Google Adwords: 7 beginner tips for small businesses and start-ups

If you are a small business looking to dip your toeGoogle Adwords into online advertising then Google AdWords is a good place to start.  PPC (pay-per-click) search engine advertising can offer an affordable advertising option for your business. But how do you get the best ROI when you are competing against big businesses with sizeable budgets? We take a look at 7 helpful tips to ensure small businesses and start-ups get the most bang for their buck.

Google is probably the most well-known and popular search engine so it makes sense to start your online advertising journey through Google AdWords.  In a nutshell, Google Adwords works by enabling you to bid to place you advertisement in front of  someone searching through keywords related to your product or service. You only pay when someone clicks through from the advertisement to your website.

Here is an example of ads that crop up when I typed ‘ Online French courses’ into Google. The ads are marked and appear to the side and at the top of the natural search results. Where you advertisement ranks depends on a combination of your CPC (cost per click bid)  and your ‘ Quality Score’ (relevance to the search, the quality of your landing page and click-through rate).

Example of google adwords ads

Benefits of Google AdWords to small businesses:

  1. You only spend what you can afford. There is no minimum spending commitment  so you can work out a budget to suit your individual business.
  2. You only pay when someone clicks through the advertisement to your site.
  3. With a bit of practice Google AdWords is pretty straightforward to use with plenty of guides to help you through setting up your account and getting your first campaign off the ground. Checkout Google Adwords Support.
  4. You can measure the success of your ads so you can continuously experiment and make tweaks to improve performance.

On the downside Google Adwords is not something you can quickly knock up and then leave to tick over by itself. It takes a while to get the best results and a fair amount of on-going commitment to get a good return on investment. You’ll need to spend time researching the best keywords, monitoring performance and tweaking your ads.

Here are 7 helpful tips to ensure your small business or start-up get the most out of Google AdWords

Google search engine1. Keep things simple to start. You’ll wield better results by keeping things simple at first and getting the basics right before progressing to more advanced options.  As we mentioned earlier it will take a bit of practice to get the hang of things and a fair amount or adjusting and tweaking to get the best results. With a small budget and a number of other roles to juggle it is a good idea for small businesses to  begin by advertising on Google Search before advancing on to Google Display Networks (these are other Google owned properties like YouTube and Google Partner sites like The New York Times). This way you have a better feel for what keywords are performing better before investing more of your hard-earned cash.

set a budget for adwords2. Set a sensible daily budget. Don’t be tempted to spend more than you can afford. Think carefully about what a click-through is worth to your business. For example how many click-throughs become prospective customers? If you want to find out how to work out your maximum bid then have a read of this article by Marketing MO ‘How to Calculate your Max Bid Price’. Alternatively (although not recommended for any length of time) if you are finding it a bit daunting initially and your pushed for time, you can try Google’s automatic bidding option. You set yourself a 30 day budget and Google Adwords will set your bids for you. As you get more confident you should move to manual bids which will give you far more flexibility to optimise your performance.

3. Spend time on keyword research.  Having relevant, specific and targeted keywords is essential to the performance of your advertising and consequently your ROI. It really is important you invest time researching the best keywords for your business.

Keyword planner. Google’s keyword planner is the best place to start. Input the keywords that you think customers would type into a search engine to find your business. The keyword planner will provide a list of similar keywords and tell you whether the competition is high, medium or low and what the approximate cost-per-click is. The key for small businesses is to be specific. It is far better to have fewer clicks with people who are genuine prospects than lots of irrelevant traffic coming to your site.

Group your keywords. It can be a good idea to group your keywords into keyword groups. I’ve put a very basic example below, but it can be a good way to help you structure your campaigns into relevant groups for better targeted advertisements.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 11.08.40

Longtail keywords. These are specific words or phrases and are usually lower cost as there is less competition for them. People are more likely to use them when they are nearer to the point of purchase. If we use the example above, the term silver jewellery is very generic so you could narrow your keywords down to something more specific- silver diamond engagement rings Hertfordshire. Of course it will take some time getting the right long tail keywords for your business but if you target them correctly you can get higher ad rankings without the big price tag.

