Some articles make it sound incredibly easy. You set up your Google AdWords account in minutes. Once you’re setup, you start creating ads, targeting keywords, and have your campaign running in no time. Bingo the leads start rolling in!

But in reality, two weeks later you’re still fiddling with your keyword list, ad copywriting, measuring your quality score, trying to understand the bidding system, and inevitably wondering why you’re wasting so much money without generating any real results.

Shouldn’t you see a return on your investment already? Shouldn’t PPC marketing drive leads, not drive you crazy?

Google advertising is more complex than you may think. With so many variables, making a misstep and losing your hard earned dollars can be incredibly easy.

So, what can you do to ensure that your AdWords campaign will drive leads, not burn a hole in your budget? Here are a few ideas that can get you started.

Target Long-Tail Keywords

Most AdWords first-timers use broad-match keywords to advertise their products and rank high in search engine results. The problem with this approach is that these terms are by far the most competitive, and by far the most expensive spots in the AdWords ecosystem. If you use this approach you may spend your entire marketing budget before you can see any significant return on investment.

When people search for answers using Google, they typically use more than just one or two words to describe their query. Often people will type a longer phrase or question into the search bar with specific variables that tell you a lot more about what they are looking to find out. If you can find these type of phrases by conducting keyword research, and bid to rank your ads for these searches, it can not only save you a lot of money per click, but it can also deliver your business far more accurate leads.

These phrases are referred to as long-tail keywords.

Here’s an example:

Let’s imagine that you’re selling used photo cameras. If you’re using a broad-match keyword, such as “photo cameras,” you’re going to generate clicks from people that are looking for “professional photo cameras”, “new photo cameras”, and a long list of other potentially irrelevant terms. These unqualified clicks can drain your budget pretty fast.

By targeting the longer phrase “used photo cameras”, you ensure that only the people looking for used photo cameras are going to see your ads. You may like to take this a step further by adding words such as “new” or “professional” into the negative keywords list of your campaign so that Google doesn’t show your ad in these non-related searches.

To add negative keywords, navigate to the “Keywords” tab within your campaign and then click on “Negative Keywords” :

Screenshot of where Negative Keywords are located in Google Adwords

Bonus tip: The keyword phrase in this example is still quite a broad term. If you can find even longer and more specific phrases, such as “used photo cameras in Albany, New York”, you will reduce your costs even more and narrow the audience to a very specific type of person.

Use Keyword-Specific Landing Pages

So you’ve managed to create an ad that grabbed the attention of your prospects and compelled them to click. But now, they’re on your homepage trying to understand what just happened.

The ad made a promise that the homepage couldn’t deliver.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is connecting your Google ads directly to your homepage. Here’s the thing: while your homepage can explain what your business does and what you sell, it can never be 100% relevant to the keywords you’re targeting in your ads.

You need to create a keyword-specific landing page that is relevant to your ad and delivers on the promise you’ve made. The moment a prospect lands on it, they need to get reassurance that they are, in fact, on the right path. Look to include your primary keywords in your landing page headline, subheads, content, and even your call-to-action.

Of course, you don’t need to create a unique page on your website for every long-tail keyword phrase you are targeting. However, you should aim to create a unique page for each primary ad group.

Let’s take a look at this in action. When I search for the term “live chat software”, Zoho SalesIQ have an ad that takes me to this page:

Screenshot for Zolo's Sales IQ Landing Page

But when I search for “visitor tracking software”, their ad takes me to this page:

Screenshot for Zolo's Visitor Tracking Software Landing Page

Make the Most of Google’s Ad Extensions

AdWords is competitive, there is no denying that. So you need to always look for ways to standout from your competitors and improve your ROI. Keyword and landing page optimization is a great start, but here is another trick that a lot of small businesses don’t use to improve their AdWords click-throughs and visibility.

Google provides advertisers with the option to showcase more information than just the basic headline and text in their ads. These additions are called ad extensions. Ad extensions come in several forms, such as location extensions, call extensions, review extensions, sitelink extensions, and others. All of which can work to build trust with your prospects and ultimately improve your conversion rate.

You can find these options under “Ads & extensions” in your AdWords account:

Screenshot showing current Google Adword Extensions that are available

For example, a location extension can help improve your local ads by allowing you to showcase your address, phone number, and a map marker. A review extension allows you to add a third-party product reviews to your ad, while a sitelink extension enables you to highlight additional links to your site below your ad copy.

See some of these ad extensions in action below:

Example Screenshot showing Google Adword Extensions for Sales CRM

Focus on Specific Geographies

Most businesses like to think big and plan their market domination beyond a local geography. While there’s nothing wrong with this approach, sometimes it can pay to become locally relevant first. If you’re a location-based business, such as a restaurant, mom and pop shop, or real estate company, then geo-targeting is essential for taking your AdWords campaigns to the next level. But it can also benefit other businesses too.

By targeting specific geographies, you ensure that only the people in those areas are going to see your ads. That way, you’re not going to spend precious advertising dollars on unqualified leads who aren’t very likely to drive 40 miles to shop at your store, for example. It also allows you to create more relevance with your ad copy and landing pages by focusing them on a local area.

A big brand example of using this tactic is Airbnb, who have multiple landing pages for each key geographical area they operate in:

Screenshot of Airbnb's Chicago Landing Pages based on Google Adword Geography Targeting

Screenshot of Airbnb's New York Landing Pages based on Google Adword Geography Targeting

Let Your Campaign Mature

The hard truth about Google advertising (or any online marketing tactic for that matter) is that you won’t see results overnight. Yes, you have access to an incredible amount of data, and can optimize and personalize your ads to perfection, but results take time. Most people need multiple touch points and a few extra nudges to take action and purchase something.

You need to let your campaign mature. Monitor clicks and impressions, and adjust your strategy until you find the winning combination. In other words, don’t give up if your campaign is not generating the return you were hoping for in the first couple of weeks.

Check your keywords and see how well they’re performing. Update your manual cost-per-click bids so you are turning up on page one. Add in negative keywords so you don’t rank for inappropriate terms. Test your ad copy and determine what you can modify to get a reaction from your target audience. Play around with different calls-to-action until you find the one that compels prospects to click on your ad and take action.

An efficient AdWords campaign requires ongoing optimization, so be patient and the results will come. If you are diligent, focused, and pay attention to what the data is telling you, all your hard work and effort is going to be worth it in the end.

Conclusion

Google AdWords can be one of the best ways of generating new business.

However, it’s extremely complex, and it can burn a hole through your budget fast if you are not careful.

Hopefully these tips will help you drive qualified leads without spending all of your money and feeling frustrated in the process.

About Shawn Carr

Founding Partner

An accomplished Senior Software Engineer specializing in the Microsoft .Net Framework and SQL Server with experience in the full lifecycle of the software design process of both Data Driven Windows and Web Applications utilizing the latest technologies and best practices.

Certified: Google Analytics, Google Mobile Sites, Google AdWords Certification - Video Advertising, MCSD: Web Applications, and about 13 more Microsoft certifications that have since expired.

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