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Supporting image for A Beginner’s Guide to Google AdWords – @paidinsights
A Beginner’s Guide to Google AdWords – @paidinsights
The Agents of Change

AOCP-Pinterest-Ross-Kaplan-WinnA common misconception surrounding Google AdWords is that people think no one ever really clicks those ads that show up on the right hand side of the search page. But whether you personally do or not, someone sure is, as those ads account for 90% of Google’s revenue from advertising as a direct result of people clicking those exact ads.

In order to get in on the action, your business needs to navigate the many choices and options offered by Adwords to best work with your specific business campaign’s goal. Quality is going to go a long way here, so making sure you are on point with your target audience will translate huge. Knowing where your audience is, attracting them with concise and helpful ad copy – think strong and concise keywords – as well as refining your targeting strategy (beware the automatic default settings), will all help you win big in the end.

Ross Kaplan-Winn loves helping businesses learn, test and implement online strategies, and has been managing PPC accounts since 2008. His knowledge and expertise is continually evolving as he stays up to date in the ever changing world of paid advertising.

Rich: Ross Kaplan-Winn consults on digital marketing strategy and the best ways to profitably grow a business online from beautiful Denver, Colorado. He has written one of the top posts for iSpionage – probably very similar to Espionage – and co-presented on the benefits of call tracking for Digital Marketing Depot. He also teaches small businesses and entrepreneurs how to make AdWords work for their business at paidinsights.com.

He also guest blogged for us over at the Agents Of Change blog, and it was such a success I just figured I’d invite him on the show and we can talk to him live. So Ross, thank you very much for coming on.

Ross: Thanks, Rich, I’m actually glad to be on and I first heard about you through Amy Porterfield’s podcast a few months back.

Rich: Oh cool.

Ross: I actually listen to yours as soon as it comes out. Don’t tell her that your is my favorite.

Rich: Excellent. I’m totally going to use that as the open credits for this week’s show. Ok, anyway, before we even jump in talking about AdWords, I want to talk to you about the new SERP layout for Google – SERP being “search engine results page – for those of you listening at home. The ads are no longer on the right hand column, so they’re only at the top of the page now, correct?

Ross: Yep, you got it. At the top and there can be a few at the bottom of the page as well.

Rich: Does this change anything we’re going to talk about today, do we need to think about AdWords differently because of these changes?

Ross: I don’t think so. I mean, the important thing to know is there can be four ads at the top as opposed to three. So you just want to keep your average ad position above four, is I think the main thing to think about.

Rich: Alright, sounds good. Well I’ve talked to clients over the years from flyte new media’s standpoint and we’ve talked about AdWords over the years with certain clients and the immediate response is, “Oh, those links on the right hand column? I never click on them.” How do you respond, you must have heard the same thing before? How do you respond when somebody says that to you?

Ross: Yeah, I hear it quite a bit and I usually just point to the fact that Google makes over 90% of their revenue from advertising and it’s from people clicking on those ads.

Rich: Right. So even if you’re not clicking, some billions of people out there are clicking and they’re buying stuff after they click on it.

Ross: Exactly. And there’s a good portion of people who don’t even realize they’re ads, believe it or not. So I see a lot of people click on them and don’t even know.

Rich: Oh, I believe it. I still get clients who have AOL email addresses, so I believe everything. Now if we’re just getting into AdWords – or perhaps we just haven’t touched it in a long, long while – where do we start with AdWords?

Ross: I think there’s a few things. One is that you need to make sure that people are actually searching for your product or service that you’re selling, because if they’re not searching, you won’t be able to reach them on an advertising platform like AdWords.

Rich: So how do we know if somebody is searching for our products, services, offerings, solutions, what have you?

Ross: Well for one you can just Google it yourself and see if other people are advertising. That’s a good way to gauge whether there’s an interest there. And then there’s also the Keyword Planner tool that you can use to get some search volume estimates, so you can see how many people are searching monthly.

Rich: And where do we find the Keywords Planner?

Ross: You can access it through AdWords, it’s under the “tools” dropdown. Google likes to hide a lot of their settings so you kind of have to dig in a lot of the time.

Rich: Alright, so if we’re just getting started, one of the first things we want to do is just make sure – like you said – that someone’s actually searching for this stiff. And we can do it by searching for ourselves. And if we’re seeing AdWords that must mean that other marketers who have already done their homework have realized that this is something that people are searching for and so there’s a very good chance that it’s worth advertising against.