4. Be as targeted as you can. As we’ve seen with keywords the key to using Google AdWords successfully is to be specific and targeted rather than taking a broad brush approach. Not only will it keep your costs down it will help you bring in more targeted traffic. You click-through rate may be lower but the quality of your visitors is likely to be higher. Here are some options that will help you more closely target your advertisements.

Location targeting: You can choose what geographical location to show you ads – by country, region, city or within a radius around a specific location. For example if you ran a pet grooming service you would be able to target the location where your customers live.

Custom ad scheduling: The default option for AdWords is to have ads showing all day and at all times. However, if you know your customers are likely to be active only during business hours then you can schedule ads to only appear during 9.ooam – 5.00pm.

Keyword matching options: Google AdWords matching option will help you manage the searches that trigger your advertisement. For example a broad match will bring in more traffic but the traffic is likely to be less targeted. Whereas exact match is more restrictive and will bring in fewer clicks but your traffic may be a better match for your business. There are a range of options:

  • Broad match
  • Modified Broad Match
  • Phrase Match
  • Exact Match

Checkout Google AdWords support to select the right matching options for your business.

good copywriting
5. Compelling copy for your PPC ad. With limited words to play with you need to make every word count. You can see from the example below the structure is fairly straightforward. You have a headline of a maximum 25 characters, your URL address, description line 1 with a maximum of 35 characters and description line 2 with a maximum of 35 characters.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 14.01.02You need to make you PPC ad compelling as possible to your target audience and relevant to the keywords you are bidding on. Try to include at least one keyword in your headline. A useful copywriting model to keep in mind is AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Use your headline to grab attention, your description lines to create interest and desire – for example describe your product or incentive. Always finish with a call to action.

6. Optimise your landing page.  Your landing page is really important and needs to be relevant to your advertisement and the search query your visitor typed in. If it’s not your visitor will simply leave. There is no point spending you money on advertising if your landing pages are irrelevant or ill-thought out. Poor landing pages can be the reason behind low conversions and a high bounce rate. So spend some time getting your landing pages spot on.

7. Monitor performance. To get the best ROI make sure you keep on top of how your ads are performing. Monitor your CTR (click-through rates)and make adjustments to your ads as you go along, depending upon what you find is (or isn’t) working. Keep updating your keywords lists, removing any keywords that are performing poorly.  The more you measure and tweak the better your ads will perform.

Google AdWords can be a great way for small businesses and start-ups to drive traffic to their website and grow business. However to make the most out of Google AdWords and to get the best ROI it will need you to invest time and effort into making it work for you business.

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences of using Google AdWords, so please do leave a comment.

 

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Google Adwords for small businesses and the importance of tracking ROI

PPC marketing, google adwords

What is Google AdWords and PPC?

Google AdWords is Google’s PPC (pay-per-click) search engine advertising program. It is not the only one, but it is the largest and probably most renowned. In this post we’ll examine why search engine advertising can be a really effective marketing tool for small businesses and should be included in your search engine marketing strategy. We’ll also focus on why tracking your PPC campaigns and their ROI  is important.

Basically, search engine marketing comprises of two key tools –  non-paid Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and paid PPC search engine advertising. SEO  focuses on content and involves the ongoing process of on-page optimisation, key-phrase analysis and link building. These help improve your businesses ranking within the natural / organic listings in the search engine results pages (SERPS). PPC on the other hand, is a paid approach that involves you advertising your business at the top and to the right of relevant search engine pages through identifying the keywords appropriate to your business and placing bids on those keywords. On each click-through from your advertisement you pay a pre-agreed amount to Google.

Benefits of Google AdWords to small businesses and start-ups.

