Welcome to online marketing, my friend! You’ve got a vision and you’ve got a product. Your mom says it’s “special” and your grandma bought three boxes! Now you’re ready to take it to the world!
But how does the new guy get noticed? You set up a website, but when you search for yourself on Google you have to scroll to page five before your own pages even start popping up as options to click on.
Did you know you there’s a shortcut to the top of the heap? It’s called Google ads.
Using Google Ads
Google ads are different from traditional advertising media like TV commercials and billboards. Instead of coming up with one ad and then showing it to the world in the hopes that somebody is moved by it, you show your ads only to people who are already searching the internet for products or services like yours.
Whenever you make a search on the internet and the first results have little green “Ad” markers next to them, it means that some company thought that people who wanted their stuff would be using those search terms and paid Google to get top billing.
If the advertiser did it right, then their ad should line up with just what the internet user is looking for and they’ll earn themselves a click on the ad.
How can you wrangle those clicks for yourself? That’s what this article is all about, so create your free Google AdWords account, and let’s get started!
The foundation of a successful Google ads campaign is keyword research. This means coming up with the search terms you think people will use when they’re looking for your product or service.
Step 1: Brainstorming
The first thing to do is put yourself in your potential customers’ shoes. How would they describe your product/service?
For example, let’s say you’re selling a healthy dessert cookbook. You might think to describe it with some words like:
- Dessert cookbook
- Recipe book
These are descriptive and accurate, but there are a lot more ways that people might search for what you’re selling:
- How to make dessert
- Homemade cake recipes
- Best cookie recipe
These aren’t bad keywords, but they’re pretty general, so you might try getting more specific to your book’s selling point:
- Gluten free cake recipes
- Vegan cookies
- Healthy confection instructions
You might even consider mistakes in spelling that people might make while searching for your book, or alternate terms used in other countries.
- Low-fat chocolate chip biscuit recipe
- How to make healthy deserts
These last two types of searches are a lot more likely to come from someone who might buy your book, so they’re probably the kind of searches you’ll want to target.
Step 2: Tools of the Trade
I’ve given only a few examples so far, but as you can imagine there are enough variant ways to search for something that these brainstormed lists can run into dozens of ideas. If you have multiple products then you may be looking at hundreds or thousands of words and phrases.
Even so, you probably still have missed a few great ideas.
Luckily, there are many great online tools (some free, some not) for additional keyword research. These tools will suggest terms related to the ones you’ve come up with based on what real people are searching the internet for.
Some tools even offer analysis of your competition—allowing you to see what words similar companies have been using in their advertising campaigns.
Step 3: AdWords Match Types
When keywords or phrases from your developing list seem promising you’ll want to add them to your Google ads account.
When you add keywords to your account, Google gives you a few more options you can use to determine how the search engine will approach those keywords.
An exact match keyword—notated with brackets around the keyword (i.e. [vegan chocolate chip cookies])—means that somebody would have to type exactly your chosen words in exactly your chosen order into their search bar in order for your ads to pop up.
This can be useful, since it keeps irrelevant people from seeing your ads, but it also could exclude some potential customers.
Broad match keywords are the default type of match type for Google ads, so you don’t have to add anything to your keywords to make them broad match. As you can probably imagine, broad match keywords have the opposite strengths and weaknesses of exact match words.
When you make a keyword broad match it invites Google to do some of the keyword research for you and send your ad to people searching for similar, but not quite identical, things.
While this can be convenient, the Google algorithm can also sometimes get pretty far off your original intention. The keyword chip, for example, could be potentially applied to a chocolate chip, a potato chip, or a wood chipper!
Phrase match keywords, notated with quotation marks (i.e. “chocolate chip cookies”), are sort of a middle ground between exact match and broad match keywords. Using a whole phrase gives context (so that “chip” isn’t interpreted as a wood chip).
Google will show your ads whenever someone searches your exact phrase or a close variant. Words added to the beginning or the end of the phrase are accepted, so that the search how to make chocolate chip cookies with whole wheat flour would still bring up your ad if your keyword was “chocolate chip cookies”.
Re-ordering words in the phrase, or inserting words in the middle, however, will keep your ads from showing up. For example, low calorie cookies with chocolate chips would violate the rule.
Sometimes you think you’ve got a great keyword in mind, but there’s another usage for the word that is particularly troublesome. In cases like these, you can specify words which, if the internet searcher uses, will disqualify them from seeing your ads.
These are called negative match keywords and are designated with a minus sign (i.e. –wood –potato).
Using negative match keywords keeps your ads relevant to your viewers, and saves you money in the long run (we’ll get more into this later).
Creating Google Ads
Once you have your keywords picked out, you need to make ads to match them.
An AdWords text ad usually looks something like this:
There’s a lot you can customize here, but the basic concepts aren’t too difficult.
Considered by many to be the most important part of the ad, the headline tells potential customers who you are and why you are the last link they’ll ever need to click.
Headlines often come in two parts, separated by a horizontal or vertical line. Often, companies will put their brand name on one side and their main message to viewers on the other.
This line contains the green “Ad” designation as well as a URL which tells people where they’re going to go if they click on your ad.
Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be the actual URL that you’ll be sending people to. URLs on large websites can get long and complicated, which could clutter your ad and make your site seem less trustworthy.
A simple URL, such as that of your homepage, usually is enough to let people know that they’re going to the site they think they are.
If your viewers weren’t convinced by your awesome headline, then the description lines give you another chance to show that you’re offering what your viewers are after.
It’s good practice to have many different versions of your ads (called ad “copies) customized to match specific keywords. If somebody searches for “chocolate chip cookie recipe” and you only mention pies and cakes in your ad copy they’re probably not going to click.
This is optional and whether or not it will even show up is largely up to Google. But, if you get most of your leads by phone then having a clickable call extension can be very important, especially for ads seen on mobile devices.
For other businesses (like brick-and-mortar stores), a call extension may not be as important as an address and hours of operation.
Feel free to play around with adding or omitting these features depending on the needs of your business. Be careful to avoid cluttering your ad too much though!
Another way to make your ads appealing to a broader audience is to ad site links. Here again, Google gets to decide whether or not your site links actually show up for a given search, but these optional links display some of the best features of your site and allow your viewers to choose where they want to go when they click on your ad.
One of the most important parts of an ad is the call-to-action. This is usually a short sentence beginning with a verb that tells your customers what they should do as a result of seeing your ad and interacting with your site.
Familiar calls-to-action include “buy now,” “learn more,” “subscribe,” and “sign up for X,” but there are many ways to write novel and exciting calls-to-action to meet the needs of your viewers.
The Bidding War
Once you have your keywords picked out and your ad copy assembled, it’s finally time to put your money where your mouth is and let Google know what you’re willing to pay to get your shot at internet views.
For each of your keywords, you bid against other companies, offering whatever you are willing to pay for a click on your ad.
This competitive approach would be bad news for startups with smaller budgets, but thankfully the amount of money you offer is only one part of the bidding equation. The rest is the quality score of the ad you have attached to each keyword.
Simply put, people use Google as a search engine because when they type a query into their search bar they feel reasonably confident that they’re going to get relevant results.
If Google allowed ads to be posted high in the search results that weren’t really applicable to their users’ queries they would lose credibility.
To protect against this, each ad is given a quality score, made up of several components:
- The relevance of the ad to its target keywords – Your chosen keywords should probably show up in your ad copy a time or two. If they don’t then Google (and more importantly your viewers) will have difficulty seeing the connection between the ad and the search query.
- The relevance of your ads to their landing pages – “Landing pages” are the places your ads link to. Having unique landing pages for each ad is best practice. If your ad says “read stories on our blog” but then links you to a product catalog then users will be disillusioned and Google won’t want to show your ads.
- The click-through-rate (CTR) of the ad and related ads – This applies only once you’ve already had an ad in action for a while and are making a new bid. If a lot of people have clicked on your ad in the past, the Google algorithm decides it must be an ad worth showing.
- Prior account performance – Again, this doesn’t apply your first time around, but once you’ve been on Adwords for a while then the bidding algorithm will give you priority if viewers have generally responded favorably to your ads in the past.
Good thing you took your time writing quality ads, right?
Between the money you offer for each keyword and the quality score of the ad attached to it, Google will rank your advertisement in a lineup with your competitors.
The top ranking ad gets the top spot. The number two ad is displayed just below that, and so forth.
Although I’ve mentioned getting the top spot several times in this article, you shouldn’t be disappointed (or surprised) if it’s not awarded to you (especially early on). The top ad gets 33% of the clicks for a query on average, but #2 still gets 18% and #3 gets 11%. That’s nothing to sneeze at, especially if your keywords get a lot of search volume.
Pay Per Click
Once you’ve made it through keyword research, ad design and the bidding war your ads will finally be released for the waiting world to rejoice over!
Up to this point the whole process has been free of charge. With Google ads you’re only charged when somebody clicks on your ad.
This is good news…if you did every other step right. If you have selected your keywords carefully and made sure that your ads are attractive to the right type of people, then you should only be getting clicks from potential customers.
If your keywords or ads don’t screen for the right people, however, then Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) approach will end up working against you and you’ll waste a lot of money on clicks that never really had the potential to turn into customers.
Onward and Upward
If the perils of poor quality traffic and wasted marketing dollars sound scary to you, you’re not alone. But, if you keep showing your marketing campaigns the same amount of love you’ve shown thus far then you have nothing to fear.
With Google ads, you don’t have to guess about whether you’ve done things right or not. You have the option of setting up Google Analytics for free and getting constant feedback on the performance of every keyword, ad, and landing page.
Not only does Analytics allow you to see past marketing performance, it also lets you set up experiments where you compare one type of ad or landing page against another to see which will be most effective in the future.
If you keep track of this performance data and stay committed to continually refining your approach, you’re likely to get on top in no time and start experiencing the incredible business boost that Adwords can provide!
And that’s it! Google ads are really that simple. Of course, while getting started with google ads is easy, making the most of your Google ad spend can be a lot more challenging.
However, with enough time and effort, you can produce amazing results using Google ads. Or, if you’d like some help setting up your Google ad campaigns, let me know here or in the comments. I’d love to help!
Have you tried Google ads? What was your experience like? Do you have any tips to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
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