When drafting digital marketing plans for our clients — most of whom are small businesses or startups — we often recommend using Google AdWords to ensure their messaging gets in front of people using Google to search for products or services like theirs. But while Google has made AdWords outwardly simple and easy to use, crafting an effective advertisement for this specific medium can involve multiple levels of complexity that can seem confounding once you begin to dig in. In this article, we’ll give you an overview of what to expect, and how to best navigate the world of AdWords by providing a simple list of 7 of the first steps you might want to take when first starting out.
1. Understanding what AdWords is all about: A very brief overview
This might sound absurdly obvious, but the first thing you’ll want to do is understand exactly what Google AdWords is and determine how it will be beneficial to your business. AdWords is Google’s advertising network that allows any large or small business to advertise their products or services on Google search results pages and other Google-owned properties. Normally, these are text-based ads, with a limited amount of copy, that appear at either the top or bottom of the search engine results page (SERP). Since AdWords operates on a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) model, placement on the page, and which pages you appear on, are often dictated by the amount you bid for a click on the ad. Advertisers with higher bids receive better placement.
2. Familiarize yourself with the structure of an AdWords ad
Each advertisement you create follows a very simple template, which can vary slightly depending on the call to action you wish users to take (e.g. call your business, buy something on your site, visit your storefront, etc.) All ads, however, have the basic components in common, which are:
a. Main Headline (30 characters) – This is the most important component of your ad, since it’s the text users will read first, so it must be relevant to what that person is searching for on Google, and entice them to click on the ad before any of the search results. For example, if someone is searching for a local plumber in Brooklyn, “Local Brooklyn Plumber” is a simple, but effective headline.
b. Secondary Headline (30 characters) – The secondary headline allows you to give a bit more detail about what makes you stand out from the competition. Continuing with the local plumber’s example, using “Ready Now for Same Day Service” communicates to the user that a) this plumber is likely to be available now, and that b) she provides same-day service. That’s some very useful information packed into six short words!
c. Description (80 characters) – The description is somewhat secondary to your ad’s headline, since many won’t actually read the copy, but will make a decision to click or not based on the headline alone. It can still be used effectively to expand on the information conveyed in your headline. In our example, the plumber uses her 80 characters to let people know she’s got loads of great reviews, will provide excellent customer service, and has simple pricing.
d. Display URL – The display URL is simply the web address that appears in your ad, although you can have it linked to any page on your site. In our experience, simply using your site’s homepage URL (e.g. www.example.com) as your display URL works best, since it will be easier for the customer to remember.
e. Destination URL – The destination URL is the specific page you want customers to land on when clicking on the ad. Since this URL is hidden to the user, it can be as long as you want, and include tracking codes if you’re tracking clicks using Google Analytics. Once again, the user will only see the display URL, but will be directed to whichever destination URL you specify.
f. Phone number – Your company’s phone number won’t appear in every ad, but only when you specify “call my business” as the goal of that specific ad.
g. Extensions – AdWords extensions are a relatively new feature which add additional information to your ad depending on its relevance to the search. While some extensions can be set up manually in AdWords admin, often they are added by Google automatically, based on what it knows about your business, according to your info in Google My Business. In our example, Google has determined that providing specific services offered by this plumber would add value to the ad, and tacked them on at the bottom. It’s worth mentioning that extensions are only available in AdWords, but not in AdWords Express, Google’s significantly pared-down version of AdWords.
3. Set goals for your ads
It may go without saying that in order to track results of an ad, it’s important to first determine what you want to gain from the campaign. For that reason, we strongly recommend that you thoroughly think through the goals you wish to achieve with your ad. It could be as simple as having someone call your business, going to your physical store, downloading an ebook, or signing up for a newsletter. Starting with a clear idea of your goals make it much easier to track and tweak your ads, and will also give you guidelines when writing your headlines and description. In the latest version of AdWords, the ad creation engine actually asks for your goals when setting up the ad, and will adjust the display of the ad based on this information. Basic choices for display ads are sales (online, over the phone, or in-store), leads (signing up for a newsletter or otherwise providing contact information), and website traffic. More options are available for display and video campaigns.
4. Select Keywords for your Campaign
Keyword selection is a critical consideration, and one that can determine the success or failure of your campaign. For this reason, you’ll want to conduct a bit of research and choose your keywords very carefully. While the basis for keyword choices will vary wildly for different types of businesses, here are a few basic guidelines based on our own experience:
- If you have a well known brand name, use it. If you’re lucky enough to have a well-known brand, you should certainly use it as one of your keywords. This may seem counterintuitive (won’t my brand appear at the top of results if someone is searching for my brand?) but consider that your competitors may also be bidding on your brand name as a keyword, and you don’t want their ad appearing above your organic search result, even if you’re number 1!
- Use your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) – Your USP is what sets you apart from the competition – a service, quality or characteristic that you alone can provide. If you are the only veterinarian in your area that provides house calls, by all means use “house calls” as one of your keywords so that people needing a home visit for their ailing pet will see your ad first.
- Consider the competition – This means not only including your USP as mentioned above, but considering what your competitors offer and bidding on those keywords as well. Even including your competitor’s name as one of your keywords is fair game and can be quite effective (if you can afford it – if your competitors are popular brands, this could get very expensive.) It’s not a bad idea to do a little competitive research and see which keywords your competitors are ranking for in organic search and whether they have ads for those keywords as well. This little bit of work can go a long way towards a successful ad campaign.
