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Google-Geddon, Why All Agencies Should Care and How We Can Lead

What Is Google-Geddon?

So, if you’re an Australian agency, you’re watching this closely I’m sure. And if you’re not an Australian agency, you should still be tuned in, as this could very well set off unforeseen ripples across the globe as governments grapple with big tech and how to best regulate it. But mostly, you should be considering what this has taught us and where the opportunity is for us in agency land.

In summary, if the Australian government News Media Bargaining Code becomes law, Google is threatening to withdraw their search engine from Australia. And Facebook has just now withdrawn news sharing and viewing from the platform throughout Australia, and Australian media companies are no longer visible on Facebook anywhere in the world. Things are certainly getting spicy between Facebook and the Aussie Government.

However, as paid search peeps here at PPC Samurai HQ, I’m going to focus on Google and the implications in that space.  I won’t waste column inches recounting how we got here, however, if this whole argy-bargy is a new situation to you here’s some catch up links:

Search Engine Land: Australia’s showdown with Google has profound implications for domestic businesses and other digital platforms 

Media Coverage: https://www.techmeme.com/210121/p36#a210121p36

While Google, Facebook and the Australian government are preparing their war plans and backroom deals, all of us in digital should be considering our own next steps. Of course, we hope that Google (and Facebook) and the Australian government find a path to negotiate through this and we’re heartened that things are looking up after significant commercial deals being struck between Google and Australian media publishers. The Google News Showcase strategy seems to be giving everyone a way to claim a win.

Some Of The Questions We’re Being Asked:

Will Google Really Withdraw Search From Australia?

Looking pretty unlikely, and it was always unlikely in its most nuclear form. However, the Australian market is small in a global context and Google can’t afford a precedent to be set here that more lucrative markets (US, Europe) might then follow.

Ah, I’m Not Australian, So Should I Care? Yes.

On a broad brush level there’s the obvious consideration that the outcomes in Australia will set a precedent for future action by governments. This particular battle may be happening here in Australia, but as governments continue to push back against the power wielded by big-tech, we’ll no doubt see more of these events unfolding around the world. Further, the risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities it’s exposed are universal.

And that’s what I consider more important than the event itself. What has this has taught us and from there, what opportunities have arisen as a result.
In summary: we believe that agencies should take this opportunity to proactively consider the amount of risk they place their agency and clients in when they let any single marketing channel dictate the majority of their digital strategy.
It is time to take stock of the risk your agency is exposed to, the amount of diversification you have in your own business offering, the geographical diversification of your client base and the amount of risk your usual digital strategy exposes your clients to.

But Leah, I Don’t Think This Will Really Happen, So…. 🤷🏻‍♀️

You’re probably right, but the fundamentals of investment tell us that diversification is the key to risk reduction and it should be proactive, not reactive. Have we done that in Australian digital marketing? In Australia, Google owns 94.5% of the search engine market, with Bing following at 3.62%. That’s a pretty widespread. And while we all understand that there is real ROI to be picked up in the Microsoft Advertising network, for obvious reasons (budget, capacity, vertical, volume) most Australian agencies have placed most or all of their search engine bets with Google. 

Many SMEs rely on organic Google search and Google paid advertising for lead generation. And what about services that are often driven by Google search, like Google My Business, GDN or Google Shopping? It’s unclear yet whether their threatened withdrawal would encompass services beyond search or whether it’s purely search. 

The impact this would have on SMEs in Australia is unfathomable. And before you think SMEs are a small sector, 93.8% of Australian businesses are small businesses, they employ 44% of Australia’s workforce and account for 35% of Australia’s GDP. 

So whether this happens (less likely) or doesn’t (more likely), or something in the middle (most likely) we shouldn’t ignore what this has taught us. And from every lesson comes opportunity. 

Our Thoughts Around Next Steps and Opportunity:

If you agree that your clients could perhaps have a more diversified digital strategy, we have a few suggestions for what agencies could be doing next to help clients build protective digital buffers around their businesses. And of course, it’s also important that we also look for ways to leverage these ‘buffers’ into diversified revenue streams for ourselves as agencies. Is it time to take stock of how much of our own agency revenue is reliant on Google ads management fees? 

And finally, I want to address the amazing leadership and client retention opportunity this moment in time presents us.

