Pound for pound, Google AdWords offers everyone, from mom and pop cotttage industries to multinational juggernauts, the most effective advertising medium yet devised.

At last count, it cost $2.4 million to have your company's ad shown during the NFL Super Bowl. Combined with the costs of media planning, creative agencies, film production and associated campaign elements, you're looking at a long haul to retrieve your money.

Most people's concept of advertising is limited to the (sometimes woeful) ads they see on TV, or the billboards they drive past. Seeing these, they automatically assume that effective advertising is out of their reach. This couldn't be farther from the truth.

Bang for Your Buck

What if you were told that there is an advertising method out there that's more effective than showcasing your product or service as a half-time ad during the Super Bowl, costs far less, but is likely to bring a higher ROI and potentially (wait for it)--more customers?

Almost all who are interested in your product or service (and aren't just tuning in in the hope of another wardrobe malfunction, all for as little as a few dollars per day?

It's not as crazy as it sounds.

Its called PPC advertising, just one more acronym for you to remember. PPC (pay per click) ads work because you only pay for, you guessed it, ads that are clicked on. So the only traffic you're paying for are customers that come to your site looking to start a conversation with you.

Whether these customers sign up to your newsletter, contact you for a chat or purchase on that very visit is up to you. Each can be achieved by an effective PPC ad.

Pay per click means you get charged only based on how many times your ad is clicked on--not viewed. Makes sense, doesn't it? If you put your Web site address on a roadside billboard seen by 10,000 people per day, it doesn't necessarily mean that many are going to visit your site. In fact, you have no idea how many people have come to your site after seeing the billboard.

AdWords and other PPC models take all of the ambiguity of many other advertising channels and turn them on their head.

You've seen them in the movies. The chain-smoking, plaid-wearing ad executive raking in piles of dollars from eager clients queuing up to buy his product. With PPC advertising channels like Google AdWords, you can join them (minus the questionable fashion sense and unhealthy habits).

Build It and They Will Come

Early champions of the Internet espoused the magnetic effects of the simple act of creating a Web site. If you were to believe them (and many of us did), customers would blindly come out of the ether to visit your Web site without any promotion on your part whatsoever. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. How could it be?

With AdWords the circle is completed, and so the Field of Dreams ethos might have gone something like this :

The Voice: Build it, and the customer will come.
Ray Kinsella: But, how will they find me?
The Voice: Believe me when I say pay per click is the answer.

The Carrot on the Stick

By providing a bridge between folks looking for your product or service and your site, AdWords attracts customers.

In setting up your AdWords campaign, you specify keywords that you think people will be searching for to come to your site. Google takes note of users who are searching for these keywords and displays your ads to them. Simple as that.

No creative concepts, media planners, account executives or graphic designers required.

A successful AdWords campaign costs as little or as much as you'd like to spend. Obviously, the more you spend the more clicks you're going to get. If you've got a convincing landing page, you can expect a fair number of your users to convert to customers. There's no reason you can't make your money back and then some, all within a few weeks.

Why It Works

What if you could stand at the front door of a Wal-Mart or Target store and immediately spot customers who were looking for your product? Lets say they wore bright orange T-shirts proclaiming what they were after. And what if they knew to go straight to you rather than wander the store aimlessly looking?

With AdWords, you connect with customers the very instant they want to hear from you.

Let's take this concept a step further. What if you could have a thousand young college students at the door of every supermarket in the country. What's more, you'd have to pay them only if they got customers and began selling them your product or service.

Now, all the other big boys have made huge billboards, hovering at the back of the store over everyone but not really being paid attention to.

Meanwhile, your college "agents" are actively monitoring every single prospective customer.

Google AdWords is like these enthusiastic college students, except these search agents won't stop for breaks. The Google search engine is waiting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for customers looking for your products. As soon as they start looking, AdWords lets you know.

Democracy of the Search

"Democracy cannot be static" --Eleanor Roosevelt.

