422: A Guide to Google Ads, with Mike Rhodes

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You have to play by Google’s rules to know who will convert and when – how to get an $8 return on your $1. So what is the ultimate guide to Google Ads?

Founder & CEO of WebSavvy.com.au, Mike Rhodes, joins the podcast this week all the way from Melbourne, Australia. WebSavvy is an award-winning agency based in Australia named by Google as one of the Top 18 agencies worldwide. Mike gets into the nuts and bolts of Google Ads, Artificial Intelligence Learning, and Google Shopping. We also take a look at privacy concerns and how it impacts the usefulness of the information.

Mike is the CEO and founder AgencySavvy and WebSavvy, and co-author of the world’s best-selling book on Google Ads, ‘The Ultimate Guide to Google Ads.’His award-winning digital marketing agency WebSavvyis based in Melbourne, Australia. Since 2006, Mike and his team have been running campaigns for brands around the globe, and it’s one of Australia’s largest independent Googleagencies. Mike’s passion for the future of AI and Machine Learning has seen him invited to speak at over100 events around the world, including Traffic & ConversionSummit, Baby Bathwater, and Digital Summit Moscow. A teacher at heart, Mike is passionate about the AgencySavvy community and helping agency owners to ‘do’ Google Ads better and scale their agency.

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George: I was so excited when the team found this next guest. Mike Rhodes is the founder and CEO of WebSavvy. WebSavvy is an Australian agency had been around for about 14 years. Mike has co-authored the world’s bestselling book on Google Ads now into its sixth rendition, “The Ultimate Guide to Google Ads,” and why six renditions is important as you know that it’s up to date, which is always a challenge when you’re working with Google, ’cause they’re constantly changing the algorithm. But you know, Mike’s been there done that. I think they brought him in as one of the coauthors on version number four. Since 2006, him and his team had been running campaigns for brands all over the planet. And he now is one of Australia’s largest independent Google agencies. And that is no small feat. We’re gonna get Mike on the show in just a few moments to talk about WebSavvy, to talk about AgencySavvy, which is a company he created to train organizations. Mike has spoken to over 100 events all around the world, including the Traffic and Conversion Summit. We love Ryan Dyson and that team that put on that event, also a digital summit as far away as in Moscow over the years. So we’re gonna speak to Mike and just a few moments and learn more about what is in the cards for Google Ads, now that we’ve got this whole new focus on privacy, for Google Shopping and why all of that matters if you’re getting into e-commerce, coming up next on the Conquer Local Podcast. 

Mike Rhodes, joining us on the show all the way, well down under, how did I do that?

Mike: Down under.

George: Is that okay? Shrimp on the barbie.

Mike: Calling from the future.

George: Well, it’s exciting to have you on the show. We kind of covered off in the intro your path to today and I’d love to learn a little bit about WebSavvy. We talked about it in the intro, but I’d love to hear it from the man that put it all together. So if you could give us that 14-year background in two minutes, that’d be great.

Mike: Well, I started my first business back in, well, last century ’99. And that was a success because of two books, a friend gave me two books, “The Cashflow Quadrant,” Robert Kiyosaki, and “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber. So I systemized the hell out of that business, build it up over 18 months, sold it, and then moved to Sydney and then discovered there was the thing called an E-Myth coach, which could have been helping me all along. So I became an E-Myth coach. I went and trained with Gerber and his team in California, flew over there at two days’ notice, that’s a whole different story, and became an E-Myth coach. I’ve always loved the business of business. I love helping businesses grow. And I absolutely sucked at being an E-Myth coach because they just wanted more customers. And I wanted to systemize their whole business, but more customers was module five and we weren’t gonna get to that for a while so I kept getting thrown out of people’s offices. And then I discovered this amazing thing called Google Ads or Google AdWords, it was called back then.

