A Practical Introduction to Google Adwords

Advertising online has grown significantly over the past few years – and is now a multi-billion pound industry.

And with frightening stats around showing that 40% of all websites get ZERO traffic - it's cleargoogle adwordswhy businesses want to kickstart their online visibility by advertising online using Google Adwords.

Pay per click (PPC) advertising has grown in popularity due to its relatively low set up costs and high level of accountability. Unlike traditional advertising media, you only pay for your ad each time someone clicks on it.

And interestingly, this same successful PPC (pay per click) model has been embraced by both Facebook and LinkedIn advertising models.

It’s an all inclusive, ‘everyone welcome’ platform that has certainly flattened the advertising landscape entirely. It was only a few years ago that advertising campaigns were largely dominated by big brands – however, with online advertising via Google Adwords, even small and start up businesses can engage in online advertising – bringing their wares to targeted audiences, without any brand awareness or a huge marketing budget.

However, as with all marketing activity – it should ideally be targeted and therefore, you need to have a plan.

Too many people dive into Google Adwords without any clear strategic objective as to what they are looking to achieve. Remember, it’s all very good getting people to click on your ad – but then what? Have you got the right call to action in place? Are you leveraging the traffic you receive and converting it into sales? Ask yourself – what’s your objective.

And as with many marketing activities - a lot of effort gets put into the actual 'driving interest' but then the product (or in this case the website experiences) falls short of expectations.

You can burn a lot of money if you don’t know what you’re doing with Adwords – so here are our top 10 tips to help you along the way:

1 Keyword selection

Targeted marketing is always the most efficientl form of marketing – and therefore, the ‘words’ – or keywords you select for your advertising campaigns are critical. You want to attract users who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. To put it simply – your product and service offerings and descriptions need to match what users are searching for.

When creating your keywords there are various tools you can use to assist you. However, word of caution, selecting too many keywords can be costly and detrimental to a targeted campaign. It’s not just about getting any old traffic to you site – you want quality traffic which has the potential to convert into sales at a cost that achieves a positive return on investment for you.

To help you find your keywords you can use keyword tools such as Google's keyword tool - which coupled with Google's Traffic estimator will help you see the scope of likely traffic for particular keywords.  Another simple tactic is to ask your current customers how they found you - what keywords did they use.  And of course, in your Analytics account - you can review the keywords that drove traffic to your site.  So that gives you some pointers to start with.  Plus check out Google's Wonder Wheel - a very underestimated keyword resource.

To assist with campaign management you can create multiple AdGroups in which you house selected keywords – enabling you to create ‘text ads’ that relate to specific keywords – and track performance more accurately.

2 How to target your advertisements

There are various options to assist you with your ad message reaching a more targeted audience.

  • Location: Via Adwords you can specify a geographical location – be it whole of UK, or 25 mile radius surrounding London – or whole of the world! You can specify languages for your ad and also at what time of day your ad is to be shown.
  • Network: Most ads target the Google network meaning that your ad will appear on Google and its network of partner websites. There is also the option to advertise on Google’s ‘content’ network which includes all AdSense publishers. Clicks from the content network are usually attained at a lower CPC (cost per click) however, the quality of these clicks from a sales conversion perspective is likely to be far lower – and there is also risk of fraudulent clicks – as it’s a wide open space. However, if your objective is more about gaining traffic than converting sales (as in promotion / brand awareness) – then the content network does offer you more visibility.

3 Competitor activity

It’s always worth reviewing the keywords you are looking to use via simple Google searches and seeing what comes up. This is a simple way to assess competitor activity. For example – with one client, we noticed that none of their competitors were indicating the price of the service in their ads. Therefore, whilst the service was quite a generic one – we were able to differentiate our clients ads by including details of the price – which whilst just a bit more competitive than others – was a differentiator online purely because no one else was mentioning it. So it’s worth reviewing what’s happening in the landscape you want to advertise in – and seeing how your ad can stand out from the rest. If it’s different and engaging – it’s more likely to be clicked.   I read this book one evening picked up on a bookshelf of one of my pals I was babysitting for. Have to say - it includes some gems about competitor watch and competitor ads - and took only a couple of hours to read.