And then also we can go into the Keyword Planner – which is part of the AdWords console – and I happen to know it’s free to set up AdWords, it’s just when you start running the ads it costs money. So using the Keyword Planner is completely free, correct?

Ross: Exactly, you got it.

Rich: So I know a lot of people want to make sure their AdWords are actually working for them You talk about “conversion tracking”. What is it and how do we enable it?

Ross: Yeah, I think this is actually one of the things I find a lot of small businesses don’t take the time to set up or don’t even realize they can set it up. Conversion tracking just allows you to track whether you got a lead or sale, it could be a phone call, you can even track those. It’s just basically what you’re trying to achieve through your advertising.

To set it up there’s a few ways. I think one of the best ways is actually through Analytics, it just makes it easy and a lot of people already have that on their website. You can create what’s called a “goal” in Analytics,a dn then when you link Analytics and Google AdWords you can then import those goals right into your AdWords account.

Rich: So if we’re familiar with setting up goals in Google Analytics, it’s very similar to what we would be doing for Google AdWords as well?

Ross: Right, right, you can actually use the same goals in both places.

Rich: Cool. And then if we’re selling something like t-shirts or shoes, can we tie that into specific pricing, too? I’m sure that’s more complex, but is that something we can also do with the conversion tracking?

Ross: It can be more complex. Some of the online shopping platforms will kind of make it easy for you, but yeah, you can definitely do that. There’s an enhanced e-commerce ability within Analytics that you can tie in.

Rich: Alright. Now some of the times when I’ve gone in there, Google is pushing me to advertise both on the search network as well as the display network. What should I go for, or should I do both?

Ross: So I recommend when people first start they just focus on the search network. The display network can be its own animal, if you will, so you might have different budgets, different targeting, different strategy. Search, I think, is probably the most straightforward way to get started. Google actually defaults to selecting the search network with “display select” as your campaign type. I find a lot of people unknowingly kind of mix display and search when they first get started with AdWords.

Rich: And you’re saying that that’s an expensive mistake?

Ross: Yes, definitely.

Rich: Okay. So just to get this clear in my own mind, the “search network” is what we traditionally think of as AdWords, those text ads that appear at the top of the different search engine results pages. The “display network”, is that when I’m surfing around the web and I see ad choices at the top and then they show me some sort of visual ad, is that the display network then?

Ross: Yeah, you got it. The display network can actually be text and more image based ads so you can have both there as well.

Rich: Okay. Now once we sign up it seems like AdWords suggests a lot of keywords for us to target. Should we just follow their lead there and then make changes afterwards, or do you think that that’s probably not the best approach?

Ross: Yeah, they definitely recommend a lot of keywords and a lot of them can be quite unrelated to what you want to advertise for. So I recommend trying to be as specific as possible, but you have to kind of balance search volume versus how specific you can target. 

Rich: Is there an optimal number, like when you talk about search volume – obviously we’re talking about the number of people that search on a given search phrase each month – is there an optimal number we should go with or is this just really that there’s no one size fits all and it really depends on your industry?

Ross: It’s kind of a tricky one. It could be as low as 30 searches a month, but if you have a few keywords that can get 30 searches, then you know you can get a decent volume there.

Rich: So when we’re looking at search volume we might be thinking about the entirely of our ad campaigns, not just for each specific keyword.

Ross: Yeah, definitely. That’s a good way to look at it.

Rich: Alright, cool. Now we also talked about narrowing. So obviously you don’t want to go too broad, it sounds like. I wouldn’t want to just do “web design” because I might get people clicking from all over and blow through my budget in no time. How can we more narrowly target some of these keywords, or more specifically, how can we more narrowly target our ads so they’re reaching the right people and not the wrong people?

Ross: There’s different ways to look at this. If you’re a local business you can target in a more localized area just in your zip codes or your cities. And then from a keyword perspective, you can change the match type so it may be that you don’t reach people as broadly, I guess I could say.

Rich: Can you talk a little bit about “match types”? I know that there’s 3 of them, to be honest I’m a little confused by them, so if you could kind of break those down for us, I think that that would be helpful.

Ross: Yeah. And actually I guess you could say there’s 4 of them; broad match, modified broad match, phrase match and exact match.

So we’ll start with “exact”. It has brackets around it and you only match to people that search for that exact keyword or phrase.

