Most businesses want a cost-effective way to bring in more customers. The challenge is to find prospects who are thinking about your products at the exact time that you reach them.
With the advent of Google AdWords, it’s possible to target prospects at the very moment they’re thinking about buying your products or services. If someone runs a Google search on digital cameras, they only see ads for digital cameras. If someone performs a search on organically grown coffee beans, they only see ads for organically grown coffee. Google AdWords enables you to implement precisely targeted advertising.
Read on to learn how to maximize your success with Google AdWords. With proper preparation and execution, starting Google AdWords can be like planting a money tree that will provide your business with a steady stream of revenue.
What is Google AdWords?
Open up a Web browser and go to the Google website. Type in the search term "coffee" and click search. Essentially, two types of search results come up: on the left and below the search box are the organic search results that nobody has sponsored. On the right side of your browser window, and sometimes above the organic results are the Sponsored Links. The Sponsored Links are paid advertisements. Sponsored links are always identified as such by the heading Sponsored Links.
As participants in what is actually automated auction, each of these advertisers (or Sponsors) is bidding for the keyword "coffee". They only pay if someone is interested enough to click on the advertisement; if nobody clicks on the ad, the cost to that advertiser is zero. The higher the advertiser bids on a keyword, the higher in the rankings the ad appears, and the more likely it is that web searchers will see the ad. Ranking means visibility, though you do not have to be at the top of the rankings or make the highest bid in order for prospects to see your ad and click on it. Your goal is to get the lowest Cost-Per-Click (CPC) and the highest quality clicks (sales and leads) for your budget.
Find your Niche
Often, many companies compete for popular keywords (e.g., coffee). On the other hand, popular keywords get millions of searches, so there may be enough clicks to go around — in this case, you don’t need to be the highest, or nearly-highest bidder in order to achieve good results from your campaign. The only way to find out if a particular keyword will work for you is to try it out. The problem is that many other advertisers may also be bidding for the popular keywords, so your cost per click (or CPC) is likely to be high. You are more likely to get a low CPC with more obscure, highly targeted keywords. It will take some thought to come up with the right keywords for your particular site and product.
Our coffee roaster would probably want to try the keyword coffee, and watch it like a hawk as it could result in many low quality clicks (not many conversions to leads or sales). If a keyword does not produce high quality clicks after a reasonable trial period (a couple weeks), then remove it; it may even be obvious sooner that a particular keyword is costing money but not producing results.
Perhaps our coffee roaster sells shade-grown coffee that protects Central American songbird habitat. While far fewer people are likely to search for "shade-grown coffee" than for "coffee", the more targeted term is likely to yield a lower CPC and higher quality clicks.
Do some brainstorming and write down an initial list of keywords that matches your market niche. This process of finding targeted keywords will be a useful exercise to help you focus your campaigns and maximize your return on investment.
The first thing you need to get started with AdWords is a goal. Is your goal to make direct sales via ecommerce on your website? Is your goal to capture sales leads that you can follow up with to make the sale? Alternatively, is your goal a combination of both of these outcomes? Once you have determined a goal, you need a website that helps you achieve that goal.
Your website should be eye-catching and well organized, and include landing pages for your products or services. To see some examples of landing pages, perform a search for your services, and look at what other companies in your market are doing. The landing page for your advertisement might be your main website or homepage if your website focuses tightly on one product or service that you’re advertising (e.g., this permission-based email marketing website). Otherwise, the landing page should be a page within your website that focuses on the specific product or service you’re advertising.
If you’re selling directly from your website, your site should include a secure ecommerce system. Any good, technically competent web design firm can set this up for you.
If you want sales leads, then your site should include a call to action to persuade people to request more information. The way they submit a lead is to click on a link to a lead capture form. You need a form that, at a minimum, sends you — or the appropriate sales staff — an email containing the lead’s details. Ideally, the system would also create a lead for you in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system such as SalesForce or SugarCRM.
Whether you’re selling directly from your website or capturing leads, your website should always provide obvious ways to contact you using whatever method the prospect feels most comfortable with: a contact form, email, or telephone. Some company websites make it hard for users to figure out how to contact the company for more information.
