Managing an AdWords campaign to promote your local small business requires forethought and diligence. You must plan ahead; monitor your campaign’s performance; and make adjustments over time. Otherwise, you may find yourself paying for a lot of irrelevant clicks, or missing out on the best clicks.
To get the best ROI from your Google AdWords marketing campaign, follow these easy steps.
Landing page design
Before you launch your AdWords campaign, take a look at the page on your website where visitors will land once they have clicked your ad. Is it your homepage? Are you sure? Homepages tend to be very general. Often a custom landing page is a better solution than sending visitors to your homepage. A custom landing page allows you to more specifically target your campaign, or even to run multiple campaigns for A/B testing.
Be sure your landing page immediately provides your visitors with specific information related to their search query. Often some content editing is required, to get your landing page ready for your AdWords campaign. Remember that visitors who land on this page will not be seeing it in context. Be sure your message is immediately clear to a visitor who has not seen any of the other pages on your website.
Your campaign settings may be the single most important determining factor of whether your ad is seen by your prospects. Some things to keep in mind:
If you are a local business, you only want to show your ad to local prospects. For example, people on the other side of the continent are not going to visit your coffee shop.
So the first thing you will do is to add your target market to the “Targeted locations” list under the “Locations” menu. This will narrow the audience for your ad.
However, keep in mind that not all internet users make their location available to the network, for privacy reasons. Google can often determine a user’s approximate location by checking their IP address. However, for mobile users, this IP-based location determination is sometimes wildly inaccurate (by four hundred miles or more). The compromise is to select “People in, searching for, or viewing pages about my targeted location” from the “Target” menu under “Location options (advanced).”
However, this setting opens you up to a lot of potential spam clicks from companies in India and elsewhere. For example, if you are a provider of IT services in Salem, a salesperson in India might search for “IT services Salem Oregon,” click your ad, and call you on the phone to try to get you to outsource your IT functions to their company in Bangalore. You would have paid money for the privilege of getting harassed by a rude telemarketer. Of course, you don’t want to outsource your core competency to some overseas entity; you don’t want to get called on the phone by rude salespeople from India; and you don’t want to waste your money paying for clicks from people who will never be potential customers. The solution is to add India as an “Excluded location” and to then select “People in, searching for, or viewing pages about my excluded location” from the “Exclude” menu under “Location options (advanced).”
Finally, Google would like to show your ad to as many people as possible; so they will suggest that you display your ad on the “Search Partner Network.” What they don’t tell you, is that the “Search Partner Network” does not make even IP-based location information available to Google. There is no location-based targeting whatsoever available through the Search Partner Network. If you show your ad on the Search Partner Network, your ad will be displayed to and possibly clicked by people in Great Britain, Argentina, Indonesia, and so on. If you have a large budget and a reasonable expectation of becoming a global brand, then this is not an issue. If you are a small business with a local target market, then this is a huge problem. The solution is to go into the “Networks” menu on your campaign settings, and deselect the checkbox that says “Include search partners.”
Google likes to see some continuity between your landing page text, your selected keywords, and your advertisement text. Some marketers go so far as to only have one keyword per ad group; but this may be taking it to an extreme.
The point being, you should choose keywords that appear on your landing page, or slight variations of those keywords. Especial attention must be paid to the title of your landing page.
Make your keywords as specific as possible. If you are a local business, include your location in the keyword phrase. For example, if your business is a coffee shop in Salem, you might use “coffee shop Salem Oregon” as a keyword. You would not use “coffee” as a keyword, because it is too general.
When you select your keywords, be sure to enter them as either “phrase match” or “exact match” keywords. That means you must type them into the keyword entry box surrounded by either quotation marks or square brackets. If you omit this punctuation, your keywords will default to the “broad match” option, which will once again result in your ad displaying for irrelevant or improperly targeted search queries. If you have accidentally entered your keywords as “broad match” type, you can always change the matching option from the dropdown menu on the “Keywords” tab, although Google will warn you about lost history & etc. (Alternatively you could pause the broad match keyword, and enter your exact match keyword as a new keyword, to retain your complete campaign history.)
For most campaigns, it’s acceptable to use the “Include plurals, misspellings, and other close variants” option for the “Exact and phrase match” setting under Advanced Settings > Keyword Matching Options. If you find that you’re still getting a lot of irrelevant clicks, you can always change this later.
