Running AdWords Just as Hard as SEO

At Eduhub we use Google AdWords for Search Engine Advertising. We’re testing with Bing in the UK, but that’s still very small. Because of the complex nature of the AdWords ecosystem, setting up successful AdWords campaigns can be hard. In the search marketing world, it’s often said that running AdWords is now as complex as doing SEO. For example, we have specific AdWords courses on our website, that can span multiple days. That’s why, to keep things easily manageable, we use one consistent campaign format.

Structure your campaigns well

We distinguish campaigns at the subject level, we have over 1000 of them in 21 categories (see our homepage for a sample of them). When setting up new campaigns we pick subjects that already have (organic search) traffic or have the potential for more traffic and that yield us good returns. For this data we mostly look at e-commerce values in Google Analytics. We then use a separate campaign for each subject because that enables us to create specific site links: those links under an ad that draw extra attention, as you can see in the image above.

Other reasons to choose for a particular campaign level are settings like daily budget (which you should never reach anyway) and stuff like demographic targeting. By default AdWords is limited to 25 campaigns, but you can get more quite easily by asking an accountmanager. At the moment we are running 40 active campaigns. At what (content) level you should create your campaigns is up to you, for a web shop it could be based on product categories, but often one all-containing campaign will do, as you can still differentiate on the ad group level.

Ad groups and keyword research

Within each campaign we separate ad groups per type of keyword bidding. Most of the time we have one group for exact match keywords and one for broad or phrase match keywords. When you decide to differentiate on the ad group level, different ad groups for different grouped keywords is the way to go. You can of course mix broad, exact or phrase keywords in one group, we simply separate them for clarity.

First stop when searching for keywords is the AdWords Keyword Tool. we choose keywords that are specific, as more generic keywords have a lot of traffic and as a result are costly and competitive. For example, we buy ads for keywords like ‘coaching course’, instead of going for the more general keyword like ‘coaching’. Most of our keywords consist of at least two words each. An other good source for keywords is the list of keywords used to find your site. Fire up your analytics tool (we use Google Analytics) and filter based on the keyword you want to create an ad group for. When researching keywords also think of different spellings and synonyms.

We generate a long list of exact keywords and put them in the ‘exact’ ad group. A large exact keyword list makes sure you are bidding on your broad keywords at little as possible. For the broad group we use two to four modified broad terms per keyword (for example: ‘+coaching +opleiding’), to make sure we are not bidding on irrelevant keywords. Finally, we exclude all our exact keywords in the broad group, as we do not want to bid against yourself.

Source: http://adwords.blogspot.com/2010/05/new-keyword-targeting-feature-for.html

How much to pay, deciding on CPC

To decide what Cost Per Click to start with can be difficult, luckily Google shows the minimum bid for the first page. When picking a CPC keep in mind what you want to pay, based on your conversion rate and revenue per conversion. CPC is the biggest decision factor for your ad’s ranking, basically a higher CPC leads to a higher ranking, leads to more clicks, leads to higher costs. You can burn through your budget really fast, if you’re not careful. You should set up the conversion tracker to measure how your ads are converting.

The top 3 ads are displayed above the organic search result and lead to way more clicks, it is best to rank as high as possible, as long as you are able to afford the CPC. We try to rank top 3 as often as possible, as we are running most of our campaigns in the long tail and traffic numbers are already low for these keywords. A low position on these keywords would mean almost no traffic at all.

In the end the only thing what counts is the money that you are (hopefully) making. Track your Return on Investment (ROI), as this is the most important metric. It shows how much you make or lose, a negative ROI means you are losing money and a positive ROI means you are making it. If you are losing money, either lower your CPC bids or stop with the campaign. Do take a large enough sample when deciding, a minium of 100 clicks is a good criteria.

Writing ads that convert

Write at least two different ads per ad group, as you want to test which ad works best. Do not change to much at the same time when editing your ads, because it will be hard to point out the causing factor when one ads performs better than the other. Use keyword insertion for more visibility, and make sure you have a clear call to action in the body of your text. Experiment with different display URLs and call to actions. You can also experiment with the landing page you send visitors to, but we seldom do this as we already have an optimized landingspage.

Also be sure to never change both of your ads at the same time, since that will throw away your stats and part of your quality score. So you change the worst performing ad, wait for enough data and you repeat.

Keep iterating and improving

Always keep improving your ads, iterate based on testing different ads, increasing or decreasing your CPC bids on individual keywords or groups as a whole, adding and removing keywords or disabling whole ad groups if it’s not working for you at all.

This is just scratching the surface of what you can with AdWords. You can play with advanced settings like location targeting, time-based targeting and the like in the settings menu. Next to generating direct income, we also use it as a SEO research tool. By bidding on keywords you get much more accurate data than any other tool can provide.

The way to work with AdWords is not set in stone, and results will vary for every business. For us, adWords generates only a small amount of our traffic, so we are not dependent on it. Working with AdWords can take a lot of time, luckily Google recently introduced automated rules to automate some of the duty. More on automation in a later blogpost.

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