It’s no secret smart speakers are on the rise. An estimated 47.3 million people in the US alone have already invited Alexa and Google Assistant into their homes.
Which means voice-based ads present a massive opportunity for marketers.
Below, we’ll look more closely at Google Assistant Ads: where they are now, and where we think they’re headed.
What You’ll Learn:
- How Local Services ads work on the Google Assistant
- How Google Assistant ads are appearing in mobile search
- Google Assistant ads in smart speakers:
- How to prepare for voice search and Google Assistant ads
As it stands, Google displays some PPC ads to Android users. Where things get more interesting, however, is the slow rollout of voice-based ads, spoken through the smart speaker.
As of now, voice ads are limited to Local Services Ads only, meaning Google My Business users and traditional PPC advertisers are not eligible for the spoken recommendations.
Still, we have to wonder; is it only a matter of time?
Local Services Ads Only? What Does that Mean?
Google’s Local Service Ads are designed to work with specific service providers like plumbers, electricians, and essentially any home repair-type of businesses. The product was initially called Home Services ads, and participants were required to pass a criminal background check before they were eligible to advertise on the platform.
In 2017, Home Services became Local Services Ads and began requiring that every employee of a local services company pass the screening process—known as the Google Guarantee. The idea here is to provide some assurance to customers who probably want to avoid inviting criminals or unlicensed contractors into their home.
It’s important to note that Local Services and Google My Business (which may start charging) are not the same, even though both designations target local searchers.
Local Services are limited to service providers who traditionally make house calls. Think housepainters, pet groomers, plumbers, and so forth.
By contrast, Google My Business covers any business with a physical location from restaurants to a company’s corporate headquarters.
How Do Google Local Ads Work on the Assistant?
The Google Assistant will prompt consumers to follow a short set of steps that confirm their location and what they are looking for.
From there, users will get a set of local options and Google Assistant offers to call them right on the spot. It also sends the results to your email address so you can review your options later on.
These ads benefit advertisers who sometimes have trouble converting traditional users. Instead, searchers can ask Google for help as a problem arises. Think about it: you’re much more likely to search for a plumber as your toilet overflows, rather than as a premeditated move.
With voice, searchers can say, “Okay Google, find me a plumber” and Google will read them a few options that fit the bill.
How Does it Work for Advertisers?
On the marketing side, advertisers pay per lead, not click. This means that they’re not paying extra if the searcher contacts the wrong company. According to Google, companies will only be charged for valid leads—which likely cost about $6-$30 each.
Who Gets Exposure?
Jockeying for the top position isn’t cut and dry.
According to some reports, ad rank may be determined much in the same way as getting into position zero (or, the rich snippets on the top of the SERPs).
Google doesn’t break down how, exactly, you can ensure the Assistant reads your result first, but it likely boils down to the following factors:
- Proximity to customers
- Number of reviews
- Review score
- Business hours
- Number of complaints
Local Service Ads also don’t depend on keywords. They depend on relevancy, reviews, and proximity. Searchers tend to use broad match terms to find home services, so it doesn’t quite make sense to try to rank for terms that you wouldn’t use in conversation.
What About the Google Guarantee?
According to Google, the Google Guarantee badge is a separate entity from the Local Services ads.
The badge signifies that businesses have met a specific set of criteria, so customers can feel safe about who they let into their home. A guarantee badge does not mean that a company pays for advertising.
Any local service provider can become verified through the screening process, which is entirely free. That said, you have to pass the screening to use paid Local Ads. Meaning, you’ll need to upload your license number and pass a background check before Google will show (or say) your ads to its audience.
Google Assistant Ads in Mobile Voice Search
As mentioned, the only confirmed Google Assistant Ads that “talk back” are the Local Services Ads. No word on whether that is changing anytime soon.
However, over the past few months, rumors began swirling about the search giant testing ads in Assistant’s mobile display results.
Google has been pretty tight-lipped about the whole thing and released a statement stating that they are “always testing new ways to improve the experience on phones” but added they don’t have anything specific to announce.
Search Engine Land predicts that Google will label this as an experiment until they work out the specifics for a more formal program. It turns out that the big experiment was an update to the Android interface.
In April, the Google Assistant introduced a more visual mobile UI, which provides better visual responses to users.
From a marketing standpoint, this means ad campaigns may very well extend to Assistant results, though the change is limited to Android devices.
Google says that the Assistant may include “existing ads that you’d see on Search today.”
These existing ads are already part of Google’s current PPC lineup, not a new ad type. It’s also worth reiterating that these Google Assistant Ads are the text-based results from a consumer’s voice search.
Assistant-read ads could impact PPC revenue, as it’s possible ads might show one at a time—meaning there could be fewer opportunities for brands to get the top ad spot.
If you look at the blog post announcement, you’ll see that the emphasis isn’t necessarily on ads. You’ll see some local events and the odd sponsored post, but unless searchers are using language suggesting a purchase, paid ads are relatively minimal.
Google Assistant Ads in Voice Search and Smart Speakers May Be Ramping Up Soon
According to Adweek, consumers find voice ads to be less intrusive than other types of ads. With that in mind, it certainly makes sense that voice ads are the next big opportunity for marketers.
Google Assistant is now available on one billion devices, most of which are smartphones. Google’s main revenue stream, of course, is advertising. So it would seem it’s only a matter of time before things start to get more competitive.
The Case Against Google Assistant Ads in Smart Speakers
With all this talk about Google Assistant ads, it seems inevitable that they will ultimately make their way to smart speakers. But voice ads come with a unique set of challenges.
It’s safe to say that no one’s overly excited to see an ad pop up in their search experience, no matter which device.
In fact, Vieo Designs reports that 91% of people say ads are more intrusive today than 2-3 years ago.