In 2004, my now co-author, Perry Marshall, was giving a presentation in Australia about this amazing thing. And what do you mean? You only show ads to people that are searching for what you sell and you only pay if they’re interested enough to click on your ads. And of course, back in those days, everything was 5 cents a click. So this was what they all wanted and needed. So I stopped paying Gerber an obscene amount of money to license the name E-Myth, started teaching everybody I could find about this amazing new tool called Google AdWords, and nine out of 10 people I spoke to said, mate, I don’t care how it works. Just do it for me, would you? So it took me a little while for that message to get through my thick skull. But I started the agency shortly after that. I’d been training other agencies pretty much since then. So we, now my sister company, we train a few hundred competitors essentially on how to do what we do and WebSavvy has, yeah, it’s grown and grown. I’m very happy to say thanks to an amazing team and some beautiful clients.

George: So where does this propensity that you have to share and teach come from? Because it seems like when you were telling the story, you learnt this thing, immediately, you wanted to go teach people who could become your competitors. I don’t see that that often.

Mike: Maybe I’m just stupid, George. I don’t know. I’ve always loved helping people and I guess that’s one of my sort of default things is to go into, well, let’s understand it. Somebody told me recently, I’m the most curious person that they know. I think they meant that in a good way, I’m not entirely sure, but I’m always learning, I’m always trying new things. I love to crawl under the hood, figure out how it all works. And then maybe when I crawl back out, I need to tell people how it works. That’s partly how I learn is I think you learn at a deeper level when you know you’re going to teach it.

George: I noticed when we go to your website and we start to look through the content on the WebSavvy website, or when I go to look at anything that’s been written about the speaking events that you’re involved in, you really want people to understand the value. I see that coming out of all of the text and it’s your entire organization, by the way, because you get little bios on there of all the people working there. This is definitely something in your DNA.

Mike: Yeah, I’d never actually looked at it that way. But yeah, I am manic about value. I had a consulting call the other day with this big group in Australia, this sort of hundred mil heading for bigger things, and I said, look, you’re doing a great job, you’re doing fantastic, what do you need little old me for? And I was just so concerned the whole way through that call of can I really add massive value, way more value than you think you’re paying for, that is in my DNA and I’m never gonna change that. I will always wanna over-deliver.

George: So when we used to be able to travel, I noticed that you’ve been to Moscow, you’ve been to Traffic and Conversion, which is one of our favorite conventions to go to, you’ve pretty much spoken all over the world. What does a micros keynote look like at one of these events?

Mike: Stories, better strategy, and a whole lot of tactics and practical, these are things that you can go do, but I love to include that in some sort of framework. So I love to create Traffic and Conversion, you mentioned, I love Ryan and the team, they’re awesome. And that’s at the beginning of the year typically, so I’d always like to try and invent something new, a new framework, a new tool, and then that would sort of kick off the year. And then that might be part of my other talks, although I don’t think I’ve ever done the same talk twice. I always try to, I guess that comes back to the whole value thing, right? Who’s the audience? What do they already know? What do they need to know? What’s changed since the last time I spoke at that event? And how can I, yeah, I guess over-deliver again, I’d never thought of it that way. Thank you for helping me see that about myself.

The Guide to Google Ads

George: So if we’re gonna talk about the way that you’ve over-delivered over the years, we have to talk about Google Ads. We gotta talk, because you were one of the pioneers in launching those campaigns, but then understanding and being able to grow that. But then I see in our notes here, we gotta talk about artificial intelligence, and then I’d love to understand some more about Google Shopping. So let’s talk about how AI is gonna change things in your view when it comes to marketing and advertising of an organization.

Mike: I think it’s interesting to note here that Larry and Sergei and that the top guys in Google really had to be persuaded that artificial intelligence and machine learning was actually the thing. And this we go all the way back 10 years to 2011, the smartest guy you’ve never heard of, Andrew Ng, introduced all of this to Google, went onto found Coursera, which is why a bunch of people have now heard of him and maybe you own some Coursera stock, they launched the other day. He basically brought that in and said, look, you can’t keep doing things the way you’re doing. If you think about the results that you see on Google, and they were all created by a whole bunch of rules, they got up to about 4 million of these rules, every single one hand-coded by an engineer, if this, then that. So depending on where you were in the world, you saw different results for different searches. That clearly wasn’t gonna continue. We are using these little computers in our pockets more and more, and building up those rules was getting messy, they’re starting to conflict. Machine learning was clearly going to be the answer, but it took a fair bit of convincing.

