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3 Things You Should Know Before Using Google AdWords

The reasons to use Google AdWords to market your business are numerous. The reasons not to are nearly as plentiful.

If you’re not sure whether you should use the popular search advertising platform, this post won’t go very far in helping you make that decision. There are too many variables, starting with your budget, your time and your product or service, for me to compose a “should I or shouldn’t I?” post that would apply across the board.


Google AdWords sample ad
A sample Google AdWords ad.

What I can do is save a little time for those of you who decide to try out AdWords. I didn’t know AdWords from AdSense from Words With Friends at the beginning of 2013. But now I know enough to manage AdWords accounts for five clients who spend a combined $4,000 on AdWords each month.

Many manage bigger AdWords budgets and I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have been able to get results. And I have learned a lot. What follows are three lessons from experience — hopefully they will give you an idea of what it takes to run a successful campaign.

(For readers who don’t know what AdWords is: It’s Google’s advertising platform that allows users to create ads that run on search result pages and a network of partner sites. Google offers pay-per-click (PPC) as well as cost-per-thousand impression (CPM) advertising, and advertisers can create text or display ads. Most of my experience has been with PPC text ads.)

Lesson 1. AdWords Campaigns Need Regular Attention

Especially in the early days of a campaign, it’s vital that you check in regularly to see what’s working and what’s not.

If you have keywords that aren’t attracting clicks, you’ll probably want to get rid of them. Or if a certain ad is are doing exceptionally well, you may want to create a few more that like it to try and get even better results. Adjusting your ad spending may make sense, as well.

Tweak and experiment, wait a few days to see results, and tweak again. You’ll find a routine that works for your campaign adjustments — but it almost certainly won’t be “set it and forget it.”

Lesson 2: If You Like Tweeting and Stats, You’re In Luck

Writing an AdWords ad is not unlike posting on Twitter — you’re trying to craft something people will notice in a very limited space (ad headlines are limited to 25 characters, and each of the two lines below the headline are no longer than 35 characters).

If you’ve worked in print journalism (I have), it’s also a lot like writing a good headline.

The difference is the amount of feedback you get. The AdWords interface is not always intuitive, but once you learn how to use it, you’ll find an impressive assortment of data to measure your campaign’s effectiveness. Impressions, clicks, cost per click and average ad position are just the beginning.

Being handy with Excel or Numbers helps, too. I find myself setting up regular reports and downloading more data on the fly to track progress, look for opportunities and create client reports.

Lesson 3: It Doesn’t End at the Click

This may be obvious if you’re focused on return on investment, but simply getting a click on an ad doesn’t equal success. Figuring out what the users who click ads do when they get to your site — and how many turn into actual customers — is the key to success.

That means the adjustments you should expect to make as data starts to pour in should include edits to your site, especially your landing page (the first page users who click on ads see).

A well-designed, engaging landing page increases the chances visitors will convert into customers, of course. But Google also positions ads and charges you for them based on the connection between keywords, ad copy and landing page content. The more related they are, the better you’ll do.

Those are the top lessons I have taken away from AdWords so far. If you have questions or comments, I encourage you to leave them in the comment section below or to send me an  email or tweet. And if you take the AdWords plunge, I wish you luck

Jon DeNunzio runs Squarely Digital, a digital consulting firm that aims to make the internet a little bit easier and a lot more profitable for your company. Contact him at [email protected].

By Jon DeNunzio

Jon DeNunzio runs Squarely Digital, a consulting company aimed at helping other organizations get more out of their efforts online.

Specifically, we can help with editorial content, search advertising, SEO, analytics, social media and other customer/user engagement efforts.

I started this company after nearly 20 years working in the newsroom at the Washington Post -- both on its print edition and website.

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