Among the many inbound marketing tactics, one of the most valuable is search engine marketing (SEM). After all, using the term “Google” as a verb didn’t become part of our everyday vernacular for nothing!

When it comes to search engine marketing, there’s a lot that you can do organically, which is where a strong SEO strategy comes into play. However, as we continue to create more content and become increasingly savvy as consumers of that content, there’s a lot of value that can come from taking a pay-per-click (PPC) approach to SEM.

Using Google AdWords for SEM

There are several tools you can use if you’re launching a PPC campaign, although one of the best options is Google AdWords.

In a nutshell, Google AdWords works by surfacing your ad when users search for certain keywords. Your ads might appear along with the organic search results or they can appear on third party sites owned by Google or Google partners. Ad placement is determined by your bid (the maximum amount you’ll pay per click, although the actual cost per click is often less) and your ad quality (calculated based on factors like the expected click through rate and relevance).

Diving a little deeper, what exactly do you need to know to run a successful AdWords campaign? It helps to break it down in terms of strategy and execution.

4 Tips for Developing Your AdWords Strategy

  1. Stay current on program updates: We live in a fast-paced world, and Google AdWords is no exception to that. Google updates its program regularly to stay current and innovative, and you need to stay informed about these updates so that you can adjust your strategy appropriately. For example, most recently, Google announced that it would no longer serve text ads in the right sidebar of search results. Instead, it will display four text ads above the organic search results and three text ads below the organic search results. Additionally, this update reduced the maximum number of ads per page from 11 to seven.
  2. Get to know the bidding process: Your bid (aka the maximum amount you’re willing to spend) is a key factor in determining your Ad Rank, which is how Google determines which ads will appear where and the order in which they’ll appear. As a result, a lot rides on this number. With that in mind, there’s a lot of strategy that can go into formulating your bid to maximize the value without breaking the bank. Therefore, it pays to know the in’s and out’s of how the bidding process works. You can then use that knowledge to develop an appropriate bid based on factors like campaign goals, priority, probable competition, etc.
  3. Understand what factors into your Quality Score: Your Quality Score is another key factor in determining your Ad Rank, so, similar to the bidding process, it’s important to know how Google calculates this score. The main three factors that Google analyzes to calculate this score are ad relevance to target keywords, expected click through rate and the landing page experience. Upon calculating a score, Google will also provide a diagnosis. Reviewing this diagnosis can help you make improvements and boost the results of your efforts.
  4. Monitor the metrics: Google also provides reporting on AdWords campaign performance, and you’d be remiss not to use this insight to your advantage in improving future campaigns. You can also look at AdWords Reporting in conjunction with Google Analytics to get a more complete picture of what you’re doing well and what you can do to improve in areas like bidding and messaging. As with any reporting endeavor, it’s important to define which metrics will be important to you, analyze those metrics based on context and determine how you can use the insight derived from those metrics to spur action.

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4 Tips for Executing on Your AdWords Strategy

  1. Define your audience with ad targeting: Who will you target with any given AdWords campaign? Answering this question is an all-important first step in getting things off the ground. As a result, you want to pay close attention to ad targeting in order to make sure your ads surface for your desired audience. You can even use Google’s Remarket List for Search Ads (RSLA) to target people who have already visited your site.
  2. Set your topic with keywords: In addition to the “who,” you also need to define the “what.” In this case, selecting the right keywords for your campaign is critically important. Keywords not only come into play in terms of ad relevance, but also in terms of who could potentially be served your ads based on search terms. Therefore, you want to keep in mind the terms for which your target audience typically searches. Other factors to consider include keyword competition (the more competitive the keyword, the higher the costs will likely be), negative keywords (to filter out irrelevant searches/differentiate similar terms) and keyword matches (to designate broad, phrase and exact matches).
  3. Stand out from the crowd with creative ads: Defining your “who” and your “what” is a big part of the equation, but it’s only part of it. You also have to capture that audience’s attention, and that’s where your ad development comes in. Regardless of whether you’re developing a text ad to appear in search results or an ad with images to appear on partner websites, being catchy, creative, relevant and concise is imperative. So too is having a clear call to action. Beyond simply capturing your audience’s attention and driving them to take the action you want, this creativity also impacts your Quality Score.
  4. Consider all devices: Finally, don’t forget to think about the “where.” In today’s world, that means paying particular attention to mobile. We all use our mobile devices more and more frequently (even for business purposes), so it’s important to consider the differences between mobile and desktop. Specifically, you should consider how your ad will appear on screens with smaller and larger real estate, evaluate the opportunities presented by ad extension tools and make mobile bid adjustments (which dictate how often/not often your ad should be displayed to mobile users).

Time to Get Searching

At the end of the day, two of the best things you can do to maximize the results of your Google AdWords efforts are the same things that apply to most endeavors. The first is to jump in head first and learn as you go, since the more you do the greater the expert you’ll become. The second is to observe what others are doing to see what you like (or don’t like) and how you can put your own unique spin on those examples. With that in mind it’s time to get searching!