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How to Use Google AdWords for Local Businesses

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch About Google AdWords

Today I’m going to address Google AdWords for local businesses. This is going to be pretty prescriptive. I’m not going to try to teach you everything there is to know about AdWords today. I’m going to outline what I think is the best approach for small local businesses, who are probably on a small, local business budget.

Why AdWords?

First things first: Why Google AdWords? Well, the thing about AdWords is that when somebody turns to Google and types in, “I’m looking for X in my town,” the buying intent is very, very high. Showing up on Google Maps or a mobile device when somebody has very high purchase intent can lead to a lot of new business.

It’s also a great place for you to balance out your SEO efforts. I’m a big proponent of showing up in search engine results pages because you’ve written great content that is very useful for that thing that people are searching for, but in competitive markets, that’s going to take some time. By filling in your SEO efforts with keyword phrases that you know you’re trying to win, that you know have high-intent or commercial intent, with Google AdWords is a great way for you to ‘stack the deck.

It’s also a great way to claim more of the page one real estate. You could show up maybe in the ad; you could show up hopefully in the three pack at some point, or even show up on page one. You overwhelm the page, if you will, by doing this, so it is a great way for you to make sure you are capturing the phrases that you know turn into business.

Enjoy this video presentation for Using Adwords for Local Business

Do your homework

So, how do you get started with it? Do some research first instead of just going out there and saying, “Well, here’s my product, here’s what I think people search for, I’m going to bid for those terms.” That might lead to some business, but it might also lead to you wasting a lot of money.

So the first place to look is the competition. Now, that’s not always the person that you compete with across the street or across town that you know of. In a lot of cases, what we’re talking about is the people that are already bidding for the key search terms that you want, that maybe are already collecting business because they are in the number one, two, or three spots on Google for the right search terms.

You’ll want to figure out who they are. Click through to where they’re sending people. What does the ad say? What’s the call to action? When you get there, what are they doing to help convert you to a client? Some businesses are an immediate sale, like a plumber. If your pipe breaks, you’re looking to hire a plumber right now. Or let’s say you lose your keys, you’re looking to hire a locksmith right now.

Now, there are other businesses, let’s say a remodeling contractor, where remodeling isn’t something that you’ll do tonight, it’s going to be something that you might do over the next couple months. It takes time. So your strategy for AdWords will heavily depend on your industry.


Looking at who is already bidding for those terms is a great place to start. Now, if you want to dig in, you can see a lot from what Google shows you, but you can also use a tool like SpyFu, that will not only tell you what people are bidding but also how much they’re spending and how many clicks they’re getting.

You can get a real sense of how committed they are to pay per click. In some cases, you’ll find people that are very big SEO competitors and very big pay per click competitors as well, so they’re playing both sides. You’ll also find people who aren’t showing up for organic searches that are very heavily invested in pay per click because in some ways that’s their only option.

So, do your homework first. Find out who’s doing what in your community, find out what they’re doing that is converting or at least attempting to convert people regarding landing pages and such.

Invest time into keyword research

Step number two is to do your keyword research. Now, I talk a lot about keyword research for content and organic search results, but it is extremely important to know what people are searching for when they go out there to find a product or a service that you offer. Again, there are some free tools for this.

The first one Google offers us. So if you have a Google AdWords account, you will find in there, under the tools section, something called the Google Keyword Planner. This is a tool that allows you to play around and put in search terms and then discovers related search terms. Discover how much you might have to bid for that search term to discover the volume of searches related to those search terms.

This is a great way for you to put together your keyword list and to start pruning down and finding what might be the most potent keywords for your product or service. To some degree you probably know what those are, you probably have an idea of what people are looking for, but this tool helps you expand that list and the variations and ways in which people do all of those searches. (Here’s a list of some alternative Keyword Tool options)

Then, you want to start looking at things like related searches. So you even turn to Google, and they will show you searches related to your searches. What you’re trying to do is find keyword phrases that have the most potential to turn into clients. Pay attention to what Google tells you the bid is for those, because in some cases the higher that they’re suggesting you’re going to have to bid, the higher the commercial intent might be. In other words, maybe other people in your industry are ignoring some terms because they don’t ever turn into clients and they’re bidding up other terms because those are the ones that turn into buyers and to clients.

There are some other tools you can employ to round out your search. I love one called Answer the Public to find out what questions people are asking for.

It’s very tempting in your keyword research to think, “Oh, here’s the three or four phrases that get the most, they get all the volume.” It can be tempting to try to win those, but there’s an excellent chance that they’re going to be much more competitive. Maybe they’ll be a little broad. For example, if somebody’s searching for ‘marketing consultant,’ there’ll be a lot of volume in that term, but do I know if they’re looking to hire a marketing consultant, to be one, to know what it takes from a training standpoint? It’s hard for me to know what their intent is from that search.

