AdWords Tips For The Search Network

I'm constantly creating new campaigns for different businesses, and constantly in touch with people who do the same. Many times, I see a lot of money being wasted just because the client wants to "be everywhere", or the account manager wants more fun options in doing their AdWords campaign. In many cases the problem is not having a good business focus, and over complicating the campaign in the process.

Here are some tips that I think can help AdWords account managers with their search campaigns, and it can be fun if you have a good start, especially when the maintenance work becomes significantly less than the people who start clueless.

  • Always use [exact match]: this match type gives you maximum control, because you know exactly which keyword you are bidding on, so you don't have any bad surprises with match type. But the most important thing is that since it is the most specific, and therefore the most relevant to your users, you are more likely to get a better quality score, and therefore lower cost-per-click. This is especially crucial at the beginning of you campaigns, because the account history plays a role in determining the quality score of your new campaigns. Ideally, you should have all your keywords in exact match, but this is practically impossible, because you cannot possibly capture all the different variations that people can think of. And because you cannot capture all the different possibilities of keywords that your users might use. This is why you should utilize other match types.
  • "Phrase match" to discover new possibilities: this match type gives you less control and specificity. It helps you get much more reach than exact match, and more importantly it lets you discover new keywords that you didn't have in mind. This discovery happens when, after having accumulated some clicks, you can go to the keywords tab and click on the "see search terms" button and see which keywords users actually used to trigger your ads. You can do several things in this case:
  1. Use -negatives: you will definitely see some irrelevant or bad keywords that you didn't plan for, so you can add these as negative keywords to refine your keyword selection. For example, you might find that users use 'cheap' together with your brand products. If you are not a discount store you can use negative match type for 'cheap' 'discount' or 'free', to make sure you only target the right audience.
  2. Use [Exacts]: the top keywords that were searched for should be added as exact match. Learn an easy way to know where to draw the line when segmenting your numbers.
  3. Create new ad groups: With some of the keywords that were triggering your phrase match keywords it would make sense to create a special ad group for them, or move them to a different one, because they are more relevant in another place. For example, if you have 'technology news' as a keyword, and then discover that it is triggering 'android technology news' it might be better to place this keyword in the 'android' ad group.
  • Don't use broad match: Confession. I completely stopped using broad match. It just doesn't make sense for several reasons. First, you almost never have unlimited budget, so you are better off going with the more targeted options mentioned above. Second, Google's algorithm may go crazy in what it determines to be relevant for the broad match keywords. I once had a broad match term 'sports news' and my ad was triggered by searching for "iraq", which was definitely a 'news' keyword but not really a sports one. I recommend doing more extensive keyword research and gradually growing the account as opposed to getting some bad surprises. Broad match might be useful if yo have an extremely small niche you are targeting, and it would be really profitable to just capture one client. It can also make sense when you are in a completely new industry and keywords are not yet established. In any case, it should be used with care, starting with a small budget, keeping an eye on irrelevant keywords, and utilizing negative match to make sure you eliminate unnecessary impressions.
  • Use the broad match modifier: this is a very good option in an industry where you are totally new, and need to know more about keywords. It gives you more control and relevancy than broad match.
  • Start with analytics: Many advertisers start with the keywords then write ads and choose landing pages. I prefer starting with discovering what is already working and building on it. I like to look at the site's analytics and discover the best landing pages in terms of bounce rate, conversion rate, pages/visit, or whatever your metric is. Then, after identifying the best ones, I try to see what ads can attract users to this content, and then find the relevant keywords for it. This helps build your account's history, and you make sure you are sending users to pages that are the most likely to convert, compared to other pages on the site. The only case you can't do this is with brand new sites, where you will have to make your own judgment.
  • Do the campaigns with the objective of building an understanding: If you approach the campaign as a learning experience as opposed to just 'optimizing', your focus will be on discovering what works for your targeted audience and your website. Whatever you do in terms of keywords, ads, landing pages, will (should) be used to build on your understanding. Start with questions like, "are electronics shoppers more interested in free shipping, or better prices?", "what sells better for sports fans, deadlines that induce immediate action, or deals that are better than the competition?" If you go with this curiosity your mind will be looking for ways to answer these questions, and this will help guide your strategies and especially testing. Speaking of which...
  • Test, test, test: Never have one ad per ad group. Let the name "ad group" remind you that it has to be a group of ads. At least two. In order to answer the questions you are trying to answer, you need to be split testing your ads. This means you have two ads that are identical in everything but one element. This element could be the headline, call to action, benefit, feature, or anything you want to test. This way you can attribute any differences to that element. After you identify the better performing ad, you should pause the lower performing one, and create a new one hoping to 'beat' the one you already have, and so on.
  • Tightly group keywords: The more focused you ad groups are, the more relevant your ads would be for your audience. The ad group split is the most important element in your account structure, because this is where you decide that a certain group of keywords are relevant to a certain group of keywords, which show very similar user intent. There is no magical number to how many keywords you should have, but here is a way to group keywords for your campaigns. 

