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When we think of search engine optimization (SEO), we tend to focus on search results that appear in the center column beneath and to the left of ads. While those are often the most trusted results, depending on the keywords you are vying for and the amount of competition you encounter, it may be difficult achieving first-page results. (Hint: content marketing can help.)
One way to kick-start your search engine marketing is through the use of AdWords, Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising program.
This post introduces you to AdWords and provides a list of best practices and resources you can use to get started quickly and easily. First, let’s answer a couple of questions.
What is Pay-Per-Click Advertising?
Not to be confused with organic SEO, pay-per-click – normally referred to by the acronym PPC – is a form of advertising where advertisers pay only when someone clicks the ad. Usually, you see PPC ads on search engines, although Google offers a program called Adsense that allows website owners to run PPC ads on their sites.
What is Google AdWords?
According to Wordstream, a popular PPC advertising software platform, Google AdWords is the “single most popular PPC advertising system in the world.” It enables businesses to create ads that appear on Google’s search engine and other Google properties.
(Note that clearly Google identifies AdWords ads with a small yellowish-orange icon containing the word “ads.”)
Benefits of AdWords Advertising
The number one benefit to using AdWords is that it can get your business on the front page of Google search returns. Essentially, you are buying your way there.
AdWords uses an auction-based system, which means that you bid on keywords. Of course, as with all things Google-related, your ad’s position is not determined based solely on the amount of money you are willing to spend.
Google has something called a Quality Score that takes a number of factors into account to determine rank position including advertising spend, keyword bid-rate, ad creative, and the number of times ads appear and are clicked on in search returns.
Quality Score aside, the use of PPC advertising via AdWords gives you greater control over how often your business appears on front page search returns and in what position.
The real battle for AdWords’ dominance has to do with the amount of competition you have for the keywords on which you’re bidding. More competition drives the prices higher and can mean more ads appear at the top and side column of the page.
There is no minimum spending commitment, however, and you can start and stop your campaigns at any time.
How to Set Up an AdWords Campaign
You can create a PPC campaign by going to the AdWords homepage and clicking the “Get Started” button. The sign-up process differs based on whether you already have a Google account (such as Gmail, YouTube or Google+) or will need to create one.
Here’s an example of what the AdWords dashboard looks like.
AdWords are organized into three levels: Campaigns, Ad Groups, and Keywords.
A set of ad groups that share a budget, location targeting, and other settings. Campaigns are often used to organize categories of products or services that you sell.
You can have as many campaigns as you like, but it’s best to organize them according to product or service type. For example, if you sell flowers, you may want to have one campaign focused on roses, another on daffodils, and another on tulips.
(You can also organize campaigns by geographic location, target audience types, and other factors.)
Do this at this outset, however. Otherwise, things will start to get confusing pretty quick. It will become harder to keep track of how well each ads is doing (especially when there are several of them), keywords will start to run out the wazoo, and you could become frustrated with the entire process. (Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. Been there, done that, as they say.) The better organized and more relevant your campaigns are from the get-go, the better off you’ll be.
Ad groups consist of a set of keywords, ads, and bid amounts.
You can have as many ad groups in a campaign as you would like, but again, keep things organized. To use the flower example, you can have one ad group devoted to yellow roses, another to red roses, and still another to white roses. (Can you tell I’m not a gardener?)
Each ad group contains words or phrases describing your product or service that you choose to determine when and where your ads appear.
I could devote an entire blog post to how to select the best keywords. Instead, I’ve included a list of resources at the end of this post that fills you in on the details, and that includes some free tools you can use for that purpose.
AdWords Best Practices
The blog Search Engine Journal provides a list of 18 best practices that can help you make the most of your PPC advertising efforts. These include:
1. Set campaign objectives – Clarify the reason for your campaign prior to its launch. That could include objectives such as driving traffic to your website, selling products, or generating leads.
2. Conduct extensive keyword research – Keywords are the bread and butter of any AdWords campaign. For maximum effectiveness, find those that give you the best results for your advertising dollar.
3. Include negative keywords – Negative keywords are those you don’t want associated with your ad campaign. Otherwise, you could end up with irrelevant results that cost you money.
Use Landing Pages to Convert Clicks
Setting up an AdWords account, buying keywords, and creating ads are only one part of the PPC campaign strategy. Having landing pages that convert to sales and leads when searchers click is another.
I can’t tell you how many times have I clicked an ad only to be taken to the home page of the advertiser’s website. That click cost them money and unless I am willing to dig through and find the information the ad talked about, the company gets nothing in return.
Wordstream provides a helpful resource guide to creating landing pages that convert, which I’d encourage you to read. Also, read the Bizzuka blog post – Conversion Rate Optimization: Scent Trail or Primrose Path – to gain a better understanding of why you should use landing pages.
Resources to Learn More
It requires a great deal of knowledge to master PPC advertising through AdWords. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help. Here are a few I recommend.
- Wordstream PPC University – An in-depth self-paced guide to PPC mastery.
- Wordstream Ultimate Guide to AdWords Optimization
- The Beginner’s Guide to Setting Up an AdWords Account
- Keyword Research Tool Tips
- Guide to Using Google Keyword Planner
- Google AdWords Help Center – Google provides a wealth of information on using AdWords.
Here are some free tools you can use to do keyword research:
Finally, this infographic from Wordstream illustrates the Google AdWords auction process.