Find Your Way to The Top with Google Adwords

AOCP-Pinterest-Leslie-LewisThe significance of inbound marketing is undeniable. Consumers are smarter, savvier, know what they want and have innumerable resources to get it. So it’s our goal as business owners to be wherever our potential customers are looking for us.

Pay per click advertising has a proven track record as an effective strategy for inbound marketing. It’s fast, nimble, far reaching and makes managing and tracking your efforts simple. If you find that your SEO efforts are not quite where you’d like them to be, pay per click is a fantastic complement to this, as well as providing a nice boost to your other marketing efforts.

Leslie Lewis knows a thing or two about managing successful marketing campaigns. She leads her agency’s efforts in all online marketing, overseeing campaign management and strategy for search, social and mobile media buys.

Rich: As Director of Paid Search, Leslie Lewis leads the agency’s efforts in all online marketing, overseeing campaign management and strategy for search, social and mobile media buys. She also manages the company’s Peterborough, NH office.

Previous to joining @Website Publicity in 2007, Leslie was a Project Manager for a Web technology firm and, before that, served as Managing Editor for various national print magazines, such as Men’s Journal, Self and Premiere Magazine.

As part of her industry and community interests, Leslie is active in trade organizations such as the VT/NH Marketing Group and the National Etailing and Mail Order Association (NEMOA), as well as serving on the Budget Committee for the Town of Peterborough and on the Board of the Cornucopia Project.

Leslie is obviously keeping very busy. Leslie, welcome to the show and thank you for squeezing us in.

Leslie: Hi, Rich.

Rich: So how did you get interested in pay per click?

Leslie: As Managing Editor I was not on the marketing team, but I did manage a lot of people, so when Susan was looking to expand her business she tapped me to manage staff. And I had no pay per click experience but because it was 2007 nobody had any pay per click experience, so that was ok and I kind of learned as the industry grew and found I had a real knack for statistics.

Rich: Do you think that that’s kind of a prerequisite to doing well with pay per click, is that you really were a numbers person?

Leslie: No. I think you have to have a real curiosity for cause and effect. I don’t think necessarily understanding percent change and all those kinds of things is as important when you’re managing an Adwords campaign as saying to yourself, “Hmm, that’s different.What did I do and is it good, if not what can I do to fix it?”

Rich: So how do you – when you’re looking at your stats – what are you looking at when you go into your Adwords reports and say is this working or is this not working? What are some of your KPI’s (key performance indicators)?

Leslie: It really depends on the business, and everybody should work hard to define what their goals are for success. I would say that’s the first key to success in Adwords management is really understanding what it is you’re after. 

So for instance if you’re after a certain CPA goal then that would be your key KPI goal or an ROI goal. It really is up to you. So for instance if it’s a CPA I would go into the account and make sure that I’m looking at that value and ask if it’s meeting the value, is it exceeding the value or if it’s under goal how do I maximize that group of keywords to do more.

Rich: And CPA – just because I’m an idiot – stands for “cost per acquisition”, correct?

Leslie: That’s right. And it’s referred to in a lot of different ways, like CPO, which is “cost per order”. It’s basically how much did you spend divided by how many of a thing did you get.

Rich: Right. And I’m guessing basically every small business owner should know what their cost per acquisition is anyway before they start playing around with Google Pay Per Click or any pay per click campaign.

Leslie: Yes, I would recommend having a goal. Not everybody has an order, some people just want traffic at a certain cost, but you have to identify what that goal is.

Rich: Alright. Now I’m sure you must have heard this working in pay per click for so long, there’s a lot of small businesses out there that would say, “Why would I pay for traffic when I can get traffic for free in the organic listings?” What do you say to people when they bring that concern up to you?

Leslie: There’s a couple things. One is that it is a proven fact that having your ads in both places will raise your click rate on both places, so you kind of want to be everywhere. The other thing is that with ads you control your messaging. With the organic listings you have a static message – and Google will choose which page to deliver in your organic listing – so whatever the messaging is on the page that Google decides to deliver is what the searcher will see. As opposed to pay per click when you can change the ads up as much as possible based on whatever your goals are at the moment.

Rich: Ok, so that makes a lot of sense. So you had mentioned before that we want to be clear on our goals when we start getting into pay per click, what else do we need to consider? What kind of research should we be doing if we’re going to try to do this on our own?