And when it comes to the most hated ads, popups come in first place with a 73% disapproval rate. Mobile ads are a close second with a 70% disapproval rating.
This isn’t exactly good news for Google Assitant Ads.
The biggest problem? Ads that are read out during a search will clearly disrupt the user experience, mimicking a popup experience. This kind of disruption is the kind of thing marketers long to avoid, as it often spells the end of a user’s session or interaction with a brand.
In fact, this theory was proven back in 2017, when Google dropped an ad for the new live-action Beauty and the Beast into the Google Home and Google Assistant. While the experience was only about 15 seconds, it sparked outrage among users and was a clear reminder that Google is always selling.
But the backlash wasn’t focused on Disney, per se, rather on Google itself, and the fact that many users felt it had broken their expectations.
As Endgadget reported in 2017, Google advertised a set list of features when customers purchased their $130 Google Assistant – and ads weren’t one of them.
The Case for Google Assistant Ads
Whether users want them or not, the eventual inclusion of Google Assistant ads seems inevitable.
After all, at its core, Google is out there to make money, no matter how much emphasis is placed on the user experience.
And, as more and more searches turn to voice search, regular text PPC ads will begin to see a decline in views and clicks. Which means that the only logical next step would be to start running those ads where users are searching – via Google Assitant and other voice devices.
This makes perfect sense for something like a Local Service ad. People likely want the quickest response possible and are actively searching for a service near them.
But for non-service brands, the integration of Google Assitant ads won’t come as easily.
The fact that even the beloved Disney couldn’t get away with an unsolicited Google Assistant ad is telling, and means that brands need to tread very carefully when it comes to inserting ads.
Relevancy will be more important than ever. Part of the reason the Disney ad went over so poorly was that it was inserted in the middle of a “tell me about my day” feature. Had it been used in conjunction with a search about the actual movie being advertised, it may have played out differently.
For brands, that means paying attention to keywords and context is essential.
And, because people will be hearing these results rather than simply skimming through text, you need to make your ads engaging and sound good. Don’t be misleading, and do your best to sound like your ad isn’t trying too hard to sell something.
Though Google Assistant ads aren’t yet a reality in most searches, there’s mounting evidence that they are in fact coming.
And when it comes to Google Assistant ads, its important to remember that ad rank will likely be more important than ever.
Unlike a search results page, users likely won’t have multiple ad listings to pick and choose from. Rather, Google will show or read out the ad that currently occupies the top position.
While we don’t know for sure what factors Google will take into consideration when choosing Assistant ad results, it’s safe to say that adhering to the same principles as text ads is your best bet.
That means focusing on the following.
Though increasing your bid isn’t any brands favorite strategy, it’s an undeniably important part of beating your competitors.
To compete for a given keyword, you need to be bidding at least the minimum amount (as declared by Google). But, if you want to claim the highest spot possible, you also need to bid higher than the competition.
If you find that the majority of competitors are bidding higher, consider adjusting your bid. If you find that you can’t compete on that budget, you may want to consider bidding on a different keyword.
Your quality score is, essentially, a measure of the quality of a user’s experience with your ad. It’s comprised of your expected click-through rate (CTR), ad relevance, and landing page experience.
If your quality score falls below a 2, Google will alert you that it’s rarely showing your ads – and that’s something you’ll want to address, ASAP.
I’ve written a full guide on improving your quality score, and I highly recommend giving it a read.
There’s no shortage of ad extensions available, and Google recommends you take full advantage of them.
With extensions, ads gain more prominent listing and often perform better because of it – which means more eyes on your ad and a higher ROI.
But here’s the thing: those extensions need to be relevant to the ad at hand. Don’t go adding extensions at random; instead, measure and focus only on those that are improving CTRs and furthering your campaign goals.
If they aren’t, Google will notice.
Focus on Building Remarketing Lists
Granted, a remarketing list won’t make your ads rank higher. But they will come in handy when ads begin popping up on Google Home and other voice speakers.
Due to the nature of voice speakers, we feel that users will be more likely to take kindly to ads from brands they’ve already engaged with or purchased from before. They’ll seem less intrusive and disruptive than ads from
How to Prepare for Paid Voice Search and Google Assistant Ads
For now, it appears that Google Assistant ads are a few years away from integrating with digital devices like Google Home.
But taking a proactive approach now can help you be as prepared as possible for when they inevitably do arrive.
Savvy marketers have been working on making searches more voice-friendly for the past couple of years. If you’ve held off on this, it’s worth brushing up on your basics before paid and organic traffic depends on a voice-first strategy.
Start with mobile. Mobile voice searches continue to grow in popularity, and your websites and content must be mobile-responsive if you hope to take advantage of that traffic.
Beyond that, marketers should be focusing on optimizing their organic content for voice search to lay the groundwork for any future paid placements. As users become more familiar with your brand and its integration with voice search, it will likely make for an easier transition to paid voice results from your brand.
To optimize your content for voice, make sure you’re:
- Incorporating long-tail keywords
- Using conversational, natural language
- Exploring the use of Google Actions
For more, read my full guide on how to prepare for voice search.
So, What’s Next for Paid Search and Google Assistant Ads?
It’s hard to say.
The industry is taking things slow when it comes to pushing out paid voice search, as there are some big implications for its impact on brands’ bottom lines and consumer trust.
When a customer hears only one ad at a time, there’s an implication that this ad is the best option. Display results show multiple results at a time, so customers can see which options best suit their need. Customers are unlikely to tolerate a Google Assistant that reads multiple ads in a row, meaning voice ads could shake up both the competitive PPC landscape and CTRs.
While it sounds like Google has a few things to figure out, we feel fairly confident that Google Assistant Ads, of all kinds, are soon to be a reality.