Seven Habits of Highly Effective Google AdWords Campaigns

My Business magazine

It’s ironic that the first thing that businesses usually cut in challenging times is their marketing costs. This can have the exact opposite effect that was intended. Sales enquiries slow even more and expenses are cut again, and the business is in a fast downward spiral.

You should have systems in place to help you measure and analyse which marketing expenses are most effective. How many leads were generated from Yellow Pages? And from the local newspaper, or your last brochure drop? What was the average cost of each new lead?

More often than not you will find Google can be the most profitable advertising you’ll ever do, provided you take advantage of some of the clever tools and strategies that Google has to offer. You can get incredibly profitable campaigns or hopeless ones, where you might as well have set fire to your money. We review seven habits to ensure you run a highly effective campaign.

1. Write a compelling ad

Be careful not to become so absorbed in the technology of managing AdWords campaigns that you forget that first and foremost AdWords is about advertising! Therefore, the basic rules of advertising apply. And the number one rule in advertising is that you must stand out from the crowd – you have to be different!

This means you need to write a compelling ad that potential customers are drawn to like moths to a flame. For the ad to stand out, you need to have a good understanding of your competitors, so spend some time researching their ads before you start writing your own.

You should abide by some best practices when writing your ad copy:

  • Include the search term (i.e. keyword) in the ad heading: if the user is thinking “Sydney courier” and types in “Sydney courier”, they are more likely to be drawn to your ad if it has “Sydney courier” in the heading. This is obvious, and not rocket science, but many people don’t do it.
  • Include a benefit of your product or service: people have a problem that needs solving, and will identify with a benefit you offer (if you can, include a unique feature too).
  • Include a call to action: your ad needs to stimulate action, to tell the potential customer
    to do something (e.g. buy, download, register, book, subscribe).
  • Have a good relevant display URL: include the keyword after the domain name,

The three-line ad copy needs to fit within Google’s length limitations of 95 characters. Most people find this quite challenging at first, but remember practice makes perfect, and all your competitors are faced with these same limitations.

2. Create relevance between the keyword, the ad and the landing page

Like any advertising, the more you understand the mind of your customer, the better your advertising success will be. I touched on it above, but it is really important to maintain the relevance between the keyword, the ad copy and the landing page. Your ad needs to include the keyword (e.g. “Sydney courier”) in the heading of the ad, and your landing page needs to be very specific to your keyword.

If you’re a courier company and one of your keywords is “overnight courier delivery”, it is strongly recommended that when the potential customer clicks your ad they be taken directly to a web page that is specifically about overnight deliveries. A common mistake is directing all traffic to your home page. You must send them to the most specific page possible. A more advanced strategy is to create new landing pages specifically for your AdWords keywords.

Google is so serious about the relevance between your keyword, ad and landing page that they will actually penalise you where it hurts the most – your pocket. You may have heard of the “Quality Score”. An important component of Quality Score is this relevancy. If there isn’t a strong connection between the keyword, the ad and the landing page, your Quality Score will suffer, and you will have to pay higher click prices.

3. Set Up Google AdWords Conversion Tracking

One of the best ways to improve the effectiveness of your Google AdWords campaigns is to install Google’s conversion tracking code onto your web pages. This enables you to see which individual keyword was responsible for your customer’s web enquiry, software download, or purchase from your website.

Imagine you have a campaign with 500 keywords costing you $800 per month. With conversion tracking enabled, you may find that only 100 of these keywords are generating enquiries or shopping cart sales.

With conversion tracking you can quickly hone in on these converting keywords and spend more on them, and pause the other non-performing keywords that are just costing you. You may discover that $500 of your $800 spend was wasted as the clicks were not generating any enquiries. You can now get a similar number of sales enquiries by spending $300 per month rather than $800. Your return on spend will go through the roof!

Refer to Google’s website for instructions on how to set up conversion tracking:

4. Determine the worth of each new customer

How much would you be prepared to pay for a new customer?

Before doing any advertising it is critical to understand how much each customer is worth to you. If you don’t, how will you ever know whether your advertising was profitable, and whether you should keep doing it? In the current business conditions, this habit is even more important than ever!

Let’s assume you’re a tax advisor and each customer is worth approximately $500. And for every five email or phone enquiries you receive, you make one sale. That means if you could pay less than $100 per enquiry, you’ll make a positive return ($100 x 5 enquiries = $500). You may also want to take the lifetime value of the customer into account.

