This article covers gives some tips for using Adwords for ‘new business’. It’s intended for new small businesses as opposed to large e-commerce operations for which the approach is very different.
Adwords is great for bootstrapping web traffic for a new business or a new product/service. However, it’s not a long term solution as it’s expensive, can be inconsistent over time and you don’t want your business to be reliant on one channel for potential customers. Making the success of your product or service reliant on Adwords risks disruption from other advertisers and changes in the way Google operates Adwords. I have come across several instances of where Adwords once worked but gradually became unprofitable.
You need to use Adwords judiciously while building up traffic using SEO, PR and marketing and growth hacking. These activities can take a long time to take hold so start them as early as possible, not just after you release your offering.
If you work on other ways to gain customers it’s usually possible to eventually taper off use of Adwords without affecting profit. It’s not unusual to find that ads reach a equilibrium where the cost of using them is the same as the profit from gained from using them. When this happens, it’s time to stop Adwords as you are just ‘working for Google’. In some ways, this might be seen as a consequence and expected outcome of the bidding system.
Having said you can wean yourself of Adwords, Adwords and Search is continually changing with Google becoming more aggressive. They moved the ads from the side to the top. They then increased the number of ads at the top from three to four. Many of the non-ads are increasingly information from Google such as information panels and recommended videos. On mobile, it’s possible for the whole of the first page to not have any Search results! This means that Search results are becoming less effective. Google also recently tried making ads look like search results but there was a backlash. Google is treading the fine line between maximising revenue and getting involved in anti-trust/monopoly disputes.
There’s a plethora of settings and options the visual appearance and locations of which seem to be continually changing so I am only going to talk generally here.
One of the most important options to get right is the geographic location. There’s a distinction between people interested in a location as opposed to actually being in a location. When I started BeaconZone we only shipped to the United Kingdom so we set the country as United Kingdom. Some months later, we dug into the Adwords statistics and it said half the clicks were coming from India! I recently set up new ads from scratch and the location settings now seem to have become a lot clearer. However, take care as it’s a great way to waste ad budget.
Don’t pile all your ads into one campaign. Split them by location so that you can get metrics about different geographic regions and refine and bid on each campaign individually.
The next important option is to only set ads to show in the Google Search Network and not on partner sites. Google Search creates clicks with much greater action/purchase intent because people are searching, not just reading some other site.
Avoid bidding up for clicks. It only needs two competitors to do this and things get expensive. Set a fixed limit per click. Unless you want traffic at any cost, don’t aim to come top of the ads as you will be burning through budget. Aim to be 2nd, 3rd, 4th or even below the Search results as you will still get clicks without an exorbitant cost.
Think hard whether you really need mobile customers. Are they really likely to browse and action a purchase on their phones? In some cases mobile will actually be advantageous over desktop and vice versa. It depends on your product/service and target customer. For example, for B2B, you might find it better to not advertise on mobile.
Similarly, think about when, at what time of day or day of the week, people will be looking for your product/service. For example, for B2B you might choose to turn off advertising at weekends.
Remember you can experiment turning these things on and off and gauge the affect on conversions. Adwords isn’t set and forget. You need continual, daily, observation and tweaking to get the best value out of Adwords.
In order to measure the affect of ads you need to set up conversion tracking. This is a small script or code on your web site that matches an ad to an action, for example buying a product. Note that conversion tracking isn’t perfect due to loss of continuity when going, for example, via a payment provider. Web browser blockers can also disrupt conversion tracking. However, you should get some information to determine actions that came about due to ads.
Adwords is driven by showing ads matching keywords in user search terms. You will probably have an idea what people search for to get to your product or service. Google takes these keywords and provides variants and alternatives that you can also use. I cover marketing and keywords, in more detail, in a separate article. Here are a few Adwords specific tips:
- Don’t just use Google Adwords to work out keywords. Also use Google Trends and tools like Ubersuggest. Also talk to end customers to see what terms they use to describe your product or service. You might be surprised what terms they might use.
- Use the Adwords Keywords Planner Landing Page tool to analyse the keywords for your competitors.