Look for some searches that are very specific say questions. There may not be much volume in that, but they make it easy to tell what somebody’s after. Part of the game in AdWords is to get your ads as relevant and close to the search that somebody is making. So what that requires is a little extra effort, having small ad groups, having very relevant ad copy, and then doing it over and over again in many types of search phrases. You’re looking to fill out 20 or 30 terms, but you might put those into small groups of four or five keywords that would be very specific to an ad. The closer your ad is to the search, the better off you’re going to be. (Here’s a lesson on keyword research)

UnGoogle Your Campaigns

Now let me go into an area where hopefully nobody from Google is reading because I’m going to tell you how to un-Google your default account. There are a few things that Google has set up to guarantee that you will have to spend more money than you need to, and pretty much stack the deck in their favor.

There are a couple of things when you’re getting into there. The first one is campaign type. There are several places that you can show your ads. You can show display ads on their display network, or you can show them in their search network only. For the most part, you’ll want to start with a search network only. Make sure that is the only box that is clicked in your campaign type because otherwise, you’ll get a bunch of junk.

The next one is match type. As you’re setting up your keyword phrases, there are ways for you to tell Google exactly what type of match you want to make. The match types show your ads to more people, being very broad in their approach, to being very exact. You have the ability to dial that in, and for the most part you want to be more on the precise, relevant side than the broad side, because people type a lot of weird things in when they’re searching, and you don’t want to get caught up in a whole bunch of clicks that have nothing to do with your actual product. So the default type is what is called the “broad match.” That is the default match type that if you just put a keyword in there, it’s going to get you things that are not related.

AdWords match types

The graph above goes down the different match types so that you can get more precise with your match types and you can tell Google that if you sell marketing services like I do, that you want somebody who is searching only for buying marketing services.

If they’re searching for ‘how to learn how to do marketing services, they would not show my ad. Or worse; ‘free marketing services.’ I don’t want anybody that wants free marketing services! So I can dial down my match types so that Google won’t show my ad, even though it had the term ‘marketing services’ in there because it had ‘negative keywords.’

Take a look at the match types. Study it, and remember, for the most part, you want to be closer to modified or exact match. So, broad modified, or exact match, are the ones that you’re looking for. Phrase match is another one that’s kinda in between those two, but never leave it just at broad, or you’ll get a lot of junk.

Optimizing your campaigns

Let’s get into optimizing your campaigns. If you are a local business you want to make sure that you’re very dialed in on the location of your ads. If you serve a full suburban area, you might just want to set a radius. But if there are certain zip codes that you serve, certain zip codes that you know your clients don’t come from, you have a very granular level of setting for location. So you want to make sure that you are setting it up correctly. Location comes back to optimizing our campaigns in our ad groups too.

I already mentioned the idea of ‘negative keywords’ in the match types. You want to make sure that you are building a list if you don’t want your ads to show for those. One of the things that you want to make sure that you’re doing is check your search terms tab. As you roll out your campaign, you’re going to find that there are negative keywords that you never thought of. You’re getting some clicks from things that are not related to what you want. So you can adjust that, and you should certainly adjust that as you optimize and continue to look at your campaigns.

And this is a point where I probably should throw in; this is not a ‘set it and forget it’ type of thing. You constantly want to be monitoring and figuring out what words are converting, what search terms are converting, because in the end that’s all you care about. My experience is that no matter how well we plan out and strategize, there’s always going to be probably 30-40% of your search terms of your ads that just don’t produce the results that you want. You want to make sure that you are monitoring those in a way to cut the losers and maybe double down on the winners.

AdWords ad copy

Now let’s move to ad copy and the things that you can do to make your ads very, very compelling. One of the challenges with Google AdWords, of course, is that you don’t have a lot of real estate. Your headline is 30 characters, and then you get 80 characters in two description lines after that, and then a URL. And that’s pretty much it.

You’ve got to grab people’s attention very quickly, so if you’re in one of those businesses where somebody’s intent is very high, they’re going to want to know, ‘how much is this going to cost me? Can I trust these people? When will they get here?’ Those are the kinds of things that you can cram into your ads to get as much information communicated as possible.

Don’t forget the URL. One of the tricky things in the URL is that you get to put a display URL and then you get to put an actual URL. The actual URL is where people go when they click on your ad, but the display URL can be just about anything as long as it’s on your domain. That’s a place where you can put some extra keywords in there or maybe some extra branding in that URL. So don’t forget to do that.

