Lessons Learned From $25 Million Dollars in AdWords Spend

Brian in Growth hacking on 5th of Oct 2015
Google Ads Optimization

Google Ads Optimization

AdWords is an essential part of the modern marketer’s toolkit to reach new customers. According to Google’s latest Economic Impact Report, businesses generally make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on Adwords paid search campaigns, remarketing ads, and display network. But how do you strategically approach AdWords to get the most out of your marketing spend? Whether you are an AdWords pro or just getting started, chew on these lessons from my interview with Jake Meltzer, a demand generation guru who’s spent over $25 million dollars on AdWords (yes, really) working at companies like Google, Symantec, Zendesk, and currently, PagerDuty.

1. Start with a large keyword list

If you have the budget, cast a wide net of keywords to collect as much data as possible. The process Meltzer recommends looks like this: Start With A Large Keyword List The goal is to see how your ads perform and make changes after seeing actual results. Instead of dipping your toe into the water, spread out your arms and dive in! If you prefer a more gradual approach, start with 10 keywords you are confident apply to your business. From there, trickle in new keywords while paying close attention to what’s converting and what’s not.

2. Focus on “long-tail keywords” to drive targeted traffic

Long tail keywords are the uber specific 3+ word phrases people search for on Google. For example, a broad keyword is “wines” and a long-tail keyword is something like “1984 Napa Valley Cline Cellars Pinot Noir.” These keywords are more likely to get clicks because searchers know exactly what they’re looking for. The Long Tail Explained With Wine Keywords Focus on long-tail keywords in your AdWords strategy to generate more qualified leads. Not to mention - they’re lower cost and less risky than broad keywords.

3. Turn clicks into conversions with targeted landing pages

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads should link to a targeted and relevant landing page. Not your homepage. To create a landing page that converts, focus on one main goal by including a clear call-to-action to entice searchers to sign up for a free trial, register for a webinar, or download a lead magnet, like Jobvite does in this great example: Jobvite's Targeted Landing Page Improve your odds of a conversion by removing any navigation links, which can be a distraction and provide opportunities for visitors to leave quickly. Bottom line: you want to make clicking on your call-to-action feel like the most obvious and natural next step. For other landing page best practices, check out the blueprint of a high converting landing page.

4. Message match keywords in your landing page headline

Web readers have short attention spans. If you don’t show them they’ve arrived at the right place quickly and clearly, they leave. To prevent this from happening, “message match” your ad copy to your landing page headline. Your readers will feel reassured and reward you with more conversions. Check out this great example from Freshservice: Freshservice AdWords' Ad Freshservice's Landing Page Notice how both the search ad and landing page headline match perfectly to say, “IT Support Ticketing Tool”? This is what you should be aiming for.

5. Experiment with revolutionary changes instead of just evolutionary changes

Test radically different value propositions or “revolutionary changes” as Meltzer calls them. There’s a greater opportunity for failure, but you’ll have so many more chances to find keyword sets that convert like crazy. Experiment With Revolutionary Keywords Another way to think it about is homeruns versus bunts. By swinging for the fence you’ll strike out more, but you’ll never hit a homerun by going for a bunt.

6. Think of keywords in themes

If your keyword sets are in the tens of thousands, group them into themes with the AdWords labeling feature. This enables you to run reports on similar keywords and look for patterns in the data. Continuing with our wine example, you could compare how “red wine” keyword sets are performing against “white wine” keyword sets. Not rocket science, but an often overlooked way of managing an account.

7. Exclude geographic locations eating up your budget

Adwords serves your ads to people all around the globe, with some locales being profitable and others…not so much. Keep an eye out for locations that are driving up your cost-per-click but who aren’t converting. You can monitor this by going to Dimensions > View: Geographic. Geographic Locations In AdWords To adjust your bids, go into Settings > Locations. There you can exclude unprofitable locations or modify how much you spend per click for specific areas.

8. Modify broad match keywords to be more precise

Google allows you to set different keyword match types to help control which searches trigger your ads. These can be broken down in the following table (compliments of AdWords support): Keyword Match Types Table Adwords’ broad match runs ads automatically based on relevant variations of your keywords, even if these terms aren’t in your keyword lists. Translation: Google is choosing keywords for you, which could be really good or really bad. To be safe, modify your broad match keywords to be more precise with “exact word” match or “phrase match.”

9. Keep automatic placement displays in check

The equivalent of broad match keywords for display ads are “automatic placements,” which are the websites where your ads are being shown by Google. To be blunt, the quality of placements is largely variable and a lot of them are pure garbage. One bad placement can eat up your budget in a single swoop. Automatic Placements Can Eat Up Your Budget You can keep a close eye on automatic placement displays in the “Display Network” tab. One way to make sure your marketing dollars aren’t being wasted on irrelevant sites no one ever converts from is to create a filter for “high cost, no conversion.” To do this, go to your Display campaign > Display Network > Placements> Filter > Create filter. Set converted clicks = 0 and set a cost threshold. In general, if a conversion hasn’t happened after $85 worth of spend on a specific placement, it’s probably not worth investing in further. Check on this filter at least weekly and exclude any placements that match.

10. Automate reporting to easily manage huge sets of keywords

Filtering and automating reports is the secret sauce for managing million dollar budgets and thousands of keyword sets. Why? Because it’s like having a second person managing your account who never sleeps. Perfect use cases would be “Send me an email when any keyword exceeds my intended cost per acquisition” or “Tell me when my account receives zero clicks for a day.” You won’t have to worry about manually checking these scenarios in your account. They’ll get sent straight to you. This article from Google will give you a jumpstart on the best filters to use.

One does not simply master Adwords overnight

When creating your Google AdWords pay-per-click campaigns, always lead your visitors down the path of least resistance through every step of the customer journey, from ad to landing page, from landing page to conversion, and from conversion to customer. And remember that AdWords is not a “set it and forget it” channel. Continue to optimize and experiment, you’ll never know where you’ll find hidden opportunities to knock a campaign out of the park for a killer return on investment. What Adwords lessons have you learned? Any approaches or tips you’d include above? Let us know in the comments.

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