A second title to this post could be, “Be Careful or Google will take your money and RUN!”A THIRD title could be, “If you’re thinking of running your own Google Adword Campaign, think again.”Now that I’ve gotten ALL of that negativity out of the way, let me preface the REST of this post by saying that I would still recommend spending money with Google Adwords for many clients. I will STILL spend some money with them myself – for our own website. However, I will also state emphatically that you have to be nearly “Solomon WISE” to consider all of the nuances that could go into whether or not your Google Adwords investment will make fiscal sense.You’ve probably heard that Google AdWords can be a powerful lead generation tool. What you may not realize is that AdWords can also be a huge money vacuum. If you don’t know how to properly manage your Google AdWords account, you are essentially flushing your money down the toilet more often than not.A poorly optimized campaign can be very expensive. If you don’t know what you’re doing, Google won’t hesitate to rob you blind. They make a TON of money off of “user error” as they call it. You can call them and make every case for a refund and more often than not they will debate you and send you every link to articles across the internet that will tell you how stupid you are for not knowing everything in advance.Worse still is the fact that you can actually make LOGICAL ARGUMENTS using Google Analytics that the Adwords aren’t doing what they are/were supposed to and all you’ll get from a Google rep is, “Who are you going to believe? Me (Google) or YOUR lying eyes.”Consider this recent test:In early March we tested a Google Adword Campaign wherein we spent $150 a day for a week for specific keywords that apply to the web design industry and a targeted area. With that budget split between TWO ad groups of $75 per day when the smoke cleared we had received around 78,558 impressions that week. We received 138 clicks and spent $831.56 for those visitors to our website.That was around $5.60 per click which is not bad. We tracked the results of those visitors and we picked up ONE new client who spent $2000 with us. A little pricey when you consider that Google made 41.5% “commission” off of me – when we typically pay sales reps 25%. However, I think any business person will spend $831 to make $2K every day, right?We spent some time researching the results of those 138 visitors and it appears that we received traffic from 31 paid keywords and all of those visitors spent time on our website and ALL of them looked at 2-5 pages of content. So all in all – not overly impressive, but a semi-successful test. Anytime you can MAKE money, that’s a good thing.NOW FAST FORWARD TO APRIL 1st…and before you ask the question – no this was not an April Fool’s Joke unless you consider “the joke was on me”.I had an idea on Sunday evening to run another test with what I thought was an AWESOME “call to action”.This time I figured I’d spend $500 on April 1st with Google (for that one day) and I’d direct the visitors to a front page that read that the visitors to could dicate WHATEVER web design work they desired for any size project AND they could then name their own price for that design job.Not bad, I thought. So we turned on the SAME keywords as in early March and we upped our daily budget to $500 and we sat back waiting for the phone calls and emails.They never came. In fact even though we spent FIVE TIMES MORE money that on any day in March, we only saw 2,245 impressions AND only (16) total visitors to our website. For that privilege we paid a WHOPPING AVERAGE of $30.80 per visitor. THIS TIME we only saw traffic to our website from (9) keywords and HERE is the interesting part – on 7 of 9 of those keywords (according to Google Analytics) we saw 100% BOUNCE RATES and 0:00 time spent on the website.What took me personally by surprise (and this is where Google Adwords can bite you in the ass) is that for ONE of our 16 visitors we paid $76.61! According to Google’s own Adwords Keyword Tool, that particular search term is valued at $25.72.So how did that happen, you ask?Because I’m personally an idiot and didn’t take my OWN advice and get one our professionals to handle this test…or didn’t get Google directly involved. I was bolstered by my own field test the month before and I wrongly estimated that if $900 worked for a week or so, then $500 would do wonders for one day.What you NEED to know is that Google’s AUTOMATED BIDDING handling CAN spend your $500 on ONE CLICK. If you read Google’s explanation of what AUTOMATED means, you would assume that if the number TWO adword guy paid $27.05 for a search term, then Google would grab perhaps $27.10 from your budget and spend that amount for the NUMBER ONE spot.Oh, noooooo. They can spend what they WANT to – unless you ALSO select a MAX high bid per term as well. Somehow last month when I only spent a max of $150 in a day Google was more frugal with my money than when I agreed to spend $500.So this little field test prompted me to call Google and get them on the phone. After