Google AdWords: Beyond Text-Based Search Ads

This is the fourth and last article in a series that guides you in using Google AdWords. In this article we’ll cover keyword strategy, taking a look at the use of negative keywords; consider the AdWords contextual network; and see how to use image and banner ads.

As you learned in the previous articles, targeted keywords, a good advertisement and persuasive landing pages are the three aspects that help you make money with AdWords. The entire AdWords campaign is broken if even one of these elements does not work.

In the two previous articles we discussed in detail ad creation, ad writing and landing pages. In this article we will study an effective AdWords keyword strategy in depth. It will help you lower costs per click, get a higher click through rate, get more traffic and raise your quality score. We will discuss Google’s contextual network, its effectiveness and whether you should opt out. And in the end we touch on another AdWords segment – image (banner) advertising, its effectiveness and banner strategies.

AdWords Keyword Strategy

As you start a new AdWords campaign, you won’t know which keywords will bring you the most traffic and generate the most conversions. You can guess, but the only way to find out is to let the ads run for few days.

  1. Take your core keywords (you can read more about this topic in the previous article) and create an ad group for each. Each core keyword requires a separate group and a separate ad.

  2. Put secondary key phrases into an ad group according to the core keyword to which they relate. For example, if the core keyword is “buy digital camera” and secondary keywords are “buy cheap digital camera,” “buy panasonic digital camera” and “buy digital video camera,” then those phrases will go into the “buy digital camera” group. (We discussed keyword research in detail in the second article in this series).

  3. Write two ads for each ad group in order to do split testing.

  4. Put conversion tracking codes into the appropriate pages to track the sales each keyword delivers. With conversion tracking, AdWords will report the number of clicks, impressions and conversion rate for your phrases.

  5. Let the ads run for a few days.

As the advertisements run on search results and on the contextual network (more on the contextual network later in this article) for different keywords, AdWords collect statistics. After a few days you will have good performance data for each ad group. This is what we’re after.

Once you have the statistics, you will notice that some keywords drive way more traffic than the others. Take those keywords and put them into their own ad group.

This will help you lower your cost per click, increase the click through rate and raise your quality score, because when you put keywords into their own ad groups, you will write new advertisements for each, designed just for those keywords.

With this strategy you will:

  • Lower the price you pay for each click. Google rewards advertisers that have a high click through rate by lowering their price per click and moving the ad into a higher position.

  • Get more visitors to your website, and more conversions as a result (assuming your landing pages do the job).

  • Increase your AdWords quality score.

Notice that when you stick high-performing keywords in their own ad group and write an advertisement specifically for those phrases, your overall click-through goes up.

Whenever you don’t want to show your ad for certain keywords, you can put those keywords into the list as negative keywords. For example, take the keyword ”free.” Chances are you won’t make any money from the traffic that searches with “free ____,” so it’s a good idea to enter this word as a negative match.

Negative match: -keyword (make sure to put the minus sign in front).

Be careful with what you put as a negative keyword match, as you might cut off some good phrases. Also, note that once a word is entered as a negative match, your ad won’t show for any searches containing that word.

AdWords Contextual Network

The Google AdWords contextual network is the biggest in the world, and has only one competitor – the Yahoo Publisher Network. The contextual network is also called AdSense (if you’re a publisher). Here’s what Google has to say about it:

"The Google content network comprises hundreds of thousands of high-quality websites, news pages and blogs that partner with Google to display targeted AdWords ads. When you choose to advertise on the content network, you can expand your marketing reach to targeted audiences — and potential customers — visiting these sites every day. The Google content network reaches over 75% of unique Internet users in more than 20 languages and over 100 countries. As a result, if you advertise on both the Google search network and the Google content network, you have the potential to reach three of every four unique Internet users on Earth." – Google

That may be true, but the content network delivers lower conversion rates and less clicks than search. If you’re new to AdWords, I recommend that you opt out of the content network and focus on search ads, since they deliver more clicks and conversions.

If you do choose to participate, you can:

  • Identify websites that drive high converting traffic and show more ads on those sites.

  • Identify sites that drive low quality traffic and prevent those websites from showing your ads.

  • Refine targeting with negative keywords.

  • Bid separately for the content network from the search network.

  • Choose websites on which to show ads manually.

You can also advertise image ads (banners) on the Google Network and Google Double Click Network.

Google AdWords offers banner ad service, but first, let me give you a little background on Google and banner ads.

Initially, Google AdWords started as their pay-per-click only engine. As it outgrew its competitors, however, Google decided to enter the banner ad market with their next product – Google Image Ads.

The leaders in this field were DoubleClick, Yahoo, Aquantive and Microsoft. Google failed to impact their market share, so they decided to purchase DoubleClick for $3.1 billion dollars as a result.

DoubleClick allowed Google to lock a competitor out of the display advertising market — namely Microsoft. It also allowed the search engine giant to expand their business model in a very closely related field.

The result of these moves is plain to see. Google now controls  somewhere around 70 percent of the  online advertising market.

Since the purchase DoubleClick, the DART network has been integrated into AdWords and AdSense. Whenever you choose “Image ads,” you leverage the vast DoubleClick network of publishers.

Banner ads deliver extremely low click through and conversion rates. According to various sources, banner ads get click through rates between 0.02 and 0.5 percent. As a result, all image ads are sold on the basis of impressions. Advertisers pay per each 1000 impressions (meaning the ad is shown 1000 times on the website).

What’s the use if no one clicks? Well, banner ads are used largely for branding. Through repetition, marketers get customers accustomed to a particular brand name. As a result, people trust the brand more than a company they’ve never heard of.

Successful branding though the AdWords/DoubleClick banner network requires careful website and behavioral research. Ideally, you want to reach customers and show them your banners on as many websites as possible; therefore, you have to guess/predict where your customer will go and then buy banners on those sites.

DoubleClick has its own set of tools to help you plan, and Google offers Google Insights and Google Ad Planner for this purpose.

You can buy banners on Google AdWords and DoubleClick networks right from the AdWords interface. Setup is as easy as text ads, but the requirements are little more strict, since you have to adhere to banner size.

You can choose between eight banner sizes: Banner, 468 x 60; Leaderboard, 728 x 90; Square, 250 x 250; Small Square, 200 x 200; Large Rectangle, 336 x 280; Inline Rectangle, 300 x 250; Skyscraper, 120 x 600; and Wide Skyscraper, 160 x 600. Each banner size performs differently. Some get more clicks than the others, while others are simply not allowed on certain websites.

When choosing banner size:

  • Keep in mind that publishers get to choose banner sizes. If Newspaper X does not allow a banner in the square 250 X 250 size, then the banner ad won’t show on their site. If you want the broadest brand exposure, then don’t discriminate on banner size. Make many versions of the same banner in order to reach as many people as you can.

  • Maintain the feel, and make sure your brand is easy to recognize no matter the size. Keep design elements intact, exact colors, fonts and backgrounds. Play with positions and sizes, but make sure that the 120 x 600 Skyscraper looks just like the 200 x 200 Small Square.

  • Try all banner sizes. Some sizes get more clicks than the others; still, remember that you’re looking for exposure, not clicks. Try all sizes to see if you get more indirect traffic/customers over time.

Banner bids work in a manner similar to text ads. The highest bidder gets the best spots. I am not sure how Google determines the best spot to show an image ad. My guess would be that it involves proximity of the ad to content, click through rate, above the fold factor, etc.

Good luck with your AdWords campaigns! Make sure to check Google’s AdWords Help Section.

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