One of the most common occurrences I see when reviewing a client’s AdWords account, is that the keywords, and often the ad copy, is too broad in terms of who is able to see their ad. This means the advertiser’s ads are appearing for relatively poor quality users, which drive up the number of impressions, and results in poor quality visitors (clicks). This produces a less than optimal account performance and ROI.
At its core, the issue is that the novice AdWords advertiser doesn’t understand how keyword matching options work. In fact, many advertisers don’t even know what they are. This is particularly relevant in cases where the advertiser has a preponderance of broad-matched keywords. Depending on your AdWords proficiency, you may find my article titled The broad match effect particularly enlightening.
Choosing the right keywords, matching options, ad copy and landing page, all have to do with how aggressive you want to be in using AdWords and how much effort you want to put into optimizing your campaigns. Here again, it all comes down to ROI. And one particularly important metric in the ROI calculation will be the lifetime value of a new customer. See my article titled PPC essentials and pay particular attention to what I call the tactical triangle.
When I describe the two most important skills I bring to our relationship, I say it is: 1) a deep understanding of Google AdWords and 2) the mindset of visitors from search engines and display ads. If you have a good sense of how visitors from search and display think and how they are likely to act, you are able to make some important decisions about who should see your ad and who shouldn’t. How you implement your decision has to do with knowing how keyword matching options work.
The process of determining who sees your ad is often a collaborative decision made between me and the client. I am usually not familiar enough with the client’s business and there will be terms that require the client’s perspective. But that alone isn’t enough. I usually have to explain to the client, the subtle nuances between seemingly equally relevant keywords and search terms. In the absence of clear and compelling conversion data, it comes down to probability theory. What are the chances of converting this visitor verses that visitor? And while I may offer an opinion on specific keywords, it is the client who makes the final decision.
Quite often, I need to explain to the client that there will be more traffic available than they can afford to purchase and therefore, we need to make some important decisions about who sees their ad and who doesn’t. This is particularly relevant in the case where Google is indicating that the campaign is “Limited by budget”. That almost always means that the client is spending some amount of their daily budget on relatively poor quality visitors and experiencing the very real possibility that their ad is not being shown when their best prospects are searching! It’s important to note that when Google displays the Limited by budget warning, not only will your ads stop running at some point, but Google will also be displaying your ad intermittently before it stops running altogether.
When it comes to analyzing the historical data in your account or using a keyword tool or constructing your own keywords, it’s important to ask yourself, “is this user looking for information or a product / service?” I think it’s safe to say that if you are running an AdWords campaign, you probably are not in the business of selling information; you are trying to sell a product or service. Therefore, keeping your focus on users searching for a product or service is very important. If you still have room in your budget after you have that base covered, then I suggest you have a separate campaign for users looking for information.
Let me illustrate by providing an examples using my own AdWords campaign. If I were to use the keyword “Google AdWords management” for example, it would be too broad because it can mean many different things besides consulting services; such as an automated tool, a book or training course. Therefore, all my keywords have words in them that imply some kind of professional help, meaning they expect to spend money! Words like consulting, expert, professional or specialist.
Users searching for information may be good suspects, but not necessarily a good prospect. They will typically be higher in the sales funnel and won’t convert at a rate that compares with those searching for a product or service. Your first priority should be to focus on keywords that are indicative of prospects that are lower in the sales funnel. In other words, closer to making a buying decision. Once you have optimized your account for those keywords and if you have any budget left over, then you can consider buying clicks for information seekers. This could be considered your branding campaign. It’s just something you do because you feel it will have a long-term positive effect, much like a billboard on a busy highway.
Here is a tip to improve ROI. Once your primary campaign reaches its daily budget and you decide not to increase your daily budget, consider running your ads only on Google.com and not their search partners. That’s because Google.com has the highest quality traffic and your Analytics data and quality score are more accurate there than on the partner sites. To get a sense for how your existing campaign is performing, in the Keyword view, use the Segments tab and select the Network. Then compare the performance on Google search verses Search partners.
Here is another interesting reality when it comes to search engine advertising. Users of search engines don’t read ads! They only scan them. If your ad appears near the top of the search results page, chances are, you are paying for a lot of clicks that delivered relatively low quality visitors, especially if you have keywords that tend to be broad in scope. A quick review of your search term data will bear this out, which is all the more reason to be prudent in terms of who sees your ad. The sad truth is that many users blindly click on the top listings (organic or paid) and then determine if the website has what they were looking for. If they don’t like what they see, they simply hit the back button and repeat the process.
This is a great lead-in for another bit of search engine advertising trivia. The further down the search results page your ad appears, the higher the quality of visitor you get. Why, because when your ad is further down the page, users actually read the ad! This is one reason why I never intentionally want any of my ads to appear in a position higher than #3. And for some keywords, I intentionally want to be lower than #6. Why, because it’s all about ROI. How many clicks do I have to buy to get a prospect? If I know it will take more clicks of a particular keyword to get a prospect, I bid lower for that keyword.
Ad copy also plays an important role in the ROI equation. Your ad needs to be highly relevant to the user’s search query, the keyword that triggered your ad and the landing page you send the visitor to. If it isn’t, you not only pay more for the click, but you will probably get a relatively poor quality visitor. Your ad should be relevant, compelling and transparent. By transparent I mean it needs to be clear about what the user will see if they click on your ad. For example, if you sell relatively expensive widgets. Then you should have wording in your ad that indicates you offer premium widgets or top quality widgets or widgets priced from $x. Do you remember what my ad looked like? I say in every ad I run: “$100/hr“.