Google AdWords campaigns will generate clicks to your website and those clicks will generate enquiries or sales. By looking at your Adwords costs for a week and comparing them to the number of sales enquiries, you can quickly work out the average cost of each enquiry. You should also be able to work out the cost of each sale. Many businesses find it difficult to have the discipline to manually record the source of each new sales enquiry, but it is so important. You can also get telephony technology that helps you monitor whether the customer phone call was from AdWords advertising.

The ultimate goal is to get to a position where you know that, for example, for every $100 you spend on AdWords, you are making $300. Once that happens, advertising is no longer a cost where you have no idea what’s working, but a specific profit-generating activity. What a lovely place to be!

5. Set up Google Analytics – FOR FREE!

You may be thinking, “This is an article is about Google AdWords, so why are you recommending Google Analytics?” This article is about getting your website to deliver more cash in the bank, and it is therefore vital to understand how your entire website is performing. Analytics can tell you where your visitors came from, what pages they visited, what pages they left on, and give insights into why they didn’t complete your conversion process (e.g. a purchase, a download, a subscription to your newsletter).

Adwords will get traffic to your website, but you need to understand how well your website is converting that visitor into a customer. Managing a website without an Analytics package is like driving a car blindfolded. It’s ridiculously negligent. No website should be without it. Google Analytics is an excellent free tool. And who doesn’t love free!

6. Plan the structure of your campaign

It is critical to structure your campaign well from the start – which is probably one of the more challenging areas of AdWords. If you’re new to AdWords, a basket or group of keywords (e.g. “Sydney courier”, “courier Sydney”, “reliable Sydney couriers”, “best Sydney couriers”) is called an “Ad Group”. And a collection of “Ad Groups” make up an AdWords campaign.

It’s important to keep the number of keywords in each ad group quite small, say around 20 to 30, and make sure they are very similar words.

If one Ad Group is targeting words very closely associated to “Sydney couriers”, and you want to target “express delivery” terms as well, then create a new Ad Group for these different “express delivery” terms. You can then create a new ad which talks specifically about express delivery. Google will prefer it, your customers will prefer it, and you will see the benefits.

If you’re starting out with AdWords, set up one Ad Group targeting your main service. Then create more Ad Groups over time once you’re more experienced.

If you have campaigns running already, with lots of keywords in each Ad Group, do some quick surgery and break them down into smaller tighter groups.

When you see that a particular keyword is getting lots of activity, consider removing it from the Ad Group and putting it in its own Ad Group and brainstorming more variations. You want to be constantly finding the best performing keywords.

The AdWords Learning Centre ( is an excellent resource for additional information and is thoroughly recommended.

You may be thinking there is no end to managing a campaign, and you’re absolutely right! But the flow of new customers will prove constant motivation.

7. Use the right keyword match type

Google gives you a lot of flexibility to determine under what conditions you want your ads to be triggered. Google offers users three different match types – broad, phrase and exact match – and it’s imperative to understand their differences.

Broad Match lets you reach the most people. Your ad is triggered even when other words are added to your keyword. For example, if your keyword is “house”, your ad will be shown when someone types “buy house” or “beach house Sydney”. It will also be shown if someone enters a similar word such as “home”.

The ad would also show if the order was reversed, e.g. “drug free” keyword would also be triggered by the keyword “free drug”. So beware. Sometimes it’s better to use more specific match types.

Phrase Match triggers your ad only when the keyword is in the exact sequence that you specified. You need to put quotes around the keyword, e.g. “logo design”. So while this is more specific than broad match above, the ad will still be triggered if a user types “free logo design”.

Exact Match is the most precise match for your keywords. Your ad is triggered only when the search term precisely matches your keyword, in the same order, and with no words before or after it. You indicate an exact match by enclosing it in square brackets, e.g. [Perth florist]. So obviously with exact match you will get a lot less traffic, but you will have a lot less wastage. Those starting out with small budgets should use exact match until they have a better understanding of match types.

Broad Match is recommended for more experienced users, but remember to use lots of negative keywords to prevent untargeted traffic. For example, you may offer “tax advice” but not “free tax advice”, so ensure “free” is input as a negative keyword. A handy report to run is the “search query performance” report, which shows you which search terms triggered your ad and clicks, and you can modify your broad and negative terms further.


These seven habits will significantly boost your success in any downturn if you’re not already living them. And you can turn your AdWords campaigns on and off like a tap, which allows great flexibility. I also strongly encourage you to adopt the golden rule of online marketing – “test and measure”. Whenever you make changes, always measure the outcome. Regular focus on your campaign will practically guarantee great results. Test it, measure it and improve it. Then test it, measure it and improve it some more. It may sound tedious, but when the phone starts ringing, it becomes seriously addictive.

By Philip Shaw, director of CleverClicks