Internet MarketingSEO

Is Google AdWords a Waste of Money for Local Businesses?

Chances are at some point (or three times a week in some cases) you’ve received a call from an internet marketing company telling you that they can get you to “number one” on Google if you sign up for their internet marketing program. There are numerous problems with this outdated and overused sales line and we are going to tackle them, one by one and hopefully once and for all.

  1. When someone tells you that they can get you to “number one” on Google, they aren’t really talking about search results…

No sales rep will ever tell you this during a conversation like the one I described above but the truth is they aren’t referring to the first position on the SERPS (search engine results page). What they are actually referring to are the ads that always appear at the top of the page (see picture below). The problem with this is that when people are searching for a “local” business, they have been conditioned to completely ignore these ads and scroll down to the listings or actual search results. Why? Because most searchers KNOW these are ads and have been burned in the past by attractive statements that wind up being national companies with no actual local establishment in the community. For example, someone does a search for “Italian restaurants near me” on a Friday night. The first result is an ad for a homestyle family restaurant that mentions your city and even references a 20% off coupon. You click on the ad to get the coupon and address and are taken to a “location search” page for the Olive Garden. Sure, it’s already been pre-populated with your city and state but the closest restaurant in the chain is over 150 miles away! Frustrated searchers have learned that the only organizations that can afford to have ads show up in these kinds of “categorical local searches” are larger organizations that have the money to do so even if they don’t have a location in the area, for them it’s all branding. After enough experiences like this (it doesn’t take too many), most searchers just know to ignore these advertisements and begin to not even notice them as their position on the page is always the same. Another thing people learn very quickly is that if there IS indeed an “Olive Garden” near them, it will be in the listing results anyway. Nearly all of the advertisement “clicks” on these ads are accidental when it comes to people searching for a local establishment.




  1. No one can guarantee that you will be “number one” no matter how good their program is.

Google changes its ranking algorithms frequently, this means that what worked two months ago might not work today. Aside from this very frustrating truth however, is the fact that there is no such thing as being “number one” across the board in search! You see, the things that determine which website is number one in any given search are many, they are also individualized. What do I mean? I mean that Google shows people website results that are based on their internet activity. That means that If someone has visited your website in the past, you are a lot more likely to be number one if that person does a search that relates to your business. Google also factors in distance, not only when it comes to business listings but also in the regular search results. You might be number one in search for one person who lives right around the block from you, and number 5 for another person that lives one town over. There is no such thing as a website being number one in the search results all the time, for everyone. Even for individuals this holds true. Try searching for something that you usually wouldn’t search for… then do the same search three more times over the course of several days without clicking any of the results. You will most likely see that the website in the number one position changes. That’s because Google doesn’t allow any one website to be the “king of a keyword” anymore. It’s all about showing searchers results that THEY want to see. Also, keep in mind that if you are in an industry like restaurants, hospitality, auto repair, etc. the number one spot is often dominated by informational websites, not actual businesses.

  1. Google AdWords is not Search Engine Optimization

Another point that should be made is that Google AdWords is not “SEO”. Search Engine Optimization has to do with the content and structure of your website being “tuned” to match what people are searching for, not placing ads online that lead to clicks to your website or calls. The problem with putting all your eggs in the “AdWords” basket is that you aren’t actually making your site any more “searchable”, you are merely creating a link that leads to a website visit. Spending tons of money on Google AdWords each month if your website has problems is like spending money on nitrous for an old car that has engine problems. Sure, it might go faster while using the nitrous but as soon as you stop the car is just as bad (if not worse) than before. I’m not saying that Google AdWords is useless, all I’m saying is that it makes more sense to spend most of your budget on actual SEO work for your site so that the rankings you generate are real. Google AdWords DOES have its place for local businesses, but you need to have a goal in mind. Simply spending money on ads that merely make people “aware” of your business is not going to generate the desired results. Come up with a specific goal you want to accomplish whether that is pushing a certain product, service, or sale and then keep track of whether or not your campaign is having the desired results.


So, there you have it! As a local business or organization there is a unique approach that must be taken when it comes to search engine optimization and it varies based on your industry and your location as well as numerous other factors. Beware of agencies that make promises about results before getting to know you and your goals and remember that being number one on Google is not the ticket to success anymore…

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