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14 Steps to AdWords Acumen

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14 Steps to AdWords Acumen

Posted 12/5/2009

by Mark Brimm

Search Marketing Director & Consultant at

Co-Author & Editor for's AdWords University: The Complete Guide to AdWords



I'm often asked about how an average joe entrepreneur can launch a small business from the web quickly and painlessly. So I put together this easy list of low-cost options for those who want to spend very little and create a business that can grow a long way. Enjoy!



Organize your campaigns

Whether you’re running your own campaign or consulting clients, wither way you should organize the accounts individually at level1. Order next by campaign, then by product or service (sometimes otherwise known simply as your “offering”), and so on. Never sacrifice the peaceful intelligibility of a well ordered AdWords account for the sake of speed. You’ll be kicking yourself later when you need to refine the campaigns and have everything jumbled out of any useful order. You don’t want to set up a campaign TWICE, right? Organize.


Lean toward exact match

If you include general keyword or keyword phrases-such as muscle cars within your  keyword list for your muscle cars campaign, your ads will appear when users search for other kinds of cars also, like station wagons and SUVs, which is clearly a waste of funds.
Only use broad matching when you are happy to get any of the related keyword phrases. Most experienced campaigners are cautious about using braod match for good reason. It is generally not targeted enough to make them worth your while. Only million-dollar campaigns can afford to bend this rule, and only short-term while trying to compete in the short-term.


Use dynamic titles for best relevance

Dynamic titles are the easiest way to gain an advantage with Click Through Rates and maximize conversions, all without added cost in your campaign.
In the title field of your ad, simply type {keyword:BACKUP TITLE GOES HERE}. The backup title is for times where the search phrase is going to be too long for the title field or in case AdWords can't display the search for reasons built into the current version of the algorithm.



Use global negatives

Especially if you use braod matching for any reason, you’ll want to use negative keywords to avoid getting confused with searches that you clearly don’t want to pay for clicks on. So if you sell something, and you don’t want the freebie crowd’s searchers clicking on your ads, use negative keywords extensively to control waste due to irrelevant searches you absolutely know you want to avoid.



Content targeting

Most AdWords DIY users avoid ever turning on content because they don’t understand it. Some actually will turn it on by mistake without meaning to. Ouch!
Content targeting has benefit to the more experienced users who already have gained extensive insight into the best industry-related sites to display ads on. Many advanced users ONLY advertize on content, because they know in advance which sites have high profits for products within the same category. Most beginning users, however, will want to limit their use of this feature until they get a handle on google’s search ad space. Each case is different, so know the site well before turning on content for that site. And NEVER turn it on across the board, as this will produce massive waste in most cases.
To avoid click-fraud, don’t tempt site owners or site users who sell what you do. Instead, make sure you are going after the very sites where your ideal customers are surfing



Provide appropriate landing pages

This is one error I see often when asked to refine a campaign. Simply put, if your product is not on the home page, don’t send them to the home page. Send them to the product they clicked on. Each landing page should be honed and crafted to sell that product. Re-evaluate and refine your landing pages weekly based upon the conversions achieved. Test content with A/B or multivariate testing. Don’t neglect your conversions by neglecting your landing pages.



Testing differing ads and positions

Is first position really more profitable and sustainable than fifth position for your industry and your budget? There is no universal rule that would apply to your business also.  Common wisdom says that Google’s AdWords ranking algorithm factors in Cost Per Click times the Click Through Rate (simplistically speaking) PCxCTR basis (again this is not an exact formulation. Google has secrets, too!).

Ads that don’t do well at number one position might just as easily do well at fifth or third or weight position. Test creative and positions and don’t stop refining your approach here on a weekly basis, if not every day or two.



Creating Effective Ads

Are you swayed by superlatives like “best” or “better” etc.? Are you swayed by beautiful women holding your product in cheesecake poses when you’re looking for the perfect sneaker? Neither are the people viewing your AdWords ads. Other tactics to avoid: all caps also will get you into trouble, as will using many legally trademarked names (don’t worry, AdWords will conveniently flag and delist the ad before it comes to nasty blows).

The rule of thumb when creating a good AdWords ad text creative is engaging copy balanced with the right measure of the right keywords. Remember that your ad doesn’t have to display the keyword phrase in correct order to benefit from the keywords being worked into the copy. But also don’t forget that engaging copy always tends to win the most clicks. And as for display ads, these also should focus on the thought processes of the target audience in combination with your ad’s text. For best effect, make the text and images work together to get your message across, not on top of or in spite of each other.