Test, test, test – no matter how good I think I get at any of this, I don’t always know what’s going to be the best ad.

Do your best attempt to write three really great, compelling ads that you think are going to make people want to click. When you run them, Google will rotate them through for you, and they’ll show you the ones that are getting clicked on. Google wants lots of clicks, so they want you to run the most compelling ad.

They are going to, actually within a few days in some cases, be telling you, “Hey, here’s the ad that you should be running.” If you just let it run, they will ultimately default to the ad that is getting the most clicks, because, again, they want to get paid. What we do with a lot of people is say, “Start with three, test them, but you can always come back, and once you have that winner, there’s nothing to stop you from trying to beat that winner.”

Understanding extensions

Extensions are another topic around optimization. If you enable them, and you should enable as many extensions as you possibly can (there’s a process for doing that in AdWords), Google will make a determination about which of those extensions they show in your ads, dependent partly on the type of search and the proximity of the search and a number of variables. What it ultimately does is it gives you more real estate. It makes your ad look bigger and more prominent. If you’re in a competition, essentially, with two or three, in some cases, other ads, say at the top of the page or even in mobile search, your ad, hopefully, is going to stand out a little bit because you’ve added those extensions to it.

adwords extensions

Now, if you’re in one of those businesses where somebody’s going to be on their phone and they’re going to want to click to call right away, then you also want to have your campaign set up by device type as well. There is an extension where you can say, “I want these ads to run for mobile and I want them to be ‘click to call.”‘ So in other words, somebody wouldn’t even have to type in your phone number or click and then find your phone number, they would click on the ad and they would then call you.

It’s not for every business, and if you’re not one of those businesses that answer the phone when people call day and night, then this may not be for you, but there are a lot of little tricks and settings like that.

Focus on conversions

The last topic I want to cover about is conversion. You want to set it up so that you know precisely what’s working and what’s not working, and the good news is there are a few things that can increase your conversion, and certainly a few things that will help tell you what’s working and not working.

The first piece is something we call ‘landing pages.’ Now, I know this isn’t a foreign concept to everyone, but I find very few local businesses that take the time to set up landing pages for their ads. And what this would mean is that if you run an ad for a very specific set of keywords and your ad has very specific copy, the closer you can match the landing page, the page that somebody clicks through to, to what that search term was, or at least what the intent of that search term was, the higher chances Google will give you a quality score, and the ad will convert, or turn somebody into a customer.

So if you have different products, different services, different offers, different campaigns that you’re running, it helps to build pages specific to those things. Instead of sending somebody to your homepage where they now have to figure out what it is that they’re looking for or even find your contact information, send them to a page that is very, very related to the ad, to the keyword groups, and has a very specific call to action that is related to what that ad was about.

This takes some extra time. You may have to create five or six pages just for your campaigns, but the conversions and the return on investment for your ads spent will go through the roof if you do it.

There are a couple of other things we highly recommend, including call tracking. We use a tool called CallRail and what that allows you to do is if you’re in one of those businesses where you’re trying to generate phone calls, or form fills, so if somebody comes to your website and fills out a form, this will actually allow you to know exactly where those are coming from, all the way down to the ad level to the keyword search term that they typed into Google before they picked up the phone and called you.

This kind of tracking allows you to eliminate the campaigns that aren’t producing for you and again, if they’re turning into phone calls, you can even record these phone calls, you’ll know if those phone calls were good phone calls or great ideal prospects. You could get it to the point where you can find the campaign, the phrase, that is actually producing clients for you.

When you know that, then all of a sudden you can make sure that you bid that up, that you are winning that, that you’re increasing maybe your bids for those key terms and then turning other ones off. That makes you far more competitive for the things that are turning into clients.

You will also need to connect your Google AdWords account with your Google Analytics account, and turn on something they call ‘auto-tagging.’ This will start immediately as people are clicking on your ads and will start producing campaigns inside of your Google Analytics that will help you show what clicks are producing what results.

One of the things that you’ll want to understand and learn how to create are conversion goals in Google Analytics. A simple goal might be to fill out a form or click through to another page where they can find out how to buy that product or service, and by taking that action, they are completing that goal.

Those conversion goals can give you very, very precise information about what your ads are doing regarding goals and achieving those goals.

That’s it for today!

Like this post? It’s part of our Ultimate Guide to Local Marketing and our Small Business Guide to Advertising.

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AdWords for Local Businesses

One of the most important ways to get found today as a local business is to show up – front and center – when someone whips out their phone and searches Google for a product or service near them.

It’s important because when someone does a search like that they are usually looking to hire a local plumber, get their hair cut, or find a bike repair shop – and, like, now.

