Joe needed more business leads.
He was getting only two or three inquiries from the internet – in a good month. Potential customers searching for his prime industry keywords were just not drilling down to his second-page listing on Google. Joe didn’t know how to improve his organic search engine ranking, so he decided to cut to the front of the line by buying the top spot through Google Adwords.
In no time, Joe had set up an account and started sending the traffic to his home page with this ad:
It was obvious to him that the prime industry keywords were “abrasive blasting”, “sandblasting” and “surface preparation”, but he suspected there were other terms he hadn’t thought of, so he set the keywords to broad match so that his ad would be triggered by search terms that Google deemed relevant.
Joe was gunning for the top spot, so he selected an automated bidding strategy to get him first place. It didn’t come cheap: Joe was paying $5.00 per click, which translated into 6-7 clicks per day on average for his $1000 monthly budget. But he didn’t notice any more inquiries than normal, and he wasn’t sure whether the leads he was getting were the result of his Adwords campaign or not.
With no noticeable bump in sales, and no way to know whether he was getting a good return on his investment, it looked like – for Joe – Google Adwords was a bust.
What went wrong? Well, Google is in the business of taking your advertising dollars, so they make it so simple to set up an Adwords campaign that you can be up and running in an hour. But if you jump into the deep end without knowing how to swim, you’re sunk.
However, if you take time to think about your campaign and work out the details with pen and paper before opening your account, not only will your ads get more clicks, but your clicks will cost less – how to do that is the subject of Part 1 of this series. In Part 2, I’ll walk you through the set up and launch your account, so that you are utilizing the best features and strategies Adwords has to offer. We’ll break out of the default ad format and create ads that compel searchers to action, like the one below.
In Part 3, I’ll show you how to test and optimize elements of your campaign to acquire the most customers at the lowest cost.
You don’t need to be a web expert to succeed with Adwords. All you need to get started is a website and $30/month to spend. But first, let’s take a look under the Google Adwords hood.
HOW GOOGLE ADWORDS WORKS
When you search for a term at Google, it returns a page with a list of organic results, ranked according to website authority and relevance of the page to your search term. If there is an economic benefit to being on the first page, you’ll see ads and other sponsored listings above and beside the organic results. Consider the results for “running shoes”, a lucrative term with fierce competition:
The “Top” three ad placements take up the prime real estate on the page, where the most clicks occur. On the side, there is room for up to eight ads in the less prominent “Other” placement. If there are local businesses that sell a product or service relevant to the search term, they will also be positioned above the organic results. Depending on the product or service, Google provides other advertising options to capitalize on lucrative keywords, such as product listings. Luckily for surface preparation professionals, the competition for the prime industry keywords is relatively low, especially for local businesses, so your cost-per-click should be affordable – provided you create your ads the right way.
How Adwords Determines the Position of Your Ad
As the name implies, with pay-per-click advertising, you – the advertiser – only pay when someone clicks your ad. You choose which keywords you want to trigger your ad, and set the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for each click – your maximum bid.
When someone searches for a keyword that you are bidding on, your ad gets entered into an auction, along with the ads from your competitors. Google looks at the Ad Rank of each, and places them in descending order, with the top Ad Rank going in the top position.
What factors go into Ad Rank?
Ad Rank = Maximum Bid x Quality Score x Extensions
Extensions are extra features that you can display with your ads, such as sitelinks or reviews, or a “Call” button on your mobile ads. At auction time, Google makes an estimate of how much impact your extensions will have, and factors that into your Ad Rank. The bottom line is, you need to be using extensions, and I’ll show you how to configure them in Part II. But for now, let’s look at the other two factors – Maximum Bid and Quality Score – and how they impact your ad placement.
Quality Score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords and landing pages on a scale of 1 to 10.
The three factors that contribute to your Quality Score are:
- the expected clickthrough rate (CTR) of your ad (how often do people click on your ad when it is displayed on the page)
- the relevance of keywords to ads
- your landing page experience
The way Joe set up his campaign would likely earn him a low quality score: his clickthrough rate would be poor because his ad doesn’t feature the keywords he is targeting, and his ad doesn’t tell the searcher why he should choose Joe over his competitors. Joe compounds his problems by sending the visitor to his homepage instead of a landing page specially designed to receive clickthroughs from the ad. With this configuration, it would be no surprise if Joe’s ad earned a Quality Score of 2/10. Multiply that by his maximum bid of $5.00, and at auction time, Joe’s ad would be assigned an Ad Rank of 10.
If you were competing against Joe, with a properly configured ad and landing page, it wouldn’t be hard to achieve a quality score of 8/10. With a maximum bid of $1.50, you could score an Ad Rank of 12 -placing above Joe’s ad while paying 70% less per click!