Now, since around that time, 2011, 2012, the stat that Google likes to quote, which actually comes from Sam Altman’s company, Open AI, which is the power of AI is doubling every 3.4 months. So we’ve had Moore’s law for 50 years doubling every 18 to 24 months. Now the power of it is doubling every three or four months. So it’s getting better fast. And of course, Google has perfect data on their side. They know every keyword, every ad, every click that has ever been on their platform. And they have near-perfect data for the time being at least about all of us, about the sites that we go to, what we search for, how we use our Google home assistant, what we watch on YouTube, how we use Chrome, how we use Android, all of that data, it means they’re very, very, very good now, at putting together the pieces and understanding who’s going to click before they even know they’re gonna click themselves and who’s going to convert, in other words, buy something or become a lead and even the value of that conversion.

So if they’re gonna show an ad to someone that’s about to visit the washing machine side, the machine has a fair idea of if they’re gonna buy the $400 machine or the $4,000 machine, it just knows. And so over the past, we’ve tested it an awful lot over the past four or five years. And in the past, I’d say 12, maybe 18 months, it’s gotten really, really good at just shooting the eyes out of the market. And you being able to sort of show ads to a broader group of people than you did in the past, but letting the machine figure out, oh, that person based on everything we know about them right now, that person’s likely to click, likely to convert, and that’s all driven by machine learning and AI.

They bought this company out of London, DeepMind, nobody had ever heard of it. No customers, no revenue, and they paid half a billion dollars for it in 2014, we’d all love that deal because of the talent. They had 110 of the best AI minds on the planet and they wanted the talent and lots of them in. And that amazing, those are the guys that went on to be the best in the world at go, and then other computer games and now they’re doing this amazing stuff where you don’t even need to give the computer the rules of the game, it’ll just figure out how to play the game and then beat the best of the world in a few days. It’s crazy the stuff that they’re doing and you think about it, that’s what we do as marketers, right? That’s the game.

George: Exactly, I gotta ask you about privacy because I know that the big news story is around things that Apple is doing. They’re using it as a value proposition that we’re gonna protect your privacy, you got ads, folks freaking out, how is this new focus on privacy going to impact the tactics that businesses are using when it comes to the good old search engine marketing?

Mike: It is gonna change things a lot. Google is sort of taking the line of oh, privacy, yeah, very, very important to us, of course. We just wanna make sure that we do privacy in a way that allows us to keep making a few billion dollars. We just wanna do it in a way that allows you to see those tailored ads, which are so much less annoying than seeing those rubbish ads. And I kind of agree with that in a sense, like I never wanna see an ad for an HP laptop ever again, ’cause I’m never ever gonna buy one. So Google believes, at their core, that good ads can be useful information. So if we take that premise, then yes, you don’t wanna see all the irrelevant ads. And I guess on the far end of that spectrum would be people that say, well, let’s not have any ads at all, but all democratic media has always been supported by ads, radio, TV, so that probably isn’t going to change at least until we figure out a way of paying for things in a different way and maybe blockchain is gonna change the world there, who knows.

George: Well, I’ve been watching a lot of shows around blockchain. Thanks for bringing that up. But we won’t get into that today. Let’s talk about Google Shopping.

Mike: That’s a whole different conversation.

George: It totally is. So Mike, tell me your take on Google Shopping.

