Slightly Long Guide to Starting with AdWords

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AdWords is not hard. It isn’t really in Google’s interest to make it any more complicated than it needs to be. Google does offer Google AdWords Express, a simple paid advertising product for small businesses with a Google+ Local listing, for most businesses there is no real reason not to start with AdWords.

The following quick guide started life as a quick email detailing the essentials that a reasonably web savy person should be aware of when starting with AdWords. This post covers some of the fundamentals, such as tracking, campaign structure and monitoring, and is written with an ongoing, hands on campaign with Cost per acquisition (CPA) targets in mind.

Campaign Tracking in AdWords and Analytics

Understand what is working and what is not is possibly the most critical part of setting up and running an effective AdWords campaign. The Google AdWords web dashboard supplies the where, when and in what context your ads appear, and as much information about the traffic your receive. Google Analytics supplies important data on the value of the traffic, and is critical for identifying weak points in the customer’s experience.

Ideally, the site’s Google Analytics account should be linked with all associated AdWords accounts from the start. Google provides an easy-to-follow guide on how, though the process itself is slightly convoluted. Unless the accounts are linked, all paid traffic from Google AdWords will appear in Google Analytics as organic search traffic. Unsurprisingly, this will make assessing both paid and organic search effectiveness problematic at best and a disaster the rest of the time.

Google Analytics Goals versus Adwords Conversions

It important to understand the differnce between goals tracked through Google Analytics and conversions reported by AdWords. Google Analytics tracks a session at a time and goals are attributed as such. For example, if someone clicks on an organic listing and then makes a purchase during that visit, the goal is attributed to the organic listing.

However, if a user visits twice, first through an organic listing, and later by typing the domain into their navigation bar, and they trigger a goal on the second visit, it will be attributed to the second traffic source. Multi-Channel Funnel report does improve attribution in Google Analytics, goals or conversions tracking is still fundamentally different from in AdWords

When a paid listing in Google is clicked, Adwords sets a 30 day and attributes any conversions done in this time period to that initial click. Conversions are reported for clicks, ads, AdGroups and so on as either one conversion per user or as the total number over a 30 day period. The figure you use to monitor the performance of a campaign will inevitably depend on internal organisational factors.

Setting up the Campaigns

There are a number of tools available for managing AdWords accounts. As Google provides an API for AdWords, there are a number of third party and custom tools available, in addition to the web based dashboard and Google’s own AdWords Explorer. Both Google tools have their uses, and most of the time which one is used for what will come down to personal preferences or workflows.

Personally of the two I prefer AdWords Explorer for keyword management and the web interface for exporting data and setting up certain features such as automation, scheduling, ad extensions, geo targeting and a few others.

Building Structure for Search Engine Marketing with Campaigns and Ad Groups

When you start with AdWords, you will be taken through the process of setting up a Campaign, Ad Group, an ad and selecting keywords. Even though these are not all the features available, they are fundamental to advertising on Google.

Campaigns Settings for Search


Campaign Settings

Campaigns provide a number of settings relevant for search based campaigns to the advertiser, including but certainly not limited to:

  • Daily Budget
  • Targeting
    • Location
    • Devices
    • Networks
      • Google
      • Search Partners
      • Display Network
  • Scheduling and Delivery
    • Campaign time frame
    • Time of Day
    • Frequency
    • Ad Rotation
  • Match Type Settings

There are a number of other settings not listed above, many of which relate to advertising through the display network. But for setting up a search based campaign those listed above are important.

Budget is simple, you set a daily spend, and AdWords will stick to it. Most of the time, falling below it if there isn’t enough activity, and occasionally going just over. The targeting settings can be more involved. AdWords allows for targeting by language, geography, network (Display, Google and Search Partners) and device. Scheduling tools allow for control over when the ads will be shown by letting the advertiser to adjustments to bid levels by day of week and time of day, the rate at which ads are displayed over the course of the day and frequency capping.

Ad Groups, Keywords and Text Ads

Compared to the Campaigns, Ad Groups are easy to set up. Aside from setting bids, if you have chosen to do so manually, all that is left is to add the keywords, automation and advertising materials.

Determining which Ad Groups to create and selecting which keywords to target should be a product of the same process. To optimise for Quality Score (which affects how much you pay per click) Ad Groups should be based on a narrow, specific group of keywords relevant to a single concept or topic, with the advertising copy reflecting this. The introduction of the Ad Group ideas tab in the Keyword tool certainly appears to reinforce this.

Suggesting Adgroups with Keywords

Keyword Selection and Structure

The Basic structure of a phrase model of [pre Head string] [Head] [post Head string] where [Head] is the shortest string to describe the term relevant to the Ad Group is a good starting point.  Pre and Post head strings can include descriptive terms and function words based on the intended audience searching for the [Head] term. Longer, descriptive search phrases reduce unproductive traffic as much as a focused negative keyword list.

There are three keyword match types, Broad, Phrase and Exact. Phrase is often the best choice, as it triggers an ad when the keyword is used as a part of a query string. Exact keywords only show for the keyword as entered, and Broad covers synonyms and a wide range of other variations, it also has the highest chance of generating irrelevant traffic and impressions.

Landing Pages

Each conversion and goal type, product and product category will need a matching landing page. Especially with new accounts and campaigns, a close match between the keywords, the ads and the landing page are important for a good quality score. Well made and relevant landing pages are also important for conversion optimisation.

Monitoring the campaign

The real work begins once the campaign is running. Monitoring the performance of all aspects of the campaign from scheduling to the landing page allows for further optimisation. Either by targeting the optimal average position in search, time of day, locations, devices keywords and so on.

An important part of ongoing optimisation is managing the campaign’s negative keywords. Keyword Details / All on AdWords lets you download all search queries that triggered the ad (Matched Search Queries under Advertising/Adwords in Google Analytics also provides this informaiton) and identify other terms to add to the list. Terms associated with an aweful click through rate or conversion rate and are innappropriate for the campaign, and generate bad traffic are a good place to start.

There are a number of other activities that managing an ongoing AdWords campaign will require, including monitoring competitive impact, managing cost per action, assessing how paid traffic impacts on customer acquisition through other digital channels, and so on.

AdWords provides advertisers with a lot of tools, and with the addition of AdMob to the existing range of other advertising tools campaigns will only get more sophisticated. This is only the briefest overview of the fundamentals in setting up and running a search focused campaign.

Works in online marketing, runs on coffee and has a web design background. I maintain a few blogs to collect ideas and interesting stuff about the Internet, marketing online, coffee and technology.
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