Quality Score is critical to your Adwords success: the way to achieve it is by creating ads with a laser focus on one specific type of customer, and creating a landing page as an extension of the ad. Let’s see how it’s done.
Sometimes you will see ads to the side of the Google organic results, but not above. This is because there is a minimum Ad Rank threshold for the top placements – a $0.10 bid may not be enough to get you the prime real estate. Quality Score matters, even if you are the only one bidding on the term.
STEP 1 – KNOW YOUR BUYER
Pay-per-click advertising is about more than just bringing visitors to your site… you need to be attracting the right visitors. When you are paying for every click, you want to attract customers who have their wallets out, not window shoppers and tire kickers. The worst outcome is when your budget is consumed by people searching for something you don’t even offer!
To avoid this, you need to show ads and landing pages designed to appeal to a very narrow type of customer. Before you can do this, you need to know who that customer is, which entails breaking your customer base down into segments, and building buyer profiles that represent each segment.
Who are your main customer types and why do they buy?
You likely have more than one type of customer. Let’s say most of your business comes from these three sources:
- general contractors outsourcing surface preparation for construction projects, for whom speed and thoroughness are important.
- shipyard managers who clean boat hulls, who need to comply with tighter containment regulations.
- walk-in customers who drop off parts for blasting, who are looking for the lowest price.
If each one came through the door, would you try to sell them using the same pitch? Would you tell the walk-in about how fast and efficient you are at assembling containment? Would you show the shipyard manager before and after photos of parts that you blasted in the shop? No, you’d talk to them about how you can solve the problems that matter to them. Just like in real life, you’ll get better results with Adwords by crafting sales pitches that address their specific concerns. In practical terms, for each buyer you should have custom-tailored ads, landing pages and keywords.
Buyer profiles don’t have to be formal, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it, so long as it helps you get into your buyer’s head. When marketing professionals create buyer profiles, they will interview customers and ask them questions designed to elicit buying insights. I will explain how to do this in-depth in an upcoming article, but in the meantime, you can go a long way by intuiting your customers’ responses. Let’s look at some questions (and example responses) that will elicit the kind of information that will be useful when selecting keywords, and crafting ads and landing pages.
1) Who is the buyer?
What is his job and industry, and what kind of business would he send your way?
The General Contractor is a 40-55 year old male entrepreneur. He has a large construction project and he needs to outsource the surface preparation. He needs aggregate exposed on a large scale, and has some steel with mill scale that needs knocking off and an anchor pattern imparted.
2) What is he searching for, and what matters to him?
He needs to find more qualified contractors to bid on his projects. Let’s assume that getting good value is important to him (as is usually the case): satisfactory service at the best price matters.
3) What terms is he searching for?
Anticipating his search terms is critical to success, but unfortunately this is an art form and not a science. Google has a Keyword Planner that can analyze your web page and suggest terms, but I wouldn’t recommend relying on it: it’s not as smart as you are. Instead, put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and ask yourself what terms you would search for to accomplish his goal. Most likely the terms will be related to the service or the service provider.
What service does he need (and who provides it)?
- Surface Preparation (surface preparation contractors)
- Sandblasting (sandblasters)
- Abrasive Blasting (abrasive blasters)
- Vapor Abrasive Blasting (vapor abrasive blasters)
4) How can you solve this buyer’s problems?
Having decided that price and service quality are important to this buyer, can you provide high-quality service at a competitive price? If so, what are the features and benefits of your service that solve his problems? If not, you’re going to have a hard time getting this buyer’s business, unless you can think of a different problem of his that you can solve.
If you’re a vapor abrasive blaster, you have a competitive advantage over traditional sandblasters. Because vapor abrasive blasting suppresses dust, you spend less time setting up, dismantling and moving complex containment. Also, because you use 1/5 of the abrasive, there’s less to clean up. These are features. The benefit to the buyer is that he spends less on labor and abrasive.
Also, with minimal containment and protection requirements, vapor abrasive blasters can work in close proximity to others. The benefit is that the buyer doesn’t need to shut down operations in the area while you work.
Another feature is that with adjustable pressure and abrasive mix, you can blast a wide variety of surfaces, from steel to aggregate to concrete to wood. This versatility makes vapor abrasive blasting a good fit for the construction industry.
5) How can you overcome his concerns? What proofs can you offer?
To prove your claims about vapor abrasive blasting, you could offer to do a demonstration. If this can happen at the job site, it would do double duty by allowing you do a test patch so that you can give a more accurate quote.
To satisfy his concerns about service quality, you could tell him about your team’s 50+ years of combined blasting experience. Offering a guarantee would go a long way to assuaging his fears of coating failure.