Mike: So Google Shopping, I absolutely love this tool. Sure, particularly in the states, half of people that are gonna go buy something will start their journey on Amazon because there are 200 million prime users in the world now and an awful lot of e-comm happens over there. But, there is still a huge number of people whose journey will typically either start on or at some point involves a trip to Google. So you go to Facebook to forget, to get away, to show off, to show pictures of your kids. You go to Google when you’ve got an itch to scratch. And if you need to buy something, you’re gonna do some research at some point on Google. And yet most of the retailers that I meet, particularly when I come to the states and speak are spending a fair chunk of money on Facebook Ads, but they’ve never tried Google Shopping. And so the opportunity, if you’re a retailer is huge because the competition is less and people are there to buy, they’re searching for the stuff that you sell, you only show ads to people that are searching for what you have to sell. And yes, it’s a competitive auction space. In other words, you have to be competitive compared to your competitors. You have to not necessarily bid more than them, but you have to do a better job of showing up. So you’ve gotta describe your product in the way that your future customers are searching for it. But you only pay if they click on those little square ads that you see across the top of the screen with a picture of the product, a little description underneath, and the price of the product, they tend to lead to sales more often than people clicking on text ads, because people have got context, they’ve seen the product, they’ve seen the price on your website. So when they do click through, they’re even more likely than average to buy. And the ROI from those little ads is absolutely fantastic.

So Google loves them because advertisers are spending more and more money on them, particularly over the last 12 months, consumers love them because they know what they’re gonna get. They can see the product, they can see the price and Google won’t let you show an ad if those things don’t match with what’s on your website. So they check all of that data in the background beforehand. And so Google, you’re gonna see these ads in more and more places. They’re starting to pop up on YouTube. They’re starting to pop up on third-party sites. We love them because our clients love the return that we can get for them from these little ads. If you’re a retailer and you haven’t tried them, you must try them.

George: So we enter into this COVID period where e-commerce grew more in 90 days than it had grown in 11 years. We’re talking about Google Shopping, how closely linked are Google Shopping ads to a business’ new e-commerce solution that they deploy? Am I connecting the dots correctly here?

Mike: Totally, if you have, are you one of those millions of people that have set up a new Shopify store over the past 12 months, then you basically have everything you need ready to go? Because behind the scenes, in that Shopify store, there is a big database of all of the products that you sell. Even if it could be six, it could be 6,000. All you need to do is connect that data to Google, jump through a couple of hoops and Google will start running those ads. Yes, of course, you’re gonna have to enter a credit card in at some point, but you get to choose how much you’re gonna spend each day. You could test this out with five bucks a day, 10 bucks a day. Sure, some of our clients will be spending tens of thousands a day, but it’s entirely up to you. You have control. And if you only service a small area around your town or just the people within your state, of course, you can set it to that as well and only show ads to those people or only show ads to people on Tuesday afternoons, if that’s what you wanna do. But yes, if you’ve started a retail store recently, I would urge you to give these little ads a try.

Your E-Commerce Store

George: The one thing that I wanted to ask you about and it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the last few months, I’m gonna do e-Commerce, that’s gonna change everything, right? There are business people thinking that just building the e-commerce store is going to change everything. And one of my not-so-famous lines, but maybe one day it will be is its kind of like a billboard in the middle of nowhere. You still have to have that advertising to drive awareness, get some eyeballs on it, find the right audience, have a positive reputation. Like none of that stuff changes. Just the fact you have an e-commerce store, you still have to get eyeballs to it.

Mike: When you said my not-so-favorite, I thought you were gonna say my not-so-favorite film of all time, the Kevin Costner classic “Field of Dreams.” If you build it, then they won’t come. Yeah, most people spend all their money building this store and never leave money left over for the marketing, the sales of that. You have to go buy customers. And if you do a great job, those customers will tell other people and you’ll get word of mouth. But to get off the ground and if you don’t knock people’s socks off with your customer service, you’re gonna need to go buy customers. But you do it in a way that is profitable. I mean, this whole game of advertising, it was that many, many, many years ago showing the right ad to the right person at the right time. The bit that gets left off that is doing so profitably. You’re only gonna continue running ads if you can do it at a profit, at which point, if you tip a dollar into the machine, we run the machine for you and hand you $8 back. How often do you wanna tip dollars into the machine? Like all day and twice on Sunday, let’s go.

George: Right, unlimited budget if you can show me ROI.

Mike: Absolutely.

George: All day long.

Mike: Absolutely. The vast majority of our clients have unlimited budget because if you can hit that ROAS target or that ROI target, then let’s keep going.

