It’s easy to buy your own ads on Google and they’ve just made it easier with a product called AdWords Express. For those of you unfamiliar with how AdWords works, in its simplest form, you create a text ad that shows up in Google search results. It’s those sponsored links you see above the regular results or in a column to the right.

This type of advertising is called Pay-Per-Click (PPC) because you only pay if someone clicks on your ad. It’s a performance-driven model rather than a branding vehicle (although it does have branding benefits – just having your brand show up on the page in search results has intrinsic worth). The trick is motivating the right people to click. Let’s say you run a text ad that’s for a contest. You will get a lot of clicks (assuming it’s a good contest) and drive a lot of traffic to your site. But will those be qualified prospects or just people who want something free?

Whenever we design a contest, we are well aware that we are using a time-honored traffic-driving tool, but we are judicious about our use of that tool. There are times when it makes sense to drive a ton of people to a site (particularly if you have a general, broadly used product like – oh, let’s say soap) or when you can limit the type of people who see the ad in the first place. And that’s part of the genius of Google: Google has more advanced targeting devices that allow you to determine WHO can see your ad. So if you want to make sure you only get local prospects, for example, you can target your ad so that it only shows up if someone searches certain key phrases AND lives in your city.

Using their targeting tools, you can narrow the list of who sees your ad in the first place, thereby reducing your risk of getting a lot of meaningless clicks.

So it’s important to think about your targeting and your message.  And then – run several campaigns at the same time where you change the targeting or the copy and see which ads and which target sets perform best for you. Pull the least-performing ads out of rotation.

Use some common sense when you write your copy. Words that are proven to increase response in print probably work well online too:

  • Attention
  • Introducing
  • Finally
  • New
  • Free

Let’s say you develop accounting software and are launching a new web-based version of it. Your ad might read: “Finally! Accounting software for the cloud with its feet firmly planted on the earth.” Or: “Introducing ________, web-based accounting software for _______(industry you’re targeting).” Sometimes, simple and straightforward is all you need.

How many of you have tried AdWords on your own? How’s it worked for you? Have any of you tried AdWords Express yet? Feel free to call on us if you ever want us to take a look at a campaign you’ve tried and make suggestions on how you might improve its performance.