Paid advertising is a great way to guide more traffic to your site and increase business, but it can become expensive quickly if you aren’t careful. How do you make sure you are getting the most out of your paid ads?
Just the other day, I was speaking with a business owner in my local community. They recently had begun an aggressive Google AdWords campaign that was working, sort of. They were receiving new leads, but the leads were for things they didn’t even do. Their AdWords buy was too broad, and they were paying for leads that weren’t any good.
How do we make sure that our paid advertising is performing as it should be? There are several simple things we can do to make sure we are getting the most bang for our buck.
Understand How Long Tail Keywords Work
The main thing we need to understand before jumping into paid advertising (especially search advertising) is how it all works – more specifically, how keywords work. Google’s AdWords tool is a great resource for discovering keywords in your industry.
The problem with this tool is that it tends to push people toward very broad keywords that are far more expensive and much less effective. These are called “head” keywords. It is important to remember that you aren’t necessarily looking for the highest-traffic keywords. You are looking for the words that your customers use to look for you.
So, you will need to be on the lookout for something called “long tail keywords.” These keywords are the longer, more specific keywords that, when added together, make up the majority of search-driven traffic.
Learn to identify longer, less popular keywords called “long tail keywords.”
In the example above, the term “social media marketing” is considered a “head” keyword, which means it is searched for very frequently. The much less popular term “social media marketing courses online” receives few searches, but better exemplifies a long tail keyword. You might be able to go even further and try something like “the best social media marketing courses online.”
The big mistake that many first-time marketers make with SEO or pay-per-click advertising is choosing the wrong keywords. When you purchase “head” keywords like “social media marketing,” you will spend significantly more money and reduce your ROI dramatically. The key that you have to remember is you will get a lot more bang for your buck by targeting a large number of lower-traffic terms than by targeting a small number of higher-traffic terms.
Finally, the best source of keywords can come from your own website. Consider using a survey tool like Qualaroo to find out what your customers are looking for or why they decided to do business with you (after checkout for example). The language they use can be very effective ad copy for internet advertisements.
Know the Territory
There are a lot of places to buy ads, with each site having its own strengths and weaknesses. To start with, you should understand some of the major types of paid advertising.
Display Ads or Banner Ads – Banner ads immediately come to mind when we think about online advertising because they stand out so noticeably on the page. They are very common and come in a variety of sizes. These ads can be effective, but they tend to target customers who are not actively looking for something new.
For example, a person may be reading a newspaper article and not be interested in a new social media course. Display ads can be successful, but they need to be used properly. Display ads can be purchased using a pay-per-click model or they simply can be displayed for a certain length of time.
Text Ads – Text ads are the type you usually see on the primary Google search page. These ads generally are less expensive than display ads and target customers that actually are looking for something specific. They can be very effective but depend heavily on good keyword research and A/B testing (a topic we will discuss later in this post).
Here are a few of the places you should try listing your ads, though there certainly are many others:
Google AdWords. – Google AdWords are an obvious choice for many businesses. They offer display and text ads in association with highly targeted keywords. AdWords are a clear choice for any campaign. Bonus Tip: Your Google Adwords ads will produce a better return on investment the longer you use Adwords. Google will rewards long-term customers with better “quality scores”.
Bing or Yahoo. – Bing and Yahoo both offer alternative ad platforms that work similarly to Google’s. They combine display and text ads with targeted search terms. Some brands find that, while these options bring less traffic, the overall ROI is a bit better.
Facebook or LinkedIn. – Social advertising has grown enormously in popularity over the last few years. These ads combine text and display elements and are targeted based on user preferences, demographics, and location. Depending on your business type, both Facebook and LinkedIn are valid options to consider.
StumbleUpon. – The social network StumbleUpon offers a unique paid advertising option that is very inexpensive and guarantees a “click-through” of some kind. This is worth looking into, but it is important to track your actual conversions, which is the primary weakness with this model.
BuySellAds or Direct Buy. – BuySellAds.com is a great place to go to find additional display ad opportunities. These usually allow you to “rent” space on a site or a blog for a fixed cost. Additional opportunities like this can exist if you contact some of your favorite bloggers directly.
In the beginning, it is important to try several of these options and use hard data to make final decisions about where you want to put your money. Often, we simply guess which sites will be best without putting much effort into finding out if we actually are right. Hard data, not guesses, will tell you what gives you the best return. Good tracking capabilities will make this possible.
Have Your Tracking Ready
If you aren’t able to see how each of your ads is performing, then you shouldn’t be buying paid advertising at all. The beautiful thing about online advertising is that you get the opportunity to track everything. Google Analytics is an absolute must when it comes to online ad buying. This analytics package is free and easy to install.
