Google AdWords is a vital advertising tool for many businesses. It allows you to focus your advertising budget on customers who are ready to buy, giving you a steady stream of eager new prospects. It also allows you to start with whatever budget you’re comfortable with, making it a tremendous resource for small businesses.
However, many business owners are not maximizing their campaign performance, so they are leaving money on the table month after month. Like anything else, your Google AdWords campaign must be audited and maintained regularly to ensure that it remains fully optimized. Here is a checklist to follow.
Keywords commonly trip up both new and experienced AdWords users because there are so many factors to consider. To optimize your keywords, I recommend using three distinct tactics, each of which addresses a common problem.
- Pruning: The goal of pruning is to remove unprofitable keywords from your list, including those that are irrelevant and those that, for whatever reason, simply do not perform well for you. To start pruning, run a Google AdWords Search Terms report from the Keywords tab of your account. Any keyword that does not show solid performance should be removed or paused. Also consider adding negative keywords, which tell AdWords not to display your ad if a particular word appears in the search string.
- Fishing: The goal of fishing is to find new keywords that will be profitable for your campaign. Again, run a Google AdWords Search Terms report and look for keyword phrases that are performing well, but are not yet in your Ad Groups.
- Replanting: Replanting is a process to optimize your top performing keywords while limiting your budget for new or unproven keywords. Move your top keywords into their own campaign, and focus on tweaking your ad copy and landing pages to tightly match those keywords. Likewise, move unproven keywords to their own campaign and reduce their budget until you get more data on them. Replanting allows you to improve your quality score, increase your click-through rate, and maintain better control over your advertising dollars.
Your ad copy is an excellent place to optimize your AdWords campaign, since it is virtually impossible to write perfect copy on the first, or even the tenth, try. Here are a few ways to optimize your ads.
- Split testing: Never allow just one ad to run in an ad group. Always run at least two ads so that you can compare their performance.
- Offer: No matter how good the rest of your ad copy is, a weak offer can sink your AdWords campaign. Remember that a great offer minimizes customer risk and overcomes the tendency for procrastination. Review your competitors’ offers, think through what would appeal to your ideal customer, and split test different offers in your ads.
- Extensions: Ad extensions factor into your quality score, and also play a role in improving your click-through rate, so make sure you are taking advantage of all of them. The Review extension, with a third party endorsement, is particularly useful in building credibility.
- Other factors: Other areas of your ad copy that should be audited include your headline, display URL, and description. Make sure that each section is clear and succinct, focusing on how you can solve a problem or fulfill a need for your prospect. Ensure that your entire ad is internally consistent, easy to follow, and has a strong call to action.
Your landing page is your opportunity to close the sale, turning visitors into leads and customers. It must be laser-focused to match the ad, reassuring the prospect that she is in the right place and explaining what to do next. Optimizing your landing page is not easy, but it’s critical to your campaign performance.
- Dedicated landing pages: One of the most common mistakes that business owners make is using their homepage as a landing page for ads. A secondary mistake is using the same landing page for lots of unrelated keywords. Make sure your landing page is 100 percent congruent with the keywords and ads in each Ad Group.
- Congruence: As mentioned above, your landing page must be fully congruent with your ad. This means that the landing page copy should match the keywords, and the landing page offer should repeat the offer made in the ads.
- Call to Action: It sounds crazy, but I have reviewed countless landing pages that do not explicitly explain what the visitor needs to do to start the buying process. As a consumer, it’s frustrating when it’s not clear what to do so most prospective customers will leave rather than try to figure it out. So make sure your landing page has a clear call-to-action, ideally above the fold so the visitor does not have to scroll to find it.
Tracking is the only method you have for determining how well your AdWords campaign is performing. Make sure that each of the following forms of AdWords tracking is set up properly in your account:
- Webform conversion tracking to measure how many visitors complete your webforms
- Shopping cart conversion tracking to measure how many visitors complete online orders
- Website call tracking to measure how many visitors call after clicking on your ads
- Call extension tracking to measure how many people call using the number displayed in your ads
- Offline sales import conversion tracking to measure how many sales are generated offline via phone calls or in-person
Optimizing and maintaining your Google AdWords campaign is an ongoing, never ending process. A regular audit procedure will determine which portions of your campaign are working well, and which need some attention. Although it may seem lot a lot of work, following an audit checklist like this can be completed quickly if you break up the tasks over the course of a week or two.
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