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Get Ahead Online

Google Adwords

Google Adwords can be an important part of your online marketing and search engine strategy. Laurence Knopf explains how to use this valuable tool to help increase website traffic and grow your business

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Using Google Adwords could be the difference between profit loss or gain

The beginner’s guide to Google Adwords

Google AdWords can help you to increase traffic to your website and grow your business by bringing you more customers or clients. It involves the creation and strategic insertion of online ads on Google where you only pay when someone clicks on your advert, hence the name ‘pay per click’ (PPC).

If you understand how to configure, manage and maintain your campaign, it can give you a far better return than many other traditional forms of advertising. This article gives you key points on how to start, manage and measure your campaigns, and how to stay on budget.

How to start

You begin by deciding which products or services you wish to promote. When you know, you will need to do some keyword research—which we discussed in the April issue—to find the most valuable keywords you should be targeting to promote those products and services. The idea is that when someone types one of those keywords into Google, your ad will appear and attract them through to your website.  

Now you need to set up your account. You will need to use an email address that is not already associated with a different AdWords account. You can set the campaign up yourself or get some help from Google, which I would recommend you do yourself—the process is simple and it will allow you to familiarise yourself with all aspects of the system.

Once you have set up an account you can build your campaigns. The account allows you to set up different campaigns, these can be broken up split further into ‘AdGroups’, which are sets of keywords that trigger an advertisement specific to those keywords.

Think carefully about how to split things up. Your approach will depend on your specific business but your decision-making should be based around customer demographics, product or service sets, geographical targeting and budget allocation.

Splitting the advertising in this way lets you target specific markets in different ways. I recommend you segment your products / services and their appropriate keywords as granularly as possible because this allows for the maximum amount of flexibility with budgets, advertisement creative and over all control of activating and pausing individual parts of the campaigns.   

Finally, you will need to write the actual advertisement copy. You have a headline, two short lines of text below it and a URL. You will need compelling copy to get people to actually click on your ad, taking them to your website. The quality of this copy is critical in enticing people to click on your ads—have a look what other competitors say in their ads and try to improve upon them.

Value for money

Instead of set fees, the pay-per-click system means you only pay when someone actually clicks on your advert. In addition to this, the position of the ad is based on bids you set for each keyword; the higher you bid the higher on the page your ad will appear.

Therefore, the higher on the page your ad appears the more it will cost for you to gain clicks and the more clicks you will get. Each keyword will have a different pattern of bids for positions so you will need to play around with them a bit to get a feel for how it works. To begin with, try to place yourself about halfway up the page—this will ensure you get some clicks but are not paying a premium for them.  

Allow yourself enough budget so you can have your ads shown throughout the day and you can get enough clicks. Without the right volume of clicks, you will not be able to realistically measure if you ads are actually delivering any enquiries. You set a daily budget for each campaign and system will automatically adjust when the ads appear to try to spend that money for you.

You will find that you sometimes do not reach your daily budget and that will be because you are either not high enough on the page to gain clicks, your adverts are not good enough to inspire clicks or there simply is not enough traffic. If you have a budget,

I would adjust the keywords, positions and adverts to try to spend it—the last thing you want is to assume it is not working through lack of adjustment.

To evaluate whether you are getting value for money, you can measure the number of times your ads have appeared in Google’s search results pages—‘impressions’—and your ‘click-through-rate’ (CTR).

High rates of impressions and/or CTRs against a low conversion rate indicate that you must revise your campaign configuration. A CTR of less than 1 percent is telling you that your ad is not reaching the right audience or simply needs to be much more compelling. I would aim for an average CTR of around 5 percent—this is easy with good targeting but challenging in very competitive environments.  

Maximise online potential

One way to check the performance of your ads is to use the ‘Keywords’ tab. There you will see an icon in the ‘status’ column for each keyword, giving you the ‘quality score’.

This is how Google values each of your keywords and their relationship to the ad copy you are using and the pages on your website the ads are leading people to. The higher the score, the more likely the keyword is rewarded with higher placements—at a lower comparative cost-per-click. Adapting your ad copy and the content of your landing pages can help improve the quality score.

The ‘Networks’ tab on the Google AdWords user interface lets you decide if your ads appear only on Google, on other websites that power their search through Google or even on the ‘Display’ network, which are websites subscribed to Google’s AdSense program—they can be any type of website that is on a similar theme to your ads. 

Over time, evaluate which networks give you the best CTR. Initially, I recommend you restrict your ads to Google only, because this is the best way to keep control over your spend and allows better visibility on success. The display network often includes lots of poor quality sites and you end up with a lot of impressions but not so many clicks.
Google AdWords is a great way to help your business reach a more customers. You have the same space to display your message and the same opportunity to gain clicks as competitors with bigger overall marketing budgets—it tends to level the playing field a little. In addition, in comparison to other marketing activities, you are far more able to track the results and see what kind of return you are really getting for your investment.

It is not always the simplest of systems to use; you may have used it in the past and given up because you found it complicated or could not work out how to use it to actually see the benefits.

But in most marketplaces, and certainly in the world of Print, I still think there is significant opportunity for success.

Laurence Knopf runs Search Engine Rescue, a London-based search engine optimisation (SEO) company. It provides tailored, effective and cost effective solutions for Google AdWords and website SEO.
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