Google and Yahoo-Overture control over 90% of the PPC market and as such you should seriously consider using them if you want the maximum possible exposure to targeted web traffic through PPC advertising .
Sign up for the Google Adwords program is free but they require a $5 USD deposit before they will start to display your ad copy. Google provides an excellent interface to work with. A pleasant modular design groups all of your work into nice "containers" that can be manipulated and viewed in a variety of ways.
The system reporting is by no means real time but the delay on their results display is palatable when comparing them to the other major PPC provider, Yahoo-Overture.
A nice feature that sets Adwords apart from other PPC providers is that your ads display almost instantly after you place them in their system. They have built a lot of their editorial guidelines into the ad entry system.
Their system will flag your ad before you can enter it if it doesn't meet their terms of service . That is a lot better than waiting 2-5 business days to find out if your ad had a problem or not. Time is money.
Also provided with your Adwords account are a number of free tools to help you with your campaign management.
While several of these tools are great starting points I have found the need to augment what Google provides through my own online research, tools and software as well as e-book purchases.
The lesson learned, everybody that uses Google Adwords has access to the same tools that you do, including your competitors. It goes without saying that if you want to get an advantage here you will need other resources to supplement your knowledge other than what Google provides.
Having said that the Google Adwords system is still extremely powerful . Providing you with keyword suggestions, automated bid management, campaign optimization (by Google staff), geo-targeting, roi tracking, and all the reporting you can handle, their system allows you a b level of control over your spending and the ability to truly identify who your customer really is.
What I really like about the Adwords system is the fact that the guys with the most advertising dollars are not guaranteed to win any particular market.
Google tracks the Click Through Ratio (the percentage of people who see your ad and click on it) for each of your ads and keywords. Their system gives you a better position in their display listings if more people are clicking on your ads.
Why do they do this?
To reward people who take the time to write relevant ad copy and marry that to a tightly relevant keyword list.
You see, Google will reward you for doing your homework . The time you invest studying and learning their system will save you money , which can be just as rewarding as making money.
Hey, if I could afford 5 dollars a click I would pay it, but I can't. I need to lower my advertising costs while at the same time generating as much targeted traffic to my site as possible.
Unfortunately, my experience with their support system does not paint as rosy a picture of the mighty Google . In general, their online information is pretty good. It will solve your routine questions such as "when exactly does my credit card get billed? ) " quite well.
Google's support system seems geared towards keeping you off the phone with them. They like to refer to their repository of online documentation and use template driven email communication.
In instances where I needed specific information (i.e. why is this keyword disabled even though I created a brand new campaign to put it in?) I received "canned" emails with my support persons name "pasted" into the email.
Often times I was required to send them another email asking if they had even read my first one and to get the answer I was REALLY looking for.
At the end of the day I was left feeling that eventually my problem was going to be solved I just wasn't sure when that was going to be and how many times I would have to contact them in order to get the answer I really wanted.
Typical Costs associated with Running an Adwords Campaign
There's two ways to approach this:
Are you going to manage your own campaigns?
Do you want to leverage someone else's experience and invest money in a company that can manage your Adwords campaigns?
Let me suggest that you manage your own accounts at least in the beginning . Start small and start collecting reference materials while you learn how the system works.
Search for other products and resources that can help you but keep in mind some of them won't work out . Don't let that stop your research, there is material out there that can truly help you and save you a lot of money.
Investing in a $40 e-book is a lot cheaper than blowing $500 or more with Google while you are learning the ropes .
Having said that if you want to get a successful campaign started now you can enlist an SEO company to manage your Adwords campaigns.
The question is: How will you know who to trust?
You can burn several thousand dollars for overpriced, untargeted traffic if you let the wrong companies manage your campaigns. How can anyone honestly know what to look for in an Adwords Management company if you haven't even tried the system out for yourself? Food for thought. If you manage your own campaigns at first you will get a feel for the system.
Ok, let's talk about the typical costs you can expect running a Google Adwords campaign. The good news is Google Adwords gives you the potential to reach millions of surfers in a matter of minutes for pretty much as little money as you want to spend.
The bad news is after the novelty of having an Adwords account and setting up your first few campaigns wears off it can begin to feel like a ball and chain. There are a lot of monotonous tasks that have to be managed daily and it can be a tough thing to manage unless you are a disciplined person.
Before you spend money on campaigns and resources acquire this mental discipline. Realize before you begin that it isn't going to be fun after a while. Google Adwords is a business tool, one of many, and as such it has it's advantages and flaws . It can make you a lot of money or it can cost you a lot of money and create a lot of stress for you depending on your ability to consistently manage your campaigns.