- Use local keywords – It’s no secret that an enormous percentage of online searches are for businesses and services in the user’s local area, so use that to your advantage by bidding on local keywords. Include not only the name of your city, but even the name of your neighborhood or the street your business is on. If someone’s going to be down on Main Street this afternoon, they may well be looking for a business like yours, and Google it before they go.
- Use long-tail keywords – Long tail keywords are usually longer and more specific than single-word keywords, and tend to be more representative of what people actually search for when they are looking for a product or service. They’re also a lot less expensive. Returning to our plumber example, if you were to bid on just the word “plumber” you’d likely have loads of competition for the term, and thus the cost per click would be exorbitantly high. However, if you’re a plumber that specializes in repairing expensive Kohler toilets, you might have better luck with “unclogging Kohler toilets” than you would with simply using “plumber”.
5. Set your budget
One of the great things about AdWords is that you don’t have to have an enormous advertising budget to run an effective campaign, and what you do have can be spread out over the month by setting daily limits so you’ll always know what you’re spending. The complete guide on how to set a budget can be found on Google’s Help Site, so we’ll just share some of the key points that we’ve found helpful when setting your budget.
- Start small – The key to setting a budget is to start small and not put all your eggs (i.e. money) into one proverbial basket. This allows you to to check in on your campaigns to see which ads and keywords are performing and which are not without sinking a lot of cash into them. Plan on using the lion’s share of your overall budget on ads that have proven themselves to be successful.
- Spend more on your top performing keywords – After you’ve determined which keywords perform best for you, put these all into a single campaign and name it “Top Performing” or something like that and, as mentioned previously, put most of your budget into those. However, you’ll surely want to have other campaigns active in order to take advantage of keywords that have little competition, and so that you can continue experimenting with new ones.
- Use geotargeting sparingly – Another nice aspect of AdWords is that you have the ability to target users in specific localities. This is especially useful for businesses that service mainly local customers, but be careful about targeting too widely. Instead of targeting users in your entire state, for example, it’s generally more effective to target users in your town or even, in some cases, in your neighborhood. This will keep you from wasting money on users who won’t find your ad relevant.
- Only spend what you can afford – Again, this might sound obvious, but you’d be amazed at how overboard some of our clients can go with spending their hard earned money on CPC advertising. Before you dive in, make sure you’ve determined the ROI you’re aiming for and use that as a guide for your spending. If ads are not performing towards your goals, it’s time to make an adjustment.
6. Write a quality ad
This may be the most important, and most difficult part of mastering AdWords. Ads are of little to no value if users don’t click, so you need to make sure your ad is appealing as possible to those who are searching for the keywords you’re targeting. Here are a few tips you may find helpful:
- Create a seamless experience – When a person clicks on your ad, they’re expecting to see exactly what you promised them in the ad. Looking again at our plumber ad example, if you’ve used “Same Day Service” as your headline or description, chances are good that users are looking for same day service. Therefore, when they click on your ad, they should land on a page that gives them information about… you guessed it: same day service! Imagine your frustration at searching for something very specific, seeing an ad that offers exactly what you’re looking for, then having to search the site for that specific info after you click. To put it simply: make sure your landing page matches your ad.
- Use the keywords you’re targeting in your headline – This is especially important if you’re targeting local customers. Notice how our hypothetical plumber in our example used “Local Brooklyn Plumber” in her headline? Anyone searching for a local plumber in Brooklyn that needs same day service is likely to click on this ad. After all, it’s exactly what they’re looking for, and will probably be the first thing they sees if the ad is at the top of the page.
- Avoid any “spammy” language or formatting – In general, Google won’t approve ads that seem spammy, but to avoid wasting your time and theirs, it’s best to check yourself ahead of time. One of the most common mistakes we see people make is the use of exclamation marks in their ads (e.g. “Best Plumber in Brooklyn!”) Not only will Google summarily reject this ad for its punctuation, but even the use of the word “Best” is questionable as well as it sounds like spam. Another thing to avoid is any wacky use of case you may be tempted to use to draw attention – for example, “LoCAl BrOoKlyn pLUmBeR” will definitely not fly with their reviewers. For more tips, take a look at Google’s full list of text ad requirements.
7. Track, measure, and test
After you’ve finally gotten your first campaign off the ground, be sure to check in on your ads daily to see how they’re doing. AdWords is not a “set it and forget it” type of service, and it’s up to you to make the necessary adjustments to ensure your ads are performing well. As we’ve mentioned, you can start adjusting your budget to make sure your top performing ads are getting the attention they deserve and are serving your ROI. But make sure to keep some money aside so that you can continually experiment with new keywords, and jettison the ones that aren’t performing well. AdWords is a continual process of trial and error, and it simply won’t work if you’re not tracking, measuring and testing your ads on a regular basis.
We know, this is a lot. But trust us, you get out what you put in and when done right, AdWords can be a profitable investment, keeping new customers flowing to your website or to the front door of your brick-and-mortar. If you need a friendly helping hand to get yourself started, the CPC experts at Love Local Design are here to help. Give us a call and we’ll let you know what we can do to help you on your way.