George: If we were to and attend one of your training sessions, Mike, or we were to be one of your clients at WebSavvy, what’s a piece of advice that you give everybody that they need to be aware of today? What’s one component, like I can’t go out of a meeting without talking about this.

Mike: Well, I guess mindset, let’s go with mindset, right? It is a mindset of investment. You are not spending money on this. This is not a cost. You are investing $1,000, $10,000, $100,000 into, first of all, learning from the market, as my old options trader used to tell me, you are paying money to the market to educate you. You then use that data to get better and better and better so that you understand which bits are good, which bits of bad. Well, let’s do more of that and less of the bad so that we get better over time. That’s what we do for our clients is the continual optimization based on all of the data that the market is continually giving us. So first have a mindset of investment because if you can tip a dollar in and get eight back or 17 or four or whatever works for your business, then it isn’t spending money, is it? We are selling money at a discount. You are investing.

George: I wanna unpack that a little bit just for our listeners to really understand what you said there because I think you might’ve come up with a new way, well, the first time I ever heard this way of setting that first month expectation on any sort of ad campaign. We’re gonna run this budget and we’re gonna learn a lot in the first 30 days. And especially with a new client, because you don’t know what you don’t know. Now I see reps all the time, walk-in and say, give me that $1,000 I’m gonna change the world for you. How’s that gonna work out for you when you don’t know what you don’t know? So this is something that I’m sure you’ve been talking about for years though.

Mike: Yeah, that is a very, very dangerous prospect. I audited an account with one of my team last week and we gave it an A-minus. And we went back to the guys and we said, whoever’s doing this for you, they’re doing a great job. Keep doing what doing. They looked at each other and, hang on a minute, no agency has ever said that. You’re the first agency that ever said that. Everybody else says, no, no, no. They’re like, you need to give this to us immediately. Like, we need to take this over. If it’s done well, it’s done well. So yes, it’s all about using that data. If the data says, you’re doing a great job, you’re doing a great job. You can use that in so many other areas of the business too. So you might be testing different messaging, which Google Ads allows you to do very, very quickly. So very, very fast feedback loop and very useful data that may change, I used to say this all the time, yeah, that might change what you put in the side of the van, or what goes on the business card or what goes on the homepage of your website. If you’re testing different benefits of showing that to your audience, and one really resonates way more than the others, well, where else can we use that? That might change your LinkedIn profile. So many different ways that you can use that data, that knowledge, that you’ve learned that the market is giving you because we don’t have the answers, right? We’ve both been doing this a very long time, and yet we’ll still see campaigns or a billboard to your point where you go, that’s never gonna work. That’s ridiculous. And yet it blows its socks off or we’ll test nine different ads. We’ve run tests that have led to the billboard being chosen. Now, I don’t know, by using these different banner ads, if that absolutely relates to, which is the best billboard, but if we’ve got data that says one of these ads is five times more likely to get clicked on than one of the others, it’s probably a more eye-catching billboard. So let’s run with that rather than the graphic designer going, well, I like purple. So we’re gonna go with this one, let’s use data.


George: Well, Mike, I know that you and I could probably talk for hours about various subjects. I do wanna get a little bit of insight into the book that you wrote. It’s a bestselling book around “The Ultimate Guide to Google Ads” and where could our listeners find it if they wanna learn more from you?

Mike: I’m pretty sure you’ll find it anywhere you buy books. Amazon Barnes and Nobles, et cetera. Yeah, it is the world’s best-selling book on the topic of Google Ads. My coauthors, Brian Marshall, and sorry, Perry Marshall and Brian Todd, absolute legends in this industry. I only came along in the fourth edition. We just released the sixth edition. So we’re losing count of how many books get sold. But again, we love to teach and we’d love to see other people take this and run with it. You don’t need it necessarily to hire an agency, pay thousands of dollars a month in fees. If you’re a small business serving a local area and you only wanna spend three, 400 bucks a month on ads, then everything you need is in the book to get started. And I’ve even got a video course that’ll walk you through. If you prefer watching videos compared to reading, then my Google Ads fundamentals course, we just put online for free. So we’ll make that link available to your producer and pop it in the show notes if you like.