The general principle is not to get lost in the features of keywords, ad groups, and landing pages, and simply focus on the business needs of the website, the users who can benefit from them, and how to connect the two together. If you get that figured out, choosing which technique to use become a much easier and fun process.

MediaME Forum 2010 - Amman

It was great being in Amman for this forum, catching up with some friends and meeting new people. This is my presentation and the video. 




AdWords an an Analytics Tool

The new AdWords interface is truly a great improvement on the product. Not just in terms of visual appeal and presentation, but especially with the set of tools and enhancements it comes with.

I'm going to focus here on one of these improvements, which is using AdWords to analyze the performance of your keywords, ad groups, and campaigns right from within your account.

Starting AdWords Campaigns: The Alternative Path of Landing Pages

Many online advertisers have a problem getting their ads to show on AdWords, or getting a reasonable CPC, instead of $5, or sometimes $10.
While there are several possible reasons for this, I'm going to emphasize the importance of selecting landing pages in the initial process (as opposed to having it as the last decision in the campaign).
The landing page is after all the first encounter your user has with your site. This is where the selling happens. This is where the branding happens. And this page is visited by a tiny fraction of users who saw your ad, users that you pay for each click they do.

Forget AdWords.

Go to your analytics tool, and check out the landing pages, or most popular content report. Sort pages according to bounce rate (or conversion rate, or $ value), and see what your top performing pages are.

This report shows you the pages that you know based on statistics that people will be less likely to run away from your site once they see them.

If your site is content based, and you have many content categories that you want to promote, you might promote those that are already performing better than others (instead of promoting the ones that you think should be promoted).

Sometimes, it is actually the very beginning of a campaign. If you discover that a certain page is giving huge results, why not create a campaign especially for it?

AdWords Workshop - Social Media Forum

I shared this presentation during the last Social Media Forum in Abu Dhabi, and it was great interacting with AdWords users at different levels of expertise in CPC and online marketing in general.

My main frustration is with AdWords technicians who view it as a software that they just "use", instead of dealing with it as one of the tools available to them as online marketers.

Hence, the structure of the presentation is on how to best use AdWords for effective marketing, and didn't give much focus on the details of setting up accounts, campaigns, etc.

For simplicity, the concepts were presented in three main sections:

1. Understanding the market: using whatever AdWords provides in tools that help in research, and how to use the data for segmenting the market and inferring user intent from the keywords. The two main tools are the Keyword Tool, and Insights for Search.

2. Understanding your website: something I don't usually see in AdWords teaching materials, but I think is vital before you start any campaign or any marketing activity. Understanding comes in terms of what kind of website you have, and therefore what are the actions that you want your users to complete when they come. Another frequently neglected aspect of campaign is checking whether or not the content on your site reflects the needs of the market (you need to compare the understandings of section 1 and 2). Finally web analytics should be used to know what is already working and what is not on your site, so as to point users to the right pages.

3. Strategies and Tactics: based on the understanding of the market and your website, you are now ready to formulate your strategies and tactics and to decide on what tools you will use to maximize your results. This section explores the main options available.

Here is the presentation:

Free Online Market Research

Google finally decided to share the volume data of the search queries that they receive. This is too good to be true for someone like me living on these numbers. Now you can see the number of searches conducted per keyword, instead of the relative volume that was given previously, and was only segmented in five main segments.
It is generally estimated that 80% of all internet traffic starts at a search engine. And since Google accounts for almost 80% of search engine traffic, this is quite a good estimate for the market per keyword. This means you have a fair idea about 64% of the total market.
This marks a new era in market research and how scientific you can be in estimating your market size, and how much of it you are getting.Moreover, "market" is no longer a set of people with generalized demographics. It can now be measured by the number of people who are interested in a concept (or group of concepts) as specific as you define it.
I tried the service once, but then it seems it crashed, I'm sure a huge number of people is trying it. I'll test it more extensively and compare with actual traffic figures that I have to see how best to use it.

CPC Affiliate Marketing: It's a Lot Like Good Ol' Store Keeping

The term sounds quite sophisticated. It is. And it's nice to see people puzzled not knowing what the hell this is. But after you cut through the CTR, impressions, clicks, ad copy, and the technical issues, you end up like a traditional merchant in front of a salesman (been there before - the salesman that is). You would be evaluating each product, how much sales it might generate and how much profit margin it can get you. This is how it is in CPC affiliate marketing. You have to start thinking like a store keeper, except without the store, and without the merchandise, and the good news is, you only pay for sending people to the store. If you succeed in sending the right pople, you can start earning commissions on that.
I never thought of myself becoming a store keeper or merchant, but this was a strange discovery for me.
But this seems like a great store. There are no cases to deal with, and you can shift products, brands, or even industries, within seconds. You can also sell a wide range of unrelated items in your online conglomorate.
The fun part for me is in figuring out the right keywords, and testing different ad texts and seeing how they affect users' behavior. It is really fascinating every time I think about it; here I am (wherever I am, logged in my account) thinking about what attract people more. At several other points in the world, there are people searching for certain keywords, I somehow manage to get a part of them, to be directed to my products, and buy it. They come and go, get their products shipped while I'm somewhere else doing somethig else.
I like this store!