If you plan to promote your website using Google AdWords you need to be mindful of how Google is evolving their policies because it can have a significant impact on your ROI. By ROI I mean what you pay Google in click charges verses what you get back in the way of business.
I created this post with the intention of educating you, the business owner. I realize that at some point in reading this, it will be beyond your technical knowledge. The rest of it, the stuff that is over your head, is for your web developer. I suggest you consider making this part of the statement of work (SOW) between you and your web developer.
Gone are the days of long-tail keywords, one-page sales letters, squeeze pages, vanity URLs and those black hat SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques. These changes are already having a significant impact on the Information Marketing and Affiliate Marketing industries. Google is rapidly evolving their quality score algorithm to be more SEO like. SEO is the way you get your website found through organic or natural search.
There are two things to be aware of.
- If you or your web developer uses any black hat techniques for the purposes of SEO, Google could blacklist your site, your company and possibly even YOU, from appearing on Google ever again. Your entire business or any business you create in the future could be affected. Whatever short-term gains you might get are not worth the long-term penalties you might be subject to. Besides, you would only be prolonging the inevitable anyway.
- Google has been quietly rolling out their new policies over the past couple of years. But every so often, they stop simply suggesting and start enforcing. Those of us in the business call it a Google slap! When that happens, some people have a very rude awakening and their online business takes a nosedive.
If you want to achieve the best possible ROI from your AdWords campaign, then there are certain things you need to do as a business owner and certain things your web developer needs to keep in mind as they create and maintain your website.
As a business owner, you need to specify the overall architecture, feature and function of your website. Web developers need to make sure the site is designed, developed and implemented to Google’s specifications, for the purpose of optimizing for AdWords.
When it comes to having the best possible ROI using AdWords, it’s all about relevance. Relevance means having tightly themed ad groups with highly relevant ad copy, with relevant landing page copy that is consistent with the rest of your website.
One of the major factors in determining what you pay per click and your ads ranking in the search results is known as landing page quality score. Most of these factors have to do with what you actually say on the landing page, how transparent you are and how easy it is to navigate your website. Rarely should you be sending prospects from a PPC campaign to your website home page, but sometimes it is appropriate.
Some of the aspects of landing page quality, as well as the overall website design, will be handled by the web developer. This usually depends on how knowledgeable you are about website design and the actual Google policies. In any case, you should make your web developer aware of Google’s webmaster guidelines so there will be no misunderstandings.
Now that you have an idea for the dos and don’ts, let’s come at this from a different angle so we increase the chances of maximizing your ROI. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to insure that your website is not what’s holding you back when it comes to getting the most from your AdWords campaign, and in fact, is what sets you apart from your competition.
Don’t expect your web developer to be your chief marketing strategist. They are typically graphic artists and technical geeks, not marketers. Most websites I see for small to medium-sized businesses are little more than online brochures. However, in fairness to their web developer, that’s probably exactly what the business owner asked for. I myself am a combination career marketing professional and part technical geek, but not a web developer. Just what you might expect for someone who does what I do.
Remember what I said earlier about relevance? Well, let’s peel back the onion a bit and see what that really means. Ideally, Google would like a user (your prospect) to perform a search using a query phrase that describes what it is they are looking for. They would see your ad with the actual query phrase they used in the headline of your ad. They would click on your ad because it was the clearest and most compelling ad on the page, and they were deposited at your landing page. The landing page would be all about the thing they were searching for and the rest of your website would have lots of relevant information about the topic they were interested in. And because your website was so great and packed with all kinds of relevant stuff, they would never have a need to search for that thing ever again. That is what Google would call the perfect user experience! I also discuss the topic of relevance in my post titled A chain of success.