You could also give testimonials from past satisfied customers, and present case studies with before and after photos from past jobs of similar scope.
6) What is your unique selling proposition (USP) to this buyer?
If you can’t explain why a customer should choose you over the competition, you’re going to have trouble crafting ads that will compel them to buy. Express in a succinct way the most important reason why you are better. Some famous examples:
“When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight” – FedEx
“The Ultimate Driving Machine” – BMW
“Chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your hands” – M&Ms
“Vapor abrasive blasting saves you money.”
7) What’s your offer?
Now that you’ve identified why the buyer should choose you, it’s time to recast that main feature as a benefit. It can help to think of this as the promise you make to the buyer, should he contract your services. In other words, what are you offering to do? Try pitching directly to the customer by starting your answer with “You get…”
“You get the same results as sandblasting, for half the price and cost.”
8) What action do you want the buyer to take next?
What’s the next step in your sales process? Do you usually receive a phone call, then meet the client and inspect the job site, do a test patch, provide an estimate? Express this as a call-to-action, in 35 characters or less.
Get a free estimate & demonstration.
With these answers in hand, you’re ready to craft a sales pitch for this buyer in the form of an ad and landing page.
STEP 2 – WRITE ADS
This is the default format for a Google Adword ad:
The headline is the most important part of your ad. Research shows that 8 out of 10 people will read the headline, but only 2/10 will read the rest. Another fact: including keywords in the title is one of the best ways to increase the clickthrough rate (CTR) for your ad. Because CTR is the major component of Quality Score, putting keywords in the headline is the most effective way to bring down your cost-per-click (CPC).
Above, we anticipated some terms that the buyer would be searching for:
- Surface Preparation (surface preparation contractors)
- Sandblasting (sandblasters)
- Abrasive Blasting (abrasive blasters)
- Vapor Abrasive Blasting (vapor abrasive blasters)
These will be our main keywords. Because it’s a best practice to put keywords in the headline, we’re going to need a minimum of 4 separate ads, one for each keyword. The first step in assembling your ads is to write a headline that incorporates the keyword: 25 characters is not a lot to work with, so you may only have room for the keyword alone.
The description lines are where the meat goes. It’s where you plug in your features and benefits, offer, USP, call-to-action and proofs that you generated at during Step 1: Know Your Buyer. You should have plenty of material to work with, which is good, because in Part III, you’ll be testing different combinations to see which ones resonate most with your customers.
Finally, we’ll write the display URL. This is not the actual address of your landing page. It starts with your domain name, but after the slash you can put whatever you want within the 35 character limit. This is a good place to put meaningful information that didn’t make it into your description lines, like your location, your audience or the targeted industry.
There is another format worth mentioning. If you add an exclamation mark (!) to the end of Description Line 1, Adwords will tack the words from this line onto the end of the headline, resulting in an extended headline up to 60 characters. This format is especially useful: not only is it proven to increase clickthroughs, but it gives you room to state your offer while including your keywords. Another benefit is that in the next step – when we build our landing page – we can use the extended headline from the ad as the headline for the landing page, thereby creating a unified and relevant landing page experience that will earn a high Quality Score and keep our cost-per-click down.
Next, let’s take a look at how we can apply what we know about our buyer to design landing pages that are extensions of our ads.
STEP 3 – BUILD LANDING PAGES
The door to your place of business opens, and in walks a potential customer.
“I was searching for sandblasting in Houston,” he says. “I saw your ad for: Same Results as Sandblasting – Half the Time & Cost. Get a Free Estimate & Demonstration… so here I am.”
How would you sell your services to that person? The answer to that question tells you what belongs on the landing page for that ad. You already did the heavy lifting when you got to know your buyer: all you need to do now is present your features, benefits, and all the rest in the proper format. Good news: landing pages have been tested extensively to understand which designs are best at getting visitors to perform the call-to-action (in other words, which designs convert best). For Joe Blaster, his landing page might look something like this…
Feel free to adapt this wireframe for your own purposes.
You don’t need to include all the above elements in your landing page in order to be successful, and there’s no guarantee that by following this example, your landing page experience will be amazing… the devil is in the details.
At the start of this article, I promised that you didn’t need to be a web expert to succeed with Google Adwords. If you’re looking at this proposed landing page and thinking that there’s no way you can pull this off on your own, then I encourage you to check out services like Unbounce and Instapage that enable non-technical people to make stylish and effective landing pages without writing code.
The bottom line: if you are not sending visitors to a landing page that is relevant to the ad, your Quality Score will suffer and you could pay up to 1000% more per click!
With Google Adwords, your success will be largely determined before you open an Adwords account.
In Part II of this series, I’ll show you how to set up your campaign, configure extensions for your ads, install tracking and analytics, and launch.