In theory Google Adwords is great.
You create ads that bring you boatloads of wallet-out buyers to your online store.
But when you start, you discover how hard it actually is to generate profits with Adwords these days.
If you get past the rookie mistakes, there are a ton of challenges: high cost per click, stiff competition from monsters like Amazon, tons of features, interface changes, mobile visitors that don’t convert, etc.
And each of the above requires a different set of tactics.
But if you start there, you’ll get stuck in the details making minor tweak after tweak.
So to get good results from Google Adwords you need to start with your strategy: who are your customers and how are you going to reach them.
In this article, I’ll show you how to think more strategically about Adwords. More specifically how the different types of advertising on the Google Adwords platform can help you to sell more.
As bonus with this article, I’ve created a worksheet to help you implement this Google Adwords strategy for your own online store.
Knowing where to play
On Google Adwords, knowing where to play means figuring out which campaign types you’ll be using.
There are four main campaign types: Search, Shopping, Display & Video campaigns.
People often have a preference for one over the other. Maybe they’ve used it before or they find that one delivers cheaper clicks.
But that’s the wrong way to go about it. Each of the campaign types can work for your business if you approach them the right way.
That’s because they all have a specific place in the buyer funnel. That’s the whole process from when a potential customer becomes aware of a problem, starts looking for a solution and then eventually purchases.
To map that funnel, I use a framework that was created by Avinash Kaushik.
I like it because it keeps things simple while showing the various consideration stages:
- See – people are unaware of a problem & your solutions
- Think – people are aware of a problem & comparing solutions
- Do – people are actively looking to purchase
It can be used for all parts of your marketing, but in this article I’ll use it for Google Adwords specifically.
Because the traffic at the Do stage is most likely to convert, that’s where I usually start with new client projects.
So let’s do the same in the rest of this article.
The Do Stage
Traffic in this stage is closest to the money. They know they want/need something, have done their research (however brief) and are looking to purchase. They just aren’t sure who to buy form yet.
You can reach them by looking at which people indicate the highest-purchase intent.
That can be through the type of search queries they use or their behaviour like browsing products on your site.
You’ll reach them buy looking at where the buying intent is strongest. Meaning which indicators do you have the type of keywords they are using, if they’ve browsed product on your website.
You can be pretty direct in your messaging. Because these people know what to buy, you can reinforce why they should buy from you. This means that you can send them directly to your product and category pages and make money.
A great analogy for the Do stage is that you’re harvesting the demand. The people you want to reach have already done their research and are ready to buy.
That’s not said that if you run ads, they’ll buy from you.
There are plenty of factors what that might not be the case. Price, product, trustworthiness of the site, shipping costs, delivery time and payment options all need to be to the customer’s liking before he or she will pull the trigger.
Types of campaigns
Branded search campaigns: a search campaign that targets your brand name. These usually are the cheapest and most profitable campaigns.
Competitor brand campaigns: a search campaign targeting your competitors brand. Guaranteed to annoy your competitors and doesn’t always work.
Product brand search campaigns: if you’re selling other brands, you can borrow some of their brand power and run campaign targeting the actual brand/product/SKUs. You conversion rate will be less than because visitors are probably checking out a couple of different sites at once.
Remarketing Lists for search ads or RLSA campaigns allow you to target people that have been on your site, and are searching again in Google. You can simply use a bid adjustment for this specific audience in your regular search campaigns.
Similar to Search campaigns, you can also target brand and product brand search queries with specific Google Shopping campaigns.
Brand shopping campaigns: these usually work if you’re a big brand. People would search for store name + product
Product brand shopping campaigns: these are searches for products brands or actual products that you sell.
Remarketing campaigns target people that have been on the website before.
You can either show a static banner, these are the regular remarketing campaigns or the specific products a visitor was looking at, this is dynamic remarketing.
The relevance of the latter really draws attention. These campaigns usually work well.
Conversions, Cost per action, revenue, ROAS, profit
The Think Stage
In this stage you’re one step removed from the sale. You’ll attract people that know they have a problem or want something but they’re just not sure on the details yet.
Your goal with these campaigns is to get potential customers to engage with your brand and site. Maybe they sign up for your newsletter or check out other parts of your site.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll never make sales from these campaigns, it’s just that the conversion rate will be low and the CPA high. So if your expecting the same results for your investment as in the Do stage, you’ll quickly get frustrated and cut these campaigns.
Your goal is to get people to your site and become part of their consideration list.
So later when they get to the Do stage and are ready to buy, your store will pop out. Getting potential buyers on your store to later retarget them with banner is part of that approach.
The type of ads you create in this stage can vary widely.
For search, it still will be pretty straight forward because you put in your ad what people are searching for.
But it gets trickier with Display or YouTube campaigns. The people you’re reaching with those ads aren’t (at that moment) looking for your products.
So a banner or video that says: “Come check out our awesome products” won’t work.
You’ll need a different offer or call to action.
And instead of sending traffic to product pages, you need alternatives that will be of interest and benefit your store and customers.
These are things like buying guides, product comparisons, newsletter signup, wishlists, etc.
This might seem backward because you are trying to make a sale.
But at this point you need to match the intent of your customer. If they want to explore all options, and you force them into 1 product, it simply is not going to work.