There's little hope of any small businesses or even most large businesses of advertising their wares during the Super Bowl any time soon. But AdWords' focus on relevance rather than revenue means that potentially anyone can have the most effective ad campaign at any given moment.

The beauty is that your boutique search marketing business could overtake IBM's Global Service Consulting arm in rankings one week, and be overtaken by your nephew's Web design firm the next.

Of course, the more money you have, the more chance you can elbow your way into the top of the results. But who has ever successfully elbowed their way onto a highway billboard for $5?

Find Out Which Half Works

Here's a famous marketing quote that no longer applies: "I know that half of my advertising budget is wasted, I'm just not sure which half" (John Wanamaker). Out of those who tune in to the Super Bowl TV commercials, we could say...

  • 4% will be advertising executives who tuned in merely to see their own ads.

  • 11% will have tuned in hoping for another wardrobe malfunction.

  • 12% will have skipped your ad with the help of their TiVo (or similar device).

  • 16% will have turned off the TV in disgust at halftime because their team is losing.

  • 24% will have gone to the bathroom during your ad.

  • The remaining 33% will view your ad but may not remember it or necessarily pursue the call to action (if there is any).

TACKLE Your Competitors Head on

To bring in more money than the Super Bowl's best linebacker, follow these TACKLE tips:

1. Target: Speak to who you want, when they want you to

Think about your users and what they'll be searching for. Are they going to be searching via google.com or google.co.uk? Will they be searching in English or French? Google claims your ads can be served with up to 99% accuracy to your selected target audience. So give it a go.

2. Ads: The carrot on the stick

Come up with snappy, to-the-point ads that will convince users to visit your site. Remember, these are the bridge between Google and your site. Making sure they're in line with Google's editorial policy is a good start. Ensuring they are descriptive, accurate and outshine competitors' ads is the next step.

A quick note: Your first instinct in creating an ad may be to try and place as many exclamation marks in it as possible. Avoid this, and be as succinct as you can. Your customers will appreciate it, trust me.

3. Cost: It's in your control

Here's where AdWords comes into its own. You can specify a daily budget and a maximum CPC (cost per click) for each keyword. This allows you to make sure your campaign doesn't run over budget. The higher your CPC, of course, the higher up in listings your ad should appear (generally speaking).

4. Keywords: Be specific rather than generic

There are numerous tools available to help you come up with keywords. Even though AdWords is a relatively new advertising channel, many key categories have been thought of and advertisers already have come up with ads. To compete with this, you're better off focusing on specific, narrow product areas that you can achieve success in. Think of your strength, and you can become the market leader for that niche.

5. Location: Where in the world do you think you're going?

If your customers are only ever going to come from the UK (e.g., if you sell UK DVDs), you might want to restrict it to the Zone 1 regions. It would be possible for a minority of surfers to purchase and view your DVDs in other regions, but there's a good chance they'd go to a local distributor anyway. Don't waste your time (and money) pursuing customers who aren't interested in your product.

This is the power of geotargeting; use it.

6. Evaluate: If you haven't made enough money the first time, try again

Like any marketing campaign, AdWords works best when repeatedly fine-tuned and optimized. The more you tweak and test your keywords, geotargeting and other campaign variables, the more success you're likely to have valuable space.

What about your landing page? A specific call to action has a better chance of bringing in revenue from customers than a description of your services. But that's another story. If you've successfully tweaked your AdWords campaign to bring in substantial numbers of users, then tweaking your landing page is probably the easy step. You know your product and customers better than anyone, so get to it.

Point and Click specifics for setting up an AdWords campaign are detailed at the Adwords site--it includes more info than you could ever use (see the Google Learning Center).

Remember the TACKLE points listed above, and you should be well on your way to a successful AdWords campaign, with no appearance from Janet Jackson or Justin Timberlake required.

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Peter Majarich is an occasional contributor to MarketingProfs.com.