When I was first given the opportunity to manage a Google AdWords campaign, my thoughts filled with images of sitting around large wooden tables, drinking all sorts of whiskey-laced cocktails, and plastering idea-after-idea up on a chalkboard in a room drenched in cigarette smoke. My cousin, who had a moderately successful startup in Austin, was looking to spend some dough. He knew that I had done quite a bit of work in the realm of SEO and content marketing, so he told me, “It’ll be just like that, except I pay every time someone clicks to my site.” I was going to be a modern day Donald Draper, minus the philandering and blatant sexism towards my coworkers. Turns out, while writing compelling ad copy in PPC campaigns is important, it’s probably only around 10% of the work that goes into a successful campaign.
For those of you still looking to fulfill your own weird Mad Men fantasy, don’t worry – there’s still plenty of tinkering and brainstorming to be done. However, if you’re anything like me, and you’ve been tasked with developing a kick-ass AdWords campaign, this list might be a good starting point. I realize that there’s always going to be a lot of nuances and a lot of variation depending on what industry you’re in, but whenever I’m starting a new campaign, this is the list I keep returning to, in one form or another.
1. You need a budget, dummy
It turns out it’s super easy to spend money when it isn’t your money you’re spending. I think this first step could also be, “You Need Goals,” or, “Don’t Just Throw Money At Google (Because They’re Fucking Awesome At Spending It).” First and foremost, you need to decide how much you’re going to be spending total on AdWords every month. Then, since AdWords requires you to have a daily budget for your campaigns, take that number, and divide by 30.4 (the average number of days in a month). So, let’s say I am given a budget of $1000 per month. That means I have $32.89 per day to spend on AdWords.
There are a few other metrics you should keep in mind when setting up an Adwords campaign:
- Average Profit per Customer: How much profit does your company make from every customer purchase? This is definitely important to have in your mind as you start writing ads and setting keyword bids. Ultimately, this number will be the ultimate litmus test of the efficacy of your AdWords campaign. As in, if you’re spending $300 per conversion (otherwise known as your CPC), and your average profit per customer is $150, something is very, very wrong.
- Conversion Rate: What percentage of people convert once they hit your landing page? This will be a topic we always come back to, but having strong landing pages across your site will be the lifeblood of any PPC campaign.
2. Structure is your best friend
In order to develop effective campaigns, it’ll behoove you to understand the structure of Google AdWords.
- Campaign: Campaigns are segments within your AdWords account. Everything within them (ad groups, ads, and keywords) will share a budget, location targeting, and other (more complex) features. Typically, a marketer will make a campaign for each product or service they want to advertise.
- Ad group: Adgroups contain a set of ads which will trigger on a shared group of keywords.
- Ad: Ads are the actual text that pop up when a Google user searches particular keywords within the ad group. You can have as many or as few ads as you want in an ad group, but I would recommend no fewer than two, and no more than four. More on this later.
- Keyword: What a Google user types into the search engine in order to show your ad. Ad placement is based primarily on how much a company bids on CPC. The higher the bid, the higher the placement on the page.
Let’s say you own a sporting goods stores, and you want to start a Google AdWords campaign featuring your two bestselling baseball bats, your two bestselling fishing rods, and your two bestselling basketballs. “But wait!” you’re thinking, “I just want to advertise EVERYTHING in my store!” Well, that’s all well and good, but if you’re working within the confines of a budget, you’ll want to focus on where you’re going to get the largest ROI. So, for this example, baseball bats, basketballs, and fishing rods.
- Campaigns: Since I’m wanting to run ads on three very different offerings, I’m going to set up three separate campaigns. I’ll name them Baseball Bats, Fishing Rods, and Basketballs.
- Ad groups: Since within each campaign, I want to feature two different brands, I will set up ad groups for each brand. Within the “Baseball Bats” campaign, I will make two ad groups: “Easton Bats“ and “Louisville Slugger Bats.” I’ll do the same for fishing rods and basketballs.
- Ads: Let’s get everything else set up first, and we’ll come back to writing ads.
- Keywords: This is where research is your best friend. As a matter of fact…
3. Research is your real best friend
I can’t stress this step enough. As you’re coming up with the structure for your campaigns, you always need to be deciding what keywords to bid on, and what keywords NOT to bid on. You could have the greatest ads in the world. Your landing pages could be pristine. Your call to action could be unbeatable. However, none of that matters if no one is actually searching for the keywords you’re bidding on! Knowing what to bid and how much to bid can be a time-consuming process, but fortunately, there are plenty of tools out there to help you get started.