It’s important to have a number of people — both inside and outside of your company — test your website’s ease of use. Prospects should never have to wonder how to buy from you, or how to contact you to ask a question about your products and services.
Sign Up for Google AdWords
Once you have a goal, web site, and landing page, you’re ready to sign up for Google AdWords. Learn by doing — it’s easy to write the advertisement and select keywords using the tools that Google provides during the sign up process. In addition, some web hosting providers have collaborated with Google, and can offer you a free AdWords coupon to get you started.
If you plan to spend at least $30 per day on AdWords, Google offers a JumpStart program to help you get started using the program. Google JumpStart specialists will help you create a campaign. The cost of the program is $299, but Google will apply that as a credit toward the cost of your initial clicks. Not having used JumpStart myself, I cannot vouch for its quality, though Google generally offers high quality services.
Campaigns and Ad Groups
The Campaign level is where you set your daily budget, language targeting, location targeting, ad distribution preferences, and the start and end dates for your campaigns (if applicable).
The Ad Group level is where enter your keywords and the advertisements themselves. Each Ad Group has one or more ads. Write at least two ads for each ad group so you can try different approaches and compare the results.
In my experience, it has been beneficial to create multiple campaigns so I can experiment with different parameters and compare the results. I keep campaigns that work well and delete those that do not.
Choose the language you want to target, and then the countries or territories. This requires some thought. Can you offer your product or service globally, in the United States, or in just your city or region? You can target your campaign to the world or to specific countries, regions, states, or cities.
For even more precise targeting, you can target your campaign to a certain number of miles from your business or even an area bounded by coordinates. Choosing carefully will ensure that you maximize the return you make on your investment in the advertisement.
Write your Advertisements
You have a 25-character title get searchers’ attention, and a 70-character ad to make them interested enough to want to click on your ad. This isn’t a lot of text, so make your content pithy.
Write the Headline, the text of the ad, and enter the Display Link (always link to main page of your website), and then enter the Destination URL (your landing page). As we discussed above, the Destination URL might be your main page, or a page within your website that’s dedicated to selling the product in question. Below are a couple of fictional ad examples. I don’t work in the coffee industry, but I do enjoy a good cup of coffee.
Headline: Shade Grown Coffee Beans
Description line 1: Shade grown coffee. Tastes
Description line 2: better & saves valuable rainforest.
Display URL: www.goodshadegrowncoffee.com
Destination URL: www.goodshadegrowncoffee.com?&utm_id=coff1
Headline: Shade Grown Coffee Beans
Description line 1: Coffee that tastes better and
Description line 2: protects valuable rainforest.
Display URL: www.goodshadegrowncoffee.com/
Destination URL: www.goodshadegrowncoffee.com?&utm_id=coff2
Tracking the conversion rate of your campaigns — i.e., how many sales or leads you generate from your investment — requires a little preparation. You will need to have your webmaster embed snippets of code into the appropriate pages on your website. Google explains how to do this in its online AdWords documentation.
In the fictional advertisement examples I gave above, you may have noticed the codes in the destination URL’s: "coff1" and "coff2". These are tracking codes that facilitate the tracking of a wealth of information by Google Analytics.
Google Analytics, which Google integrated with AdWords, is a very powerful service for tracking the success of both the organic and paid search results for your website. It will help you better understand your website visitors’ experiences in detail. In addition, you can learn which keywords attract the best prospects, and which of your campaigns deliver the best return on investment. You can use Google Analytics to track marketing campaigns other than AdWords as well. Unfortunately, Google Analytics is too big a topic to cover here, though there is plenty of information on it online — the Google website is a good place to start!
Choose Your Keywords
As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to pick good keywords. Initially, choose both general keywords and narrowly targeted keywords, and carefully evaluate the results. Keep keywords that generate results, and remove keywords that aren’t working for you. You’ll probably need to run your campaigns for a while before you have enough information to determine which keywords are succeeding for you.
