As Google will (and does) tell you, you don't necessarily have to spend a lot on AdWords to get a lot out of the pay-per-click advertising. But even if you have a small daily budget, you want to make sure your money is not being wasted -- or at least try to ensure that the right people are clicking on your AdWords campaigns.
So to find out how your business can improve the odds of your AdWords campaigns reaching your target audience or customers, Google AdWords users and experts offer their 10 top tips for AdWords success.
1. Have a clear goal. "The most important part of any SEM [search engine marketing] campaign is to have a clear goal in mind," says Michael Ortner, CEO, Capterra, which connects buyers and sellers of business software.
"The point of almost any AdWords campaign should be to grow sales, as opposed to merely generating brand awareness (which is more difficult to measure)," Ortner says.
"With that in mind," Ortner says, "the advertiser needs to know what specific action they are trying to get their target market to perform. Is it completing a lead form? Calling an 800 number? Making an online purchase? Before you go live with your campaign, make sure you've identified that goal and know how you'll measure the results."
2. Keep your target customer in mind when writing your ads. When "writing ads, follow the AIDAS principle of advertising," says Alexa Talpau, director of Online Marketing at Webs9, an Internet marketing company. That is, make sure your ads will "attract the Attention of your audience, raise customer Interest, convince customers that they Desire your product, lead customers towards taking Action (include a call-to-action) and [provide] Satisfaction if they end up choosing your website."
3. Don't mislead customers. "Your ads need to be entirely accurate for the landing page advertised," says Talpau. "Your top targeted keywords should be used in the content included on that landing page and in the ads text," she continues. Above all, "Don't mislead your audience! Make sure that each ad group is entirely relevant for the landing page you're promoting and [that] it's only being displayed for relevant queries."
4. Use negative keywords. "Always remember to include negative keyword targeting," says Susan Mirkin, online media specialist, Market Mentors, a full-service marketing agency. "Negative keywords are keywords related to other keywords in the campaign that are not related to what is being advertised," she says. "This further qualifies the ads within a campaign, ensuring ads do not show to users who would not find them relevant anyway."
"Negative keywords help to streamline your ad, presenting it on more relevant search result pages," says Beth Horodnyk, Marketing anf PR manager, I Think Security, which provides cloud-based data protection solutions. "This drives better quality traffic and leads to your landing pages, while also improving your Google AdWords Quality Score."
5. Target your ads. "Implement all three types of keyword targeting -- exact match, phrase match, broad match -- into your targeting strategy," advises Mirkin. "Bid the most for exact match keywords and the least for broad match keywords." She also suggests you "separate ad groups by keyword type, in addition to category, to keep the campaign well-organized."
To further help you reach your intended audience, use " Google's targeting criteria," says Joy Gendusa, founder and CEO of PostcardMania, postcard marketing experts. For example, you can use geo-targeting to have your ads run in a particular geographic area.
"You can also target ads according to type of website (health and wellness, automobiles, etc.). And you can target prospects by certain Web behavior, like often visited websites that are relevant to your business," she explains. "You can also choose to place your ad on a particular website and keep it there, if you desire."
6. Don't ignore mobile users. "Ensure that you are using mobile-preferred ads within your enhanced campaigns," says Shelly Cihan, digital marketing manager, Adworkshop, a digital marketing agency. "This allows for customized message and mobile specific calls-to-action (CTAs) that will speak directly to your mobile users," she explains. "Coupling this with a mobile-optimized landing page will result in higher conversion rates and a positive user experience."
7. Always be testing. "Once you identify your AdWords campaign goal/action, plan various tests to try to maximize your outcome," says Ortner. "These tests [should] span the entire funnel, beginning with identification of keywords to bid on and which ad copy to use, to the design of the landing page and any follow-on email marketing campaigns," he says. "But only run one test at a time. If you change your landing page design and add 20 new keywords to your campaign at the same time, you won't know which change made a bigger impact."
"Test, test and then test again," says Talpau. "You can only guess what might work best, as it's impossible to predict exactly what your targeted market will consider as being most appealing and trustworthy," she says. And "sometimes one single word can make all the difference."
To get the best results, Talpau says, "create variations of your ads and monitor which gets the best click through rate, the lowest cost per click, the highest number of conversions, etc." Once you know what works, keep only those ads that are performing well -- and start the process over again.
8. Implement conversion tracking. "Being able to see what keywords are triggering a sale or a lead is huge in bid management and optimizing the account to increase ROI," says Jason Otter, senior SEM manager, PCG Digital Marketing.
"Setting up conversion tracking is critical," agrees Brent Curry, CEO & Principal, Lodestone Generation, which specializes in search engine marketing. "For your business a conversion may be a purchase, a sign-up or a lead. It is the action or actions that you want your visitors to take on the website," he says.
"Without proper tracking in place, you cannot trace and promote the successful keywords, ads or keyword themes." Moreover, conversion tracking "allows ongoing optimization based on the data but also gives you direct insight into the ROI for your efforts."
9. Monitor and tweak your campaigns. "It can be hard to manage by yourself but a good campaign needs to be monitored and tweaked [regularly]," says Sean Williams, digital marketing specialist, Referlinks Full Circle Marketing."Doing this at least once a week can keep your costs low by eliminating ineffective keywords."
AdWords settings "can be adjusted throughout the duration of each campaign," says Mirkin. So "take advantage of the opportunity to make changes while the campaign is running," she says. Some of the campaign changes she has made include: "pausing keywords and ads with low click-through rates, lowering keyword bids if a campaign is hitting daily budget limits and adding new versions of copy if ads are underperforming."
Make " search term reports your best friend," says Salman Aslam, CMO, Omnicore, a digital marketing agency. "Your search term report can help you identify low click-through rates, higher cost-per-click keywords, decreased time on site and a host of other issues that can negatively affect your bottom line," he explains. Using the search term report, you can then "clear out keywords that have become obsolete or are low performers" -- and replace them with new keywords that will hopefully perform better.
"As long as you've configured it correctly in Google Analytics, Smart Lists leverages Google's big data capabilities to track who has visited your website by any means (including AdWords campaigns), and identifies who is statistically most likely to convert," Penn says. "Google then pushes that data back into AdWords for you to use in your AdWords campaigns for remarketing. It's a powerful tool that not many people know about or have talked about for making the most of your ad dollars."
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a contributor to CIO.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees, and partners.
Read more about online marketing in CIO's Online Marketing Drilldown.