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Understanding Google Adwords

By Kevin A. Jackson |

Search engine optimization of a website for top placement in Google and other search engines is an important component of website development. However, once your website has been optimized it can take months before you see the impact of this work. In the interim and even on an ongoing basis, many business owners are paying for results.

Let me clarify: you cannot buy the top position in the regular search results in Google. You can, however, pay so that when someone searches for particular keywords, your website will come up in the Google Ad Word listings that you see on the right side of the page for most Google searches.

This article explains how you can set-up an account with Google in order to start getting your site on the first page of a search in Google, as soon as tomorrow.

What is a Google Adword?
Adwords are Google's main source of Revenue, and one of the best-known open secrets of online marketing. When you do a search in Google, two kinds of results are displayed: the "Organic" search results, down the middle of the page, showing websites and pages that match the keyword, with the most relevant ones listed first. The other kind of results are the buttons down the Right hand side of the page, underneath the heading "Sponsored Links": these buttons are Google Adwords, and every time you click on one of these buttons, the advertiser pays Google a pre-determined amount of money (anywhere from pennies to a few dollars) per click - hence the name pay-per-click advertising. You too can advertise your business in this way, and the amazing thing is that you don't need to be an expert, and it doesn't cost a fortune.

Step 1: Sign up for an account
On the home page of Google there is a link to "Advertising Programs", click on this and you will be taken to the introductory page for their advertising programs, (this link will open in a new window, to return to this article just close the new window) which talks about two programs, Google Adwords for Advertisers and Google Adsense for Web publishers. We are going to concentrate on Adwords in this article, so click on the link for Google Adwords and you are taken to the sign in page here: (this link will open in a new window, to return to this article just close the new window) There is background information linked from this page, a login if you already have an account, and a button to "sign up now" if you do not yet have an account. Click on this button, labeled "Click to begin"

Step 2: Languages and Location
Every step of the way there are detailed explanations of what everything is about, don't hesitate to read the explanations and follow the links if you have any questions. The first thing you are prompted to do is choose the languages your customers speak: you can choose more than one language if you like. Next you can choose the regions you would like to target with your ads, along with the ability to narrow it down to custom areas. Remember this is a sign-up wizard, you can change these options later if you want. Here you are asking Google to only show your ad to people in the chosen area, whom they are able to identity through geographical information attached to their Internet Connection. This is not foolproof, but yields a very high percentage of control. Using this targeting feature you can avoid having to pay to advertise to people outside your target market.

Step 3: Compose your ad
Now you are prompted to create your first ad. You can edit, delete, or change your ad later if you want, long before the actual ad goes live, nothing will happen until you have entered a credit card number later on in the process, and actually activated your account, and even then you can modify the ads. Google has very firm guidelines for the editorial content of your ad, so it is worthwhile reading these, either by following the link provided, or if you like you can go directly there now: (this link will open in a new window, to return to this article just close the new window) These guidelines are aimed at helping you get the most out of your ad, not to inhibit your creativity, their advice is valuable knowledge built on billions of clicks. The goal is to get someone to click on your ad if they are interested in the message you put in it, so then the page they arrive at (your web page) should be a continuation of that message, not something on a totally different topic. In other words if you are selling shoes on your website, don't say you are selling hairbrushes in the ad, otherwise you have wasted your money. Maybe an extreme example, but you get the idea.

If you don't understand completely what they are talking about in the guidelines at first, don't worry about it, this is something you can learn as you go, improving and clarifying your ads and your results over time.

The process of composing your Google ad is a very good exercise even if you never intend to buy Adwords, because it forces you to focus and put your message in clear and concise terms, not only communicating a specific product or service message, but also trying to convince the viewer that it is unique enough to investigate further. As you get better at this over time, you will also get better at telling potential customers what you do. If you have difficulty putting it into words, hire a writer or communications consultant to help you with this later on, you will be surprised what a difference a professional communicator can make.

Step 4: Choosing a destination page
As part of the process of composing an ad, you are asked for two URL's: a display URL and Destination URL. The Display URL is what people will see in the ad, usually the domain name of your main website ( without any specific pages or folders. The destination URL is the actual page Google will send them to if they click on your ad. This is an opportunity to match the message in your ad with a targeted message on your website, in a page that you might set up specifically for people who click on this ad in Google. Since you have more control over the pages on your website, you could create a special page with all kinds of information, background, and persuasive messaging on it to convince the visitor to actually take the next step, whether it is to buy something, or contact you with a question. These pages are known as "Landing pages", and experienced Google advertisers have multiple landing pages, each one crafted to match a single Adword, or group of Adwords.