Showing up the local maps 3 pack (see my post on Google My Business) is a great start, but Google AdWords, along with a focus on SEO, is how you can dominate your market for local search.

So, let’s dive into how AdWords works, how you can use it, and why it’s such a great choice for local businesses looking to reach local customers.

It’s All About the Keywords

Ever since the earliest days of online search, when Google competed with Yahoo, AltaVista, and Ask Jeeves—and Bing was just a glimmer in Bill Gates’ eye—search engine optimization (SEO) has been a keystone for marketers looking to reach their audience online. While a lot of conversation around this topic can take the tone of people looking to find loopholes or exploits in search engines via reverse engineering, at its core it’s really just recognizing the fact that any piece of digital content that you put out needs to balance being useful and engaging to your audience and being easy to find.

The key to all of this is the keyword, a flag that helps Google understand that you just might be exactly what a user is looking for.

If you haven’t already done your homework, and even if you have, the best place to start when you’re launching an AdWords campaign is with keywords. The good news is that Google actually provides you with a free tool to do all the research you need to get started, via their AdWords Keyword Planner. Regardless of whether or not you actually go forward with a paid campaign, you’ll get actionable information for building and refining a highly targeted keyword list.

Once you’ve logged in and given the Planner the info it needs about your site, you’ll be presented with a bunch of options for potential keywords you can bid on. Give special attention to the Locations setting: You can target specific ZIP codes to give your results a local focus for potential customers or clients near your business’s address.

Starting a campaign can be as simple as setting a budget, combing through your options, and dropping in some ad copy, but there’s more to the story. You’re looking at a list of words that Google thinks are relevant to your website, so it’s better to pull out the magnifying glass and make some observations.

Sifting Through the Keyword Options

Now you have this list of suggested terms, and you need to figure out what to do with it. The first thing is to get rid of anything irrelevant— stuff that maybe pops up because of how your products are named or something recurrent in your copy that actually isn’t relevant to your business. On the flip side, you want to use the “More like this” option to get more suggestions for keywords that look promising to dive even deeper into choices for your campaigns.

Then, it’s time to put them into action and collect some data on them. We need to learn more about how these keywords will actually work, so we’re basically going to hop on Google and make some observations. Because search gets customized based on your history, it might be a good idea at this point to bring up an Incognito window so you can get a clearer picture of what’s going on for the average user.

Take the most promising words and phrases from your list and run an organic search. Pay attention to everything! What AdWords posts come up? What does the front page of organic results look like? Are they mainly proprietary or third party? What words or phrases show up consistently in the results? How are the organic results titled? These kinds of things can help you identify what your current site is doing (and not doing) and make improvements. The other thing to pay attention to is what is happening with the autocompletion of the phrase, as targeting these narrower phrases can help you carve out a niche with relatively less competition.

Hopefully, all of this research helps you narrow down your list of keywords to some prime candidates for what will actually accomplish your goals. The next step is to take a step back and really think about how these pieces of the puzzle fit together. What is the intent behind a particular search term or phrase? Think about the person behind the keyboard or holding the phone. Is their query oriented towards just doing research, or is it what someone would search if they’re actually looking to make a purchase? If someone Googles “best locksmith number,” for example, they’re probably going to make a phone call to the first legit-looking place that they can find in their area. Really put yourself in a buyer’s shoes and you should be able to whittle down your terms to a useful selection for your business.

Do Recon on the Competition

Another important reality to consider for small businesses is that you have competition, and they probably have very similar goals to yours. While it’s natural to feel like you’re the smartest player at the poker table, the truth is that what you don’t know can hurt you, and you don’t want to be surprised by pocket aces. You need to look into what your competitors are doing so you can copy the good ideas and leverage their bad ones.

When you’re going through possible keywords to invest in, make special note of any time your competition pops up. Pay attention to the ad copy and titling they’re using, and compare it to both what the search term was and how it looks next to the organic results. If you put yourself in that buyer mindset, does it actually appeal to you? It’s easier to see things objectively when you’re looking at something that you haven’t made yourself, but make sure to take careful note of your observations and then ask yourself if your AdWords copy really is better, or if you’re falling for the same traps.

Tools to Research Your Competition

Beyond some simple observations, you need to know if your competitors are doing something you haven’t thought of yet. If they’re staking out keywords that are perfect for your local business, then you should make sure that you’re able to throw your hat in the ring, too. Luckily, there are tools to help you get a complete picture of what your opponents are doing.