- Try using thesaurus or synonym tools to get variants on your proposed keywords.
- Don’t get too obsessed about product ids and product/solution types/names. Instead think wider to keywords for the problem people want your product/service to solve.
- It’s possible to select ‘Broad match’, ‘Phrase match’ an ‘Exact match’. I have found it’s best to use exact match and have lots of variants of keywords rather than few broad keywords. This way you don’t waste budget on unsuitable ad clicks.
- Include exact match terms for the long tail of options. For example, terms with adjectives that describe a particular variant of your product of service. These will get less clicks but a higher percentage of conversions as they are highly relevant to some searchers.
An alternative is to use broad match and later regularly check what terms have previously had matches and filter out those that are clearly unsuitable using negative keywords.
It can be sometimes difficult to think up the wording for ads. Here are some tips:
- Create ads for features as well as benefits.
- Think about your company’s USP and try to include that in the ad title.
- Think about promoting the fact you support a particular geographic region if that’s relevant.
- Think about promoting the price if you think that’s going to particularly attractive to the end user.
- Look at competitors ads for the same search terms to get an idea for what might be successful.
- Consider using the dynamic keyword insertion ads provided by Google based on what the search user has typed in. Take care though because the resultant ad can sometimes look strange with particular variants of keywords.
- Keep the ad text closely related to the search keyword(s). This helps ensure the end user clicks on the ad due to a direct correspondence and this will also increase your quality score (see later).
- Avoid jargon and superlative claims.
- Use as many keyword extensions as you can as this increases the size of the ad. At least use sitelink extensions. The larger the ad, the more likely it will be seen.
- For the main ad link and extension links, link to the best URL. Don’t be lazy. If necessary, create more relevant landing pages (see below). Google evaluates the suitability of the target link. Generic rather than specific landing pages will be penalised.
New Landing Pages
Don’t leave landing pages as an after-thought. They need to fit in with keywords and ad text if you are to prevent the user from ‘bouncing’ from your web site.
- Echo any features/claims you put in the ad so the visitor knows they have reached the right place.
- Anticipate and answer questions the user might have when they get to your landing page.
- Establish trust through the use of a professional looking page, clear contact information, reviews and testimonials.
- Have a time limited offer and call to action to encourage visitors to immediately commit.
What to Expect
Google provides lots of statistics on how well your Adwords campaigns are performing but doesn’t tell you what the ‘good’ value for a particular metric might be. I suspect the numbers vary widely across different industries, products and services. For when we use Adwords, a 5% click through rate and 10% of those converting equates to a successful campaign.
After a short while, Google will provide a Quality Score for each ad. The higher the quality score, the higher up the ranking and/or less cost per ad depending on which way you look at it. The Quality Score is an end user experience score that takes in factors such as:
- Correlation between ads and keywords.
- Landing page content relevance for the ads and keywords.
- Landing page load time.
Improving these factors will improve your Quality Score.
After you have been advertising a while, a Google advisor will ring you and offer to help optimise your campaigns. Take advantage of this free advice as they will be able to quickly help you adjust settings to get more from Adwords. However, don’t blindly implement everything they say. The majority of the advice will be good for you but some of it will only gain Google more revenue. Take care. If you are unsure of a change, try it for a short time with the plan to undo the change if necessary.
It’s a fact of life that you will find Adwords performance and conversions won’t be consistent over time. You could reason that this is because advertisers come and go over time, their account settings change over time and end users also cause ebbs and flows of search terms. However, it’s my feeling the numbers change to much. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been involved with companies using Adwords (or Search) for a extremely large catchment of users and competitors which would possibly average things out.
At some stage you might think about expanding the ads by, for example, geographic region, slightly different offering, extra times of day. I have never found this works well. Your core offering to your core geographic region(s) is likely all you will be able to achieve reasonably profitably.
Adwords is just one, albeit great, tool to help get your your new business off the ground. Rely solely on it at your peril. It’s not set and forget. Take care with the ‘set’ part. Keep on top of it to make best profitable use. Do other types of marketing and measure your way out of being reliant on it.