And then “phrase match” has quotes around it, and this enforces the word order of what people search for, but people can search for words before or after. So for example let’s say you’re targeting window repair. Someone might type “window repair Denver” and that would still match for phrase match.

And then “modified broad” actually has plus signs in front of the words that you want to more tightly control. These don’t have that strict word order matching so it allows a little more flexibility. Google says there is 20% of searches that are new every day, so that allows you to kind of catch those unknown searches.

And then “broad” is extremely broad and tends to match to terms that aren’t even related, so I would just be careful with that one.

Rich: Alright, so just working through these. So we started with “exact”. Now when you say “exact”, is that literally the definition, no more, no less and in the right order? Like if I wanted to do “dog training Portland Maine” that if somebody searches just for “dog training Maine”, it’s not going to be there? Or if somebody searches for “Portland Maine dog training”, my ad is not going to show up?

Ross: Right, it has to be in the exact word order. It will match to synonyms and plurals, so you do have a little flexibility.

Rich: So if somebody searched for “dogs training Portland Maine”, it would come up?

Ross: Right.

Rich: Ok. And “phrase”, how is “phrase” different than “exact”? Phrase is obviously within quotes, but what’s the difference between those two, I’m not clear?

Ross: It’s similar but you’re allowed to have an additional word or two before or after what you’re targeting.

Rich: I see.

Ross: So let’s say you’re targeting just “counselor” as a phrase match, but someone types in “Denver counselor”, that would still match to the “counselor” keyword.

Rich: And then “modified broad”, what are the limitations? I understand broad is obviously really broad. What is the difference between “broad” and “modified broad”?  Can you give us an example of those?

Ross: Yeah. “Modified broad”, so when you add a plus sign before a word, it kind of acts like an exact match for that word, but the word order isn’t enforced. An example of one that I’m working on now is for a health counselor. So we target anxiety therapy, for example, but those words have to be in the search but it can be in reverse order. So it can be therapy for anxiety, for example.

Rich: And that would be under “modified broad”?

Ross: Right.

Rich: Ok, makes sense. So those obviously are ways that we can determine how narrow or broad our search is. You also mentioned location so we can target a specific geographical area. Negative keywords, that’s another way that we can target. Can you talk a little bit about “negative keywords”?

Ross:  Yeah. And this is a big one that a lot of people either seem to miss or don’t really understand. So “negative keywords” kind of restrict your ads from showing. So using the camp counselor example, if I’m trying to reach a mental health counselor, using a negative keyword of “camp” would be a good opportunity to exclude people searching for those.

Rich: Sure. And I’m sure that other industries have words that are also being used by other industries but we don’t want to get that traffic. And just to be clear, if we’re getting people who are clicking on our ads but they’re looking for camp counselors, all that is doing is just costing us money.

And also I don’t understand – and maybe this is the next question – there’s a quality score involved, too. So if somebody clicks on a link and goes to our website and immediately backs up and clicks on another one that I’m guessing has a negative impact on our quality score as well. Can you kind of explain a little bit what the quality score is?

Ross: Yeah. I think you might be looking at it a little more from a SEO perspective. From the PPC perspective, click through rate is one of the major factors in quality score. And what it is is basically how relevant the search is to your ad, and then a little bit to the landing page as well. So you want everything as targeted as possible throughout the entire search process.

Rich: Alright. And I do want to get to landing pages in just a minute. But before we get to that, one of the things that trips a lot of people up is actually writing the ad copy itself. So do you have any tips for writing ad copy that’s gonna get people clicking on our ads?

Ross: Yeah. One of the “best practices” if you will, is to use your keyword in your ad at least once. A lot of people recommend doing it in the headline. I think what’s really important is to kind of think about your prospect or customer and try to answer a question that they’re asking when they’re searching. You really want to speak to benefits as opposed to features. And then you also want to have a call to action, so tell them what to do next. You can’t say “click” in an ad, but you can say “call today” or “call now”.

Rich: Sure, absolutely. So another thing that I read in your blog post that I didn’t know much about was these “ad extensions”. Now do we need ad extensions, what do they give us?

Ross: Ad extensions basically allowed our ad to be larger, which means that it will be more likely to be clicked. So back to that quality score thing, it just kind of makes Google happy.

Rich: So what are the ad extensions? If I enable them, what am I getting by doing that?

Ross: There’s kind of a list of them. A common one is a call extension and that allows your phone number to show, and then if people search on a mobile device, it actually allows them to click a call button right there to get a hold of someone.

