An intersection of interests in athletics, Eastern culture and tea led Arthur Ebeling to his business idea. Just two years after launching Eastern Isles Teas and Tonics (easternisles.com) in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Ebeling, 24, and pal Eric Stevenson, 25, will crack the million-dollar sales mark in 2008. The founders credit that growth primarily to Google AdWords. "Once we had our website up and running, we knew we had to concentrate on search engine marketing," says Ebeling. "We knew that Google accounts for [a large volume] of web traffic so we [started] there."
As a result of spending only about $40 over the course of a few months, the site received more than 100,000 views, primarily from AdWords. The duo experimented with word combinations, keeping the messages that worked best and ditching those that didn't. Now, with a combination of social network marketing through blogs, Facebook and MySpace, Ebeling says the site gets about 30,000 hits a month and sells to approximately 30 percent of the customers who visit AdWords.
Not every business will make millions through AdWords, but it's a powerful tool for small businesses, says online consultant Howie Jacobson, author of AdWords for Dummies. Before you spend a dime purchasing keywords, though, you need to do some digging.
Jacobson suggests tools such as WordTracker and Keyword Discovery that will help you determine which keywords are effective in your industry. Focus on those keywords that are moderately trafficked; if a keyword has no traffic, that's probably not a good fit, even if it's relevant to your industry.
Conversely, if the word has exceedingly high traffic, it may end up being too expensive to be effective, especially if you're facing large competitors who are driving up the demand and, as a result, the price. "If you want to go fishing, you want to see that other people are fishing in the same spot," says Jacobson. "But you also don't want to go out in your dinghy in a sea of whaling boats."
Jacobson also advises using AdWords to test different offers and ad copy to see what works. AdWords allows you to submit different versions of your offer and spread your traffic out evenly among them. Says Jacobson, "You can do very sophisticated testing of your messages before you roll them out [to other media]."