Leslie: I think before you get started in Adwords you really do want to read through their help files, and they’re pretty extensive. But they do have tutorials, if you go to the partner website – I think it’s – they have a whole set of tutorials that takes you from the very beginning up to more complex concepts. And you can take the test, you can become a certified Adwords user. It’s free, but it will show you that you have the knowledge that Google thinks you need to be an Adwords user.

Rich: Alright. So let’s start with just some basic questions about Adwords and I do think that most people when they hear “pay per click” they think of Google Adwords. What’s the difference between a keyword, an ad and an ad group?

Leslie: Ok, so the structure of any campaign starts with a keyword. So a keyword can be what a person types into the search box. That is the base definition of a keyword. So if you type in “yellow tennis shoes” and I sell yellow tennis shoes, I will want to also be bidding on that keyword. So that’s the difference, there’s a search keyword and a bid keyword, which people get confused about.

So what we’re going to be talking about is bid keywords, the keywords that the advertiser is bidding on in the account. So an ad group is comprised of keywords. And the ad copy is tied to the ad group not the keyword. So each keyword will not fire a different ad text. Does that make sense?

Rich: Ok, so let’s use that example of the yellow tennis sneaker. So let’s say that I’m targeting yellow tennis sneakers and red tennis sneakers and blue tennis sneakers, do all three of those key words that I’m bidding on all go into one ad group or does that make more sense to go into three ad groups?

Leslie: So what you want to do is you want to make your ad groups as granular as possible, because what you’re trying to do is develop proof of relevance to Google. So you want your keyword to match the words in your ad text and you want the ad text to go to a landing page that fulfills the promise of that ad text.

So if I say I sell orange tennis shoes, then that landing page should have orange tennis shoes on it. So what you want to do is you want to say I have 4 ad groups for color, so blue would include 5 blue tennis shoes, and the red one would have the red keywords and so on and the ad text would say, “I sell red tennis shoes”, and that would be linked to the red ad group and the landing page would also prove that out.

What this does when proving relevance to Google is that Google will give you what’s called a “better quality score”, which will allow you to have a better position on the page while maybe paying less than other people who are bidding on the same keyword. So I think in terms of best practices for Adwords users, that concept is really the key to all of your success. If you can get your ad in a better position for a lower cost, then your cost per acquisition goes down.

Rich: Alright, that makes a lot of sense. Let me see if I can kind of regurgitate that. Particularly what you’re saying is we want to create very granular ad groups and then send people to a page that’s very specific to the ad we just served up to them, because that’s going to improve our quality score, which may give us the opportunity of ranking higher in their bidding with actually not paying as much. Is that pretty close to what you said?

Leslie: Yup.

Rich: Awesome. Alright, so we understand quality score now. I’ve heard people talk about negative keywords, and I guess that’s a way of preventing us from coming up with searches that may have similar words but are not really what we want to advertise for. How do we work negative words into this?

Leslie: So, that’s exactly right. Negative keywords will prevent your ad from firing. So it’s important to understand the concept of match types when you talk about negative keywords. Google has 4 match types, the principle of which is exact phrase and broad match.

So if you are on exact match, your ad will only fire if someone has typed in exactly what you’re bidding on, yellow tennis shoes. If you’re on phrase match, you can add words to either end of your keyword. So if you were bidding on yellow tennis shoes and I type in “buy yellow tennis shoes”, your ad will still come up. Broad match is Google will match you to synonyms and Google will decide what those synonyms are.

Rich: So if somebody searched for “yellow sneakers”, my ad still may show in that situation.

Leslie: Possibly. If someone typed in “yellow stilettos”, your ad might show up. So broad matches can be very broad, so you want to be super careful. So when you’re using negatives, you take into account your match type. So for instance if I’m bidding on “yellow tennis shoes” but I don’t really want to show up for related tennis things. So if someone typed in “yellow tennis shoes and skirts”, maybe I would want to make skirts a negative because I don’t really want people to click on my ad if they’re expecting to see skirts on that page. That’s an example of a negative blocking your service.

Rich: Alright, that makes a lot of sense. So now we’ve written our ads, we’ve got everything all signed up, what tactics have you seen effective in terms of writing ads that drive more clicks to our website? Are there any tips or tricks you can share with us?