You can substantially improve your campaign’s ROI and avoid irrelevant clicks through the use of negative keywords. For example, if you are selling a premium service, you probably don’t want clicks from people who searched for “free” or “cheap.” If you’re trying to get new customers for your business, you probably don’t want clicks from people who searched for “jobs.” It is often surprising to see what strange and irrelevant searches might trigger your ad and get clicked on. Some of these clicks might be the “fat finger” mistaken click, whoops how did I end up here; but you get charged just the same. Some of these clicks might be “oh, what’s this?” random curiosity, but if you’re trying to run a targeted campaign, then “oh what’s this?” is not your friend. Some of these clicks might even be people who didn’t bother to read your ad, but assumed that a result for their search must be relevant, even if it’s not. For example, I ran a campaign with the general keyword “marketing” and saw that I was getting clicks from people who had searched for something like “Bob’s Corner Market on 22nd Avenue.”
If you have a very large campaign, Google will tell you what your most frequent search terms are, making it easy to determine which terms should be added as negative keywords. If you are a local small business on a budget, Google will NOT tell you what search terms triggered your ad when it got clicked. In that case, the only way to obtain this information is by viewing your server logs for your website, and searching those logs for a query string on the referrer header that contains the parameter “q=.”
Advertisement copy writing
Writing your ad is more creative and fun. You want ad text that will appeal to your target audience. Basically, you want something clickable. Again, you’re likely to get better results if your advertisement shares some terms in common with both your keyword list and your landing page text. By “better results” I mean a higher ClickThrough Rate (CTR) and a lower Cost Per Click (CPC). Put simply, you get more prospects for less money. And that’s the entire purpose of the game!
I usually pick a theme for my campaign, and write several advertisements with slight variations on the text. Google then selects which version of my ad is most relevant to a particular search query, and displays that ad to the user. After your campaign has run for a while, underperforming ads may be paused or deleted.
Another strategy is to write two or three ads with very different text. After your campaign has run for a few weeks, the ad with the highest CTR may be selected as the winner. This is called A/B testing, where you compare A against B and decide which performs best in the real world.
If one ad has a particularly strong performance, you might also use it in your next direct mail piece or other marketing outreach.
The top 6 or 7 advertisement positions are the most visually prominent on the search result display page. That’s the three on top, above the organic listings; and the top three or four sidebar ads. Ads lower down on the page are less likely to be seen, and far less likely to be clicked. The upshot of which is, you want your ad to be near the top of the page. However, you don’t necessarily want to be in spot #1, which tends to demand a premium price that’s out of alignment with the added benefit to being first of the first.
There are two ways to try to hit this sweet spot. One is to manually set your bids, obsessively check your campaign, and make adjustments as necessary. Your bid will require adjustment over time, as your competitors adjust their bids, or as Google reevaluates its assessment of your AdRank. Just remember that some search queries are outliers, so a single low position on the page may not indicate that your bid is too low; it could be the case that your ad was shown for a tangential keyword match where your ad really didn’t belong in the top spot. It’s better to make bidding adjustments based on a large sample, rather than just one or two impressions.
The other method is to create automated rules. Google will reevaluate your bid once a day, and will adjust it to keep it within the parameters of the rules you specify. You’re more likely to spend the full amount of your daily budget with this method; but at least you know that your bid is optimized for performance.
Monitor your AdWords campaign’s performance
When your AdWords campaign is new, you’ll want to check it relatively frequently to be sure it is performing as expected. If your ads and keywords are resonating with your target market, you should see a CTR over 1%. A CTR over 2% is very good. However, a CTR less than 0.85% probably indicates that your ad copy, keyword strategy, or landing page content require some revision.
As time goes on and your campaign is well-established, you will not have to check in as often. However, you should continue to revisit your campaign periodically, to respond to shifts in the competitive landscape.
If you don’t take notes about what you changed when, it’s difficult to be able to establish causal relationships between factors. Google’s interface offers a bid change history, which is handy, but wading through the data can be tedious, and often there’s no explanation. For best results, keep a spreadsheet of your campaign changes. Note what you changed when, and why you made the change. Then you’ll be able to see how the changes affect your AdWords campaign’s performance.
Measure your campaign’s performance by tracking results. Keep an eye on your CTR. Track how many visits you get to your website from your AdWords campaign. If possible, track how many of those visits result in an online conversion: people who submit a message through your contact form, or get driving directions to your store. This can help you determine your ROI for your AdWords campaign.
Want some help with that? Mardesco is just a phone call away.