Now let’s get specific. What are the things you need to do to insure your visitor has the best user experience, you maximize your landing page quality score and you still have a website that sells! Here are some suggestions:
- The website development application. I’m getting a little out of my league here, but hopefully this will make sense. If you are like many of my clients, small business owners who want the ability to create and update content on your site without having to call your webmaster or learn a website development tool like Dreamweaver or FrontPage, then I suggest you work with a developer who will build your website with this in mind. Content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress could be just the ticket. FLASH sites are old news and will not work well with AdWords because the AdWords bot cannot interpret FLASH code.
- Have a clear navigation structure. It’s OK to have pages that are off the navigation structure as long as the navigation structure is on every page and you don’t lead visitors down a dead-end path.
- Landing pages specifically designed for each product or line of products if appropriate. Have the primary keyword as part of the “h1” tag on every product page. Have enough content on the landing page to reinforce the relevance to your ad and have a 2-3% keyword density for that keyword.
- Make sure your meta tags conform to Google’s best practices; tags for <title>, <description> and <keyword>. There are format and length specification to be aware of. Here is a link to a nice little tutorial on the importance of meta tags.
- Make sure all your images have what are called “alt tags”. This allows the search engine spiders to know what the image is. If you can describe the image in a way that is relevant to your topic, it helps your quality score.
- Many successful online marketers will tell you that their most important asset is a quality email list for clients and prospects, which he/she has cultivated a good relationship with. There are several techniques you can use to build your list, but for the purpose of website development I recommend you have several “give-to-gets” and you capture visitor information using a good autoresponder like www.1shoppingcart.com or www.aweber.com.
- Become an expert on the topic your product or service is about. Have articles, preferably ones you created and published, product reviews and opinions. The more relevant content the better and it must be unique. Make sure it has a human voice to it and that you use the keywords you want to optimize for repeatedly throughout the document and don’t simply copy something from another website, Google will know and discount your quality score.
- Whenever possible, avoid FLASH. Here are two reasons, 1) search engines spiders (the little programs that read your website and decide how good it is) can’t understand FLASH, it looks like a big blob to them. 2) FLASH does not SELL, it distracts the visitor! It’s wizzy and cool and web developers love to do stuff in FLASH, but it distracts the visitor from that one thing that is the entire purpose of your website. Get the visitor to do what you want them to do. Fill out a form, download a whitepaper, call you on the phone or how about this, buy something! With that said, FLASH does have its place when it comes to instructional or entertainment applications.
- Have a blog. One of the best things you can do to improve your quality score is to have fresh, unique, relevant content. That’s exactly what having a blog will do.
- If you sell something on the site, have a page which clearly states your terms.
- Have an About Us page. Let visitors know there is a real person at the other end of the internet. Have a real physical address, a real person’s name and a phone number with a real person on the other end that is helpful in ways other than simply qualifying leads.
- Have a Contact Us page that also has the information I stated above.
- Have a Google compliant XML site map as well as an HTML sitemap page.
- If you are serious about managing your online business, I suggest you install Google Analytics tracking code as well as Google conversion tracking where it’s appropriate.
- Google is bringing more and more of the organic search criteria into the pay-per-click (AdWords) side of their business. Years ago, ranking was all about what was on your web pages; proper use of meta tags, keyword density and other “on-page” characteristics. Today, page ranking is 80% “off-page” and only 20% on-page. Off-page means, who is linking to your site and how highly their site is ranked. If their site is ranked higher than your site, it pulls you up in the ranking and increases your quality score. If you think about it, it’s just like relationships in the real world. If you know popular and influential people then you become more popular and influential yourself.Whether you need to consider the time and expense of creating quality in-bound links will be determined by your current keyword and landing page quality scores. In many cases, the quality scores will be heavily influenced by the amount of competition for that keyword. If the keyword is relatively unique and has relatively little search volume, chances are you will not need to invest in in-bound links. On the other hand, if the keyword is quite broad and there is a lot of competition, having lots of high-quality in-bound links is one way you can increase your quality score and differentiate yourself from the competition.
Well, that’s about it. I hope that helps.