Leslie: Well call to action is always important. And by that I mean we’re asking someone to do something . You have to be careful with Google’s best practices, they have some limits to what you’re allowed to say in an ad. You’re not allowed to use superlatives – like “best” – so you wouldn’t want to say “best deal”. They also don’t allow you to say the word “click”, so you can’t say “click here”. But you can say, “best sales, buy now.”

You can use dynamic insertion in the headline and the ad text, which means that Google will supply the keyword in place of your default setting so that your more close to the line to what the search has put in there.

Rich: So for example, if I was doing pay per click for our Agents of Change Conference and I wanted to target people in New England and if somebody searched for “Maine Digital Marketing Conference”and somebody in New Hampshire searched for “New Hampshire digital marketing conference”, I could actually dynamically populate my ad with the words “Maine” or “New Hampshire” based on the search that was just done?

Leslie: That’s right. If you’re bidding on those keywords.

Rich: If you’re bidding on those keywords, absolutely. Alright, that makes sense. So we’re writing our ads, maybe we’re using some dynamic text, we’ve got our good call to action without offending Google in any way, and now we send them to our website. And what I’ve seen some people do is they just send them to their homepage which of course leads people to get lost and not find it. What are some of the best practices on terms of where do we send people on our website? And then do you have some tips or tricks on how to improve our conversion rates once we get this paid traffic to a page on our site?

Leslie: Yes. We talked a little bit about this, you want your landing page to fulfill the promise of your ad. So it would be better if you are selling yellow tennis shoes to drop them to a page that just has yellow tennis shoes on it. If you’re bidding on “tennis shoes” you would put them to a larger category page that maybe had all of your tennis shoes. That’s the most important aspect, you want people to have to click as little as possible to get to their desired location. I would say only if you were bidding on your own name or you only sold tennis shoes would you put them on your homepage of your website.

Rich: Ok. Now Leslie, have you done any experimentation with what we call “squeeze page” where there’s no navigation on a page and you’re just selling that one product or having that one offer that you advertised, or so you always send them to a page that you could get to otherwise on your website?

Leslie: Well, it depends on what you’re after. I would say for most people you can put them just on your regular website. If it’s an internet only deal then you would maybe want to drop them to a page that only fired for your ads. It really depends.

Rich: Ok. Now what mistakes do you see that people – especially small businesses – are making when they’re putting their PPC campaigns? What are some typical mistakes that you’d like to steer some people away from?

Leslie: Well I think not using negative keywords is a big one. I see a lot of people using broad match because that’s the default when you put keywords into AdWords and people may not know that you can change the match type.

I think that understanding your cost per click and what you’re willing to pay will help you control costs. But also that people sometimes bid way too low and it’s important to always check. Google will flag your keywords with the under first page bid flag, which means you’re bidding so low that you’re just not appearing very often on the page. So you need to be careful of those aspects.

And I would say your daily budget is probably the most important consideration to make. If you’re doing simple math, if you have 200 keywords in a campaign and you’re willing to pay $.10 a piece, what would your daily budget need to be if each of those keywords got clicked once.

Rich: Are you asking me a math question?

Leslie: I’m asking people who use Adwords to do math, yes. You don’t have to do math, Rich.

Rich: Ok. Thank you very much, otherwise I’m going to have to edit this in where I had the answer right away for you. But we’ll just admit that I am mathematically challenged, actually.

So setting your daily budget appropriately is the point that you’re trying to make. That you need to spend enough?

Leslie: You need to both spend enough and be clear on what it is you’re going to be spending. If you put in $50 a day and you do the math, what is that going to be a month and can you afford that.

Rich: Should you always follow what Google tells you to bid? I know like if I go in and I want to bid on something Google will say, “here’s what we think you should bid”, it will be up to that point, it may be less.

Leslie: Yes. It may be less but it will never be more.

Rich: Right. And do you as a manager just do what Google tells you or do you have your own strategies that you can share with us in terms of when you actually bid that amount versus when you set your cap lower than that?

Leslie: Oh no, I believe everything Google says. No, I think you need to use your own common sense. Google often overestimates so it’s really up to you to make those common sense decisions.

