This article originally appeared on Codesta’s blog
We recently started advertising our services on Google through their AdWords platform. About 3 days in we decided that we needed to streamline the site and provide better keywords to Google to improve the experience for users clicking on our ads. This meant stopping advertising, re-designing our site and migrating our content to SquareSpace, tweaking the ad campaign and then re-launching.
There was some learning and growing pains at the start, and there are tons of resources out there for getting started in paid advertising for search engines. It is a big field with lots of information about tweaking and tips on how to analyze your data. This article is meant to be more advanced than just a starting tutorial, giving advice on what help me tune our AdWords campaign. Some of these tips are also geared to more of a high cost, niche advertising area than bulk consumer oriented searches.
Onto The Tips!
From reading all the help documentation on AdWords, this is the biggest factor in determining how much Google charges you and how high your ad gets to be displayed. Sometimes you can make up for this by paying more for your ad but improving this will help lower your costs and improve the position of the ads. This is essentially Google’s way of determining how satisfied a searcher will be with the results of clicking an ad. Once there is some Click Data, this will also be factored into the placement of the ad. If you think about it, Google is essentially trying to optimize the amount of money that it will get by optimizing the CTR and the CPC. So it can display ads with high click throughs (combination of past CTR, and quality score) or ads with a lower CTR but higher price.
I think the first thing that you have to learn when starting an AdWords campaign is not to be too greedy. This can lead to under performing ads and higher costs. Target the areas which are core to your business and display it on the website. This will not only improve the quality score of the keywords but lower the cost of being displayed on the front page. The easiest way that I found to do this was by including the Geographical location with our keywords (ie. software development + toronto). Also trying to think like a user trying to find your business can help to tune the keywords that a user may enter to find your site.
Link it to Analytics
This is really a basic tip, but is key in determining statistics like bounce rate, number of pages per visit etc. Google Analytics gives you the ability to segment based on paid traffic making it easy to determine how the paid visitors are interacting with your site.
Conversion tracking is useful in finding out if a user performs some sort of action after clicking on the ad to get to your site. This is useful in determining the cost of some sort of success state. For our site we ‘convert’ on the contact page. If a user lands on the contact page after clicking on an ad we consider it successful. We also convert when a user uses the ‘Contact Us’ form, to track the amount of people that are sending us lead emails.
Use Negative Keywords
This is especially important for keywords that have 2 meanings. Development is one that can be used in multiple contexts. Someone searching for Mobile Development could be looking for a contractor or just learning how to actually do mobile development. In this case, adding the negative keywords that relate to learning, such as tutorial or getting started, can make sure that we aren’t advertising when someone is searching for help.
Use the + Modifier When Making a Broad Match
Broad matches can sometimes be way too broad. Using the + symbol in a broad match will limit the scope of the match to those having the term (or its close variations). This helps target your keywords which will limit scope and help lower the front page bid. This is also a great way of geo targetting ads; just add a +<city> and you can have a broad match scoped to users searching within the city.
Technology Keywords vs. Custom Software
I created two distinct ad groups focused on an over-arching concept when designing our campaign. One was focused on the technology we work with (ruby on rails development, Apple iOS, Google Android) while the other was more focused around local searches trying to highlight our ability to produce quality custom software. The one focused around local custom software has performed significantly better so far. My suspicion is that the ads are being shown on search queries which the user is trying to find out information around a programming topic.
The decision to split the campaign into two separate ad groups was made from guidance contained in the help guides. The guides recommended we create targeted ad groups selling the same service. We also created a custom landing page that would give a broad overview of the services we provide and the technology we work with. I thought these two changes would make the two ad groups distinct and improve the keyword quality for both. So far, this has not been the case.
How do you Advertise for a Low Volume High Reward Site?
Very early on I determined a few metrics for success. One was having high value, low volume leads. This meant being highly aggressive on very niche terms that applied directly to the services that we are selling. We determined that we could set high CPC values to bring in users which were already broadly searching for a company to satisfy their needs in our area. Combine this with a fairly low volume approach means that we aren’t spreading ourselves too thin and we are staying within our budget.
Don’t Fall Victim to the Tweaking Mentality
This was very hard to resist at first. You need a few days to a week of data to make informed decisions. Combine this with our low volume-high value approach meant that making tweaks can mean you never reach a steady state to make valid statistical conclusions.
Search Terms Used to Click on an Ad
I tended to refer to the statistics in Google Analytics about which search terms lead to a click on our ad. This data exists in AdWords but never seemed to be as up to date. Seeing the search terms allows you to tweak negative keywords and your keyword matches. Having this information is invaluable in determining if a user was satisfied when reaching your site, based on the bounce rate and the number of pages they visited.
Wait for AdWords to refresh your keywords before reading to heavily into any of the data it gives you. There is a delay which can be misleading at first, ranking your quality score higher or your CPC lower; giving you the impression that those keywords are going to perform better than they will if you don’t go back and check.
It is key to be able to gauge the success of a campaign in terms other than just the number of clicks and the CTR. To do this you need to collect other stats, like conversions and more page tracking oriented stats like bounce rate and pages per visit.
Our high value-low volume approach meant that we need to capitalize on every visitor. Early on into the campaign I noticed that visitors coming from the display network had a 100% bounce rate (especially in the mobile space). That quickly lead me to stop displaying on that network. Plus what we are advertising struck me as not really applying when someone is playing a game or in app. After making that change our bounce rate for paid traffic is down to 32%, with 6 pages per visit, almost double the site average.