Friday 27 March 2020

COVID-19, Google Ads & Your Business

At the time of writing (late-March 2020), it would be easy to conclude that the COVID-19 virus (aka Coronavirus) is going to be a disaster for all businesses.  Self-isolation, lockdowns and other less obvious changes to consumer behaviour are already causing large falls in revenue in certain verticals, and it's likely to get worse before it gets better.

However, not all businesses should be adversely affected, and even those that are can almost certainly mitigate the effect and look for opportunities to bolster their revenue in the coming months.  So, what steps should you be taking as a Google Ads advertiser, or as someone who may consider Google Ads as an option during the outbreak?

Don't Panic

In the immortal words of the late Douglas Adams, "Don't Panic!".  I've already seen a number of posts online from advertisers who appear to be pausing their Ads campaign(s) as a knee-jerk reaction to the situation.  Sure, there are going to be a lot of advertisers who will find their accounts are no longer (as) profitable as they were and for many pausing their campaign(s) is probably a wise move.  However, there will also be a lot of advertisers who will be unaffected and probably a lot who will find their business actually grows during this period.  

People have not completely stopped buying or using services, their buying and use patterns have just changed and that change will affect different businesses in different ways.  So don't leap before you look!

Change Priorities and Re-examine Opportunities

If you sell a range of products or services it's likely you'll have optimised your Ads campaign(s) for those that sell well.  However, you should now be looking at your range and considering how performance may change and make appropriate alterations to your Ads.  For example, if you sell games you may in the past have found games for large groups or parties to be the most profitable while games for individuals/families were less so.  Given the current restrictions that situation is almost certainly going to be reversed.  Equally, if you've tried Ads in the past and they didn't work well for you, consider whether that may have changed.  Think about what people can do at home rather than what they can't.  Just a few examples are DIY, gardening, hobbies (painting, crafting, modelling, etc.), cooking, car maintenance, and a whole host of things that people usually complain they don't have time to do.

If you've tried to promote your scale-model kits online in the past and failed, now could be your time...

Be Transparent

Make sure your customers know you're aware of and responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Your customers are likely to be asking questions about hygiene and handling procedures - even for products that really aren't affected by such things - so make sure you have details of what your company is doing FRONT PAGE on your site and, most importantly, do what you're saying.  If you tell your customers you've got hand-sanitiser at every packing station, make sure you have hand-sanitiser at every station.

If you are getting questions from customers about the virus and your response, make sure you're adding these to your FAQ page and/or site information.

The absolute worst thing you can do is pretend nothing is happening.  It doesn't matter what your personal beliefs are, what matters is your customers' viewpoints and concerns so make sure you address them.

Be Responsive

Right now nothing is certain so it's vital that you stay up-to-date with the news that affects your business (and your customers).  Make sure you keep your Ads and your website up-to-date as well, reassuring your consumers that you're responding appropriately and in a timely fashion.

Consumers always respond well to Ads that appear to be specific for a time/event and this will apply now.

Don't Reach Too Far

If you've not currently got an online e-commerce solution and your business seems like it might benefit during the pandemic, think long and hard before devoting resources to make too great a change to your business practices.  An e-commerce site could easily take two months or more to build and fully test and, hopefully, in a few months time all this will be over and your investment may not be appropriate/economical in the long term.

If you believe you have opportunities for direct-selling online, consider other options such as taking orders by email or phone before jumping towards a full e-commerce build.

Equally, think very hard before extending or altering your product range.  If you currently sell hiking boots and have established a good customer base, consider whether suddenly starting to sell face-masks is going to help your business or damage your brand long-term.  (If you do sell hiking boots, now might be a good time to focus on those anyway, rather than face-masks).

As with all "sudden" demands for certain products the general rule is that if you weren't in that market at the start, you're too late, so think elsewhere...

