Should you buy Adwords?

Approach Adwords with care

Clients often come to me feeling frustrated that they’re throwing money into an Adwords black hole – they have no idea whether their spend is resulting in value to their business. They’ve often seen performance data showing that they’re getting good visibility in search results and clicks onto their website, but few know whether the Adwords audience are actually buying things or contacting them.

Organic search is key

There’s reason to be wary of paid search, as organic search has a far better return on investment. Data on how many people actually click on paid results varies, but the percentage of people who actually click on paid results ranges from 10 – 30% depending on what source you refer to. Most people favour organic results for genuine quality and popularity. The sites I’ve worked on typically get less than 20% of traffic from Adwords. The number of Adwords visitors who buy / contact varies widely, but most of the campaigns I’ve seen provide no better value than other channels. It’s important to focus most of your efforts on organic search and create quality content that Google can find. If you want to create a successful SEO strategy check out an earlier post – SEO is content.

Adwords can be valuable

Despite the fact that Adwords account for a relatively small percentage of traffic, they’re an important part of your overall search strategy. Adwords can work for you if you have the time to test what works and refine your approach with performance data. Then you can weed out the under-performing bits so that you’re getting the most for your spend. Adwords:

Enables you to target a broader range of keywords – you can only target so many in your organic search strategy otherwise you’ll have spammy content, so target extra keywords with Adwords.

Gives you great performance data on Google performance which you’ll struggle to find elsewhere. 

Allows you to test whether your site will perform well for certain keywords – just create a new test product page, send Adwords traffic to it, and discover whether people convert to customers on it before incorporating it into your SEO strategy.

Define your goals to learn what works

Whether you decide to set up your own Adwords account or get an agency to do it, you need to set goals and measure your performance. It’s great getting more visitors to your website, but think about what you want people to do once they get there. Do you want them to:

  • contact you for a quote?
  • purchase your new insulation product online?
  • sign up for a report so that you’ve got their email addresses?

Once you’ve defined your goals you can hold your spend to account.

Measure your performance

You should receive monthly Adwords reports which will help you to understand how you’re performing. The main measures are:

Impressions show how many times your ad appears in Google results – this isn’t a great success measurement as people who see the results aren’t necessarily clicking on your ad

Clicks show how many people clicked through to your site from an ad – this is a better indication of success, but even then they’re not necessarily engaging with your site in a meaningful way

Click-through rate shows the percentage of people who clicked on your ad out of the total number who saw it in results – this can be useful to understand whether your ad copy is enticing, but it doesn’t show you what people are doing once they arrive on your site

You need another measure which isn’t tracked automatically because it measures your specific goals.

Track goals in your Adwords account

To understand whether your Adwords are effective you need to see what this audience do on your website. You can track website goals within your Adwords account as conversions. A ‘conversion’ refers to someone taking an action on your website that you define as valuable, for example submitting a form, making a purchase or sending you an email. Usually you need to hook your Adwords account up with Google Analytics (GA) and pull conversion data from there. You can access the data in both Adwords and GA – through your GA account you can segment the Adwords audience to get a nuanced understanding of how they’re using your site.

Adwords case study

Pretend you’ve got a small venues business based in Wellington, New Zealand. Here are some examples of refinements you might be able to make to your Adwords campaign to get better value for your spend.


The Nocton Woolshed wouldn’t advertise their lovely rustic venue as ‘elegant’ in Adwords copy

Target the right locations

You’ve got a nationwide marketing strategy for your venue business, and you’re targeting people who search for ‘venues’ in Google right across NZ. You’re getting traffic from across the country, however 95% of people who email to request a quote are based in Wellington. Do you want to keep paying for all these non-Wellington clicks? Probably not, unless you find a way to get the national audience hiring your venue.

Pay for the right keywords

You’re paying a lot on clicks for broad keywords such as ‘Wellington venue’, but these clicks aren’t resulting in conversions. You do some research by Googling these keywords to see who your competitors are – they’re mainly large companies that offer multiple venues for conferences, events and meetings. You’re a small outdoor venue, so you reduce your spend on this keyword and target niche terms like ‘small venue Wellington’ and ‘outdoor venue Wellington’ that will be more likely to reach the right kind of customers.

Provide the right ad copy

You see that your ad copy which features the term ‘elegant’ is resulting in clicks but not emails. This copy clearly isn’t resonating with the right customers; your venue is an old wooden hall with rambling vines, it’s beautiful but might not be interpreted as ‘elegant’. So you change it to ‘rustic’. Highlighting your unique selling points in keywords and copy will help you attract people who’ll purchase your services.

Adwords is not an exact science because each website, audience and business strategy is different. Start with an intention to test your decisions and iterate as you go. By measuring your performance you’ll be able to refine your efforts over time, and achieve more of your goals with less spend.

If you want help getting Google to work for you get in touch. I don’t manage Adwords but I can help you monitor and improve your Adwords performance.

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