In many parts of the country, if you don’t like the weather, just wait 30 minutes…it’ll change.

These days, Google is the same way. If you don’t like what they’re doing, just wait…they’ll change.

Google has always been an innovative company that constantly changes its platform. But their rate of change has increased dramatically over the past few years. For example, they used to update their search engine algorithm three or four times a year. Now, they update it weekly.

As a result, companies like mine must work much harder to stay on top of the ever-changing Google landscape. In this week’s newsletter, I want to give everyone a heads-up on a major Google change that could easily impact your business.

Google makes roughly 250 Billion dollars every year from Google Ads, their advertising platform. At Funeral Success Marketing, we’re experts at using Google Ads to connect you with families in your area. This is a service we’ve offered for over ten years, and we have seen firsthand how Google has constantly changed its advertising platform.

Google Ads is an auction system in which you have a bid associated with your ad. If your bid exceeds your competitor’s, your ad will be displayed more often and in a higher position. If you don’t bid enough, your ad will rarely be displayed.

If you manage your bids carefully, placing your ad at the top of the search results for terms like “funeral homes near me” has always been possible. That’s incredibly important because the top ad typically gets at least 50% of the clicks.

In the past, Google always had three ad spots at the top of the page and another three available at the bottom of the page. Our job has been to manage the bid price and the budget to keep our clients’ ads at the top of the page as much as possible.

It’s important to note that Google rarely rolls out changes to their entire user base all at once. Instead, they’ll roll out a change to a part of the country, evaluate the results, and then gradually roll it out to everyone. So, what you see in your market may differ from what I’m describing, but changes are coming.

About four months ago, we noticed an important change in how Google Ads worked. The advertising spots at the top of the page started to disappear. It didn’t happen all the time, just often enough that we noticed the difference in our conversion metrics.

After digging into it more, we found that Google has been phasing out the advertising spots at the top of the page. Rather than displaying ads at the top or bottom, they display organic search results in groups of twenty, then some ads, and another group of twenty search results.

The bottom line is that in most of the country, the top spots are gone (or rarely displayed), and your Google Ads now show up halfway down the page, mixed in with the organic search results.

This change isn’t just impacting funeral homes. It’s impacting all searches for local businesses.

A wide variety of local businesses, from plumbers to attorneys, used to be able to create a Google ad, bid high enough to get their ad into the coveted number one spot, and bring a steady stream of new prospective clients to their website.

Those days are over…

Google’s new opportunity for local businesses, including funeral homes, is their Google Screened program and Google Local Services Ads.

I’ll explain this program in a future newsletter, but this is the biggest change I’ve seen in the ten-plus years I’ve worked with Google Ads.

For now, consider the impact of having your Google Ad displayed halfway down a page instead of at the top. Is this a problem? Is there a way to turn this into an opportunity?

A few years ago, I came across a study that said that 50% of the people who click on Google ads already know the name of your business and are just looking for your phone number. Another 25% don’t have your name “top of mind” but recognize it when they see it and click on your ad. Only the remaining 25% of Google ad clicks are from shoppers looking for a good option.

When your funeral home’s Google ad was at the top of the page, 75% of the time, the person who clicked on it just needed your phone number. Now, with your Google ad gone from the top of the page, these same people are clicking on your Google Business Profile (map listing) or your organic search results.

These people still need to find your phone number on your website. They just didn’t click on your Google ad to get to your website.

Who is the person who scrolls halfway down a Google search result page? The shopper.

They don’t know the name of your funeral home. They don’t have a relationship with any local funeral home. This is a call that is “up for grabs”.

As a direct result of changing the position of your Google ad, the person who comes to your website isn’t just looking for your phone number. They’re looking for information to help them make a good decision for their family.

Most funeral home Google ads send the traffic to the home page of the funeral home’s website. The problem is that most funeral home website homepages contain very little helpful information and are instead focused on current obituaries.

The key point is that Google ads can still be a great marketing tool for your funeral home business. But you need to send the traffic to a page that contains helpful information that educates the person and gives them a clear reason to choose your funeral home.

Call me if you’re running the same Google ads you ran last year. The Google ads game has changed, and you need a new game plan, or you are wasting your money.

Until next time

John

PS: The old Yellow Pages book from 20 years ago had the same statistics. 50% of people were just looking for your phone number, 25% needed to be reminded of your name, and 25% were shoppers. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

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