Bryan and I have personally consulted with hundreds of people about their marketing projects, and have been inside literally hundreds of Google AdWords accounts. The following questions are a few of the most important and the most common ones we get.
Q: Why aren't my ads showing?
First, did you trust Google's Traffic Estimator when you set up your campaign? Big mistake. It says you'll be in third position from the top on such-and-such a price, when in reality you'll be back on page 3. Set your bids conservatively, and check back after your ads have run to see what average positions your keywords have been in. Then adjust them accordingly.
Second, check what countries you're showing in. Your ads may be in position 1 in the United Kingdom but position 20 in the United States (or vice versa), while Google tells you your average position is 3 or 4.
Third, click the "search" button again, multiple times, to be sure. Fourth, double check the daily budget for the campaign you're in. Is it possible that you already hit the limit for the day and Google is done showing your ads?
Finally, understand that only a tiny percentage of advertisers in any market show up all the time, 100%, for all searches on a particular keyword. Those are the advertisers that get the most clicks and have the best quality score, and have been in the game the longest.
Q: How do I find out in advance what it will cost to be in various positions on the page?
Here are three sites you can check out. They will frequently be inaccurate, but no more so than Google's Traffic Estimator:
Q: What is Quality Score, and what is it based on?
Google will never openly share the exact formula that they use to determine your Quality Score and minimum bid price. But here's what we've repeatedly found to matter most:
- Your CTR
- The match between your keyword and your ad
- How that keyword has always performed across Google, historically
- The amount and quality of keyword-relevant content on your landing page
- The amount and quality of keyword-relevant content on your whole website
- How quickly visitors hit the back button after visiting your site
- How quickly visitors leave and go elsewhere after visiting your site
And to further mystify things, Google grades you on the curve compared to your competitors.
As far as your specific rank on the page, the primary factors are 1) your bid price, and 2) your CTR.
Q: Am I better off going after single keywords with a lot of searches like "Business," or combo-phrases like "Business Marketing"?
Two issues here. First, "business" is a broad term that draws people looking for any number of things, and can be difficult to convert. Granted, bidding on the exact-match term [business] is more likely to be productive for you than bidding on the generic word.
Terms like this generally bring in low quality traffic. Test the conversion rate, and see if it's a worthwhile deal or not.
Q: What's the best way to find the right keywords for my product?
Do your free keyword research first using Google's keyword tool at google.com/key words, and freekeywords.wordtracker.com. Wordtracker is a powerful paid tool that any serious AdWords marketer should have a subscription to.
Watch your competition:
- How many advertisers are there? The number could be anywhere from one or two to several hundred. If there are fewer than eight or ten bidders, you could get the bottom position on page one for as little as $0.01.
- Figure out which competitors are seriously response-oriented. Pay special attention to everything they do.
- Tip: Pay attention to Google advertisers who split-test their ads--when you do a search on a keyword that you're researching, click the "search" button multiple times and you'll see that some ads change while others stay the same. The advertisers who split test are almost always the sharpest pencils in the box.
- Go to Yahoo and MSN, and find out what advertisers are doing there.
- Get keywords from dictionary/thesaurus sites such as www.LexFN.com and from printed sources on your topic, such as glossaries and indexes.
Q: What do I do when healthy, active keywords are still deathly expensive?
The top bidders in any established market on Google are going negative on the initial sale because they make it up later with a robust back end that includes cross-sells, upsells, and ongoing paid subscriptions. Can you provide this, too? The first baby step in this direction is to capture contact information and then market to those contacts aggressively, maximizing the value of every visitor you get. Google artificially elevates prices for brand-new advertisers that they're unfamiliar with. Also, can you:
- Get the top bidders in your market to become affiliates of your site?
- Make a joint-venture offer to your competitors, playing like the little bank branch inside the giant supermarket?
- Offer your competitors who send traffic to you a pay-per-action deal (per-click or per download) to help them monetize some of their traffic and subsidize their $10.00 per click?
- Buy exit traffic from competitors' sites?
Q: Does Google disable ad groups or campaigns or keywords?
As of this writing, none of the above. It used to, though. Now Google just shows your keywords a paltry fraction of the time if the quality score is low.
Google does disapprove ads that don't meet its editorial guidelines. (And if you violate their policies repeatedly they'll shut down your whole account and ban you from Google entirely.)
But follow Google's policies and fully implement our advice, and these problems will take care of themselves.
Perry Marshall and Bryan Todd are the authors of The Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords, 3rd Edition, published by Entrepreneur Press in 2012. Marshall is the founder of Perry S. Marshall & Associates, a Chicago-based company that consults with online and brick-and-mortar companies on generating sales leads and web traffic, and maximizing advertising results. Todd is an international marketing consultant and Google AdWords specialist based in Lincoln, Neb.