Ok, your minimum initial deposit is $5 to get started as we learned above. Start here, and I suggest resisting the urge to JUMP in and start spending like crazy... stay at or near this $5-$50 level of investment until you use it up .
You're not going to see any returns on this investment financially but you will gain valuable knowledge of how best to use the Google Adwords System to generate income without learning the hard way.
You have a lot of learning to do before you want to start pouring money into your account. Google is in the business of making money and their system makes it "REALLY" easy to spend as much as you want.
Minimum bids start at a reasonable $0.05 USD. After developing your keyword list and dumping it into Google's system you have to start making financial decisions.
If you take Google's suggested bid prices for your keyword list you can pay a lot of money for your web traffic depending on how large your keyword list is and how much traffic these keywords generate.
Rest assured Google's system will provide you a lot of traffic quickly if you want to pay for it. It's not uncommon for Google's big management system to suggest max bids in the $20 - $30 range.
You don't have to accept these outrageous suggestions of course so your first big money saver is to lower the max bid to something you find acceptable and enter it for all of your keywords.
Please note Google's system will not charge you this full amount unless someone else is willing to pay that much for the keyword. Leave this number set higher if you want to produce a lot of clicks quickly.
Bidding into position's 1-3 will deliver the most traffic, but will be less targeted than position's 4-6.
Position 1 will get the most clicks but many of these clicks will be untargeted "impulse" clicks. Taking the time to scan all the way to position 6 in the listing and click on the advertisement at that position suggests that the searcher is extremely interested in the subject being advertised.
Over time you will learn which keywords are making you money and which one's are simply too competitive for your budget. Google's campaign tracking abilities in conjunction with other 3rd party ad tracking software can help you identify these profitable keywords and track your website visitors.
Unfortunately every system can only provide so much traffic and you will find the larger companies can afford to bid pretty high for more general, high traffic keywords because they can afford it.
Large companies will pay $5 for general keywords like "credit cards" because they know over the lifetime of using a credit card they will recover their investment.
The big boys can squeeze you out of the Google Adwords World just as easily as in the "real world". Of course it's not all "doom and gloom". You still have a powerful and relatively inexpensive tool in your hands if you can exploit niches and find the "bargain" keywords.
Google's system of tools leaves you high and dry in this respect unless you have a lot of money to blow on "throwing out a wide net" by trying a large keyword list and then refining your campaigns as you start to get clicks and track your conversions.
You can get a lot of garbage clicks by bidding your way to the top for general keywords . This is expensive, less targeted, and lower converting than if you bid to position 3-5 or spend time finding the less expensive niche keywords (using your third party software or e-book techniques).
Chances are when bidding on more general high traffic keywords you will be competing with large companies and competitors using SEO company services to manage their campaigns.
These companies can afford to pay a lot more than you or I for their clicks. In order to counteract this you need to tightly target your campaigns and find niche keyphrases to be profitable with Google. I can't stress this enough.
To make proper decisions you will need to gather as much data as you can on how the Adwords system works. Obviously, you won't have this data until you run a campaign or two which is why I suggest running your own Adwords Campaigns for a while to get familiar with their system.
Study the stats provided by Google which are really quite good in conjunction with one or more 3rd party stats tracking packages.
You will start to notice trends in the numbers which will allow you to make more effective use of your time and money by bidding only on the keywords that are generating sales.
Analysis may also prompt you to tweak your site content if you notice a niche you want to start competing for (better yet start up another site or tier two web page on your site targeting that niche and remove these keywords from the original campaign moving them into a new campaign pointing to your new content).
Minor tweaks can save you BIG money using Adwords
Some Notes on Scalability:
Google allows you to bid on 3 types of keyword matching options which immediately gives you three times the keywords to bid on without any more brainstorming on your part.
Each matching option provides different results and should be managed on a keyword by keyword basis.
Google also provides two methods of displaying your ad on their network: Content Match Listings and Search Network Listings .
Effectively this allows you the potential to be noticed by:
1) anyone searching on Google's portal
2) anyone searching portal sites that get their search results from Google
3) anyone viewing a site displaying Google's ads that has content related to the keywords you bid on.
4) anyone reading an email with content related to your keyword at Google's free email service Gmail.
That's a lot of options and a lot of potential exposure. Tweaking to find the right combination for your particular situation and spending requirements is something you simply have to do on an ongoing basis. I think the benefits are obvious to you by now.