SpyFu is the classic option for competitor keyword research. It’s the second generation of GoogSpy, and it’s an excellent way to get the information you need to see everything that’s going on with other businesses. All you need to do is enter a domain and you’ll get a report showing your competitors’ top organics, AdWords buys, and your competition’s competition for these terms, plus a whole slew of other useful information.

When you’re looking at a SpyFu report, there’s so much data available to you that it can make your head spin. Side-by-side across the page you’re looking at you get to see their organic search performance and estimated value vs. their AdWords performance and estimated monthly budget. The key here is that it gives you an idea of what their AdWords spending and performance is like, relative to their content marketing efforts, which helps you understand what their strategy may be. What you need to be thinking about is why they’ve chosen to commit to the keywords that they’re paying for, and how that might fit in with how their organics perform.

As you keep digging into the report, you can look at where they share keywords with competitors and where they occupy exclusive real estate (again, for both paid and organic). This can give you an idea of how they’re focusing their efforts in terms of a broad versus a narrow strategy in a particular area.

SpyFu will also analyze a company’s buys and those of its competitors, and let you know where there might be space for you to invest, and which other competitors have bought AdWords space for those terms as well.

Put it all together, and you’ll have a complete picture of what the AdWords terrain looks like, which will help you make some informed decisions about how you want to approach your own strategy.

Making Sure an AdWords Buy Makes Sense

Before we go forward, we need to take a moment to make sure the simple math checks out. With digital advertising, it can often be easy to lose track of what your ROI actually is while you focus on “winning” the digital scoreboard. The fact of the matter is that there are some keywords where there’s just no chance of being profitable, and you want to make sure you know what the situation is before you invest your time and money in something fruitless.

Since AdWords comes down to how much you pay per click, you need to understand what your maximum cost per click (CPC) is so you know whether or not it’s worth it to pay Google’s CPC. This ultimately comes down to your website’s conversion rate, your average profit per customer, and what kind of advertising profit margin you’re shooting for. While this seems like it’s getting a little complicated, Kissmetrics explains that it really comes down to fourth-grade math:

Max CPC = (profit per customer) x (1 – profit margin) x (website conversion rate)

Basically, we’re calculating how much you can pay per click and still hit your profit margin goal, considering your website’s conversion rate. So, if you make $100 per customer and you want to have a 40% profit margin with a 5% website conversion rate, you’re looking at a Max CPC of $100 x (1 – 0.40) x (0.05), or $4 per click.

Keep in mind that for something like conversion rate you’re going to have to hedge your bets based on how good your data is. The more data you have the more confident you can be in that number, and on the other hand, if there’s more uncertainty you’ll probably want to play it safe with a more pessimistic projection. You’re paying per click, so you want to ensure those clicks ultimately translate into growth. If you do your targeting right, you’ll be able to bump that conversion rate, which will allow you to have a higher Max CPC and put even more valuable keywords in play.

Tracking Conversions

A brief aside here to talk about how important it is to track conversions on your website. Knowing traffic numbers and how people get to you is all well and good, but at the end of the day, what keeps the lights on and the doors open is actually making the sale. There’s a way to track conversions via AdWords by getting buyers to a checkout or receipt page with embedded code, but the simpler way is to use Google Analytics and then plug that data into AdWords. This lets you keep track of not only what’s going on with AdWords, but also other sources of traffic and conversions.

Why Call Tracking is Key for Local Businesses

On the subject of conversions, one key for local businesses is that someone can still be converted without necessarily clicking through. For many places, an inbound phone call has a very high chance of becoming a sale, because it usually means a customer has finished their online research and is now trying to get something done.

So, how do we factor this into our tracking?

One option is a third-party tracking platform, which will help you keep track of more than just the inbound calls generated via AdWords, and gets this data into analytics. If you’ve done any amount of work on boosting your local search SEO (and if you haven’t, you should), you’ll know that a vital component of that work is making sure that there’s consistency across all of your listings, particularly for your name, address, and phone number (NAP consistency).

Because of this, you want to make sure the platform you choose is able to work with your actual phone number and not a special number just for tracking (although that still happens on the backend). Some good ones include CallRail, KeyMetric, and Infinity, but you can also browse through the full list of Google Analytics partners to find something that suits your business’s needs.

If a third-party system just isn’t in your budget, there’s baked-in call forwarding and tracking as part of AdWords, but you’ll have to miss out on other valuable data you can get from tracking all sources. This makes it harder to understand how big a role AdWords is playing in getting people to pick up the phone, but small business marketing budgets are a reality we all need to live with. In this case, install their snippet on your website and get what information you can.