SEO and PPC both have their own advantages and disadvantages and you don’t have to use one or the other in isolation. In fact, to make the most out of your search engine marketing you should use a combination of both SEO and PPC – that way you’ll maximise the amount of traffic coming through to your site. As a rough guide about two-thirds of visitors click-through via a natural listing and a third through PPC – which is still a significant amount of traffic that you can’t afford to ignore.

Google AdWords PPC offers a number of benefits to smaller businesses:

  • Cost control: You can manage and control your budget through capping your spend. Plus, you are only paying when a user actually clicks through to your site.
  • Quicker visibility: SEO offers longer-term and sustained rankings, but for a small business it can take a fair amount of time and lots of hard work to move up the search engine rankings. Whilst you are working on improving  your natural listings, PPC can be great way to get your business in front of your target audience quickly.
  • Immediacy: you can get your advertisement up on SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages) within hours – which is great if you need to get a promotion out quickly or indeed need to react to some unexpected competitor activity.
  • Keyword bidding: Through higher keyword bidding against a competitor your ad can achieve a higher ranking.
  • Effective monitoring: Google AdWords tracking script enables you to closely monitor the success of your PPC campaigns.
  • Brand Awareness: Even if visitors do not click through to your advertisement, you are still building awareness of your brand amongst your target audience.

Search Engine MarketingMaking PPC work for your small business

Once you’ve signed up to Google AdWords, your first starting point is Google Keyword Planner. This will enable you to research relevant keywords, help generate keyword ideas and get search volume statistics and traffic estimates, all of which will help you decide which keywords to use and what budget  to set.

Remember though, the most popular keywords (the ones that generate the most traffic) will have the highest competition and will therefore require more budget. So spend some time looking for what’s known as ‘long-tail’ keywords. These are longer, more targeted keyword phrases that often have lower competition (as they generate less search volume) and consequently lower costs.  Crucially though they often have a higher conversion rate giving you a better ROI.  To get the most out PPC you will need to do a fair amount of tweaking and testing of different keywords and phrases.

And, don’t forget your landing page. You could have the greatest ad campaign in the world, but if your landing page is poor then any potential customer will leave immediately rather than converting into that all important sale. Spend time making your landing page effective in order to maximise your conversions.

Importance of monitoring your Google AdWords campaigns and ROI

The key to success in using any PPC service lies in the richness of keywords themselves as well as the continuous testing of ads” (Gay et al, Online Marketing).

As with any other marketing, it is essential that you can monitor and analyse your campaigns. Having a deeper understanding of how specific keywords and campaigns have performed,  means you will be able to   focus your effort and channel your budget in the right direction, thus maximizing your ROI (Return on Investment).

Google AdWords provides  a tracking script that enables you to monitor all sorts of useful information that occurs after a customer clicks through from your advertisement.  Tracking and analysing  this information equips you with the knowledge you need to make decisions on where best to focus you efforts. You will know which of your campaigns were the most successful at bringing in business  and then you can tweak or get rid of those that are underperforming.

Tracking your Google AdWords campaign on your shopping cart’s order completion page.

Conversion tracking through your order completed page is simple once you’ve set up you Google AdWords campaign. For example, with  ShopIntegrator you can easily integrate the Google AdWords campaign tracking script at order completion. Google AdWords can then receive statistics from customers who have made a purchase from you and arrived at your site from your Google AdWords campaign. ShopIntegrator allows you to insert order specific statistics like order value into the Google AdWords tracking script that will enable Google AdWords campaign dashboard to show your cost per acquisition.

Google AdWords is a great marketing tool for small businesses especially if you are looking at the wider picture of search engine marketing as a whole and using it in conjunction with SEO activities. Focus your initial efforts into keyword research incorporating long-tail keywords and phrases, optimising your landing page and tracking your performance. Remember creating successful ROI with PPC takes lots of testing and tweaking – so keep at it.

