We recently did some advertising with Google Adwords to try to get some leads from the keywords Web Design and Drupal Development. Part of the reason we decided to do this is because we were contacted by a Google representative who told us about Google’s Adwords services. Google offers a ton of help planning for and setting up Adwords Campaigns, if you are willing to spend the money. Here are a few takeaways based off of our experiences.
Getting Started With Google
Basically, if you agree to spend a certain amount on Adwords, Google will help you every step of the way. This includes doing literally as much or as little as you want. They will do the research, set up the campaigns, and monitor them; you can do it all yourself and get advice; or you hit a middle ground where you do some work and they help you implement it.
We did that last one. I did all the research, but I had Google do the heavy lifting in setting up the actual campaigns. I also had weekly calls with them to talk about changes we could make to improve the campaign.
Weekly Calls - Let Google Take The Lead
You have status calls with your Google rep. This is a weekly or bi-weekly call where you discuss changes. My advice with these - unless you’re seeing results, you should plan to do have calls every week. Once you get results, you can let your campaigns go and tweak them as needed.
In addition, I highly recommend letting Google take the lead. I know a lot about Google Adwords, so in the beginning I offered solutions or ideas, and let Google make changes. When I was doing this, the rep was pretty quiet on the phone. I am not sure if my ideas were good, or if he didn’t care, but i was not getting much feedback besides “yeah, that will work,” and an affirmation that my idea was good.
However, after a couple weeks, I talked to the sales rep and told him that I was a bit disappointed. I felt that I would get more feedback and analysis, and that it seemed like nobody was even watching. After I made this comment, the rep I had weekly calls with really stepped up his game. Every call he came prepared, and offered a bunch of solutions and suggestions. I am not sure how much of that was me letting him lead the calls more, but they came through how I initially had hoped they would.
This Is A Non-Binding Agreement
This is key to know. Google makes it seem like you need to agree to leave your campaigns running and spend the money agreed to at the beginning. The truth though, is that Google can not touch the pause button on your ads. They can make changes in the campaigns, but they can not switch them on or off. They weren’t shady with this by any means, but they weren’t as up front as you would have thought. They would only agree to work with me if I agreed to a set timeline and budget, with the stipulation that if the ads were not performing, we could reduce the spend for the last thirty days. At the beginning of the campaign, I was not sure if this was a binding contract. However, when I finally asked, they quickly told me this was a voluntary agreement, and that I could stop whenever I wanted. This is great if you aren’t getting results - you can just pull the plug.
Write Your Own Ads
Google will do this for you, but nobody knows your audience better than you. I suggest writing ad copy, or at least providing some ideas or feedback on the ads. It is recommended to have a few different ads with varying copy, but we also recommend writing extras. We wrote all of ours, and let the Google rep pick which ones they thought would convert best. They then set them up for us (arguably the best part of their service).
Study Up On Adwords
I was able to make suggestions and double check work because I was Adwords certified. I don’t think you need to be certified to do this, as Google can help you a lot. However, it is definitely helpful to know basics things like ad types, keyword matching options, display text, and general ad theory to help to write better ads, find new keywords and opportunities, and catch any errors.
Check Your Ads. Check The Changes.
I don’t think Google made any errors, but I did catch a few things they did a bit differently than I thought they would. Some of this is expected, for example what keyword match type to use. Other ones were a bit of a surprise because I had notes in the advertising plan document I provided them. None of these were major mistakes, but things I definitely wanted to ask about. I initially planned for using capital letters in ad text and using dynamic keyword insertion, but they were missing on set up. It probably wouldn’t have been a big problem, but it was something they missed from my overall plan (that is also considered best practice).
PPC is a Total Gamble
PPC is an interesting monster. Sometimes things work for a while and suddenly stop. That kind of happened with our campaign. We had a lot of really good success in the middle of the campaign, but it died off in the closing weeks. We found ourselves with a complete lull in conversion traffic, even after making a number of changes that appeared to have a positive impact at first. The rep suggested more changes, but nothing was really sticking.
I think this is possibly attributed to a couple things. It is likely that the sales cycles did not match up. The words we targeted were words for people looking for a solution, however these people might not have been in the position to make a decision at the moment. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the near future we did get a few leads that initially came from these campaigns. People were viewing and clicking and learning more, but they just seemed like they weren’t ready to commit to a project. And that’s ok.
Research Your Industry
In our case, there is a lot of competition in the web design and development space. We also knew that some of the larger scale clients we go for might be more inclined to send out RFPs than they are to go searching through Adwords and filling out forms. We knew this, but wanted to get our name out there, so we did it anyway. We knew the risk going in, but I can’t stress enough the importance of understanding the market space. In some cases, this might be a total lost cause if you don’t have the audience or budget.
People Will Click Anything And Potentially Mess With You
Another aspect of this that I pondered is if people were coming from a more broad search and clicked by accident, hoping to learn more about general Drupal or Web Design theories. If you have that expectation and you get to a page trying to sell you something, it isn’t exactly what you set out to find in the first place.
We also had someone fill out the form with a fake name and a commenting involving an itch on their rear end. These things will happen. You can’t win them all.
Would I Recommend This?
Yes. Definitely. If not for the guidance, then definitely for the leg work.
We learned a lot about Adwords and our customers’ sales cycles. We also got some good insight from Google on how to approach customers, and some great data that we can use to help influence future marketing decisions.
In terms of set up, it was much easier and way less time consuming to give Google a spreadsheet with a plan, and have them put it all together. However, I knew what I was doing, and I helped out with the entire project.
I have to wonder how things would turn out if I took more of a back seat in planning. Would they have provided good keywords, or good ad copy? That I do not know. Would I use this free service to save me some setup time and talk strategy out with someone who knows all about it? No doubt.