- Google AdWords Keyword Planner: This should be your first stop. You can use the Keyword Planner to see historical data on particular keywords. This will also show you forecasts on the estimated CPC for each keyword. You can see what keywords you’d like to bid on, and if they fit your budget. Yeah, I know Google says this is backward. You should plan your budget around the cost to bid on keywords, but, no. Set a budget and stick to it. Seriously.
- SpyFu: You don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel to set up an AdWords campaign. SpyFu allows you to see what your competitors are bidding on, and how much they’re spending. Competitor research, anyone?
- Ubersuggest: You shouldn’t rely on just the aforementioned tools, because while they might give you good insights into keyword strategy, both tools are also giving all your competitors the same information. If everyone is bidding on the same keywords, things get expensive. I like Ubersuggest to find less common keywords and to develop ideas for long tail keywords. Sure, they might get a smaller number of bids per month, but digging a little deeper to find more relevant keywords that no one else is really bidding on? Money.
A quick note on what not to bid on: Be mindful of, and use negative keywords as much as possible. These are the words that, if typed by a Google user, will make it so your ad does not show up, even if some of your keywords are present. Yes, this seems counterintuitive, but they’ll save you from a lot of garbage impressions and clicks. In my above example about baseball bats, if you’re bidding on the keywords “baseball bats” as a Modified Broad match type, your ad will show for anyone searching for the flying mammal bat. In this case, I would add in negative keywords to everything related to bats the animal, like “diet” “habitat” or “echolocation”. What to exclude is often as important as what to include in an AdWords campaign.
4. Make something worth clicking on
This is where all your ad copywriting dreams will come true! Think about what your consumer wants. A free trial? More information? A demo? All of these are fine, but you should be seeking to give value to your potential customers. Give them a reason to click.
- Mentioning keywords in ads: In your ad’s headline, it’s always best practice to use the same keywords that the ad is showing up for. If your headline appears too disjoint from the keywords, you run the risk of no one clicking your ad.
- Aligning landing pages with ads: If you are promising a free trial in your ad, you damn well better be showing a way to get a free trial on your landing page. If your landing page sucks, then you’re spending a whole lot of money on nothing.
- Clarity: Your ads should be crystal clear about what you want your prospect to do, and what they should expect when doing said action. Creative ads are fine, but when in doubt, err on the side of a clear, strong message.
- Be real: People can sniff out bullshit a mile away, especially when it comes to advertisements. If you say you’re the best at something, you better be ready to prove it. Of course, that’s not to say you should be telling everyone you’re “the #15 ranked sporting goods store in Denver,” but try to be genuine. People like genuine.
5. Never stop tinkering
Once you run through the gambit of setting up your first AdWords campaign, congratulations! Pat yourself on the back. Grab a beer. But remember, the work does not end. One peculiar trait (good) marketers have is them never being satisfied with the results they get. Remember how I said, back in part 2, you should write no less than two ads per ad group? Well, you always want to see what ad copy resonates the most with your audience. Does that mean you’ll have to trash some of your favorite ad copy? Almost certainly.
Once you’ve got things up and running, here are a few things to keep you busy:
- A/B Test Ads: Never be satisfied with your click-through rate (CTR), unless it is 100% (It’ll never be 100%, but it sure is a good goal!)
- A/B Test Landing Pages: Design, redesign, and tinker. Find the highest conversion rates possible. Don’t stop until you hit 100% conversion rate (you won’t).
- Modify match types: We’ll have a full post on match types in AdWords, but playing around with your desired match types is always worth seeing how this affects CTR and conversion rates.
- Set up conversion tracking: You’ll need to set up conversion tracking in order to properly see how effective your campaigns are. Luckily, AdWords has a whole mess of resources on this. Once it’s set up, you’re golden.
- Modify bids on keywords: See that you’re getting outbid all the time? Have the money to raise your CPC a little? Give it a whirl. See that your bids are too high? Drop them!
- More keyword research: Remember the golden rule of marketing: you want ALL the leads. Perhaps your potential customers are searching for things you’re not bidding on.
As I said before, there’s plenty of nuances in managing an AdWords campaign. As with all marketing we do, each industry will be different. There’s a whole lot more to Google AdWords than what I can fit in a single blog post, but hopefully, this is enough to get you off the ground. Best of luck to you. And remember, Google fucking loves spending your money, so watch your campaigns carefully.