October 23, 2007
How To

How to Get the Most Out of Google AdWords - 8 Strategies to Maximize ROI

SUMMARY: Google is continually changing its AdWords program, which lets marketers target ads to specific searches and place ads on a vast network of Web sites. However, Google’s AdSense content network can lower your ROI significantly if not done properly.

At last week’s MarketingSherpa Demand Generation Summit, an expert explained how contextual and search pay per click differ and how to create a winning AdWords campaign. The session was so well received, we picked his brain afterward for his top strategies and best practices with content advertising.
AdWords places a contextual ad on Google’s huge AdSense content network by examining the ad’s copy and its list of keywords. Google then matches the ad to one or more of 594 content themes (linked below). The theme Google assigns an ad determines which Web sites will display it.

“Most advertisers envision a very efficient system. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that efficient, and the inefficiency is the main reason that content advertising performs so poorly for advertisers and why a lot of the advertisers lose a lot of money on contextual advertising,” says David Szetela, Founder and CEO, Clix Marketing.

Three points about contextual advertising:
#1. Contextual advertising is not like search. Readers didn’t enter a search term to find you.
#2. Contextual advertising is more like banner ads or print advertising.
#3. Contextual advertising is very useful for branding.

When ads appear on irrelevant Web sites, they cost advertisers money, whether through inflating impressions or by generating bad clicks. To prevent waste and promote profit, Szetela has devised a system that he calls the “ultimate best practice for content advertising.”

Finding Web Sites to Target
Google recently enabled advertisers to specify which types of Web sites, or even which URLs, they want their AdWords ads to appear on. This feature, coupled with other tools provided by Google, allows advertisers to remove their ads from underperforming sites and to better focus their advertising dollars. Here’s the four-step process to sort the trash from the treasure:

-> Step #1: Set up an AdWords campaign

Start an AdWords content campaign and serve ads only on Google’s content network. Google will choose where on its vast AdSense network your ads will appear, based on your keywords and ad copy. This campaign is best thought of as a pool from which you will pull your strongest performing Web sites.

“Think of it as kind of a harvester of new sites. Because every day additional publisher sites are coming online in Google’s AdSense program, so there is a fresh new crop of sites that could be displaying an advertiser’s ad,” Szetela says.

-> Step #2: Run Google’s Placement Performance report

This report shows advertisers:
o Which sites display their ads
o How well their ads perform
o URL where the ad appeared
o Number of impressions
o Clicks generated
o Conversion rate
o Cost data

After your campaign has run long enough to accumulate relevant stats, take a look at the data to determine which Web sites are making money and which are wasting it.

-> Step #3: Cull the herd with Google’s Site Exclusion Tool

After you identify the wasteful Web sites, use the site exclusion tool to stop them from wasting more money. If any site is irrelevant to your ads’ topic, or fails to return an acceptable ROI, add it to your site-exclusion list and eliminate it from your AdWords campaign.

This process may seem laborious, but it’s required if you’re serious about efficient advertising.

-> Step #4: Invest in winners with site targeting

AdWords also features site-targeted campaigns that let you control exactly which sites display your ads. You can get better results from high-performing Web sites by putting them into a site-targeted campaign and focusing more advertising dollars on them.

After you identify profitable Web sites in your AdWords campaign, put them into a site-targeted campaign. This lets you concentrate your advertising dollars on your money-makers to get better ad placement on them.

This becomes “where the real advertising takes place and where the real ROI is. It is perfectly possible for a site-targeted campaign to deliver similar clickthrough rates and conversion rates as search engine campaigns. For our advertisers, we shoot for at least double-digit clickthrough rates and conversion rates,” Szetela says.

Improving Ad Performance and Placement
Site exclusion and site targeting are effective tools to boost your ROI, but they work better with strong ad copy and well-chosen keywords. It’s helpful to remember the time-tested lessons in display advertising.

“Content advertising is very much like print advertising, where the person that is exposed to the ad didn’t really come to the Web site to look for ads, they came to look for some kind of content on a page. The job of the content ad is to distract the visitor from the main reason that they arrived there and encourage them to read the ad and take some sort of action.”

Here are four tips to create effective contextual content ads that have a higher chance of being placed on the correct Web sites:

-> Tip #1: Use a small number of keywords

The main goal of your keywords is to convince Google’s placement algorithm to assign the correct theme and place your ads on the correct Web sites.

“It turns out that the content algorithm works best when there is a relatively small number of keywords per ad group. I think the guideline should be ‘the fewer the better.’ I think 10 would be OK,” but 20 to 40 is ideal, Szetela says.

-> Tip #2: Forget about leveraging with bid amounts

Bidding more on a keyword will not further influence Google to place your ads on related sites. The best way to influence the placement algorithm is to have strong keywords and ad copy related to your topic.

-> Tip #3: Use negative keywords

Google allows advertisers to specify phrases that are unrelated to their topic, making their ads less likely to appear on unrelated Web sites.

This will help stop problems like what happened to Szetela awhile back. “We were working with an advertiser that sells investment bonds, and we ran a report that had just been released in beta form by Google to see what sites our ads were appearing on.” More than 70 of the sites were related to James Bond, and ads for investment bonds were appearing on those pages -- money down the drain.

Negative keywords prevent problems like this. When selling investment bonds your negative keywords should contain “James Bond,” “007,” etc.

-> Tip #4: Write strong ad copy

Content ads “are actually competing with the main attraction. They have to try to grab the attention of the reader away from the attraction and to the advertisements … they have to shout a little louder,” Szetela says.

Traditional copywriting techniques work online. Powerful words, such as “free,” “immediately” and “ultimate,” are helping to sell more products every day.

“Free offers, or no obligation, kind of soft offers often produce good results. The person viewing the ad is not there as a result of active research, so they really aren’t anywhere near the buying point,” Szetela says.

Useful links related to this article

Google AdWords:

Google AdWords Help Center: Placement Performance Report Best Practices

Google AdWords Learning Center:

186 Power Words for Emotional Selling:

Clix Marketing’s blog:

Clix Marketing:

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