Launching a web site is a lot of work. It takes a lot of time and heartache to decide on a design, create your site content, set up your server, and do the dozen other small steps necessary to get your site ready for the world to see it. By the time you’re finished with everything, you probably think it’s just a few Facebook posts and word-of-mouth campaigns away from being one of the most visited sites in your category.
But then, it isn’t. You’ve put so much into your web site, but you’re getting almost the same response you did before you made your upgrades. You start to wonder whether it was all worth it, or if there’s something you did wrong in your launch or re-design that caused your site to underperform.
Before you shut down your laptop in despair, consider another way to attract visitors to your site—advertising. While you may scoff at first, thinking that your site can stand on its own, consider that almost every successful web site out there spend thousands, if not tens of thousands, every month on advertising its site to the masses. As a result, this advertising brings its own, paid, traffic as well as boosting your free, or organic, traffic you’re already getting from just being online.
While there are many people willing to take your advertising dollars, Google AdWords is the most popular service for a simple reason—Google dominates search, and most people, even in the age of social media, learn about new products and services by searching for them. If you want to deliver the best results for your company, you need to invest in AdWords. Here’s a quick summary of what you need to know before you start.
I. Know Your Key Terms
Like any ad service, Google uses particular terminology to define its operations. Here are a few words to watch for:
Keywords—a word (“bikes”) or a phrase (“fixed-gear bikes”) that can trigger your ad to show on a page of search results. Selecting the right keywords is critical for your business’s success as it can make the difference between wasted ad dollars (people searching for mountain bikes won’t be interested in your site if you only sell fixies) and ad dollars that are well-spent (if your fixies are the best in town, you can reach everyone who’s ever thought about getting one).
Placements—We all think we know where Google AdWords end up: on the top and right edge of the search results we think we’re looking for whenever we launch a search. But with Google’s placement services, your ads can appear on Google-owned companies, like YouTube, and its partners, like major news organizations.
Ad Rank—What happens if two or more businesses select the same key words? Rather than flip a coin to determine whose ad receives the most prominent display, Google uses its Ad Rank rating to settle the dispute. Ad Rank takes into account how much someone is willing to pay for prime placement, of course, but it also considers how relevant your ad is to the search, which Google calls the Quality Score.
Quality Score—A calculation used by Google to help determine where your ad appears and what its rank will be. The quality score accounts for a number of factors, including the relevance of your keywords, the quality of the page visitors will see when they click on your ad, and your ad’s click-through rate, or the likelihood that someone seeing your ad will click on it.
CPM Bidding—The most basic form of bidding is CPM, or cost per thousand impressions. When you make your bid, you decide how much you’re willing pay to advertise, and Google will take that into account when placing your ads. In some cases, ad placement is a simple dollars-for-clicks transaction, though there are time where other factors (see Quality Score) come into play.
II. Use Analytics in Your Favor
If you’re purchasing ad space using Google’s Ad Words program, it’s well worth investing resources in one of Google’s other products—Universal Analytics. With Google UA you can integrate metrics across your business, whether they’re Internet- or bricks-and-mortar-based, in order to ensure that your ad dollars are well spent.
For example, you can use Google UA’s campaigns feature to track the effects of spending on new keywords or phrases across all of your ad spending, whether its sponsored Twitter links, Facebook ads, or some other source. While it will take a little more work to set up this tracking, it’s worth knowing where your ad dollars work best.
III. Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
With Google AdWords, you have more control over your advertising than you do with more traditional banner ads, and, of course, ads placed in more traditional platforms, like radio and television. If you treat Google AdWords like any other ad platform, you won’t use it to its best advantage. But, experiment with using keywords of varying degrees of precision, setting up custom landing pages that target the customer you want to reach, and, of course, setting pay rates at different levels, and you’ll find that your foray into Google AdWords will be more rewarding that you can imagine.
Photo by Erika Thorsen
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