(This is one of the most common mistakes with Facebook ads)
Because rather than showing a very commercial message, you’re grabbing the attention of people that might be interested.
Especially if you’ve chose your placements well, you’ll see good results.
What’s important at this stage is to try and get to the financials as quickly as you can. The amount of traffic at the Think stage is a lot higher, so the overall cost of these campaigns can also be higher.
If you can’t convert visitors directly, try to get an idea of what the alternative offers are worth to you:
- What’s an email subscriber worth?
- Someone creating an account on your store?
- A visitor that downloads your buying guide?
Types of campaigns
Unbranded search campaigns target people that show a slight purchase intent.
These are searches for the categories, problems or solutions. But these clicks can get expensive. So you need to make sure that your bidding strategy reflects the real value of these visitors.
Examples: “anti aging cream”, “thin hair”, “vitamins for thin hair”
The importance here is that you can back up the claim you make in your ads.
If a visitor searches and clicks on an ad that says: “Large Selection Of Camping Tents. Browse now!” and there is only your organic-handmade 1 person tent, that person isn’t going to engage with your site whatsoever.
Unbranded shopping campaigns work very similar to search. Controlling your Shopping campaigns on a keywords level will also allow you to set correct bids to capture these searches, but not overpay for them.
Unbranded shopping queries can literally go down to $0.02 – $0.05, so you can attract tons of traffic with this setup.
With campaigns on the Display Network you’ll show banners with attractive offers to people on Google’s Network of 3rd party websites.
Display campaigns have a couple of different options on how to find the perfect audience:
- Adwords criteria: geography, topics, interests, demographics, affinity, placements, etc.
- Similar audiences: allow you to target people that have similar characteristics with Remarketing audiences that you have in your account
- Customer Match: allows you to upload email lists and target these people. Since these are people familiar with your brand or store, response rates on these campaigns will be a lot higher.
Video advertisements on YouTube fall into two categories: short skippable ads or longer unskippable ones.
The biggest hurdle for most businesses is to create something worth interrupting people for.
Keep in mind that your goal at this stage is to nudge people towards your brand. So it’s not a pure branding campaign (we’ll see that in the next stage) but an ad with a clear call to action.
CTR, Page depth, Assisted conversions
The See Stage
Welcome to the big leagues.
You’re a couple of steps removed from making a sale. Heck, people at this stage might not even be thinking about buying something.
Increase brand awareness amongst your target audience.
To hit that goal you need to aim wide.
Even though people might not be looking for something specific, you’re clearing the way for later.
Since there is no intent you’ll mainly target on location, demographic or interest based criteria.
The goal here isn’t to sell, it’s to introduce your brand and what you stand for to your customer.
Check out this ad from Salomon:
This is what brand awareness is all about. You try to connect with your customer over a feeling or something very practical.
Your goal is that by the time the customer is in the market for the products you sell, he or she will consider you or recognise you from competitors.
There are many benefits to having a strong brand. On Adwords a higher brand affinity translates into higher click through rates on all your campaigns. People that see your ad and are familiar with your brand, will pick your ad more often than that of your competitors.
This means that you’ll pay for traffic today that might convert in a couple of months time or even a years time.
Investing in brand awareness campaigns is a long term play. You should have a solid foundation and PPC program before getting to this stage.
That’s also because with display & video campaigns, they need to look good to stand out and make a difference.
So apart from paying for the media costs (Google’s cut), you’ll need to spend on production.
Types of campaigns
This banner is from 1994 and had a CTR of 44%
It was also the first online banner EVER.
So how do you achieve this today?
The web and it’s underlying technology has evolved dramatically in the last 20(!) years. As publishers fight for pennies their properties have become more cluttered.
The rise of ad blockers is a good illustration of that.
This is also the realm of click fraud where you’re charged for fake impressions.
So if people don’t click on your banners and sometimes not even see them, why invest in them?
Your banner should make people more familiar with your brand and what you stand for.
So if you can come up with a concept that does both, you’ll win.
As you can tell, I’m pretty sceptical of these types of Display campaigns because I’ve rarely seen them work. Especially for brands under $1M in annual sales.
That said this is still a very common way for big brands to do branding online.
So while the relevance of display is fading fast, video is increasing.
The Salomon ski ad already shows what you can achieve with a big production budget.
But it also works on a smaller budget, like this ad from Poo Pourri:
Or go very low budget:
You wouldn’t guess it from the comment section, but people use YouTube to have a good time or to learn something.
So humour is very effective in creating good videos. Go with what makes you weird and different.
You won’t know if you’re succeeding by looking at your sales.
But you are interrupting people with your ads, so one thing you can measure is how effective you are in doing that.
Think of clicks, completed views, # new visits, changes in branded search volume.
If you’ve got a campaign that spend 20k, you can use another one of Google Adwords’ features called Brand Lift. It’s basically a survey where they test the Ad recall of your ad & brand.
I hope this post helped you to decided where you should play and which campaign types you need to do that.
More stores will stay close to the first two stage: campaigns in the Do & Think stages.
That’s ok, the other campaign types require a whole infrastructure to nurture potential customers until they are ready to buy.
So I want you to start where your budget will be spend as efficiently as possible, no matter how small it is.