Rich: Ok. One thing I hear people who sell pay per click services say all the time is, “You really need to be spending $1,000 a month, $5,000 a month, $10,000 a month to see any kind of real action.” And I’ve never quite understood this, because if we’re paying per click shouldn’t we start small and get a sense of what our most effective ads are, and then when we find that effective ad then we start throwing money at it? Besides just a numbers game, what is the reason why people say that if you really need to dominating a niche and you have to be spending this much money every single day or every single month?

Leslie: Well, I think there’s a couple different concepts there. If you want to dominate the niche you have to be prepared to spend whatever that means. If you want to start small then you have to make choices. If you have a website that has thousands of products on it, then you need to pick one vertical or one category and start there, maybe it’s your best selling category or the one that has the best deal.

It depends on how many keywords you need to run. If you have a very small niche business that has very low click volume you may be able to do very well with very low spend. But if you have tons of product and you’re in a very competitive vertical – tennis shoes is a good example – then you have to be prepared to pay a fair bit of money to play in that space.

Rich: Alright, that makes sense. Are there certain businesses or certain products or offers that just have no business being in pay per click, it’s just not the right fit for them?

Leslie: You know, I really can’t think of one. Can you think of one?

Rich: I can’t, that’s why I asked you the question. I mean it seems to me that there are certain businesses where it obviously makes sense, lawyers and travel and tennis shoes. But I’m sure there’s small businesses out there that say, “Well, my business doesn’t really seem to fit into pay per click”, and I just wondered if you’ve seen some examples where it’s like it didn’t make sense for people to spend on that. Maybe it was a new category of products and their needed to be education and there was a better approach to generating qualified leads at the website or something like that.

Leslie: To be perfectly honest, I have actually come across a couple groups that signed up with us and it just didn’t work that way. It depends what you’re after. If you’re just after exposure then obviously everyone can benefit from being on the web, but there are a couple of things – for example, medical transcription – I couldn’t sell services online. I think it’s mostly because big hospitals buy it and the sales cycle doesn’t work that way, it’s all networking and that sort of thing. People don’t change transcriptions services on a whim.

So those longer sales cycle businesses maybe don’t need to be as aggressive I do feel like you do need to have a presence online and maybe it isn’t pay per click, maybe it’s really paying attention to your Google+ page and your Google business listings and not paying per click. But I think everyone should at least try it before they say this is not for me.

I do often come up against people who say, “Well that’s just not something that will work for me”, and our position is you have to test everything before you can say that.

Rich: Amen, amen to that. You do have to test everything. One last question before I let you go. Google display network, how does that fit into everything we’ve talked about today, or is that a completely different subject?

Leslie: Well, it can work on a pay per click model, so it is sort of the same tool but it has a much different focus. And that is that it’s a much different awareness driven tool, or what they call further up the funnel. So if pay per click – where people are putting your product or service in a search box – people are at the bottom of the funnel for something, and in the Google display where they’re doing a lot of other things. Your ad will appear, they might notice it, they could click, but they’re not really in a buying place so the conversion rate and your CPA will be much lower.

On the other hand, the Google display network has become a favorite subject of mine because the targeting for it has become much more granular and you can really get in front of the audience that serves you the best. So it has become a further down the funnel function than it used to be. I think it’s maybe not for a rank beginner because it can be very dangerous in terms of spend, you have to be super careful what you’re doing and you need to check it frequently and the metrics may not be the same as paid search. But it’s definitely a better tool than it used to be, and again, if people feel they have the bandwidth or if they feel paid search isn’t really for them but they do want people to have an awareness level of their product or service then they should test it.

Rich: That makes a lot of sense. Alright, cool. So this has been great and very helpful, so where can we find out more about you, Leslie, and website publicity?

Leslie: You can go to our website,

Rich: And how about you, do you hang out on Twitter or anywhere else we might find you?

Leslie: I do not.

Rich: Alright, well then I guess we’ll find you at your website. Leslie, thank you very much for your time today, I appreciate it.

Leslie: No problem, Rich.

Show Notes:

  • Find out more about Leslie and how Website Publicity is helping businesses find success with paid search.
  • If you’re new to Google Adwords, Leslie suggests you check out their tutorial.
  • Eager to learn more about search, social and mobile digital marketing for your small business? Then be sure to hurry and buy your ticket to the Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference in Portland, Maine. Can’t make it in person? No worries, you can get a digital pass instead!AOCP-FB-Leslie-Lewis