Thursday, October 15, 2009

In which I learn how to use Google Adwords

I have a few friends who are sticking their toes into the world of Google Adwords so I decided to attend a seminar given tonight at Durham Tech by Steve Hong of CrossComm and here's what I came away with, in the meandering order in which I wrote it down.

  • Think about Adwords from Google's point of view. This is how Google makes money, and since Google only makes money when people click on your ad, there is no benefit to them in wasting valuable screen real estate on ads which do not produce clicks. So if they are "serving" ads on your key words but people aren't clicking on those ads, they will serve them less often - or almost never. They will prefer ads which are relevant and appealing.

  • When you first start setting up your account, you'll start at the upper level, the "campaign" level. This is where you select a geographical area. If one part of your business is international (or national), and another part is local, you need two separate campaigns. You can target right down to a single city. I hadn't thought about it, but - Google knows where you are, and if you are the searcher, it will often deliver ads based on your location if you don't specify some other location in your search.

  • Google does not arrange ads on a page based exclusively on how much the advertiser is willing to pay per click. It takes into account the relevance, and past effectiveness, of the ad.

    If someone is searching for a particular keyword phrase, like "Durham Locksmith," and you have that phrase in your ad, and if Google's scan of your site confirms that you are in that business, your ad will get a boost in ranking and perhaps appear above another ad which is paying more per click than you are.

    This suggests you might offer several ads, each targeting a separate important keyword phrase which is pertinent to your business. You can have Google optimize the placements - you can have your more successful ads (in terms of clicks) come up more often than the less successful ones, or you can have them in rotation.

  • As you select keywords, note that...
    • Keywords really means "keyword phrases." It is almost never effective to have your ad delivered on a single word. Baby, music, wedding - these words are useless unless they are combined with others.

    • Remove keywords which aren't producing clicks - they bring down your "quality score"

    • Negative keywords help weed out searches which aren't likely to produce results - either by "disambiguating" (for instance, a wedding band can play music or it can go on your finger) or by getting rid of non-customers.

      In my case, I think people who are searching for "free wedding music" are probably not going to hire a band, they probably want to make an iPod playlist (perhaps with 6 different free mp3s of Pachelbel's Canon).

    • If you come up first for a given search, don't waste your money on an ad for that search. Use your ads to target keyword phrases for which you don't rank very well "organically."

    • Don't worry about misspellings: "Google is in the word business and it knows about misspelled words and synonyms."

    • Each ad ideally targets one facet of your business, and points to a subpage which is optimized for that search phrase. It's very important that the words and phrases you are keywording appear prominently on the page to which you are pointing - otherwise Google thinks it's spam and may not serve the ad at all. This is its quick-and-dirty check for legitimacy.

    • In the keyword tool, look for search phrases with relatively high volume of searches combined with relatively low advertiser competition (the green bar).

    • What terms do people actually use to find you? You of course know all the jargon and buzzwords of your business, but the people you want to reach may not. Steve joked that people search for "cheap flights," not "value oriented travel opportunities."

      One member of the audience wanted her ad headline to say, "postpartum doula," but others tried to convince her that the people who needed her would be looking for "newborn care" or "breastfeeding advice."

    • You can specify: Broad match = any combination of the words. Phrase match = your exact phrase, but other words may precede or follo your phrase. Exact match = your phrase exactly with no words before or after.
  • A locksmith said indignantly that she gets five calls a week from people promising her that they can "guarantee a first page placement" in google search. Steve said that's a bald-faced lie, that there's no magic formula that will guarantee high ranking.

  • Steve said flatly that meta keywords are ignored entirely. I pressed the point, as a SEO guy in Greensboro recently told a friend of mine that they are still effective for geographic targeting. Steve said absolutely not.

  • You have the option of appearing only on google search - or on google search and sites which USE the google search engine - or you can add parts of, or all of, the "content network" (for instance, blogs which have advertising on them).

    You can also decide whether you want your ads to appear on mobile phones. Only do it if your site is written cleanly enough so pertinent data like phone numbers will show up easily. Otherwise, people using mobile phones may click on your ad, be unable to find the info they want, and you've just wasted your click.

  • There are sometimes up to three "sponsored links" at the top of the main column of search results - these would be the three top-rated ads. Then the first ad in the right-hand ad column is ad #4, etc. down the page.

  • The more often people click on your ad, the more likely it is to appear in a better position in the hierarchy. They will be more likely to click if your ad is written well, so make it as appealing as possible.

  • Steve examines his campaigns in terms of his daily, or monthly, budget. He WANTS a certain amount of money to be spent and will tinker with his campaigns until they deliver enough clicks to spend the allotment.

    After you've had some ads up for a while you will be presented with a "budget optimizer" option - this option will look at your bids and placements and up them until you get enough clicks to make your budget.

    On the other hand, if your budget is running out too fast the ads will not be "served" very often - they are managed to appear evenly throughout the day, so your ad may not appear even when there is no competition. The placement may drop, too: for instance, if you are the #1 ad too often, you will run out of money too early.

  • There was some discussion of click fraud (that's when your enemies start gleefully clicking on your ad again and again to spend your budget). Steve didn't seem very concerned about it. He says Google won't charge you if it thinks there's been fraud and that he sometimes gets a refund check. There is a possibility that being on the "content network" leaves you more open to click fraud.

  • In general Steve was cool to the content network and only uses it if he can't spend his whole budget on the search network.

  • He says a 3-5% click rate makes him ecstatic - that is, if out of every 100 times his ad appears (100 impressions), 3-5 people click.


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