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Thursday, September 25 2014
Successfully doing business online can be an exercise riddled with many unexpected complications and complexities. They are part of the game. For small businesses especially, it's survival of the fittest. Those who can recognize opportunities, quickly learn from mistakes and adapt are the ones that stick around. For those that don't, a quick death would be merciful. The last 4+ years have seen dramatic changes in the 2 primary marketing channels available to small business. Organic search and paid search have been on what seems like a never ending roller coaster of change. So much that adaptation has been extremely difficult for many. Today we're going to specifically address pay-per-click search marketing for small business and try to demystify some misconceptions.
For starters, let's address the elephant in the room. That's Google. If you want to make any money online then, one way or another, you're going to have to learn to appease Google. Unfortunately, Google has grown into this Wall Street behemoth that seems to only thrive on change. Just when you think you've figured out what makes them happy, they change things up and make you dance to their new tune all over again. Nobody likes it. But nobody is really doing anything about it either. So step #1 is to accept reality and learn to take advantage of what others choose to give up on too easily.
Why History Makes Us Bitter
Pay-per-click advertising in the search engines didn't use to be so hard. The concept is really simple. Every search engine results page (SERP) includes designated spaces for relevant ads and the advertisers bid to have their ads included there. In the not too distant past, the highest bidder got the top spot and lesser bids were included lower. You wrote your ad, set your bid for where you wanted to be and knew what the end result would be. All you had to do was check your spending, bids, and click reports once or twice per week to make sure everything was OK and then adjust as needed if it wasn't. A master's degree in rocket science was not required.
Those days are long gone now. Google has lots of people with master's degrees working for them and rocket science sometimes seems like their goal. I think they like to make things as complicated as possible to justify their existence in the company and extract as much money out of people as possible to keep the stock price high. The early days of PPC advertising had a lot of room for improvement in terms of flexibility and quality. Google has made those improvements to such a degree within their Adwords system that the result is now too overwhelming for many do-it-yourself small business owners.
Just Give It A Little KISS
If you're going to attempt to set up and manage your own PPC campaign then we recommend that beginners apply the KISS principle. Just because Google makes their system complicated doesn't mean you have to operate it that way. You can keep it simple by starting with a very low daily budget and focusing on just 1 campaign, with 1 keyword, and 1 ad focusing on that keyword, and linked to 1 special landing page optimized for that keyword.
You may not get a lot of clicks following that recommendation. Instead, you'll learn a lot about the Google Adwords system and, as a side benefit, you won't blow through a bunch of money wastefully while you get educated. Adwords is a revenue machine for Google and it will automatically prompt you (more like entice you) to add more keywords and spend more money. Sometimes marketing reps for Adwords will even call you on the phone. Their objective is to get you to spend more money. Resist!
Those automated suggestions are not optimized in any way and, if implemented without careful organization, can result in very poor performance.
Patience Is Top Priority
Instant gratification is not the secret to happiness or cost effectiveness when it comes to Adwords. That is because every keyword you bid on is assigned what is known as a Quality Score (QS) and that score ultimately determines what you'll pay per click, the placement location of your ad, and how often your ad is shown. Quality Score is based on overall relevance. If you get a high QS then it is actually possible to pay less, a lot less, per click for a higher position on the SERP. That's right, your bid does not get you a defined spot anymore. Your bid is only the maximum amount you're willing to pay and you will pay that maximum for every click if your QS is low. You also won't get many clicks if your QS is low because Google won't show your ad very much.
We recommend that you focus on just 1 campaign, keyword, ad, and landing page when first starting out because getting a high QS requires all of those elements to be highly synchronized in relevancy. You shouldn't be expanding beyond that “just 1” concept until you're proficient in what generates a high QS. Try to tackle too many keywords at one time and you'll just be wasting money.
Relevant Grouping Is The Key To Success
The more tightly you organize and group your campaigns, keywords, ads, and landing pages based on relevancy the better. Growing your list of keywords slowly will allow you to do that. Even small variations of a keyword can require its own ad group and landing page to retain a high QS.
For a basic example, if you sell a product that's available in multiple colors then you'll get a higher QS with separate ads that mention each color specifically and are linked to a different landing page that details the product and the specific color included in the ad.
To understand the need for that level of organization, consider Google's perspective. Someone looking for a red widget to buy is going to have a much better experience if they click on an ad that mentions a red widget and when clicked, sends the user to a page specifically selling a red widget. When the user has a positive experience, they value Google more and use them again the next time they need to find something.
Be More Choosey
That level of intricate organization is what's necessary if paying less and getting more is a priority for you. However, that means it will be very time consuming to set up and manage if another objective is to advertise for a wide range of keywords. Doing that though is not a requirement. Just because Google or others suggest you target more keywords, that doesn't mean you have to.
Only take on more keywords if you can produce a high QS for each one. Once you understand what it takes to get a high QS for the first one, try to come up with just 1 or 2 more that will be equally scored within the same ad group that is linked to the same landing page. If the additional keywords get a lower QS than the first one then you know they will need their own, more relevant ad, and/or a different landing page. If you can't produce what is need for a higher QS then don't target the keyword.
An efficiently performing campaign should more than pay for itself. But it will only do that if you put in the time and effort needed to play the game the way Google wants it played. You don't and should not play it at their pace though. Take things slow and use a very limited budget, even if Adwords says you need to spend more, and you'll eventually end up with a positive result. As always, if you have a question or need help, contact us.