Along with good SEO there is also the option of paying to have people click to you from search results. In this section I will look at a specific pay-per-click advertising option - Google Adwords.
I have focused this lesson on Google Adwords, although this lesson could rather be about pay-per-click advertising or SEM (Search Engine Marketing) in general. Google is the market leader in pay-per-click advertising, also known as SEM, and the one that I am familiar with. Other options may overtake it or be more appropriate in different sectors, but the concept is similar.
Before I began to use Google Adwords I saw it as the expensive short cut to doing SEO. As I saw it, you either did the hard work of optimising your site or blog for the search engines to rank you well in their search results for free, or you paid Adwords for the same result. So, when doing SEO you might outlay time and effort at the beginning, but the ongoing results would be free. In contrast with Google Adwords you could neglect SEO and just pay for ads that would appear on the same search results page that you would have appeared on if your SEO had been properly done, only each time someone clicked through to your site from that ad, you would pay some amount for the click.
Having worked with Google Adwords I now see things a little differently. Although it is true that getting yourself a good ranking on google search means free clicks to your site, whereas google adwords are always paid for per click, there are some errors in my previous logic. One is that I assumed that you do not need to do SEO in order to do well with Google Adwords. We will go into that below, but you will find that many of the same things that you need to do for SEO also need to be done to maximise your google adwords campaigns. My policy is now to work on maximising the same terms for adwords and SEO. I would pay for them on adwords until such a time that the SEO starts to kick in and we start to appear on the first page of the google results for that term. At that point I would stop bidding on that particular keyword phrase.
The basic concept of adwords
The basic concept of Google Adwords is that you show an ad on the search results page for the terms which are relevant to your business. In the screen shot below you will see that the first 2 results on the google search results page for 'Cape Town wedding photographer' have a pink/orange background. These 2 are Google Ads.
Figure 1: Screen shot of Google search results showing Google Adwords ads
The people who placed these ads have a Google Adwords account and have created adwords campaigns around the words 'Cape Town wedding photographer'. If we click through on those links the site owners will pay Google for that click. The exact amount paid depends on various factors which we will look at later. The ads sometimes appear at the top of the page as in the case above, or they may be on the right of the page.
If you want to understand Adwords the best way is to allocate some amount of money to it and begin. Google has done a good job of writing up everything you need to know to get started. It does take some time to get your head around it all. Once signed in you can access their help link at the top of your page which leads to all sorts of articles, step-by-step guides.
Where SEO and adwords overlap
When you create an Adwords campaign you will be focusing on people coming through to a particular page of your site or landing page. For Adwords to approve of the link from your ad to your landing page, it will require the same SEO onpage basics. You will select what keyword phrases your ad will appear for and those same keyword phrases should appear in the title, text and url of the landing page.
Things that can waste your money
Google is a business and it is there to make money. There are some things that you need to know first, as you are likely to lose money if you do not understand them well. There are some default settings that are in place when you create your Adwords account that you would do better switching off until you understand them fully.
How your keywords are matched
By default, your keywords are matched on a ‘broad match’ system - which means if you have the keyword phrase ‘Accra photographer’ - Google may show your ad for any search using the words Accra OR photographer. So someone searching for Accra hairdressers might see your ad. Unless you can keep on top of this somehow, you should rather select one of the other 2 options - ‘exact match’ or ‘phrase match’. I prefer phrase match as it means if someone types in Accra photographer website and your keyword phrase is Accra photographer then your ad will appear. You can click on a keyword to edit the type of search criteria used at any point.
Figure 2: Changing how your keyword phrases are matched
People clicking through to look at pictures not just to buy
A big money-waster is paying for people to look at your site who will never buy anything, never refer you to anyone and play no part in the industry you are targeting. If your site appears in the free search results you would be happy to have anyone clicking through to your site. The more the merrier, as you pay nothing for them arriving. With Adwords the game is a little different. You pay for each person who clicks on your ad and comes to your site via Adwords. So you only want those who are going to build your business in some way and you particularly want paying clients. How do you keep the others out? It is not easy. Try to target keywords that would only be searched by real clients. Also, you need to tell people as much as possible in your ad; let them know that on your site people are able to: COMMISSION AN ASSIGNMENT or PURCHASE USE RIGHTS.
Which countries you want to allow to see your ad
It may be that your service is only useful to people from a certain region. You should then only choose to show your ad to those countries as you will waste money on people clicking through from other countries.
Figure 3: Editing in which locations your Google ads show
What times your ad shows
If you are only appealing to businesses, you may want to have your ad appear Monday to Friday and not on the weekend, as people browsing over the weekend may be more likely to click through and never buy. Or if you are only showing your ad in one time zone, you may only want it showing during office hours.
Having your ad appearing on the google display network
Some sites run google ads, so the ads you create in adwords could show on some of those sites. This is called using the google display network. This again can be a big money-waster if you have not understood it well enough. When we first use adwords we discovered that our ad had been appearing on numerous small-time photographer sites and some very dubious ones. You can see which sites your adwords have been used on and you can find out more information about the display network to make this work for you. But if you do have it switched on, keep an eye on what is happening there.
Figure 4: Selecting whether your ad should show on the Google display network
Competing against yourself
To maximise using google adwords you will have a number of different campaigns running. If you had one focusing on the phrase 'Accra photographer' and one on the phrase 'Ghana photographer' you would need to be careful that you do not put any of the same keywords in both campaigns. This would mean bidding against yourself and you would end up paying more for the clickthrough than you would have if the keyword was only in one campaign.
For each campaign you will associate a group of relevant keyword phrases. However, you will also want to specify negative keywords. These are keywords that you do not want your site to come up for - for example ‘free’ or ‘porn’. You should keep an eye on the search terms that you paid for that people used to find our site and see how to increase the list of negative keywords and better limit who finds you, if you find that people are clicking through on related but irrelevant phrases.
Limit your cost per click
There are many factors that affect your cost per click, such as the relevance of your keywords to your site. If you are not managing to control your cost per click through those means, the other more manual alternative is to simply limit your cost per click. This can be done individually for each keyword or for the campaign as a whole.
Figure 5: Selecting to set your price per click manually
Tracking your progress
Google Adwords has many tools to help you track how your campaigns and keywords are faring. Make good use of these to maximise your Return On Investment. It is worth setting up Conversion Tracking and Google Analytics. Conversion tracker is part of your Google Adwords account and shows you if someone who came to your site through adwords made it through to a significant page on your site, for example, if they successfully signed up on your site.
Google Analytics is a free tool to monitor your website traffic. It works well in conjunction with Google Adwords to monitor your progress.
The Rank Checker tool, is useful to check when you start getting onto page one for the keyword phrases you are using in your adwords campaigns. I would suggest putting all the keyword phrases you are using in your Adwords campaigns into the rank checker and running checks. Once you start to get a rank of 10 or below for your your site on google just through your SEO then you should consider pausing that keyword from your Adwords campaigns. If you do not, you will end up paying for an ad on a page where you could have rather got a free click-through from the search engine results. If the keyword phrase is significant enough for you, you may decide to pay for it and have the free result.