[Editor Note: Dave Collins, noted UK micro-ISV marketing expert, is sharing his considerable expertise on marketing, SEO, Google AdWords and more on Fridays at MyMicroISV. Thanks Dave!]

By Dave Collins
Founder, Shareware Promotions

I’ve now been working with Google AdWords for more years than I can remember. Literally.

Over the years I have helped setup, administer and maintain a variety of AdWords accounts. As well as being a qualified Google AdWords professional, I’m currently handling almost 30 different AdWords accounts, with a combined advertising budget in the region of $80,000 per month.

Generally speaking, the vast majority of the accounts that I have handled have seen good results. Some have proven to be reasonable, while others have been staggeringly effective.

However, in any form of advertising, there is no such thing as a 100% certainty. AdWords is no different. If it was, we’d all be taking out bank loans just to raise our budgets as high as humanly possible.

There are four main reasons that I have seen for a Google AdWords account to fail.

1) The AdWords account is not set up properly.

This is by far the most likely explanation for an AdWords account not performing as hoped for. And there are more possible ways of shooting yourself in the foot than I could possibly attempt to cover.

Some of the more common mistakes include using of the wrong keywords, overly-heavy use of broad matching, inexact (or none existent) negative keywords, poorly written ads, bad landing pages, bad products, running the AdWords campaigns with a “one size fits all” approach, spending too much, spending too little, not giving changes time to kick in and much more.

I would never point any fingers, but nine times out of ten when a person tells me that AdWords doesn’t work for them, their account has not been properly set up.

2) Account not managed continuously.

“Set it and forget it” is a bad, bad idea for Google AdWords. It is an approach that spells slow and certain death for any AdWords account.

As a general rule of thumb, you need to be logging into your Google AdWords account once a week. At an absolute minimum, once every two weeks.

If you’re not doing so, then at best you may be wasting potential opportunities. At worst you may be wasting your money as well as opportunities.

And it’s not enough just to log in every now and then and raise a bid or two.

You need to keep on top of monitoring performance, adjusting bids, writing more ads, purging dead ads and keywords, experimenting with new ideas, improving quality score and more.

Look at your Google AdWords accounts in the same way you might view a car. If you never paid attention to the oil, water, tyres or gas/petrol, you might well get into serious trouble quicker than you can shout help, skid off the road and hit something large and heavy. If or when your car starts acting strangely, topping up the gas and replacing the oil probably won’t help much either.

Don’t leave your Google AdWords account to run itself.

3) No demand for what you’re selling.

Anyone who has worked in marketing for a reasonable length of time can tell you that creating demand for a product where none exists is extremely difficult.

The same principle applies to Google AdWords. You can have the best keywords, perfect matching options, beautifully written ads and an immaculately set up series of ad groups and campaigns. But if there’s no-one out there who is actively searching for your product and keywords, then AdWords isn’t for you.

In the past four years or so, I have worked with two different products where this proved to be the case. Great products, well written ads, good landing pages, well-picked and targeted keywords and a well structured account. But no one bit the bait. No one was searching for what we were offering. And it’s a depressing thing to see a 25% CTR for an average of two impressions a day.

4) A saturated marketplace with high budgets.

If you have many AdWords competitors, and worse still they’re quite active, you may be in trouble.

Why? Dave’s rule of the marketplace:

If many people are involved in activities where skill and strength are equally important, guess which will be more prevalent?

Or in the case of Google AdWords, if your many competitors can get their ads higher than yours by either spending more money or using more skill, which do you think will be the more common approach?

In the past, Google leaned heavily towards use of skill. But nowadays, sadly, spending more is almost as effective as polishing your campaigns. Think of their “to activate this keyword either increase your bid or improve your quality score” approach. Anyone with more money than sense and/or skill may be able to beat you. At least in the short term, until their money runs out.

The million Euro question is: what can you do about it? Well, you can start by accepting the fact that Google AdWords is great for most products, but not all of them.

And if you’re not sure? My advice would be to dip your toes in cautiously.

Don’t spend weeks (or longer) carefully crafting twenty five campaigns, each with 3 ad groups, hundreds of keywords and a multi-level tracking system in place. Start with the ones most likely to produce the results. Setup a campaign or two, an ad group or two, and test the waters.

If it works, you can be reasonably confident in investing more time. If it doesn’t work, try to understand why it didn’t, consider alternative approaches or get in touch with me!

One other final point, while we’re on the subject of Google AdWords.

People sometimes ask whether it’s really worthwhile paying for Google AdWords if their regular Search Engine Rankings are doing well already. In other words why pay for the ads to be displayed when your company shows up in Google’s search results anyway?

The answer is simple. You’re not paying to have your ad displayed, you’re paying for it to be clicked. And if you choose not to do so, then those very same people will be clicking on your competitor’s ads instead.

Aside from that, AdWords give you more extensive and immediate control that goes infinitely beyond anything that you can consider applying to your regular search results. Also, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re only paying when your ads are actually working.

Ask not what you can do for Google, but what Google can do for you.


Dave Collins is the CEO of SharewarePromotions http://www.sharewarepromotions.com, a well established UK-based software marketing company. Dave specialises in Google AdWords, Log Analysis, Online Marketing and Delegation.

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