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February 1, 2010

Are you paying too much for your AdWords?

Chances are you’re paying too much for your Google AdWords pay per click advertising but you can start right now on the path to better response rates for less money.

I’m Ian Howie and I’m going to give you some great ideas from my new book Wordtracker Masterclass: Google AdWords PPC Advertising in which I give a step-by-step guide to reducing AdWords costs and increasing response.

Success in PPC advertising requires a range of creative, trading and technical skills that few possess:

  • Creative skills are needed to increase your clickthrough rate (CTR) to enable you to write compelling and focused ad copy that more searchers will click.
  • Trading skills are needed to keep costs per click down by managing your bid amounts and bid types.
  • Technical skills are needed to effectively organize the keywords you bid on into different ad groups with matching ad copy and landing pages.

Offline, specialists often do the equivalent work. A creative department or agency might look after ad copy and design; a media buyer might be the trader negotiating price for media space and time; whilst techies look after the production of print, radio and TV adverts.

With AdWords, most of us have to do the lot. Although they may be quite different in the real world, most AdWords users become either Creatives, Techies or Traders – personae that match just one of the required skill sets.

The result is that most people play to their own strengths and neglect their weaknesses. They fail to use all tools and metrics available to create higher clickthrough rates, lower costs and better response.

Below we’ll look at some techniques to help you develop your creative, trading and technical skills.

Adwords comes with clickthrough rate (CTR) and Quality Score (QS) – two key metrics you can use to measure your development.

Clickthrough rate (CTR) is the % of those who see your ads and click on them. It’s a measure of your ads’ attractiveness and appropriateness to searchers.

Quality Score (QS) is based on your advert’s clickthrough rate, the relevance of your ad’s copy to the search terms you’re bidding on and the relevance of your landing page.

Google gives lower costs and higher positions on its results pages to ads with higher clickthrough rates and Quality Scores. So let’s have a look at how you can increase them by developing your creative, trading and techie skills.

Develop your creative skills

The most important creative technique to practice is writing ad copy that matches the keywords you are bidding on. It’s as simple as this…

If the Search is green tea then bad ad copy might look like this:


Despite the search being for green tea the keyword is not there. The text is too general.

A good ad reads more like this:


The keyword green tea is in the ad title, the body copy and the URL.

There is a call to action (‘Buy’), a promise of good tea (‘Quality’), you will find what you want (‘Specialist’), at a good price (‘From $0.99’) and with great service (‘Free Next Day Delivery’).

You’ll find more ways to increase ad copywriting skills, increase clickthrough rates, increase response and reduce costs in my book: Wordtracker Masterclass: Google AdWords PPC Advertising, a step-by-step guide to profitable pay per click campaigns.

Develop your trading skills

By becoming a better trader you’ll get more value for your clicks.

You can gain greater control of your bids and lower your bid costs by mastering AdWords different match types.

Each match type uses its own punctuation to let AdWords know your bid type:

Broad match keywords have no punctuation like this:


Phrase match keywords are surrounded by quotation marks: “keyword”

Exact matches are shown with square brackets: [keyword]

A positive broad match will show your ads for the greatest number of possible searches. With a broad match your ads will match any search containing your bid keyword. For example, if you bid on brew tea your bid will match (and your ads show for):

  • brew tea
  • brew loose tea leaves
  • brewing a cup of tea

However, broad match contains a little sting in its tail – it includes ‘expanded match’. Expanded match will display your ads for plural versions of your bid keywords and any relevant keyword variations. For example our brew tea broad match bid might match with:

  • brewing teas
  • brew teas
  • brew tee

Those examples seem harmless enough – perhaps even useful. But expanded match can find matches that don’t even contain your keywords and you might think are little to do with the product you’re selling. For example brew tea might match with:

  • tea infuser
  • brewing coffee
  • brewing iced coffee

For this reason, broad match bids are usually accompanied by negative match bids. Adding negative keyword bids stops your ads showing for irrelevant searches, allowing you to greatly increase your profits by…

…increasing your clickthrough rate (CTR) which leads to a better Quality Score and paying less per click (lower CPC).

A negative broad match will stop your ads showing for any search containing the negative keyword. For example, if the negative keyword -coffee is added to an ad group then your ads will not show for any search containing coffee and therefore including:

  • coffee
  • brew coffee

However negative broad match bids do not ‘expand’ like positives so you have to add plurals and related keywords. For -coffee this might include:

  • coffees
  • grind
  • grinds

Develop your techie skills

Only if you first organize the groups of keywords you’re bidding on can your ads and landing pages match your bid keywords. Ad groups are the techies’ tool for this job. An ad group is a group of keywords you are bidding on, with matching ad copy and the landing pages those ads link to.

The most important thing to do with your ad groups is to keep the keywords focused on a very narrow subject.

The diagram below shows a poor ad group with a wide range of keywords, very general ad copy and a very general landing page (how else could they be with so many different keywords to satisfy)?


By contrast, the strong ad group below is focused on a small set of keywords about one subject (green tea) with closely matching ad copy (all about green tea) and a landing page also all about green tea.


Only by organizing your keywords this efficiently can you use your trading and creative skills to increase clickthrough, reduce costs and increase response.

You’ll find more ways to find and organize your bid keywords in Wordtracker Masterclass: Google AdWords PPC Advertising


To save money on Google AdWords you need to develop the differing skills of a Creative, a Trader and a Techie.

As a Creative make sure your ad headlines and body copy use the keywords they serve. Do this and your ads can move higher up Google’s results pages without the need to increase bids – that means less cost and more profit.

As a Trader you will master both exact match and broad match types. With broad match you bid on all keywords containing the specific word you are bidding on. As broad match can include irrelevant keywords that will deliver no response, you must combine it with negative keywords to stop your ads showing for those irrelevant searches.

As a Techie you can learn to segment your keywords into tightly-themed ad groups with different match types, bids, matching ad copy and landing pages.

Justin Deaville – These skills are explored in more detail in my new book: Wordtracker Masterclass: Google AdWords PPC Advertising, step-by-step guide to profitable pay per click campaigns.