George: Great, well, we are gonna share a number of links and the link for WebSavvy, which is your organization. Now, do you do the coaching out of that company or do you have a different organization for the coaching? If we have any of our partners that are interested in getting Mike to do some coaching for them?

Mike: Yes, at WebSavvy is the done for you part. So that starts with us looking at what you’re doing. Like I said, giving you a grade and saying, this is great, or this is terrible. There are some issues and opportunities here. That’s all at WebSavvy. Then AgencySavvy is my sister company. That’s where I teach, that’s where I train, I do consulting. Predominantly, that’s teaching other agencies, but we have a number of in-house marketers there, some business owners that just like some of the stuff that we teach. There’s different concepts, different frameworks in there. And it’s always, always being updated. I started it because when the book came out, it was nine months after I’d written it and three massive things had changed since I’d written it. And I just wanted there to be a place where you could get the most up-to-date information in the world on Google Ads. So that has become AgencySavvy.

George: Well, that’s two fantastic links that we will put out there in the show notes for everyone to have a look at. And Mike, appreciate you jumping on early your time in Australia, and hope things are going well for you and your family and Melbourne and for your team. Really appreciate your insights today and joining us here on the Conquer Local Podcast.

Mike: Thanks very much, George, a pleasure speaking to you.

George: It doesn’t take too long to filter through that great accent and realize that Mike Rhodes is the real deal. He’s been doing this for a long time and he brings an enormous amount of expertise to the space. What I love about what he was talking about was this whole idea of what’s about to happen with artificial intelligence and the rate that artificial intelligence is changing the game. And that’s why we need to be constantly learning. Doesn’t matter what space you’re in. Doesn’t matter if you’re a 14-year expert, like Mike is, he is on the cutting edge because he’s always learning what’s new and he’s a couple of steps ahead of the game all the time. This whole idea around the message to the right audience at the right time, never been more important than it is today. And the idea that you could utilize this new technology with the artificial intelligence to not waste your precious dollars to put that right message in front of the right audience. But I wanted to get out of Mike what I think sometimes is getting lost. And I hear this more and more as we talk to folks. Well, I got my e-commerce website, I think I’m good. And nothing could be further from the truth. It’s great that you’ve got an e-commerce website, but now what are you gonna do with it? What are you gonna do to make sure that you get traffic and eyeballs and the right audience onto that e-commerce website and talking about Google Shopping, that’s that carousel, when you search for something where it pops up maybe some large brands and how do I get that local business to appear in that Google Shopping carousel, and then how it links to your e-commerce website.

I thought it was very poignant to have Mike speak to that at this point in time because we have new e-commerce stores being born every single second of every day. And then we have entrepreneurs that are hugely disappointed, 60 to 90 days down the road, that there isn’t a big pile of money there. And I think that this is now one of the unintended consequences of this rise of e-commerce. It’s not just building the framework in the store. There still is that ability of I’m not gonna shop in your e-commerce store if you’ve got a bad online reputation, I’m not gonna shop in your e-commerce store if I can’t find the bloody thing, I’m not gonna shop in the e-commerce store if it doesn’t have a compelling offer that matches what I’m looking for. So there’s a whole other component here that we need to be thinking about, e-Commerce is definitely not a silver bullet on its own, it needs to be deployed with this purposeful approach. And thanks to Mike for sharing some of that information. By the way, Mike’s got this great AgencySavvy service where he can teach your organization to be more successful. And we’re gonna share all of the links in the show notes. And I just got a feeling that it won’t be the last time we hear from Mike Rhodes as a guest here on the Conquer Local Podcast. 

Thanks for joining us this week. We look forward to your feedback. You can reach out to us on LinkedIn, or you can even follow us on various social media channels and just put comments into the post that we put up. We love hearing from our audience. And by the way, if you wouldn’t mind reviewing us and just click that button and subscribe, that’d be great as well. We look forward to coming episodes. We talked more this year about that rise of e-commerce. It’s one of our central themes. And by the way, my name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.

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