everything right but isn’t getting the discount in CPC for using sitelinks or call extensions. That’s where I feel the ad rank update is being unfair to smaller businesses, especially ones otherwise equipped to handle online sales.

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