Don't Mis-sell or Mislead

There is a LOT of misinformation, rumour and downright lying happening on social media and elsewhere online during the outbreak.  DO NOT be tempted to try and sell miracle cures or preventative medicine/equipment.  Google has already suspended countless Ads attempting to take advantage of the unwary and it is very likely your account will be permanently suspended if you attempt to circumvent the polices.  Don't do it.

When it's Over...

While it seems a long way off at the moment, eventually life will return to normal and you should ensure you then re-examine your accounts to put things either back to how they were or at least to a position where you can re-evaluate what has changed again.  No one will want to see Ads talking about the Coronavirus three months after it's a nasty memory, so set a reminder and be prepared to make changes again to keep your account current.

If you need help you can always contact us.  Google's support services are as affected as any other business but the support community is still active and able to answer any questions you may have.

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Why Researching Your Purchase is SO Important

There are some easy ways to make money these days on the Internet, as long as your morals are loose at best.  One of the primary options is to sell something online using convincing advertising and source that product at a ridiculously low price from overseas.  This particular scam comes in two flavours, you can either market a product that is usually expensive at a low price (though still far higher than its cost to the supplier) or you can market a product that is usually cheap at an inflated price based on its "revolutionary" nature.  Here's a couple of examples I've seen recently.

The miracle showerhead
A few months ago I saw an Ad for a showerhead that included some impressive CAD design drawings exposing the inner workings which, apparently, ensured your shower water was soft, clean and ionised (or some similar rubbish).  The image of the actual product looked pretty good and the Ad was backed by a single page site including testimonies, 5* reviews and all that.  But it was £89.  That's a LOT of money for a showerhead so my cynical hackles were raised even further.  A quick search on Amazon found another supplier for what was clearly the same product, but at £49, OK, that's an improvement, but still ridiculous.  More searching and the price from different suppliers continued to drop, £44.99, £39, £35, you get the picture.  By now it was clear that this was one of the above scams, selling a cheap product at a high price, so I wondered just how cheap they were to buy.  The screenshots below tell the story:

Claiming an original price of £39.90
Here's one site I found for this post (I couldn't find the original one where it was £89, hopefully the owners of that site are no longer able to trade). This site offers the head at a much more reasonable £19.90, "reduced" from £39.90. 

Note the interesting claims.  And here's an eBay listing.  Anything look familiar?
Yep, £3.98 with free shipping.

In case you can't read it, yes, that's £3.98 with free shipping.  So the eBay seller here is able to sell this product at £4, pay for the shipping themselves, and still make a profit!

How does £19.90 sound now?

The other example I've seen recently is for a drone.  According the video, the drone was developed by a disgruntled ex-employee who was fired for standing up to his bosses when they switched to using low-quality components for their own well-known drone.  The video promises the highest quality components, revolutionary performance and, well, everything including the kitchen sink.

The reality?  IF you buy one of these drones you'll probably receive one, but the reviews online tell a different story to the video.  Poor quality build, low-spec features, ultra-low reliability.

The drone is an example of the second kind of such scams, selling something that is usually expensive at a vastly reduced price while giving a good reason to do so (the unfair practices of major sellers).  Interestingly enough, just a few weeks after I saw the drone video I saw it again, at least I thought I did until I realised it was pretty much the exact same sequence of shots, the same script, swapping out "drone" for "phone" in words and images.  That's just lazy.

So, by all means follow enticing Ads, it's how legitimate traders promote their businesses but, as has always been the case, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is and you have the search tools at your fingertips to check it out.

Amazon and eBay are good places to look for the same products being sold by multiple vendors.  On Amazon if you see the same product sold by 10 different people at 10 different prices, that's almost certainly an indication that it's a dirt cheap import and should be avoided.  Oh, and don't be fooled by minor branding/colour changes, they're easy to change on supply.

On eBay you're more likely to find the product at close to its real value (see above), though as I said, if they're able to make a profit at that price, think what the actual value of that product might be.  With a showerhead the worst that's likely to happen is a disappointing shower, with a drone you could be looking at physical injury or worse.

Caveat emptor.