Google AdWords: What Is It and Where Do I Begin?

Google AdWords is the most popular pay-per-click (PPC) program in the world today and the biggest revenue driver for the technology/media giant. The easiest way to describe Google AdWords is that you are buying traffic to your website. This is directly compared to the organic search results, which are free. However, much work goes into trying to boost organic rankings, and it is even more challenging now with Google’s Hummingbird update which focuses on high quality content more so than links and other outdated factors. AdWords is a bit more efficient from a timing standpoint since you can appear high in rankings much faster. Utilizing an AdWords program simultaneously with SEO efforts though is the most efficient approach since they can both help each other out (for example, pages on-site that are optimized will reflect better in AdWords). Additionally, having more real estate on Google’s first results page (in both organic and in paid sections) means you have more exposure and are also pushing competitors down the list or onto lower pages, which is always beneficial for your business.

Importance of Testing

If your PPC advertising company doesn’t test, it’s time to switch. Running a successful campaign(s) in AdWords takes both time and effort. It’s impossible to know before testing how much budget is necessary for rewarding results. Although Google does provide some tools that give you a general idea, the only way to really test is through trial and error. Although it varies by industry, we usually recommend starting between $750 and $1000 per month. From there, you can see if you are using your whole budget or if there is room for additional spending. If the budget is lower, or if the budget is higher, naturally your strategy will change a bit. Additionally, different companies have different goals. Do you want as many clicks (visitors) as possible? Do you want less traffic in exchange for more qualified visitors? Do you have a limit as to how much you want to spend per click, even if the visitors are qualified? Questions like this help to determine the strategy.

Cost and Placement

There are a number of factors that determine the cost and placement of ads. First of course is the bid. You must be bidding at a reasonable level for the ads to be shown. A bid of $0.05/click, for example, will not have a chance to be shown. Whereas a bid of $100.00/click might be too much. In the case of the latter, it will purchase the click for the maximum amount needed. Which segues nicely into the second factor – competition. The average bid levels are determined by the popularity of the word and the number of other people bidding on it. If the word is extremely niche and no one is bidding, you might get away with a cost of, say $0.20-$0.60/click. But if it’s a more popular word or phrase, like “baseball bats,” you’ll likely be paying several dollars, or tens of dollars, per click. Remember, if you overbid, it won’t charge you for the actual max bid but for whatever price is necessary to land that first place ranking. Mid-level bids will likely drop your ads down to rankings 2-5. Lower bids will be at the bottom of the list or will not be shown at all. Here’s an example of where your ads will be shown and why placement matters.

Quality Score and Keywords

Another factor for the ranking of the ads is quality score. Google likes to “reward” good ads. Good ads are ones that do not confuse the visitor. So if the ad has good written copy and the page that the ad brings you to has good content and is likely to be helpful to the visitor, it will have a higher quality score. Quality scores range between 1-10. Scores of 7-10 will help ads rank higher, even if bid levels aren’t as strong. Mid-level quality scores will help slightly. Low quality scores between 0-2 will likely prevent your ad from being shown at all. Finally, keywords are very important. You want to associate targeted keywords with the ad since these are the “triggers” in search that will determine when the ad will appear. You want to be specific with your words so you attract the right audience. Negative keywords are words that prevent the ad from appearing. So if I sell baseball equipment but I do not happen to sell baseball uniforms, I might add “uniform” as a negative keyword so my ads will not appear for those type of searches since it won’t bring in potential customers. Managing all these processes above is very important because it will not only raise the rankings of your ads (which usually leads to more clicks) but will hopefully drive down your costs to obtain more clicks, and bring in more qualified visitors.

Determining Your Audience

What’s great about AdWords is, much like many paid online services, you can try to control who is viewing the ad. You always want to be conscious of the visitor because you are paying with each click. So if you are attracting visitors who are not likely to be interested in your business or its offerings, you are wasting money. Here are some things to think about:

  • First is the keywords. You want to monitor the success of different keywords, while also monitoring new keywords from your Google Analytics that potential customers are using. Negative keywords are equally as important.
  • Secondly, monitor your web traffic for the most popular times/days. If you aren’t getting any visitors on the weekend because most of your customers order while they are at work, then just run ads during the business week. You can also get more granular into only running ads during certain times of the day too.
  • Additionally, you can use other filters like geographic regions to make sure we are only tapping into audiences that you serve (if, for instance, the company was not national). We tend to give highest priority to attracting the best visitors we can that could potentially turn into customers.
  • Don’t forget about extensions. This is a feature that allows you to add more actionable options in your ads (rather than just being able to click on the URL). Extensions usually only appear if you are placed in the top three spots. Some examples include sitelinks, call to click phone number (if it’s a mobile ad, and e-newsletter sign up. They give you more real estate in the ad space while also looking more attractive and being more useful to your audience.

Budget is Key

Budget is naturally one of the most important things to think about with AdWords. It’s important to understand that there are only so many people searching for your products. Let’s say, hypothetically, you budgeted $100,000 per month to your campaign. Remember, you are only paying for those who clicks, not by impression. Since there might not be 30-60,000 people searching for your keywords on a monthly basis, you won’t reach your budget. So that money will sit pretty in your account and not be used. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if your budget is too low, once the budget is reached, your ads won’t appear anymore. If you have a monthly budget, the ads will just stop, even if it’s in the first few days of the month. You might want to manage this better by spreading the budget out evenly over the course of the month and setting daily budgets. This makes sure you can carry the budget through the month and not deplete the funds in the first few days. Finding that plateau is important with AdWords because then you know you are not missing out on any potential customers possibly looking for your products. For some companies, it’s not possible to pay for that “plateaued budget” because there might be enough clicks to drive a budget up to thousands, if not millions, of dollars each month. But for more niche businesses, reaching that plateau is more doable.

Hopefully this gives you a broad understanding of Google AdWords and clarifies not only what your dollars are being put towards, but the maintenance requires to produce results. If you’ve had experience with Google AdWords and want to chime in with some helpful pointers, feel free to comment below!

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