Tips to stop you wasting money with Google Adwords

Are you using Google Adwords but finding it's expensive and not providing a good enough return? Our photography business has been using Google Adwords for around four years, but it took quite a bit of experimentation and testing to find the right combination of settings for our business. Now, Google Adwords is profitable for us, generating a flow of leads, and directly resulting in commissions from our commercial photography clients. So I thought I'd share our learnings with you, in the hope that you'll save some of the time, testing and money that we've gone through.

We'll assume that you've already limited your expenditure by setting your bid (the maximum amount you're willing to pay per click) and budget. To find out how to do this, click here. Once you've prevented Adwords from running wild, the next thing to turn your attention to is negative keywords. 

The power of negative keywords

You'll have set keywords, the search terms for which you'd like your advert to appear, when you started your Adwords campaign. But in my marketing consultancy, I've come across many clients who haven't added negative keywords. Using negative keywords, the search terms you DON'T want your advert to appear for, can strip large amounts of wasted expenditure from your campaign. But they're not a part of the default Adwords set-up, so it's not surprising that so many clients omit this crucial stage.

Have a think about what people might search for that you don't sell. And also what would waste your budget if they clicked on your advert. So, to take the example of our photography business, we specialise in commercial photography and therefore don't want our ads to appear for searches such as wedding photography, portrait photographers or pet photography.  Even though our ads make it clear that we offer photography for businesses, you can never stop stray mouse clicks for even the most irrelevant search terms. So make sure that, for those terms, your ads don't appear at all.

Depending on your business, you may also need to make sure that your adverts don't appear for:

  • Searches about how to DIY e.g. how to take photographs
  • Searches about deals, offers and freebies e.g. cheap photographer
  • Searches about learning and education e.g. photographers courses
  • Searches for jobs e.g. photography jobs manchester
  • Searches for research purposes e.g. photography case studies
  • Searches for competitors (unless you think you can pinch potential clients or customers from them).

To get a comprehensive set of negative keywords without starting from scratch, take a look at this negative keyword list, which can be pasted into Adwords. Yes, it's a long list, but that's the nature of negative keyword lists; our photography list currently stands at 347 keywords. Be careful to sort through it, however, as you might want to appear for some of the words, depending on your business. Then add the negative keywords to your Adwords account (click here for instructions). Make sure that you add plurals e.g. wedding photographer and wedding photographers.

If you're ready to get more complicated, you can make your negative keywords broad, exact or phrase match. This helps to ensure that you don't screen out a search term that you'd actually like to appear for. Google provides a comprehensive explanation of this stage here. But it's a confusing area, so don't worry if it's all too much at the moment: add your negative keywords without specifying broad, exact or phrase (they'll default to broad match), and you'll still have taken a major step forward.

Also make sure that you regularly check the search terms that lead to clicks on your advert. You'll find this information in the Keywords tab; follow these instructions and you'll be taken to a list of the search terms people have entered before clicking on your ad. You then have the option to add any dodgy ones you've not thought of as a negative keyword.  I do this once a week for my clients.

Hone down your location

If you sell just in a local area, it makes sense to restrict your adverts so that only people in your location see them. You can do this by country or by city, although take care as Google doesn't seem to be very good at understanding UK regions. So, for instance, if you have a wedding dress shop in Chester, you're probably not going to want your advert for the term Vera Wang Lara wedding dress to be clicked on by brides in London.

Find out how to implement location targeting here. But have a really good think first about where your customers come from. In our photography business, the only geographical restriction for our ads is that searchers must be in the UK, because, although we're based in Manchester and North Wales, we have national clients who are based all over the country. We'd miss out if we restricted our adverts to people located just in Manchester, Chester, Liverpool and so on.

Pass the time of day

Depending on your settings, Google will allow you to determine the time of day and day of the week when your advert will appear. The benefit of this is particularly strong if you're a business-to-business advertiser, as you can make sure that your ad doesn't appear outside working hours. Our adverts are restricted to Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm, to eradicate stray clicks from people researching consumer-focused matters such as pet dog photography, results from the anglesey racing circuit and starlight photography; all irrelevant clicks that we've paid for in the past!

Find out more here.

Testing, testing

A/B testing is when you keep almost all elements of an advert the same, and change just one thing. This enables you to compare the results of the two ads and then optimise your campaign based on those results. 

Potential areas to test include:

  • Alternative headlines
  • Alternative ad copy (while remembering to change just one thing, of course)
  • Alternative landing pages.

The Certified Knowledge blog has a great article on how to get started with A/B testing.

But how does this reduce wasted expenditure? Well, A/B testing helps to perfect your adverts, so that every click on your ad has the maximum chance of leading to a conversion.

Perfect pricing

Have you considered adding a price to your advert? This not only attracts people's attention, but also helps to screen out people who can't afford your product or service. After A/B testing, we found that adding the starting price for our photography services leads to better ROI, because it deters people who think that professional photography should cost tuppence ha'penny.

Adding a price to your advert can be done tastefully or it can be done, well, let's say, less so. It all depends on your target audience!

I hope that these ideas help you get the most from your Adwords budget. For ongoing help with managing your Adwords campaigns, take a look at my Rent a Marketing Manager scheme. Thanks for reading!

Posted by: Jane

Image via Free Digital Photos.