Writing Great AdWords Copy

You don’t get a lot of space to make your pitch on AdWords, so you need to make sure that you do what you can to really reach out and grab your audience. In many ways, this is Marketing 101. What is your unique value proposition? How do you make someone an offer they can’t refuse? How do you make yourself seem like a safe bet?

The challenge with AdWords is that you only have two 30-character headlines, one 80-character description line, and a link to do all your marketing jujitsu. The good news is that you already know one thing, which is what your user is looking for. Going back to our locksmith example, you know that if someone is looking for a locksmith they probably have these kinds of questions in mind:

  • How soon can they get here?
  • How much will this cost me?
  • Can I trust these people?

So, how do you address all that with only two brief title lines, a short sentence, and a link? The key is to pack as much information into all four of those lines as you possibly can to address your customer’s most urgent questions. Here’s some copy that tries to address all those questions:

Boise’s Trusted 24/7 Locksmith – There ASAP, Top Rated on Yelp

30 Minutes Or Less, No Hidden fees, Flat $50 Rate, Satisfaction Guaranteed

Contrast that with this listing, which I pulled from Google (with the location and URL modified to not call them out directly):

Need A Locksmith In Boise – We Can Help Call Us Now 24/7‎

Fast And Local Response · Quality Locksmith Service · Only $19 Service Call‎

This example has a couple of red flags, especially the words “ $19 service call.” What about paying the locksmith? How much will this actually cost? “Local response” also implies that this company isn’t local, which is confirmed by their generic URL. If you click through to the landing page it’s also generic, confirming our suspicions that it’s not actually a local company.

Using Small Ad Groups

Segmenting is all the rage in marketing because it lets you create more individualized campaigns that will appeal to specific groups of customers that you’re trying to reach. If you do household repairs, a pitch that’s going to appeal to first-time homeowners will look very different than one that’s tailored to someone trying to get their house in order so they can sell. We talk a lot about segmentation in mailing lists, but the idea also applies to AdWords campaigns via the concept of ad groups.

Basically, you want to break up your keywords into ad groups that make sense together. You don’t have a lot of space with AdWords, and you need to make sure that your message really grabs your audience’s attention. Again, it’s about putting yourself in the mentality of what the intent is behind a keyword search and creating a message that appeals to that intent. A good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to no more than 20 keywords per group.

Customized Landing Pages

We talked briefly about landing pages in the locksmith example, where a dubious listing led us to a super generic landing page that tipped us off to the fact that the company in question wasn’t actually local. Another takeaway from that example is that customized landing pages for each ad group can make a huge difference in your conversion rates. This principle is well known to email marketers, and it also applies to AdWords as well.

Landing pages are simply a must for online marketing. You establish trust, answer any questions a visitor might have, and drive them to a strong (and precisely placed) call to action. There is so much to be said about making (and tweaking) landing pages that drive conversion but for the purposes of this guide, it’s enough to say that you should customize them based on what each ad group’s mentality is going into the search.

Taking Advantage of AdWords Extensions

As we learned, there’s a lot you can do with the limited space you’re afforded for AdWords copy, but you also have some options for giving even more information via AdWords Extensions. If you’ve set up this feature, your ad is ranked high enough, and Google thinks it will improve your performance, extensions will add things like a call button, location information, links to specific parts of your website, and more. These features mean your ad takes up more space on the page, which is especially important on mobile. Extensions are free to add, so make sure you take the time to configure everything—when the cost is free, you already know it’ll pay off.

But the best reason of all to use Extensions is because they make your add look bigger and more prominent and that alone can lead to better performance.

One of our favorite resources for information on PPC is the digital marketing agency tuff. Check out The 5 Most Common Questions Our PPC Manager Answers

Focus on Your Customer’s Mentality

At the end of the day, the important thing with building an AdWords campaign is that you are able to put yourself in the mindset of someone trying to get help with a problem—a problem that your business is ready to solve.

If you are able to focus on all the different mentalities that might lead a customer to consider giving you a call, you have everything you need to make a great AdWords campaign for your local business.

Need more local marketing tips? Check out our entire Guide to Local Marketing

4 How To Avoid the 3 Most Costly Mistakes When Using Google AdWords

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Adam Lundquist– Enjoy! 

photo credit: Red X via WikiMedia Commons

photo credit: Red X via WikiMedia Commons

Do you ever feel like your small business would get a better return on investment by literally lighting your money on fire than using Google AdWords?

You began your AdWords campaign for your small business with high hopes and launched it, excited to fulfill orders from your new customers. Except those orders never came.

You attempted to fix it with different keywords, ad copy, and the newest techniques from self-proclaimed “experts”. However, with each new “fix” you spent more of your time and money – but added no new revenue. You are low on advertising budget and even lower on patience.

