My Google Adwords Experiment

Google AdWords CampaignIn an earlier post , I mentioned how I had received a £75 voucher for use within Google AdWords and intended to use it to promote my Martial Arts Equipment website. Receiving this voucher prompted me to explore the world of Pay per Click (PPC) marketing and I would now like to share some I my findings with you.

As with most things I do, this experiment soon transcended past the realms of my initial intentions and on to something slightly different, still centred around Google AdWords, the following actions have been undertaken whilst working on a different affiliate site of mine, www.naturallygrown.co.uk.

Before starting the campaign I had a clear set of questions which I hoped would be answered, the main ones being:

  • Does PPC work within an Affiliate / AdSense environment?
  • How do you create a good Ad?
  • Are my landing pages converting successfully?
  • Am I targeting the right keywords?
  • How much traffic would I get if I ranked organically?

For the remainder of this post I will be trying to answer these questions to the best of my ability as well as providing you with as much value as I possibly can from my own experiences.

The PPC Ad used in this scenario is attempting to drive traffic to my Naturally Grown website and generate sales of Hamster Cages via the Amazon Affiliate scheme.

Bit of Background

At the time of writing this post, I am looking in to the prospect of a new project, one which is a bit different to my current affiliate websites and focuses more on reader value. I am not going to show my whole hand just yet but judging on the content of this post, it is fair to say that it might be centred around Hamsters :)

This campaign is therefore going to provide me with a little bit of market research for an upcoming project while attempting to generate revenue from an existing one. Two birds, one stone…Hardly ground breaking but adds a little value to the whole process.

Creating the Ad

The Ad creation within Google AdWords is pretty straight forward. I have included a screen shot to display the format of the process:

Google AdWords Campaign - Test Ad

This is your opportunity to get the customers attention, take some time to think about what makes you click on a Google Ad yourself and apply it to your own

Top Tip #1

Creating an Ad can be difficult; you have only got a short space to convince your target to click on your link. If you are struggling for ideas, enter your chosen keyword into Google and check out some of the existing Ads. What do they include? what could you add to make your Ad stand out?, getting the click is not just about placement, standing out from the crowd will always make you more appealing.

With this in Mind, I tried to create an Ad which would appeal to my target audience based on the financial aspect, (My Ad can be seen further down in this post) is it a good ad? You decide…looking back, I think it is a poor ad with very little customer appeal. Do I want people to arrive at my site purely looking for the cheapest product?…Yes if they buy it, but on the whole I think it is of more value to have the customer arrive thinking that they are buying the best product, not the cheapest.

Rightly so, you might wonder why I created this ad if I think it is poor…firstly, it was my first attempt and I’m trying to make the best out of a bad situation, hindsight is a wonderful thing but something that does not exist in the present, and secondly, one of my objectives from this exercise was to see how many impressions the ad got and provide a little real time data on how much traffic I could expect from a well-placed organic listing; so even without the click, I was picking up some valuable information.

The next step of the ad creation phase allows you to input specific keywords for your Ad. I think that this is the most important phase of the entire process as it allows you to dictate the mind-set of your potential customer arrives. Google will supply you with suggested keywords but you need to be careful and choose wisely; to help explain this I will provide 3 keywords and their inherent strengths and weaknesses:

  • Hamster Cage Reviews – Easy to think that this could be a good keyword to start with but I feel it is flawed from the start. The informational nature of this search query, immediately suggests to me that the customer is still undecided on which product to purchase. While there is a definite opportunity to make a sale and the strength of your landing page will, I just think that there are better keywords which will present a customer who is wallet in hand and ready to spend.
  • Cheap Hamster Cages – I am not immediately going to defend this keywords just because my ad is centred around it but there is a definite intent to purchase hidden in the transactional nature of this query. The downside to this query is that it is always going to harvest the lowest possible commission. Don’t get me wrong, that is no reason to overlook the keyword but if there are better opportunities then by all means go for them.
  • Rotastak Adventure Zone – Bit of a random one here but bear with me. Rotastak is a market leading manufacture of hamster homes, there are others such as Habitrail but I will go with this one for now. By targeting this keyword you are catering for a specific intention. The customer has carried out all of their research and has decided that this is the product for them. You are now going to serve them up a page whereby they can make the purchase and be on their way. You might say at this point, if you direct a visitor to a product review of this item you could convert from there; I will concede that this is true but if you are paying for the click in the first place, there is a greater risk that they will leave your page through indecision or lack of intent to purchase; regardless of how good your page is.

For me, the last keyword presents the greatest opportunity to convert but by all means, experiment yourself and be sure to monitor the progress.

The final step of the process is to assign a Cost per Click (CPC) value to your ad. See mistake #1 for further details :(

Mistake #1

I am pretty new to PPC marketing and have only ever attempted to attract traffic via Organic sources and maybe a touch of Social Media, I therefore had little experience setting budgets with AdWords campaigns. For those of you who are unfamiliar with AdWords campaigns, you have the ability to set a Cost per Click (CPC) value for your ads. It does not take the brains of an archbishop to work out that the higher your CPC value, the higher your placement will be on the results pages, naively, I took the advice of Google and set my limit to just under £1 per click, this would ensure first page rankings every time…needless to say, initially I was haemorrhaging money at a serious rate. This was soon rectified and the ship was steadied once more

Top Tip #2

Start of small with your CPC value, if it does not attract the desired amount of traffic then feel free to increase the amount gradually. Starting with the opposite approach may deplete your funds before you have had enough time to extract the required information.

