I’ve been using Google Adwords now for a number of different ventures since early 2004. I just wanted to share my experience on how Adwords has changed over the years, unfortunately (and this is just my opinion) not for the better, unless you’re a Google shareholder. I’d also love to hear what other bootstrappers out there think about Adwords?
For Google it seems Adwords is practically a license to print money. I’m considered a small advertiser but can easily burn through £100 a day. What Adwords does to great effect is tap into the competitiveness amongst advertisers to outbid one another until they are basically paying all their profit margin to Google, and some. But obviously you cannot blame Google for that and any levelheaded entrepreneur should be carefully tracking conversions and ROI. What I suspect is many people don’t, and the lure of turning on the Google taps and drenching your website in unfettered traffic is just too much.
I remember back in 2005, 2006 some of the keywords were floating around the £1 mark in my industry, now they are somewhere close to £6. Given that the entry level product I sell would typically yield a margin of £3, you really need to make sure you’re upselling to most clients.
What’s also interesting is how back in 2005 I might get a call from Google once a year, now it’s more like once every couple of months. Google have built a very sophisticated operation in the Republic of Ireland that closely monitor all accounts and “touch base” far too many times for my liking. Mostly these calls are related to account optimisations and fiddling around the edges, I rarely have time for this and when I have in the past it has turned out to be completely fruitless. In fact only 2 years ago one of the account specialists quietly turned on content advertising (the one where you’re ads appears on other websites, I.e. much less targeted) on a large campaign that subsequently burned through £8,000 in 2 months and resulted in a handful of clicks and 0 conversations. After taking this matter as high as I could with Google I got back £4,000, although I had to take my case to the UK CEO as Google Ireland practically stone-walled me.
So if a Google specialists has made some alterations to your account, make sure you go over and fully understand every minute change, as they can have quite profound effects. And of course my failure here was to not keep very close tabs on what was going on in my Adwords account in the following days, had I logged in I would have noticed this much earlier. My excuse as I am sure others here may sympathise with is trying to cover too many roles and allocating each an insufficient amount of attention.
Well this turned into a bid of a rant, which was not my intention. I would not discourage anyone from using Adwords but for what it’s worth these are the key things to be mindful of (feel free to add to this):
- Put in place a very strict budget and extend this only when the data supports this, and it is commercially viable to do so.
- Use the conversion tracking code (without this you really can’t get any sort of reliable ROI).
- A, B test your ad copy and landing pages (this unfortunately is quite involving but will allow you to get the most from Adwords).
- Do not follow these automated wizards (I think Google refer them to “Opportunities”) that create ads in your account automatically for you.
- Display advertising and content advertising for me at least were a complete waste of money. They are not well suited for bootstrappers but rather for big VC backed enterprises with deep pockets.
- Be very wary of these calls from Google account specialists. They have a vested interest in getting you to increase your ad spend and logging into your account more frequently to check on your ad positions. If they make any changes get them in writing and very carefully check and understand the consequences.
As I mentioned, I would be very interested to hear other peoples experience with Adwords.