If this is your experience then you are not alone, almost all small businesses make costly mistakes when they start using AdWords. This is because the AdWords system penalizes you for mistakes you do not even know you are making. Even worse, in some cases AdWords even encourages these mistakes. The more you mistakes you make the more money AdWords earns from extra clicks you don’t want.

This article helps you identify these mistakes – and more importantly learn how to correct them to put you on the path to AdWords profit.

Mistake One: Keywords In Broad Match

AdWords is set by default to have your keywords in broad match, and this causes your keywords to match for a huge variety of searches you never intended.

For example, if you are a pizza store in Philadelphia and use Google AdWords, you might bid on the keyword Pizza delivery in Philadelphia. You assume that a hungry user has to type in the phrase Pizza delivery in Philadelphia into Google to view your ad and order your delicious pie. However, that is not the case and it costs you money!

By default your ads shows for a huge variety of searches that you never intended. If not changed from default, your keyword Pizza delivery in Philadelphia actually signals to Google to show your ad for searches such as how to cook a frozen pizza, and when clicked, you still have to pay for that irrelevant click.

The discrepancy between the searches you intend your ad to show for and the actually searches that trigger your ad is because the AdWords system uses different match types for keywords. There are four main match types: broad, broad match modifier, phrase, and exact. The different match types allow you (the small business advertiser) to match for a broader or narrower range of actual search queries that users type in. Broad is (as it sounds) the most broad in terms of what searches trigger your ad, and it is ALWAYS set by default in Google AdWords. This means that it is at Google’s discretion to decide that a user’s search is “close enough” to your keyword. Since Google gets paid on every click, they have a broad view of what is close enough.

When beginning your account change the match type of your keywords. Make sure your keywords are either in either phrase match or broad match modifier. These match types ensure that the words you use as your keywords have to be the ones the users searched for in Google. Here is a handy chart to visually see the differences as well as the special symbols that change the match type:

photo credit: chart via PPC HERO

photo credit: chart via PPC HERO

Mistake Two: The Wrong Industry For An Immediate Sale

A common mistake when beginning AdWords is to immediately go for the sale. In some industries an immediate sale makes sense, but in many industries users are not ready to make the purchase at first interaction.  In these industries, the user needs to trust your company before they even consider making the purchase. If the user clicks on an ad and is taken to a site where the only option is a sale, if the user isn’t ready to purchase they have no choice but to leave your site without providing your business any valuable data.

Rather than throw money into the AdWords abyss a, try a different approach. A better way to run AdWords in these industries is to think of a longer sales cycle, and change your goal (called a conversion) from getting an immediate sale to getting their contact information. You can use your ads to send users to a page that asks for their contact information in exchange for a small incentive, build trust by marketing to them via the email they provided, and finally sell to them when they are ready to make a purchase and already trust your company. Incentives can include:

  • Free eBooks
  • Samples
  • Free consultations

This approach works best for industries where trust is key, such as an expensive physical product or a long-term service provider.

Mistake Three: Sending Users To The Homepage

Once you decide on your goals in AdWords, you need to send users to a page that matches the users search and makes it as easy as possible for them to convert. All too often I see new AdWords campaigns send users to the home page. The homepage doesn’t match the users search and conversions are unlikely to happen.  A homepage often has a variety of items and is designed for navigation deeper into the site rather than a conversion.

For example, let’s say you are in the right industry for an immediate sale, like a winter clothing retailer that sells winter hats amongst other items. If you are just beginning to use AdWords you may send all of the users to your generic homepage. If you buy the keyword winter hats and the user is sent to the homepage, which is crowded with all of your items, the user has to search to find the specific sales page for winter hats. This means the user had to spend additional mental energy to search more through your website and click again. The majority of users will not expend this mental energy– they leave your page without making a purchase.

You want to make it as easy and friction-less as possible for the user to convert by sending them to specific high-converting sales pages. If the user type in winter hats send them to the exact sales page for winter hats.

What is your biggest AdWords obstacle?

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Paid Search.

Adam LundquistAdam Lundquist (@adamlundquist) is the CEO of Nerds Do It Better, an Internet advertising agency for small businesses. He has been featured in The Harvard Gazette, Search Engine Journal, KISSmetrics, WordStream, PPC Hero, Certified Knowledge, Mtv, Vh1, Sports Illustrated, and Moz. Visit his site today for a free eBook: Make Internet Advertising Work For Your Small Business. 5 Steps To Find, Cultivate and Market To New Customers.