4 Using effective matching options

  • Exact Match: For an optimised advertising campaign then using the ‘exact matching’ option on all keywords ensures that you are only bidding against that individual keyword search. Use of exact matching enables a more targeted and efficient approach as you are only bidding on the relevant keywords you have specified – and if your keyword research is accurate – then your CTR (click through rate) should improve. Click through rates (CTR) is an important factor in ensuring your ‘cost per click’ is efficient. You only want to attract clicks that matter – and so by using exact match – you narrow the margins of capturing non relevant search. However, conversely, using exact match does reduce the amount of traffic you are likely to receive. It’s worth testing campaigns using exact match and also broad match (which will include various permutations of the keyword search phrase). Analysis may show that these less specific searches are costing you too much and not achieving anything – however, you could end up stumbling across a keyword phrase which is highly successful!
  • Broad Match: Using only the exact matching option can have the negative effect of only receiving a low amount of traffic as you are only targeting a specific audience. In addition, to attract a wider range of searches it may be worth adding the phrase and broad match versions of your exact match keywords. As these are less specific they are likely to achieve a lower CTR and conversion rate but will increase the amount of clicks.
  • Negative Match: Including negative keywords as part of your list is best practice when creating targeted keywords. Not using negative keywords means that your ads may show to people who are not interested in your proposition, so including them, enables you to stay targeted. For example: If you don’t want your ad to show when people are searching ‘free trial’ – then you would include ‘free trial’ as a negative keyword. As above – you can include negative keywords on an exact match or broad match basis. Including negative keywords will reduce how many people see your ads – however, again, it’s the balance between traffic and a targeted audience.

5 Managing your budget

Setting a daily budget is a bit of a ‘suck it and see’ activity. Google will automatically recommend a daily budget for you – but I would suggest that the best tactic is to start low – and watch what is happening to both traffic, ads, positions and ultimately conversions. You may find you aren’t bidding on the right keywords – or that some keywords gain more traffic and traction than others – it’s a learning curve. Once you’re seeing the benefits – and a positive return on investment is occurring, then you can start to look at increasing your daily budget.

6 Good, no not good, absolutely great… advertising copy

In my view, advertising copy on Google Ads is the thing that is the most neglected, yet vitally important, element of an Adwords campaign. The ads you supply are limited in line space (text) – so you have to get your message across, clearly and succinctly and in a targeted way. And of course, when advertising with Google, you’ve also got to consider the ‘quality scoring’ elements of your advertising. If you include keywords within the ad title and use call to action keywords such as sign up, register, buy now – so that the user knows exactly what to expect when they click – then all the better – and further, you need to ensure that the page the user clicks through to from your ad is wholly relevant to the ad (see point 7 below). It’s common sense really – but then again, how common is common sense!  The other element of ‘Ad Copy’ is to really monitor which ads are performing and which are not.  My advice is to run with 3 ads initially for each campaign and see which one performs the best.  Then drop either one or two of them – focusing attention on the main converter.  Again, it’s about being targeted.  I also recommend reviewing your ad content on a weekly basis - see if your competitors have changed their proposition. Ensure that your messaging is up to speed with what's going on within your business. If there's a price change - or offer - then make sure it's reflected in the ads.

7 Targeting your destination URL

You can target a specific landing page URL from your ad to ensure that the user will get to a page which is wholly relevant to your ad. For example – if you are advertising ‘red and white striped golf umbrellas’ – then take the user directly to that product page – rather than to your home page – or even your ‘umbrella page’. Be specific and targeted. You know yourself that there is nothing more frustrating than searching, finding a link that appears to offer exactly what you are looking for – and then when you click it, is it totally or partially irrelevant. It’s a total waste of a click – inefficient and bad for your campaign in every way – so be sure to match your ad text to a relevant landing page.

8 Tracking conversions

What you can measure you can manage – and therefore, it’s important that you manage the performance of your campaigns. Tracking actual conversions – be it sales, or sign up – will help you to measure your campaign activity. It’s a balance and good business practice to ensure that you know exactly how much it costs you to convert – and whether that cost is profitable / useful for your business.

9 Campaign Reports

Google Adwords provides you with pretty sophisticated reporting. The reports provide you with a clear and visual overview of activity on your campaigns. Statistics which show you where the clicks are coming from – which ads, what time, which position you were in – click through rates, conversions and costs per click – provide you with very comprehensive and detailed information. Therefore, you can regularly review these reports to make important decisions about your campaigns, and make changes to measure impact, as they are running.

10 Google Analytics

Whilst the Adwords campaign reports enable you to measure what’s actually happening with your ads – Google Analytics enables you to monitor how users are interacting with your website. You can choose which pages on your site you want to apply analytics to (all of them if relevant) – you can also integrate Adwords into Analytics so that you can track exactly what your click leads to. Analytics provides you with data on where your visitors come from; most popular pages on your site, which search engine they use, their locality – whether organic or sponsored traffic (ppc) and also provides you with valuable information on which search terms / keywords are driving traffic. Again, regular analysis of Analytics enables you to steer your online activity in an effective way.

Also for more info, check out Google’s video for getting started with Google Adwords http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFzoM59bIQ8