Kissmetrics Blog

A blog about analytics, marketing and testing

Built to optimize growth. Track, analyze and engage to get more customers.

5 Things You Must Do Before Jumping Into Paid Internet Advertising

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.

keyword searches

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.

internet ads

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.

different type of internet ads

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. – 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.

ebook conversion funnel

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.

utm tracking with KISSmetrics

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.

landing page example

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

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.

tracking metrics

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.

  1. Chris R. Keller May 07, 2013 at 11:33 am

    For small business owners looking to jump into paid online advertising here is a great resource in addition to the above if you are considering google adwords. Be sure to read this before jumping into Google Adwords.

    It is an article on the ROI of Google Adwords for small businesses.
    Title: Are Ads On Google (Google Adwords Ads) An Effective And Profitable Marketing Method?

    • A lot of good points, the first two are the biggest issue for a business owner:
      Creating the campaign, tracking and optimising it. As a business owner you normally cant find the time for managing a real good online campaign. You should try letting the pros do the trick for you. Try to get a professional SEM marketer (PPC manager) that will build and monitor the campaign for you or use one of the online services such as or

  2. Great explanation of the different types of paid advertising! I get great traction especially from Linked In, and I didn’t even think about using paid advertising to reach more customer!

    My question is, is there a “need” for a landing page if your product is the blog itself, because you aren’t selling any particular product?

    • There’s only a need for it if people are searching with different keywords to find you.

      If you try to be consistent with the ad text and what is on your page, then you’ll see much better results.

    • You will want to make an effort to convert paid visitors to regular readers no matter where you send them. I think that is easier to accomplish with an isolated landing page and a free cookie. Landing pages make tracking much easier, and they allow you to be more direct with your call to action.

  3. Thanks for the great article. Very in depth and written well.

    One thing I would say about new advertisers that they always do wrong, and this has nothing to do with long tail vs. short tail keywords, is that they have no idea about how the keyword match types work.

    This is only the case for AdWords and Bing Ads, but if you’re gonna be aggressive, then you ought to do your homework prior to launch.

    1) Know your match types and the keywords you’re bidding on.
    2) Have only one keyword per ad group that allows you to create hyper targeted ads for the keyword.
    3) Have specific landing pages that mimic what is being said in the ad. If the ad says “Get Free Info” then have your landing page say that as well. Keep the journey consistent.
    4) Like you mentioned, review regularly, and take a look at your search query report to add new negative keywords. Also, optimize your ads by pausing low performing ones and make variations of the winning ads.
    5) Keep testing

  4. Great article. Very informative.

    What should a small business expect to spend on an online advertising/PPC campaign?

    Most are on shoestring marketing budgets and as you mentioned, Adwords traffic can sometimes be shoddy..

    • Well, it really depends. I usually advise keeping early budgets low so that you can learn without costing you an arm and a leg. Paid advertising isn’t as cheap as it used to be so you really need to be careful where you put your money. Tracking and review is SO important.

  5. James Thompson May 07, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Great article! I’ve just started working for a super niche incentive rewards company and we are looking in to starting some paid digital ads. Great tips on long tail keywords and not going too broad. Cheers.

  6. This blog post give me another big reason to love KissMetrics blog. :) I am paid marketer and handling big Google Adwords campaigns. And, I like most to know more about long trail keywords. Because, I am trying to capture more impressions and clicks by adding two phrases keywords with broad match or phrase match. (Obviously, I am managing negative keywords to reduce un-necessary clicks) Thanks for sharing good information and going to tweet it…

  7. I totally agree with the post. The most difficult part of the process is to educate small business to do all this things. They usually want to start campaign as soon as posible instead of being calm and have the right things (analysis, metrics, landing page) ready to boost their sales and have a high ROI.

    Excelente post ;)

  8. what kind of platform are you using for this website? Genesis) Know your match types and the keywords you’re bidding on.
    2) Have only one keyword per ad group that allows you to create hyper targeted ads for the keyword.
    3) Have specific landing pages that mimic what is being said in the ad. If the ad says “Get Free Info” then have your landing page say that as well. Keep the journey consistent.
    4) Like you mentioned, review regularly, and take a look at your search query report to add new negative keywords. Also, optimize your ads by pausing low performing ones and make variations of the winning ads.
    5) Keep testin

  9. As a freelance PPC manager I think the problem for most small businesses is tracking.
    Many of them don’t know how to separate leads they get from organic traffic and paid traffic which makes it hard to decide what works better (or where to spend the next $)

    Landing pages are also critical, 99% of the times they would perform better than the homepage (from my experience).

    Great article… I will send it to my next prospect :)

  10. I agree with you for the last tip you gave about the budget thing. I remember how foolishly i wasted my first $25 in a single day for getting only 10 clicks. I paused the campaign and checked every thing, then started testing, and after some days i started getting 5-10 clicks per $.

  11. George Andrew Jun 17, 2014 at 3:10 am

    Good job for summarizing the “must” things to know when doing PPC as a strategy in online marketing KissMetrics. For small businesses, or bloggers that want to use PPC in their strategy on promoting their website, I suggest that you must try PPC management services specially if you don’t know how to run a ppc campaign. You might ruin and get frustrated with your marketing efforts if you will try to run it by yourself. I run a ppc management services and it will be my pleasure to help you guys for your campaign

  12. Alex, thanks for the addition :)

  13. You have shared so many great ideas in this article, thank you so much for putting this out there, ive written down a few great points from here cheers!

  14. I have a website that is almost ready to start accepting advertising. My question is legally do I need to first register the website as an LLC for example before I start accepting money from advertisers? (Please excuse my ignorance if others think this is obvious)
    Thank you!

  15. Abhijit Mandavkar Jul 26, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    Good article. Yes, before a company decides to go for paid internet advertising, it is necessary to understand how much one should spend and how it can be beneficial for a business.

  16. I do not think Google Adwords is the “obvious” choice like it used to be…

    Google bans advertisers for no reason…

    And advertising on their platform is insanely expensive.

    Do this – Google:

    List: 273 of the most expensive keywords in Google Adwords

  17. Christo Fouche Jan 18, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Hi Garrett

    Thank you for explaining this so well. I agree with you that tracking is essential. I do split testing on most of my traffic sources and it always pays.

  18. Good insights on online paid advertisements.
    I have been using Google AdWords and Facebook for quite some time.
    My experience is that AdWords is a bit expensive but gives quality targeted clicks, while facebook is relatively cheap but quality of clicks not up to mark.
    Targeting people through Facebook business/fan page works better than outright paid advertisment.

  19. Buysellads is mostly bot traffic and so are most of thos sites so there goes your advertising dollars.

  20. Apologies if this is a silly question…but what are you using to get keyword results in your screen shot when you’re talking about “the Google Adwords tool”?

    When I follow the link to AdWords (or follow other links for the Google Keyword Planner), Google wants me to start “my first campaign,” and the keyword tool on that page doesn’t offer the same amount of information. Are you using one of the (sometimes free) subscription services? Or does Google give access to a better tool after paying for some ads? Or something else?

    Many thanks for the informative post!

    • Not a silly question at all.

      You have to create a campaign first, which you don’t actually have to run, then you’ll be able to access the Keyword Planner.

Comments are closed.

← Previous ArticleNext Article →