1. First-Person Data

If they’re not already, we need to start encouraging our clients to find ways to collect first-person data for direct marketing instead of relying on search engine remarketing. Logged in website states, lead magnets that collect addresses, referral/loyalty programs, good old fashioned email list development strategies etc. Collection of first-person data was becoming important with the death of cookies and the reduction of tracking capacity, and if this goes ahead it will be even more critical. The more of the relationship with their clients the businesses directly own, the less beholden they are to algorithm updates or withdrawal of services.
Opportunity – You can sell your digital clients a value-add through website development, databasing/crm support, email design, content and/or communication strategy.

2. Start Testing Microsoft Ads Today

We need to start testing Microsoft Ads (aka Bing) today. We know the network behaves differently to Google and we are going to need time to work out how to maximise the upsides, and protect our clients from the downsides. We need to understand how the keywords we use in Google behave in Microsoft and then we need to test how to deliver meaningful ROI for clients. The days of syncing and crossing fingers are behind us, the networks and search query matching are just too different. It’s time to work out how to manage Bing for Bing’s sake.
Opportunity: Depending on service packaging, you can sell management of a second channel as a value-add or additional service to clients, helping to drive revenue uplift for your agency. Or, you can simply present your proactive planning as evidence of your client commitment and leverage that into reduced churn and as a mechanism to protect existing revenue. Further, you can use it as a market differentiator or as part of your sales pitch at a time when businesses are nervous and are looking for digital leadership.

3. YouTube

As the second-largest search engine in the world, what is your video strategy for clients?
Opportunity: We all know that managing YouTube campaigns is a bit painful but again, it’s another channel, it’s diversified and it’s something you could charge for. It’s also differentiated as few advertising agencies offer this. Could you partner with a video production house to create a video-advertising campaign package? Whether it was just bumper ads or a whole integrated campaign, YouTube gives you a chance to reach a different audience in a different way.

4. Social Strategy Implementation

We get it, we’re paid search people ourselves. But it doesn’t pay to ignore the blue corner. We need a tested social strategy for clients. If you don’t already have social in your agency or time to learn, can your agency partner with a social agency to bring a complete offering to clients?
Opportunity: You can sell social as a package value-add, helping to bring more agency revenue. But additionally, you’ll be better placed to design and implement a more cohesive digital strategy if you have access to the performance data across all networks. You’ll be able to make budget recommendations and discuss cross channel strategy. This broader oversight makes you more indispensable while making it more difficult for the other-agency-they-work-with to actively poach your clients.

5. Google Business Risk Assessment

This is the time to encourage our clients to do a Google risk assessment. How much of their revenue is derived from Google services? If they don’t already have a clear picture, now is the time to audit the relationship between their revenue and paid search, organic search, GMB, maps, GDN, shopping etc. They need to understand how much of their current revenue is at risk through each channel and how can each of those revenue stream risks be mitigated.
Opportunity: Of course, there’s a revenue opportunity available as we help businesses undertake this audit, or to educate them on how to do it. Or we can just do it as a leadership piece or lead magnet.
Clearly, this is far from an exhaustive list. It’s more intended to illustrate the variety of ways in which we can leverage this moment in time to benefit both our clients and ourselves. I’m sure you can think of plenty more that would suit your particular agency well. The biggest opportunity though is universal.

Leadership in Times of Uncertainty – Why It’s Critical

But, more compelling than the above I think is the standout leadership opportunity this showdown presents us. In a world where automation is eating advertising and agencies are looking to show clients they add value beyond the management of campaigns, THIS time, this catalyst, is a golden opportunity to be the leader, to build trust, to be a guide to our clients and to show them we’re proactively protecting them and considering their business needs. And of course, Covid-19 has (and continues to) similarly present us with the same opportunity.

We can be a digital Gandalf for our clients, reinforcing that our value as agencies extends beyond just account optimization and our keyword ninja capabilities. This is how we ensure that our agency remains a priority expense and is a prime example of how we can move our relationship with our clients from tactical to strategic, helping to move the conversation from what-do-I-pay-you-for-if-you-just-automate-stuff to I-couldn’t-manage-without-your-insight.

So, I urge you not to look at Google-Geddon as a will-they/won’t-they event, as the lessons then are easily minimized. I think it’s more meaningful to look at this time through the lens of risk, diversification and revenue upside potential while considering the incredible opportunity we have right now to support our clients and prove to them that we are the digital partner and leader that they absolutely can’t do without.

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