Step 5: Choosing keywords
Now we get to the most important part of the process, choosing your keywords. Choosing keywords for any kind of business is an art in itself, and you can get as complex or as simple as you have time and resources, but one fact bares remembering: the single most significant thing you can do to improve the performance of your Google advertising campaign is to expand and refine your keywords list. This is an ongoing process, something that you will be able to do as long as your account is active. You can change your keywords lists hourly, daily, weekly, or never if you like, but changing and adding to them is an effective method of increasing targeted clicks, and therefore, eventually, sales.

Once again there is a wealth of information and guidance from Google on what keywords to choose and how to find them. The common questions list on this page is a great place to start, including trademark policies, where to find keywords, and how to set up more advanced keyword patterns.

The basic rule of thumb that I use is to try and think like a searcher, and avoid using industry jargon that you may know, but your potential clients may not. There are some great resources to help get you into this frame of mind, websites where Search Engines actually allow you to see what people are searching for. A few examples (they will open in a new window, to return to this article just close the new window):

The keywords suggestion tool provided by Google at this step is very useful, and if your imagination is failing you, type in the name of your product or service in the centre box where they say "Or enter a keyword below to see relevant results from our keyword tool", then click on the button labeled "Get more Keywords". The words and phrases they suggest are drawn from their history of what people actually search on.

As mentioned above, the process of selecting keywords is worthy of much more attention than we have given it here, we may follow up with more articles on this topic alone, but for the purposes of this article we will assume you intend to revisit this process in the coming months as you develop and build on your Adwords account.

Step 6: Calculating costs
Once you have selected your keywords, and clicked on the "Continue" button, you are asked for a budget: the maximum you want to spend per day to get people to click on your Adwords and arrive at your website. Remember you have not given them your credit card number yet, so you are not obligated to pay anything at this point, you can change it later. In order to help you determine your daily budget, click on the link to view the traffic estimator. This will display a chart of your keywords and how often Google expects them to be clicked on per day, based on how often people search on these words and how many will click on your ad. You may notice now that you need to modify your keywords a bit, for example the word "travel" on it's own could cost you over $700 per day in clicks, however if you change that to "travel to Mexico" its only $1.45 per day. I assume for this article that you are more like me, inclined to set a budget closer to $50 per month.

You are asked at this point to enter the maximum you are willing to pay if someone clicks on your ad. This may affect your ad's positioning on the page if you are competing for position. Try changing the maximum CPC to something lower than the default shown if you have nothing in this box and then click "Get New Estimates". You will notice that the average position (the first column) changes. This is the relative placement your ad will have on the page when you start. If Google finds that your ad is more targeted than your competitors, they may move your ad up to the top of the list without charging you any more per click. In this way they reward you for making better ads.

Step 7: Activating your account
Now that you have set a daily budget and decided the maximum amount you will pay for a click, you are ready to open the account and start advertising. The next step involves filling out your contact information, logging in, completing the payment information, and activating your campaign. You can add pretty much as many Adwords as you want to your account, and you can divide them up into groups and campaigns, edit their keyword lists, the text and layout of your buttons and much more once you have signed up for the account. At any time you can also cancel an ad and stop them from being displayed, and your credit card from being billed.

Reports, tracking and management
The reporting system that Google provides is very powerful and allows you to create just about any kind of report you can imagine, from reports you only see when you log in to your account, to automated reports that are emailed to you, they will even send the reports to other people if you want.

Google also provides a tool to help track conversions of people on your own website, people who have clicked on a Google Adwords, gone to your site, and then gone on to make a purchase, or fill out an inquiry form. This allows you to monitor which keywords and Adwords bring people to your site, and also which words and ads bring the most likely buyers, (a far more valuable measurement). Once you have setup your Adwords account you can just leave it to run on it's own, although you will want to keep an eye on whether or not it is driving people and sales to your website.

Always remember: the businesses who get the most out of Google Adwords are the ones who fine tune their keywords list, adding new keywords, and ensuring that the message in the adword and the message on the landing page are aligned towards the singular goal of converting these targeted leads into business.

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