After an almost project crippling first day (£23.86 for 22 clicks) I decided to lower my CPC to £0.15 (15 pence) and take a look at how my ads were performing, Below is a screen shot of my Ad:

Google AdWords Campaign - The Ad

As you can see from the screenshot, my Ad is sitting pretty at the bottom of the paid advertisements list on page 2 for the search criteria “hamster cage”, not exactly where I would want it to be but better than my current organic rankings for the same search criteria.

Note: I have since increased the CPC value to the lowest amount to ensure first page rankings. This will ensure more accurate traffic statistics and higher click through rate (CTR)

The Ad is Alive!

Your Ad should now be active and visible via relevant searches. Be sure to test this out but do not click as it will cost you!

Careful monitoring should be performed during the early stages of the Ads release. Google will make a series of recommendations throughout this period and it is vital that you proceed with caution

Mistake #2

A few days after my Ad went live I received a message on my AdWords which suggested that I add more keywords to my ad and stupidly I pressed ok without checking what they were. I made the assumption that Google knew best and it was a huge mistake…The following screenshot shows a few of the keywords which were suggested by Google for my Rotastak Adventure Zone Ad:

Google Adwords - Keyword Suggestions

Needless to say I deleted a few of them as soon as I realised. “Rat Toys” and “Rabbit Supplies” are not the greatest keywords to target when you are trying to sell hamster cages.

So how did the Ad do?

Success is measured by sales in this game and if you are not selling then you need to change things. The first week I ran this Ad produced no sales whatsoever, the mistakes I made were a contributing factor but the main reasons were as follows:

  • Landing page was not good enough to convert – I had ample clicks but could not convert. Do not suffer vanity for your own work, except that sometimes you will make mistakes and correct them. I wanted to know if my landing page would work and found out that it didn’t on this occasion, yes it may have on another day but I was not prepared to let it fail again
  • Destination URL was the wrong choice – Initially I decided to drive traffic to a specific product page, it was an Amazon best seller but as outlined in the keyword example above, it is vital to understand the mind-set of the customer and their intentions.
  • Keywords were all wrong – Too vague with no real consideration to what the customer was looking for. It sounds crazy writing this but I have no idea why I chose the initial keywords, I know a bit about SEO but seemed to ignore all of it before charging in without thought or intelligence. Oh well, even Neo failed his first jump :)

I have since made changes and can confirm that I have generated increased sales and my conversion rate for the month stands at 27.59% on the Amazon Affiliate scheme which I am fairly pleased with.

The other piece of information I wanted to find out during this process was traffic related. I wanted to know how much traffic would be received by ranking well for criteria related to hamster cages for an upcoming project. The results can be seen below:

Google AdWords - Traffic Statistics

For 1 day alone, my ad received over 8,000 impressions for topic related keywords. This figure tied in pretty well with the results from the Google Keyword tool but it was nice to have real time data to confirm this.

Conclusion

In answer to my initial questions:

  • Does PPC work within an Affiliate / AdSense environment? – Yes it can but you will need to experiment with your ads and monitor them with a very close eye. Start out with a low CPC value and work up if need be. Examine the whole process and look at the mind-set of your customer, if you are paying for them to arrive at your site, you want to convert at least 30% of the time, especially when using Amazon as the commission rate is relatively low in comparison to other schemes. AdSense is a bit of uplift when paying for traffic, you are never going to break the bank with this tactic but you may increase your earnings. I do not think it is a sustainable means of acquiring traffic but more of an indication of how profitable it would be to rank organically for particular search criteria. Great way to see if your landing pages will convert and provides excellent data.
  • How do you create a good Ad? – Look at the competition and try and stand out from the crowd, Unique Selling Point 101, get your customers attention. Remember that a good ad is monitored by its ability to generate sales, do not be generic and make sure your ad is laced with purpose, if you want someone to by something; make sure they arrive at your landing page with an intention to purchase.
  • Are my landing pages converting successfully? – No, ditch the vanity and fix it. I have made changes and they are now starting to perform, there is still a lot of things I need to improve on but at least I am aware of this, there is no point spending time on increasing my organic rankings if my landing pages are under-performing.
  • Am I targeting the right keywords? – Not initially but I have made positive changes which have been well received. Take care when selecting your keywords and think about the purchase process
  • How much traffic would I get if I ranked organically? – Enough to excite me about my new project…Can’t wait!!!

All in all I have learnt a lot from this exercise and enjoyed doing so. It is also very rewarding to see positive returns, they say your first sale is the hardest but it think it is also the most rewarding, proof that you are heading in the right direction.

Done in the right way I think it could be a good step for me and something I am going to continue with for the time being; I will perform a monthly review of this process to determine ROI but remain optimistic about it. My ad is still running so will post more updates in the near future…

#keepmovingforward

 

Category: Monetise, Promote

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