Learning to Navigate Google Advertising

Tom McKeithen of McKeithen’s True Value has been frustrated with Google advertising.
Tom McKeithen of McKeithen’s True Value has been frustrated with Google advertising.

As independent hardware retailers shift most or all of their advertising efforts toward digital marketing, some are struggling to understand the best way to navigate the new digital arena. Recent discussion on Hardlines Digest centered on the ins and outs of Google advertising.

Tom McKeithen of McKeithen’s True Value Hardware in Statesboro, Ga., posted:

“I am completely frustrated with Google advertising. We are spending about 30 percent of our ad budget to pay a local firm to create and run Google ads (including the ad budget). I have no idea what return we’re getting. I’d like to save the fees and create my own ads but it seems very complicated. What do others do?”

Margaret Clark of Clark’s Ace in Maryland, responded, “We have been very happy with Fisher Digital. They work with a lot of hardware stores. They post blog content for us and sit down with quarterly reports to review the information. We have jumped from having zero searches on many things we sell to first page and sometimes number 1-3. We have been super happy with the result. Ask the company to show you your quarterly information. They will have proof if it’s working or not.”

Steve Fusek of Fusek’s True Value in Indianapolis noted they have been deep into digital for several years. “It is so tough to measure. I did not like the results we were seeing. One month clicks were up and store traffic down, the next month the opposite. To start 2023, we have stopped all digital. We have seen no impact. That has really made me wonder. When a store gets searched on Google and a customer is looking for something, they will find you more through location than anything. Most of our traffic finds us through ‘Hardware store near me.’ That is our number one search term or phrase. Make sure you manage your Google My Business well. Be active on it. Respond to reviews positive and negative,” he posted.

John Fix III of Cornell’s Hardware in Eastchester, N.Y., put in a plug for Product Listing Ads. “Those were the ones that provided the most value for the money, in my opinion. It requires setting up a Merchant Center account and uploading your inventory files on a daily basis. We always had two or three customers per day coming into the store with our website product page on their phone asking ‘Where can I find this item?’ But it’s tough to measure the value of the ads, as there isn’t a clean way to track the ads back to POS transactions,” he posted.

Fix added, “The Google reps are pretty good at setting up basic campaigns, and their service is free. Just reach out to them via the website. You can probably get someone to do a phone call with you to set up a campaign or two and go from there.”

Chris Finethy of Gilford Hardware & Outdoor Power Equipment in Gilford, N.H., runs his own Google advertising. “It works great, but it’s taken me three-plus years to learn, and it’s always changing and evolving. It depends on what campaigns they are running for you. Key word and display ads are usually much easier to run versus multi-level optimized shopping campaigns,” he stated.

Brandon Buckalew of Local Ace in East Grand Forks, Minn., shared, “If you get a Google ads account you’ll be able to see things like people that searched for something, saw your store and then came in the store and made a purchase (as long as they did it on their phone and brought their phone with them). I’m always a bit surprised at how many people come in because they searched for something and found it online.”

John Fix
John Fix

John Fix started the Hardlines Digest in 1996. There are currently more than 2,300 subscribers reading Hardlines Digest. Go to www.hardlinesdigest.com.

What Are Google Ads?

Google ads help customers find your store and the products you sell.
Google ads help customers find your store and the products you sell.

Google Ads is Google’s online advertising program. Through Google Ads, you can create online ads to reach people exactly when they’re interested in the products and services that you offer.

Google Ads is a product that you can use to promote your business, help sell products or services, raise awareness and increase traffic to your website.

Google Ads accounts are managed online, so you can create and change your ad campaign at any time, including your ad text, settings and budget.

There’s no minimum spending commitment, and you set and control your own budget.

You choose where your ad appears, set a budget that’s comfortable for you, and easily measure the impact of your ad.

For more information, click here.

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