Google’s Product Bid for DIY Wallet Share

Share this:

In this regular Street Fight feature, local marketing gurus David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal kick around some of the biggest ideas affecting the local search ecosystem and the broader industry. Send us an email or leave a comment if you have specific topics that you’d like them to touch on in future columns!

David: Hey Mike, hope you had a great Fourth of July. Or as a friend pointed out to me, Independence Day, since technically, everyone in the world has a fourth of July every year.

Mike: I spent the week battling the worst summer cold ever. And it was rainy. Have I whined enough? Finally feeling better.

David: Yes, you’re whining enough, but at least our readers are seeing your authentic self ;).

Mike: You are TOO kind to me! I like to think of myself as a “realist”.

David: As a realist, where do you see Google heading in the DIY search market these days? I’ve long been a DIY optimist, but it feels to me like the momentum has silently shifted in that direction–finally–over the last 12-18 months.

Mike: This past month I have been analyzing the uptake of the new Google Website and saw that Google had added 218,000 “new websites” within a month of launch. That seems significant to me. The product is so focused on the very small SMB and developing countries. But what works there can be enhanced and refined for the rest of the world. And it fills the need of the business that had been thinking of Facebook only and no website.

David: I just spent some time with Will Scott’s team at Search Influence in New Orleans, and in fact while I was there, one of his team members brought up the question of Google’s DIY website builder, and whether it might even be a fit for their clients.

My answer was that it was far too limited, at least in its current form, to be a viable replacement (or significant threat) to more robust content management systems like WordPress or Drupal, but that I could see it competing with other low-end website builders like Wix and Weebly that are equally terrible for SEO as Google’s product.

Mike: Websites by themselves are not ideal for more advanced markets, I agree. But Google has been on a tear this past month in the DIY realm. Three major product rollouts in a 30-day span; Websites, Posts and now SMS messaging. And Google only needs uptake on one of them to get a chance to sell Adwords Express. I see Advanced Adwords reselling as the vulnerable product.

David: Well, and now that Google is upselling Adwords Express through modal windows within Google My Business, it’s not hard to imagine that sales pitch across its entire small business product line.

Mike: When you look at these in light of their previous improvements to Adwords Express, it seems that their DIY tools for SMBs are likely to start to have a real impact on the other tiers of the market.

If nothing else as Google sucks any profit out of the low end of the advertising market, resellers will have to work harder to extract value selling Adwords in general. I am pessimistic long term about companies selling into the low- and medium-end to really be able to make a consistent living off of Adwords.

David: I don’t disagree–we’ve talked about the relatively recent dramatic improvements to Adwords Express in a previous column.

The open question for me is whether these additional product/engagement channels (Websites, Posts, Messaging) will actually be successful as sales channels for Adwords Express.  Google has been remarkably unsuccessful at selling Adwords to the small business market for its entire existence.  Certainly far less successful than Facebook has been at selling Boosted Posts.

Mike: That is for sure. But Google is nothing if not persistent in attacking this market. I am testing whether a small business like Barbara Oliver can make the transition from “boosting” to AdWords Express. So far, they have not yet made the leap. Although I think that they will.

David: I wonder how much conversation has happened within the Adwords team and its Premier SMB partners, particularly now that their two largest resellers are the same company.

My sense is Google/Adwords Express might take 1-3 million customers off the bottom of the market but largely these are customers that can’t be serviced by companies like DexYP, due to the high cost of maintaining their sales forces.

Mike: The problem is though that many of the customers to whom these channel partners have been selling end up feeling burned by the expensive, not very productive campaigns that have been set up in their name. That can’t be good for Google long haul.

David: No question, many of its partners have poisoned Google’s well.

At a broader level, Google Websites, Posts, Messaging, and Adwords Express seem to me to be too limited, and will continue to be too fragmented, for a Medium Business (MB) to want to deal with. MBs will continue to use higher-end tools if they have an in-house marketer, and seek the counsel of agencies if they don’t.

Although I don’t see many MBs choosing the same Premier SMB partners as their agency–those partners don’t add enough domain expertise or value along the way. It’s higher-service, higher-end boutiques who will retain the lion’s share of those customers, in my opinion.

Mike: For now, I agree. Those that are not adding enough value will go by the wayside as Google improves these low-end products.

They are limited now but I can see no reason that:

  1. There won’t be an API for Messaging & Posts so that it better serves multi location entities and/or those with more sophisticated content management systems
  2. That Google can’t continue to improve Adwords Express, moving it up the ladder to better meet the needs of those larger businesses.

For now the $300/month spend is threatened. But I would not want to be in a position where the bulk of my profit is coming from the sub-$1000/month Adwords account. They are very vulnerable if Google continues this pace of development.

David: As you and I have discussed before, pure SEM agencies–whether organic or paid–need to transition their businesses into more holistic campaign integration as Google (and Facebook) make strides with AI.

Mike: As Google’s AdWords AI improves (as demonstrated by Adwords Express) and more of that is rolled into the full product, it is likely to serve the marketing needs better than a human manager, particularly one that is just going through the motions of managing a campaign.

David: It’ll be interesting to watch the effects of these new product/engagement mechanisms, as well as the AI within Adwords Express, over the next 12-18 months. While I don’t see Ruth Porat breaking out Express revenue on a quarterly earnings call anytime soon, we may start to see anecdotal evidence of SMBs moving some of their share-of-wallet from Facebook over to Google, and perhaps away from Google’s Premier SMB partners.


After more than a decade in local search, David Mihm now runs Tidings, an email newsletter platform for small businesses that leverages their everyday social media activity, and his own weekly newsletter, Minutive. In 2012, he sold his former company to Moz, helping over 3 million businesses get better visibility in Google and other search engines. Along with Mike, he’s a co-founder of Local University. 

Mike Blumenthal is a co-founder of GetFiveStars, a feedback and reputation platform, and LocalU, which provides small business and agency training in sustainable local search marketing. His motto: All Local All the Time.  He writes at his blog and does a twice a week podcast about Local marketing. 


Got an idea for what you want Mike and David to discuss next time? Send it to either [email protected] or [email protected], or just leave a comment below and we’ll put it in the hopper!

After more than a decade in local search, David Mihm now serves as VP of Product Strategy at ThriveHive, leading the direction of the company’s search-related product offerings. He’s also the Founder & CEO of Tidings, an email newsletter platform for small businesses that leverages their everyday social media activity, and his own weekly newsletters, Minutive and the Agency Insider. He’s the former founder of, Director of Local Strategy at Moz, and along with Mike Blumenthal, he’s a co-founder of Local University. Mike Blumenthal is the co-founder and analyst at Near Media where he researches and reports on reputation, reviews and local search. Mike has been involved in local search and local marketing strategy for almost 20 years. He explores the online to offline local ecosystem and helps businesses understand it and benefit from it through writing, speaking and education.