And then there’s a handful of others, there’s site links, which are basically extra links to your website so you can link out to your “about page” or your “contact page”. Call outs are another one that allows you to highlight features or benefits in addition to your main text. I like those because it allows you to maybe highlight a feature that you don’t have to then say in your ad which gives you more space to sell in the ad text.

Rich: Now it doesn’t sound like there’s any downside of ad extensions, so do they cost us more?

Ross: No. And actually, there really isn’t a downside. You might not want to put a location extension – which shows your physical address – if you’re not servicing people at that address. But besides that, I don’t think there’s a downside.

Rich: Fantastic, alright. I don’t know if we’re doing that with some of our clients but I’m definitely going to add that in. Alright, so let’s talk a little bit. So we’ve done our keyword research, we know what words we’re doing, we’ve written our ad copy, now we want to send them to our page. I know I’m not supposed to send them to my homepage but I’m supposed to send them to a specific landing page that kind of carries this thread along – which a lot of people either call a “squeeze page” or a “landing page”. What are some of your tips for creating high converting landing pages?

Ross: Well for AdWords they can be a little strict so it’s important to have links to a privacy policy and possibly an “about” page, if you’re going to use a landing page that’s sort of stripped of navigation. But like you said, it’s really important to send people to the most relevant page possible. So whether that’s a specific product page or a more general category page, relevance is the key.

Rich: Alright, so when I say “squeeze page” vs “landing page”, it’s exactly what you just said. I like to strip out the navigation, minimize the options, really try and drive traffic. It sounds like there’s still some links I need to include to make Google happy on that.  Are there specific things that you’ve seen – maybe getting people to join an email list or getting them to click on a “buy now” button, certain calls to action, certain headlines, certain colors, certain placement of images, A/B split testing – how do you run that for your clients?

Ross: Yeah, I probably should do more split testing, to be honest.

Rich: I love the honesty.

Ross: I think it’s just really important to align what you’re saying in the ad with the landing page so people will feel like they’re in the right spot if the ad headline matches the landing page headline. And then I think it’s just kind of a clear call to action. So if you’re asking for an email sign up, tell them what they’re going to get on the button that they click on the landing page. I think clarity is the key here over creativity.

Rich:  Makes sense. Now you had mentioned earlier on that some people are looking for phone calls, and I don’t think a lot of small business owners think about AdWords aligning with phone calls. What are some of the options that we have when it comes to this pay per call idea?

Ross: Yeah, it actually works the same way. People can call directly from the ad and there’s two ways to do it. One is through those ad extensions that we spoke about before as a call extension. And Google also has “call only campaigns”, so the headline will actually be a phone number and it will only show up on a mobile device, and by clicking that they kind of skip the landing page altogether and call directly. 

Rich: And this is all trackable through Google?

Ross: Yeah, and you can even set a minimum duration for the call. So let’s say you tend to convert people who talk for over 60 seconds, you can set that number as your desired goal.

Rich: Cool. And I also know that in the regular Google AdWords there’s day parting, where you can say I only want my ads to run during certain times of the day. I assume you can do the same thing with phone calls so that your phone is not ringing at midnight when you’re only a 9-5 company?

Ross: Yes, yes you can definitely do that.

Rich: Alright. Definitely a lot of options to play around with here. It feels like on some level Google AdWords is easy enough for everybody to use, but on some other level there’s just so much going on. If somebody wants to learn a little bit more or maybe talk to you one on one, where can they find you online?

Ross: I write about AdWords for beginners at paidinsights.com. I actually wrote a guide of the top 16 AdWords default settings that people should avoid. I would recommend grabbing a copy of that and taking a look.

Rich: Great, we’ll have a link to that in the show. Ross, this has been very helpful, I appreciate all your time and effort in putting this together and thanks again for your time.

Ross: Thank you, Rich.

Show Notes:

  • You can find out more about Ross on his website, and when you sign up for his email list, you can access a free copy of his article, “16 AdWords Default Settings That Are Costing Your Business Money.”
  • Check out Ross’s recent contribution to the Agents Of Change blog.
  • A big thank you to Melissa Kennison of Sea Bags who contributed to this week’s “From the Trenches” segment!
  • Rich Brooks is the founder and owner of flyte new media, as well as the creator of the Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference.AOCP-FB-Ross-Kaplan-Winn