The Dos and Don’ts of Google Adwords Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising on Google Adwords and other networks can be one of the most time effective, efficient ways to drive decent amounts of targeted traffic to your website in short order.  A well thought out plan that targets the correct visitors and caters to their needs will almost certainly pay dividends in the long run.

That said, it amazes me the amount of companies on the web that are doing an abhorrently horrific job with what is ultimately a pretty simple exercise when executed properly.  For that reason, I, along with my friend and Mindscape employee Jim Buchanan, have put together this simple guide consisting of the Dos and Don’t of Google Adwords to running a smooth, profitable PPC campaign.

The term ‘pay-per-click’ means exactly what the name implies; that the advertiser only pays the publisher when someone clicks on an ad to their site – also known as a ‘clickthrough’.  The amount of times an ad is displayed (impressions) is notwithstanding.  This is not to be confused with ‘cost-per-mil’ (CPM), or banner advertising, where the advertiser pays the publisher a predetermined flat rate to display their ad(s) on a page; or with cost-per-action (CPA) advertising, where the advertiser only pays the publisher when the visitor clicks the ad, visits the advertiser’s site and takes a desired action, be it signing up for a membership of some sort, or making a purchase, etc.

The Dos and Don’ts of Google Adwords

DO perform sufficient keyword research before deciding which keyword phrases to target with your campaign.  The Google Adwords Keywood Tool is free to use and produces substantial information that is critical to the success of your efforts.  The research when done right, will produce results you hadn’t expected and will uncover opportunities you never knew existed.

DON’T select the keywords to target purely on the basis of search volume.  While the thought of 100,000 monthly searches for a given phrase is alluring, there are significant downsides to ignoring other, more important factors.  First, consider the fact that a highly searched phrase is going to have more advertiser competition – and the more competition means the cost to target that keyword will be higher.  Second, and more important than the cost factor, consider the relevance of the keyword with respect to the searcher’s desires, and compare that to the actions on your website that you’d like the visitor to take (conversion).  If the keyword is not conducive to these conditions, it is not worth the higher cost to justify the lower conversion rate.

A great example of this is the phrase “Project Management.”  The phrase gets over 4,000,000 searches a month according to the Google Keyword Tool.  Predictable, the advertiser competition is high due to the high amount of search volume – which can drive the price as high as $3 – $6 per click.  But, a quick search on Google produces some discouraging results.  The listings on the first page range from construction firms to project management software, to a Wikipedia entry to online secondary education entities.  With these types of varying results, this keyword phrase may not be the most effective, when you consider the cost and the fact that the term means different things to different people – indicating that you’ll only be targeting a fraction of the search volume at best.

DO take the time to craft your ads that will cater to the needs of your target audience, using the correct keywords as a result of your research.  When you’re paying to get

people to your site, it’s critical to make sure that the people you’re paying to attract are actually interested in your products or services.

DON’T take the brick and mortar retail philosophy to your online marketing efforts.  Just getting them in the door isn’t good enough.  The best PPC ads LEAD DIRECTLY TO OR AS CLOSE TO THE TARGETED PAGE AS POSSIBLE.  So many companies operate their campaigns by pointing all of their ads to lead to the home page of their site – therefore expecting the visitor – that they paid to attract mind you – to do more searching on your site in order to find what they’re looking for.  If a customer is in a retail store, and they know that the item they’re seeking is in the store somewhere, they’ll hunt for it even if that means they have to walk around the store for 10 minutes until they find it.  It’s more of an inconvenience to drive three miles to the next competitor because their store is laid out better – so the battle is to get them in the door and the rest takes care of itself.

DO make turn your PPC ads into portals to give your prospective customers a direct path the what they’re seeking.  On the internet, a visitor can leave your site and visit the next one on the list in less than 10 seconds.  Give them what they want as efficiently as you can, and they’re guaranteed to be more likely to choose you over your competitors.

DON’T write your ads to try to attract as many visitors as possible*.  If someone is looking for fishing lures, and you’ve written a generic ad targeting all sorts of angling equipment even though you only sell pontoon boats, your ad will mislead many people into clicking and visiting your site and they’ll stay for about eight or nine seconds until they realize that you don’t offer what they’re after.  They’ll bounce out of your site as quickly as they arrived and move on to your competitor, forgetting about you and only leaving you a little lighter in your advertising budget.  The more narrowly focused your niche, the more specific your ad needs to be.  Would you rather pay $500 a day to get five buyers or would you rather spend $50 a day to attract those same five buyers?

*This is universally true unless you sell virtually every type of item imaginable, like Target or  Sites like those show up in paid listings for literally’s 100’s of thousands of keywords, and literally spend 100’s of thousands of dollars A DAY in order to ‘get people in the door’ – the rationale being that any visitor will likely find something to buy aside from the item they were initially seeking.

DO test and measure.  The beauty of PPC advertising is that you can set a daily budget, along with a maximum you’re willing to pay per click (bid) for a particular keyword.  The data that you can derive from these activities is invaluable in that you can learn a great deal about which advertising practices are effective without spending tons of money.  Furthermore, the data is in real time.

Another hidden benefit of PPC ad campaigns is that the data allows the advertiser to identify keywords that are profitable, and optimize their site to attract organic traffic.

DON”T believe for one minute that operating a PPC campaign is a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ endeavor.

Offline advertising mediums such a billboard and television ads are costly, and their effectiveness is speculative at best.  The internet allows you to experiment for a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing tactics, and then adjust your strategies according to what’s working and what isn’t.

What has your experience been with PPC advertising?  Share your thoughts by dropping a comment below.

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