Site   Web

January 16, 2009

5 Keys to success with AdWords

No this isn’t another how-to-setup-and-optimise-an-AdWords-campaign article, there are plenty of those already. What this article concentrates on is the non-technical aspects of AdWords that are often overlooked in all the excitement of choosing keywords and writing copy, but which are actually critical to the success of your campaigns. It doesn’t matter how good you are at setting bids and optimising your account, it will all be for nothing if you get these fundamentals wrong.

Key No. 1 – Safety: Establish your break-even point and work within it

Losing money is a bad thing. You want to avoid it if at all possible. If you don’t do your sums you can lose it quite quickly with AdWords, but if you do you can make sure you never lose money with AdWords. As soon as you have got some data to go on, work out your break-even point – the maximum amount you can pay for each click before you lose money. If your conversion rate (clicks to orders) is say 3% then on average you will have to pay for 33 clicks to get one order. If you make £45 on each order, then your break-even point is £45 divided by 33 which is £1.36 per click. If your clicks cost less than this you will make a profit, if they cost more then you will lose money. So straight away you know, when you’re looking at your keywords and CPC bids you’ve got to stay within this figure if you want to make money. Ideally you want a healthy margin between your actual cost per click and your theoretical breakeven, both to allow for any variation in the conversion rate and to make a significant profit – there’s no point in doing all this work just to break-even. Now that you’ve established your safe zone, you can go ahead and experiment and optimise to your heart’s content, secure in the knowledge that whatever else happens you’re not losing any money. Do constantly watch your figures though as conversion rates will vary.

Key No. 2 – Make AdWords your last priority

If you’re a very task-orientated, go-getting type it’s very easy to jump straight into AdWords and start writing copy and testing keywords. Stop! Before you do anything with AdWords, anything at all, make sure your offering (the product or service you are selling) is right. If the product is no good, or it’s wrongly priced, or your offer isn’t enticing, then AdWords won’t be able to sell it any more than any other method can. You’ve got to start with a good offering in the first place. AdWords is just a means of reaching people. It’s a very good means of reaching people, but if you haven’t got anything good to offer them then there’s no point in reaching them. Spend time reviewing your offering, comparing it with the competition, checking pricing, your USP – everything in fact until you’re sure your offering is as good as it can possibly be.
Key No. 3 – The landing is the most important part of the flight

As any airline passenger will tell you, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of the flight was if the plane crashes on landing. AdWords gives you a great way of reaching people with your offer, right at the time they are looking for it. They see your ad, it’s exactly what they want, they click on it… and then what – where does your advert take them? The landing page (where they go when they click on your ad) is absolutely vital. You can run a brilliant campaign that is perfect in every way and then lose it all on the landing page. Too often people just dump viewers onto their home page which usually bears no relation to the specific area of interest they clicked on. Make sure your landing pages specifically address the advert they clicked on, that they reinforce your sales message and that they contain a clear call to action (order now, call this number, contact). The sole function of AdWords is to bring people to your landing pages – that’s all it does. Your landing pages are the be all and end all so make them good. And yes, I did say pages – you should ideally have a separate specific landing page for every advert if you are to get the best results.

Key No. 4 – Write everything down

AdWords optimisation is a lengthy process of testing new ideas, letting them run for a while, evaluating the results, keeping the winners and discarding the losers. You’ll try different ad copy, different keywords, different matching methods and different bids. As well as that, you’ll try different landing pages and you may even vary your product or service offering as well. All of these will affect your results (how much profit you make) and these changes occur over a period of time. The chances are then that unless you have superhuman powers of memory and total recall, by the time you’re 3 months into it you’ll have completely forgotten what you tried in week 2 and what the results were, so you’ll probably find yourself repeating the same things you’ve already done! Write everything down so you can see what you’ve already done and, most importantly, what the results were. In this way you can build upon what you learn and continually improve rather than going round in circles which is so easy to do with AdWords. It’s very simple. All I do is keep a diary and each day I write down what I’ve done – added some new keywords, changed some copy, whatever. Each day when I go to look at my AdWords campaigns I review the diary entries for the last few days to see what I did and I can then see whether it worked. I also make a note of significant stats at that point so that I can refer back to them in the future. Did that new ad copy that I wrote last month work? Well I can see that before I wrote the new ad I was getting around 120 clicks per day and I’m now getting 150 so yes it did. The chances of keeping all this in your head are slim but if you write it down in your diary it’s easy. A £2.99 purchase from WH Smiths could be the best performing marketing investment you ever make!

Key No. 5 – Start small and be patient

If your goal is to make £1,000 per week with AdWords then don’t start by trying to do this! It’s very tempting to quickly bash out some ads, use every keyword research tool you can find to come up with a list of 10,000 keywords, whack up the maximum bids so you get some traffic and then switch it and hope. You can even convince yourself that you have a good rationale – start by trying everything under the sun and then you can get rid of what doesn’t work later. Sound sensible? Well maybe, but it doesn’t work. The reason is relevance. Relevance is important both to your viewers (and they are always the most important thing) and to Google. 10,000 keywords cannot possibly be relevant and you almost certainly haven’t got enough adverts to be relevant to those keywords. The result will be millions of impressions, low click-through rates, increased costs and no profits! The AdWords system rewards relevance by giving your keywords and ads a Quality Score which affects (significantly) how much you have to pay per click, and even whether or not your ads show at all. Just like a reputation, good quality scores take a while to build and bad ones take a long time to overcome. So don’t blow it in a desperate attempt to shoot for the stars in the first attempt. Start with a small campaign with a small number of very carefully chosen keywords – maybe just 4 or 5. Write 3 or 4 different ads that are specifically targeted to those keywords. Make everything as targeted and relevant as you can. Let this run for a while, you should get good results and build up some good quality scores but you probably won’t be generating much traffic. That’s OK, you understand that this is a slow process of improvement and you’re more concerned with quality and getting everything right, than you are with quantity. Once that’s working well then create another one, again with a small number of keywords and carefully crafted ads. And then another, and another, and so on until you reach your eventual goal. The key principle is to do everything correctly and then build upon it. The “shoot for the stars” on the first attempt, death or glory method usually results in death rather than glory!

An article by Tim Felmingham from