41 5 Ways to Guarantee Your Marketing Works

usertestingMarketing can, at times, be part art, part science, part intuition. Toss into that the fact that traditional market research produces results that are often misleading and sometimes flat out wrong because people don’t tell the truth in the traditional survey or focus group setting. It’s not that they are bad people, it’s that they don’t really know what makes them buy one thing over another. (Check out Buyology and my interview with author Martin Lindstrom for more on this.)

So, what’s a business owner, one’s who is constantly chasing the next brilliant marketing, product or service innovation, to do. Well, you can guess, consult a marketing guru or you can prove that you are indeed a marketing genius by testing every idea in the real world. (Marketing geniuses go with whatever wins the test, otherwise known as proof, and that’s the real genius part.)

Direct marketers have always been great testers, but I’m suggesting that even the smallest of businesses can test just about everything they do and practically guarantee better business and marketing decisions using a few simple tools.

Below are five ways to use some form of testing to make better decisions.

1) Google AdWords

Google’s fabulously popular advertising tool is actually one of the greatest test beds ever created. Any business write ads, bid on keywords and have those ads shown to prospects searching for something. The key though is that you can write multiple ads and have Google rotate showing the ads while recording which one gets clicked on the most. If you want to test a headline or even a product idea, you can have some incredible research from prospects, showing real intent, in a matter of hours for less than $50. I’ve used this method for years as a way to test ad copy that I might use in a print ad. Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Workweek told me he used this method when deciding on the title of his mega-best seller.

2) Google Website Optimizer

This free tool from Google allows you to test countless elements of a web page to see what gets the desired result. You simply create multiple versions of a web page, changing out an image, headline, call to action, or size of buy now button. Then you load the experiment into your Google Website Optimizer and let Google rotate the pages while keeping track of whatever the desired action is. You can test many variations at once, but keep in mind that the more variations the more traffic you will need to see a result. I’ve seen sites double the number of newsletter sign-ups, for example, by moving the sign-up form on the page or simply adding a more provocative headline. Now you can know for sure what works and keep testing to make it work better. Bryan Eisenberg’s Book – Always Be Testing – is a good place to learn the ins and out of this tool.

3) Marketing Board

This isn’t a technology tool as much as an idea. Go out there and find eight to ten folks in your community who could be convinced to help you grow your business. Clients, vendors, lenders, other small business owners all make great prospects for your board. The only real qualification is that they understand your market and they are motivated to help you.

Put a marketing plan in front of them, ask them to review it, comment, give suggestions on your marketing plans and materials and, most importantly promise them that you will accomplish a set list of marketing goals pertaining to the plan that you will give them an update at your next quarterly meeting.

Feed them some really good bagels or wine and send them home. Then get to work on revising and refining your marketing ideas based on their input and get ready for your next meeting.

4) User Testing

Web folks have been employing something called  usability testing for years. Essentially this is putting a prospect in front of your site and having them talk their way through navigating towards whatever your goal is. This is a very powerful, and frankly, necessary step for any website to be truly successful. The problem for the typical small business is that it can also be rather expensive.  One inexpesnive online solution is For just under $100 you can get some tremendous feedback about the user experience of your website.

Here’s how it works:

  • You sign up for user testing, specifying the  demographic profile of your target audience and how many user testers you want (one user costs $19, five users cost $95).
  • Users record their screen and voice as they use your website, speaking their thoughts as they browse.
  • You watch and listen to them use your site. Each user’s session – mouse movements, clicks, keystrokes, and spoken comments – is saved as a Flash video for you to watch.
  • You read their review and make improvements based on real-time experiences.

You could also apply a similar approach to marketing materials and product packaging.

5) Beta Launch

The software industry created the idea of launching products before they were finished, in a “beta” mode, with the notion that users would agree to provide input, bug fixes and feedback for the right to try it first or free.

You don’t need to be working on a web application to employ this powerful tactic. If you are creating a new product or service, why not build beta launches into your plan. By advertising a service, for example, as a test you can launch quicker, spend less getting going and gain insight and marketing research that can tell you

  • If there is a demand for your offering
  • If you’ve explained how to use it well enough
  • If you’ve got the right price
  • If you need to add or remove features
  • If test subjects get the desired outcome

In addition, this approach can create a bit of demand for a product or service from those early adopter types that like to play this role. If you create a product or service that’s a hit, you’ll also get needed testimonials, buzz and success stories from these early users. The community building and collaborative nature of this approach is something that I’ve seen a great demand for and something that social media participation has fostered as a bit of an expectation. It’s also a great way to get a product rolling. By giving the first buyers a chance to get a special price you build some momentum with the product or service.

I applied this approach to a recent product launch and I can’t tell you how much better the product became from the suggestions of a handful of early beta testers.

Image credit: Jose Kevo