In the keyword space provided in the setup process, list the keywords or keyword phrases you would like to use. Because people tend to type fast when they search the web, be sure to include common mis-spellings of your keywords. Here are some example keywords that our fictional coffee roaster might use:
- shade grown coffee
- shade grown coffe
- shade grown
- shade coffee
- coffee shade grown
- shade grown coffee migratory birds
- benefits of shade grown coffee
- gourmet coffee
- gourmet coffee beans
- gourmet coffees
- coffee beans
- gourmet coffee beans
- organic coffee
- organic coffee beans
- certified organic coffee
- coffee beans organic
- mail order organic coffee
- bulk coffee
To generate more keywords, enter a keyword into the Keyword Tool Box and click on Get More Keywords. This will generate additional keywords, some of which will be relevant to you, and some of which will not. Keep the relevant keywords and toss the rest.
Now, you have a good starting list. Later, you will want to add new keywords, and remove non-performing keywords. A good keyword is one that yields you conversions into customers or good leads.
Google Search versus Google Content Network
Google AdWords can place your ad in two places: in Google search and the content network. Google search provides results from searches that prospective customers run directly using www.google.com. The content network consists of Google partner sites and sites that run advertisements through Google’s AdSense program.
In my experience, Google search has yielded more quality clicks than the content network. The content network is worth trying, but I recommend you put it into a separate campaign so that you can measure its results against your Google search campaign.
The content network is an opt-out service, though it’s not possible to opt out during the setup process. To opt out of the content network for a specific campaign, you can go back to the Campaign Settings and uncheck the checkbox for content network.
Then, set up a separate campaign where you focus on the content network and opt out of the search network. Compare the results between the two campaigns. It is possible that you’ll find Google search is more productive than the content network but, of course, your results may be different from mine.
If you want to keep it simple until you are more comfortable with AdWords, I recommend that you start with the search network. Then, come back in a few weeks and set up a separate campaign to try the content network, and compare the results with those you generate through the search network.
Your Daily Budget
Your daily budget for your campaign is the ceiling on your daily spending. You can set this number to whatever figure you want. It’s a good idea to start out with a relatively low daily budget while you refine your AdWords effectiveness. As your ad campaigns succeed and bring you more business, you’ll likely want to increase your budget.
Start with a daily budget of about $10 to $15 per day, and gradually increase that amount as you fine-tune your approach.
In addition to your daily budget, you will need to set a maximum bid that you are willing to pay as a Cost Per Click (CPC). This require some trial and error to get right. Being the highest bidder is not really what that you want. Instead, you want to get the greatest number of quality clicks for your budget. If you bid too high, your CPC will be too high and will eat up your budget too fast; if you bid to low, you won’t generate enough clicks or sales.
You might try starting with a bid of $2.50, and see what happens for a day or two. Then gradually raise or lower the bid, depending on results. If clicks consume your daily budget in a couple of hours, then lower your bid. If the advertisements aren’t getting many clicks, raise your bid. Continue this process until you find the optimal bid.
Leads and Sales
What if visitors are clicking on your ad but aren’t buying from or contacting you? That likely means your ad is working but your website or landing page is not persuading prospective customers to take the next step. It can also mean that your product or service needs some work to become more competitive. Compare what you offer to your competitors.
The simplest things can make a dramatic difference. When your landing page is not getting you conversions, change one aspect, then wait to see what happens over the next day or two. That way, you can determine which changes work. Don’t be afraid to try possible solutions, knowing that some changes will fail and some will work well.
Recently, one of our landing pages was not generating a suitable number of conversions. I made some minor changes to the wording on the page and conversions started going up the next day. On another page, we replaced our very simple order form with a much more elaborate version. Our sales for that service immediately plummeted. We simply changed the order form back to the simpler version and sales picked up again immediately.
Harvesting From the Money Tree
The Google AdWords money tree is now planted, optimized, and working to bring you leads and sales. What do you do now? Harvest it, of course, by solid follow-through and by providing the best possible service for your clients.
Go back from time to time, and take a look at your results. Make adjustments to your budget and bids as needed. Write another advertisement that takes a slightly different tack. Remove an ad that’s not producing high quality clicks for you. Make some improvements to your website to see if you can increase your conversion rate.
Practice Kaizen — a Japanese word for continuous, incremental improvement. Even if your Google AdWords money tree is providing good yields, there are always ways to improve its performance.
So pour yourself a cup of good coffee, and get started using Google AdWords today!