Tracking & ROI

Make sure to track everything you should be that will help you to properly asses the campaign and will contribute to meaningful budget-allocating decisions (which campaigns or keyword phrases should get how much money, etc.). Google Analytics will track just about everything you need to. CTRs, CPC, and most popular landing pages, which search engines bring the best paying traffic, etc. You will need to go over this area at least one a month or whenever you assess your budget for the week or month ahead. Any more than weekly can be too little data to adjust by, so factor in the budget and the actually tolerance for waste on the campaign. Million dollar campaigns needless to say should be checked more like weekly. Some larger campaigns have one or two people assigned to track trends in ROI daily, but use your best judgment for your own circumstance. Weekly or monthly is right for some, while every few days or daily is right for others.



Establish your Cost Per Acquisition (or CPA)

Now that you have got tracking covered and are thinking about ROI, you may find that sometimes the sales aren’t worth the cost of acquiring them. Your Cost Per Acquisition is the cost of each purchase or other such desired conversion, like a newletter sign up or member registration in some cases. Make sure you regularly export a spreadsheet from the AdWords Keyword bidding tool that will allow you to study how your campaigns and ads and even keywords are performing. Daily might be best at first, until they’re more stable, then weekly.



Weekly budget discipline

Don’t allow testosterone, competitiveness to drive you to guess that what’s hot today will be hot tomorrow also. Build intelligence about what terms are trending upward and which are petering out. Google Trends is a great way to help determine this, among other tools out there today. Try to test out campaigns with sufficient funding and avoid testing out many campaigns with too little funding. This is the best way to avoid waste when testing campaigns one by one.


Avoid costly bidding wars.If the competition wants a position more than you do, and you

question whether the cost of battle is justified, just say no to a bidding war. Bidding software can be used to better control bidding, but there is also often more room for miscalculations. Avoid a bidding war if you want to stay on top of your budget and focus on areas that keep you more clear headed. Most bidding wars are simply not worth it. A disciplined approach is always the best one.



Geotargeting your ads

Geotarget your ads to the relevant geographical audience. It can be done when you set up a new campaign and in your campaign settings. More and more people are discovering local is a better way to shop for them. They feel more secure shopping local and often more loyal to their local economies. A well-geotargeted campaign can outperform a generically broad sweep of regions.



Watch the competition

Watch your competitors. Don’t react immediately, just watch. Do they know what they’re doing. Are they better than you atr certain key areas? You can learn a lot from your competition and you can also use their strengths to create your own more niched approach. There is always a weakness to every advantage. Discover what they’re not doing that could be turned to your advantage. Avoid competitive advertising. Instead, use your competitors actions as your own best intel on which way your niched approach can outshine their (often unconscious) niche strategy. Landing pages, creative, and display times should all be viewed in the same way.



The Perils of “Tricks  and “Secrets”

Oh how delicious to find out that new system cheat that will enable you to get by with more than officially the rules allow. For example: historically, you were only allowed 26 characters in the text ad title. Then more and more people began to notice in recent years that dynamic titles can also be used to get around the character number limit for ad titles. This lead to sometimes ending up with an approved ad that shrugs off the confinement of Google’s established best practices, and sometimes lead to a flagged and unapproved ad (it stands the reason that an inordinate amount of flags on your account might create less sympathy for your account down the road as well, right?).

Obviously, a “secret” or “trick” that only works sometimes is not a reliable technique. Useful tricks are fine as long as you stay on top of the AdWords trends and can adjust in real-time. Most entrepreneurs simply don’t have the time to keep up with when the penalties or other adverse affects of using such tricks are about to kick in, or have already. Therefore, you should really keep an eye on this and other such techniques you acquire just to make sure nothing unusual pops up. All such tricks and “secrets” are skirting the rules to some extent, as it is generally not to Google’s ultimate advantage to support them. Realize that they are subject to change. I would recommend avoiding such gimmicks as much as possible in your campaigns and steer a clear course on the best practices path. When it comes to being a customer of Google, company-customer goodwill goes both ways.


This article was brought to you in part by, and by our sister site,, the source for expertise on reinventing oneself to do business in the social media age. provides most of the low-cost groundwork and time-tested guidance distilled by the above steps as part of the MoguLITE program for consultants and entrepreneurs (and for a ridiculously low one-time price), putting the new business owner in good stead right from the start.


For SEO & Pay Per Click management, you might try our other sister site,, a national SEO & SEM company with a small town work ethic and a reputable SEO veteran at the helm.


Mark Brimm consults entrepreneurs and other large, medium and smaller businesses on SEO and Pay Per Click issues at, where he is Partner and Search Marketing Director.


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