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 Google AdWords, it is possible to target prospects at the very moment they are thinking about buying your products or services. Most of you know how it works: If someone does a Google search on digital cameras, for example, she sees ads for digital cameras. If someone does a search on organically grown coffee beans, he sees ads for organically grown coffee. Google AdWords enables you to implement precisely targeted advertising.
Here's 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 Web site. Type in the search term coffee and click search.
Essentially, two types of search results come up: on the left and below are the organic search results that no one 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—they are always identified as such by the heading Sponsored Links.
As participants in this automated auction, each of these advertisers is bidding for the keyword coffee. They pay only if someone is interested enough to click on the advertisement; if nobody clicks on the ad, the cost is zero. The higher the advertiser bids on a keyword, the higher in the rankings the ad appears and the more likely Web searchers will see it. Ranking means visibility, though you do not have to be at the top of the rankings or bid the highest amount 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.
Finding Your Niche
Sometimes with popular keywords (like coffee), there are many companies competing. On the other hand, popular keywords get millions of searches, so there might be enough clicks to go around.
The only way to find out if a particular keyword will work for you is to try it. The problem is that many other advertisers are bidding for the popular keywords, so your 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.
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 of weeks), then remove it; it may even be obvious sooner that a 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 searching for shade-grown coffee than just coffee, it is likely to yield a lower CPC and higher quality clicks.
Do some brainstorming and write down an initial list of keywords that match 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 e-commerce on your Web site? Is your goal to capture sales leads that you can follow-up with and make the sale? Alternatively, is your goal a combination of both? Once you have determined a goal, you need a Web site that helps you achieve that goal.
Your site should be eye-catching and well-organized and should include landing pages for your products or services. To see some examples of landing pages, do a search for your services, and look at what other companies in your market are doing.
The landing page can be your homepage if your site tightly focuses on one product or service you are advertising (e.g., this permission-based email marketing site). Otherwise, the landing page should be within your larger site and should focus on the specific product or service you are advertising.
If you are selling directly from your Web site, it should include a secure e-commerce 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, but ideally it should also create a lead for you in a customer relationship management (CRM) system such as SalesForce or SugarCRM.
Whether you are selling directly from your site or capturing leads, your site should always have obvious ways to contact you using whatever method the prospect feels most comfortable using: a contact form, email, or telephone. Some company sites make it hard to figure out how to contact them for more information.
It is important to have a number of people—both inside and outside of your company—test your Web site for usability and 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 or services.
Signing up for Google AdWords
Once you have a goal, Web site, and landing page, you are ready to sign up for Google AdWords. Learn by doing. It is easier to write the advertisement and select keywords using the tools that Google provides during the sign up process.
If you plan to spend at least $30/day on AdWords, Google offers a JumpStart program to help you get started using AdWords. 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.
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.
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 just 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 even target your campaign to a certain number of miles from your business or even an area bounded by coordinates.
Writing Your Advertisements
You have just a 25-character title to get surfers' attention, and a 70-character ad to get people interested enough to want to click on your ad. It is not a lot of text, so make it pithy.
Write the Headline, the text of the ad, and enter the Display Link (always link to main page of your Web site), and then enter the Destination URL (your landing page). The Destination URL might be your main page or a page within your main site dedicated just to selling the product at hand.
Here's a fictional ad example:
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
To track the conversion rate of your campaigns—i.e., how many sales or leads you get for your investment—requires a little preparation. You will need to have your webmaster embed snippets of code to the appropriate pages on your Web site. Google explains how to set up and implement your conversion tracking code here, including example code.
In the fictional advertisement examples I gave, you may have noticed codes in the destination URLs: "coff1" and "coff2". These are tracking codes that facilitate the tracking of a wealth of information by Google Analytics.
Google Analytics, which Google has integrated with AdWords, is a very powerful service for tracking the success of both your organic and paid search results for your site. It will help you better understand your site visitors' experience in detail. In addition, you can learn what keywords bring in the best prospects, and which of your campaigns are delivering the best return on investment. You can use Google Analytics to track marketing campaigns other than AdWords as well.
Google Analytics is too big a topic to cover much here, but I will devote a future article entirely to this powerful marketing tracking service.
Choosing Your Keywords
As I mentioned earlier, it is important to pick good keywords. Initially, choose both general keywords and narrowly targeted keywords, and carefully evaluate the results. Keep keywords that are getting you results, and remove keywords that are not working for you. You will probably need to run your campaigns for a while before you will 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 misspellings 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 get 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 be relevant. 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 conversions: customers or good leads.
Google Search vs. Google Content Network
Google AdWords can place your add in essentially two places: Google search and the content network. Google search are results from searches that prospective customers do 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 much more quality clicks than the content network. The content network is worth trying, but I recommend putting it into a separate campaign so you can measure its results against your Google search campaign.
The content network is opt-out, and it is not possible to opt out during the setup process. However, to opt out of the content network for a specific campaign, you can go back to campaign settings and uncheck the checkbox for content network.
Then setup 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 will 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 starting with just the search network. Then come back in a few weeks and set up a separate campaign to try the content network, then compare the results with what you are getting with the search network.
Your Daily Budget
Your daily budget for your campaign is the ceiling on your daily spending. You can set this number at whatever you want. It is 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 will likely want to increase your budget.
Start with a daily budget of about $10-$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 requires some trial and error to get right. Being the highest bidder is not really what that you want. Instead, you want to get the most quality clicks you can 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 will not get enough clicks and hence enough 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 are not getting many clicks, then raise your bid. Continue this process until you find the optimal bid.
Leads and Sales
What if visitors are clicking on your ad but are not buying or contacting you? That likely means your ad is working but your site 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 are offering to what your competitors are offering.
The simplest things can make a dramatic difference. When your landing page is not getting you conversions, change one thing and see what happens over the next day or two. That way, you can determine which changes work. Do not 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 getting enough conversions, so 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 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 is not producing high quality clicks for you. Make some improvements to your Web site to see whether 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!