A final word on costs. You may have noticed that I didn't use a lot of numbers in my discussion of campaign costs with Google. What I think I have illustrated is a Google campaign truly can cost as little or as much as you want it to.
It can get you as much or as little traffic as you want it to. What kind of traffic it brings and how much it costs is up to you.
Where will your ads be displayed? More places than you might think:
At the time of publication AOL, Netscape, Ask Jeeves, AT&T Worldnet, EarthLink and Excite all get some or all of their search results from Google.
Content Match Listings vs. Search Network Listings
When user's do a search on one of the Google family of portal sites your paid listings appear either along the top of the search results highlighted as sponsored listings or to the right of the actual search results in text boxes.
Your position on these search pages is determined by your keyword list and your bid for that keyword.
Your results with the Search Network Listings can be quite successful as long as you manage your account using some of the techniques suggested in this article.
Use the included Geo-targeting capabilities built into the Adwords system to ensure your ads display only in areas that are potential customers for you.
Content match listings appear as inserts on web pages not in search engine results pages. My experiences with the content Match Listings haven't been as successful as with the Search Network Listings although I still use this option for some of my campaigns.
Google's system analyses the content of web page and serves up ads to those pages based on the what it feels the page is about . A web page on motorcycles may feature ads about buying motorcycles, motorcycle catalogues, parts distributors ... I think you get the idea.
And this idea is a good one since the ads it displays are usually pretty close to what you would think they should be. When you display ads on your website using Google's Adsense program for example, you are effectively joining their content network.
A drawback to the content matching system is you can't really know who is clicking on your ad. It could even be a competitor clicking on your ad from their own site! Google gives you the option of disabling either of these display methods if they aren't working out for you with the click of a button.
You can do this on a campaign by campaign basis only enabling/disabling what is working for you. If you want to minimize your risk but still utilize the Content Matching system you do have an option.
You can set up a separate campaign with lower bid prices for your keywords and only enable content matching for this campaign. Remove the content matching option from your original campaign and voila! you've minimized your risk.
A few more notes on Google Campaign Optimization
I can't stress enough the importance of getting a good Click Through Ratio (CTR) for your best target keywords. Google has really offered you a chance to save some big time money if you know how to get a good CTR for your ads and keywords.
Getting a good CTR allows Google to sell more ad space which makes them more money. Google transfers some of this money to you the advertiser by increasing your ranking within their search results it displays for your keywords, at no additional cost.
That's right, if you can write relevant ads for your target keywords you don't necessarily have to pay the higher bid prices for those keywords that your competitors are paying. More money saved!
Advantages of the Google Adwords System
- Highly configurable system with an intuitive web-based interface.
- Reporting system is near real-time so you can tweak campaigns on the fly
- Since their system is web based you can access your account at any time.
- Good list of Free tools and guides (although third party tools may still be required)
- Rewards advertisers that pay attention to providing relevant content to their search clients not necessarily the highest bidder. Get a better CTR and your ads are cheaper.
- Geo-targeting capabilities. Target by City, Country or display your ads Globally.
- Multiple ad delivery systems. Content and Search listings, Partner Network listings, Email.
- Multiple keyword matching options including the ability to 'filter' keywords.
- Reasonable minimum startup cost of $5 with no monthly minimum spend requirements
- They have licensed their search results to several other large search engines improving your web site's exposure to people that don't use Google as their main search portal.
- Free ROI tracking tools.
- Minimum bid is a reasonable $0.05 USD.
Disadvantages of the Google Adwords System
- Learning curve can cost you a lot of money.
- Not the most expensive PPC search engine but certainly more expensive than all other PPCs except Yahoo-Overture
- Click fraud is an unavoidable risk.
- Content matching system does not always deliver the same ROI as their search listings. If both ad delivery systems are enable for a particular campaign the content match results can lower your overall campaign CTR and get keywords disabled.
- Support system is email template driven. It can take you a few tries to get the information you REALLY need from Google's support.
- Interface does not indicate what your competitors are bidding, only the maximum bid for any particular keyword, making the implementation of bidding strategies much more difficult.
Google Adwords Resources: Google Adwords Homepage
About the Author
Michael Lawrence is the webmaster for http://www.cobrasurf.com - Providing Free Website Traffic and Free Website Promotion
He also publishes a Blog which can be found at http://cobrasurf.blogspot.com - Discussing website promotion, internet marketing, traffic generation, search engine marketing and more.