Useful websites and articles if you want to find out more about successful PPC

Google Adwords

Google Keyword Planner

Smarta: How to use pay-per-click advertising

Econsultancy: SEO & PPC 

Search Engine Watch: Long-tail Keywords

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic, so please do leave a comment.

SEM Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

SEO Basics for Beginners – Part 1

SEO for beginnersIf you have heard of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) but are not quite sure what it involves and what exactly it means for your online business, then we hope this quick guide outlining the basics of SEO will help get you started.

Having, at the very least, a basic understanding and working knowledge of SEO is essential for any online business, since fundamentally the process of improving your ranking and visibility in search engines will result in more ‘quality’ visitors to your website.

In Part 1 we’ll look at what SEO actually is and why you should be building it into your marketing strategy and in Part 2 we’ll examine some tools to help get you started.

What is SEO ?

Definition

So what exactly is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?  In a nutshell SEO is the process of improving the position of your businesses ‘natural’ listing in the search engine results pages (SERPS). Basically put:

  1. The search engine user  (potentially your customer) enters a keyword or keyphrase into a search engine (e.g. Google, Yahoo)
  2. The search engine results pages (SERPS) lists the results in order of relevancy to the keyword/keyphrase query entered by the search engine user. The most relevant and closest match will appear at the top of the ranking.
  3. SEO can help your business improve its natural ranking position on the search engine results pages.

Natural and PPC listings

Okay, so I mentioned ‘natural’ listings, these listings are also referred to as ‘organic’ or ‘unpaid’. They are arguably the most important listings to appear on the search engine results pages as they are the listings the majority of users click on. Natural listings are the ones you can improve by putting some time and effort into SEO activities – essentially what we’ll be looking at in Part 2 of this blog.

Before we go further with SEO, it is also important to mention the listings you usually see directly above and to the right hand side of the natural listings on the search engine results pages.  These are paid or sponsored listings and are known as ‘PPC’ (Pay Per Click) or ‘paid search marketing’. When a specific keyword or keyphrase is typed into a search engine then a pertinent PPC advertisement appears on the SERPS – a fee is paid to the search engine for each click through to the advertisement.

The general rule of thumb is that about that about two-thirds of search engine users click on the natural listings – so you can see why it really is important to put time and effort into SEO to improve your SERPS positioning. However, bear in mind that if two-thirds of users are clicking on the natural listings, this means that a third of searchers are still clicking through via the ‘paid’ advertisments. Ignoring PPC completely could mean you miss out on a significant proportion of potential visitors. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches and so in order to maximise visitor traffic you may want to consider a mixture of both paid and non-paid search engine marketing.

What is in it for my business?

Right, back to Search Engine Optimisation. SEO is an essential process for driving good quality visitors to your business. Higher visibility on SERPS will drive more traffic to your website therefore, working towards getting your website on the first page of listings for search queries related to your area of business should be a priority. When you put a query into a search engine,  how often do you trawl through all the results pages the search engine lists? In all likelihood probably not very often. The majority of users look at the first search engine results page only before going back to try an alternative keyphrase search.

SEO does require time and effort but the good news is if you do the groundwork you are more likely to sustain your position long term. Once you have reached a good ranking page through SEO work with an on-going commitment it is then easier to maintain your position.

What is the search engine looking for?

So, what exactly is the criteria the search engine looking for when a user types in a search query? It actually considers numerous factors but the most important thing to the search engine is who can provide the closest, most relevant match from the most authoritative source. So essentially those websites considered authoritative with closest matching relevant content are going to score higher with search engines.

In days gone by websites could improve their SERPS rankings by simply packing their websites full of relevant keywords and sometimes involved manipulative practices now considered black hat such as keyword stuffing and cloaking. These days search engines are a lot more clued up and penalise business that don’t follow their recommended guidelines.

A good solid principle to follow to ensure you don’t fall foul of search engine criteria is quite simply to ensure you create fresh, relevant and authoritative content. We’ll be looking at ways to do this in part 2 of this blog.