Once you have it set up, you should become very familiar with Google Analytics Custom Campaigns. These options allow you to create a customized URL for each ad that will help you see overall performance for all of your advertising. Using Google Analytics in this way will give you a single dashboard for comparing all of your advertising campaigns.
We can use analytics, like KISSmetrics, to determine how successful our efforts are.
KISSmetrics is another important tool for online tracking because it allows you to create a funnel report for your ads. Not only will you be able to see the amount of traffic that you received from the ad, but you also will be able to see how many of the clicks converted into a genuine lead, a purchase, or even a long-term subscriber.
This type of tracking is extremely important; click and traffic counts simply can’t tell you everything you want to know. While you may get fewer clicks with certain types of ads, if they are more likely to convert to sales, they just might be worth your while.
Google Analytics Custom Campaigns make tracking easy with custom URL tags.
Create a Landing Page
It is important to send incoming visitors to a unique page (called a landing page) on your website, rather than your homepage. This may seem counter-intuitive, but there are three very good reasons for using this strategy:
- Landing pages allow you to customize your message for incoming visitors. This means that you can continue the message that you started with your ads, which creates a cohesive experience.
- These custom landing pages allow you to push visitors toward specific actions, such as downloading a free ebook. (Displaying traditional navigation may distract your visitors.)
- Landing pages make tracking your visits very easy. This is especially important.
When you combine this strategy with easy funnel-tracking tools like KISSmetrics, you quickly can gain a lot of information about how to reach and sell to your new visitors. In some cases, you can create a single landing page for an entire ad campaign. In other cases, you may want to create a specific landing page for each keyword that you purchase.
This landing page helps us track who comes to the page and exactly how effective our ads are.
It is important to remember to block your custom landing pages from search engines. This can be done with a simple edit to your “robots.txt” file. This is an important step that will make your ad tracking more reliable. If you allow Google and Bing to send non-paid visitors to your page, you may get a false sense of how your page is performing.
Create a Call to Action – Once you have a visitor on your landing page, how do you convert them into a lead or a customer? Every page you send them to should have a clear call to action. Think about this one carefully, because it’s the difference between a sale and wasted money.
I like to decide what the “number one” desired outcome for each page is before I design a landing page. Simply ask yourself, “What do I want them to do the most?” Then create the page accordingly.
A good call to action will tell your visitors exactly what you want them to do.
Everything on your page should push your visitors toward the action you want them to take. Without considering this, you’re throwing money away.
Use A/B Testing – You may have launched your page, but you aren’t done yet. Small tweaks and adjustments can make a huge difference in your overall conversion rate. If you’ve followed the tips above, you should have the proper landing page and conversion tracking to make this task very easy.
A/B testing is being scientific about testing which methods work best. When you go about A/B testing, it is important that you make only a single, testable, change each time. For example, you could test the effectiveness of your page’s headline or button placement, but not both at the same time.
By testing a single change, you will be able to see conclusive results about what works best. A/B testing is an ongoing process, too, so don’t stop. Keep testing and modifying your page. You might be surprised at what it does to your overall conversion rate.
Review Results Regularly
Whatever you do, don’t look at your results every day. This practice can lead to off-hand changes that are made too hastily. It is best to wait so that your analytics have time to accumulate accurate trends and information. Then determine a set time period for reviewing your statistics and making changes. It might be monthly, it might be weekly. Checking monthly is a good plan for picking up broad shifts.
Also, you might consider setting up spreadsheets to track your statistics. It’s easier to pick up on trends and understand what you’re seeing when you dig into your analytics to pull out the numbers for your spreadsheet.
Use simple spreadsheets to track your incoming ad traffic.
Be prepared to kill keywords that are under-performing. Remember, conversion rates are your most important statistics, not clicks. Clicks just waste money unless they are doing something purposeful for you. With all paid advertising, especially AdWords, the longer you run your ads, the better your rates and quality score will become. This will be true particularly if you rely heavily on good A/B testing and are constantly refining your ad buy.
Set a Budget and Plan for the Long Haul
This is something that you will do for a while. Don’t expect to be finished in a week or two. You need to give it time and finesse your plan to get the best results. Again, cumulative trends and information will give you a clearer picture. Dedicate your time and funds for a serious study. Online advertising isn’t a quick-fix solution, but rather one requiring patience and observation.
About the Author: Garrett Moon is a founder at Todaymade a web development and content marketing company, and the makers of CoSchedule an editorial calendar for WordPress that makes content marketing and social media easy.