all, SEVEN of the NINE keywords that they sent those (16) visitors to my site for – LEFT my website after looking at ONE page of my website and 0:00 time.Sound like some kind of error to you? Me too.According to “Melissa, the Google rep” she told me that my eyes were lying to me. She said that these 16 visitors all could have spent an hour on my front page and just chose not to click on any links and that my 0:00 time spent on the page doesn’t reflect any time spent on my website UNLESS and UNTIL they click on another page.Are you confused? I was too.I used LOGIC and asked sweet Melissa the following question, “Last month we spent $831.56 and received 138 visitors and they all looked at 2-5 pages and all spent 2-4 minutes on ANY and every page. On April 1st we spent nearly $500 dollars on the SAME keywords and only saw (16) visitors and on 7 of 9 keywords saw 0:00 time on page and only ONE page viewed…with 100% bounce rate. Does that make sense?”Logic got me nowhere, because as sweet as Melissa was, she just wanted to spend minutes saying things like, “Let me sum up what your questions and concerns are. You spent…” and then she’d simply RESTATE what I had already stated. Then she’d place me on hold multiple times and come back and want to sum up things again…with no explanation or resolution.Now bear in mind that I work with 1100+ clients – MANY of whom spend money with Google Adwords and for whom ALL of them have NO REAL idea as to HOW WELL Adwords work for them. They know that they get SOMETHING from them, but they don’t know WHAT they get. Hence – my field test.What I wasn’t bargaining for was that the MORE you allot for a daily budget on Google Adwords, the MORE you need to be careful. Google can and WILL burn a hole through that budget in NO time whether you get ANYTHING out of it or not.What I could not fathom was how we had NO call to action on our test last month and got something from it…and this time had a KILLER call to action and got nothing but a $500 credit card bill.I’m a pretty smart guy…so I “stayed the course with Sweet Melissa” figuring that I was AT LEAST going to make a new friend with Melissa Google. (I’m certain that was her name…)After realizing that my $500 was gone – never to be seen again – I moved on to more productive conversation with Miss Google. She informed me that I should set my daily maximum which is NOT REALLY A MAXIMUM.
I’m going to hit the [PAUSE] button for a second and broach this little bit of news for the uninformed.
Google can spend $536 if you set your MAX to $500. I still haven’t figured that one out except that I get the feeling that it’s like the Taco Hell drive-through lady who has given me back $1 less change than I was supposed to get on each of my last three visits there. I guess if she gets away with it 40 times a day, she’s given herself a nice raise. If Google does the same thing with a MILLION people a day, then they make an extra $36,000,000 a day. The Taco Hell chick needs to learn how that’s done.[UN PAUSE]
A-n-y-w-a-y, so anyway Miss Google advised me to set the DAILY BUDGET, then AUTOMATE bidding (both of which I did April 1st AND last month) but to ALSO set a MAX BID LIMIT per ad group.After taking a moment to let that sink in I couldn’t help but think – SHOULDN’T THAT BE AUTOMATED IN MY BEST INTEREST BY GOOGLE WHEN YOU SELECT “AUTOMATE BIDDING”?The answer is OBVIOUSLY, LOGICALLY “yes”…but not according to Miss Google.I won’t belabor that point of contention and debate except to inform you that NOBODY should allow Google to AUTOMATICALLY DO ANYTHING. ANYTHING THAT GOOGLE AUTOMATES will cost you money – period.Let me explain my point. Let’s say you want to come up 1-3 for two separate keywords. For the purpose of this illustration I will use the following:web design – which is valued by Google as a suggested bid of $11.49web design companies – valued at $10.49internet marketing raleigh – valued at $25.72Let’s say I have a $500 budget for the day and I go AUTOMATED BIDDING with a MAX cap. Google COULD and DOES allow you to spend $76 for one click even when the NUMBER TWO Adword guy might have spent $25. So THAT’S NUTS, right?So let’s use Miss Google’s recommendation of setting a MAX PER CLICK AUTOMATED figure. Let’s assume that I want my Adwords investment to pay off so I need to show up in spots 1-3. I would assume that I will need to spend around $12 for the first two keywords above – but for the most expensive one – if I automated my MAX Ad Groups per click to that $12, then I’d not show up at the top for the third keyword. The only way I’d show up for all three keywords in my Ad Group would be to set the MAX click bid to $26 per click. The problem THERE is that Google would burn $26 on a click that should have only cost me $11 or so. I guess it isn’t “robbery” if you trust that they’re looking out for you with Automated processes.SO, my friends…the ONLY way to go is to set a MAX daily budget and know that Google WILL spend a bit more than your daily budget…and then go KEYWORD by KEYWORD and set the PER CLICK expenditure that you are willing to pay FOR EACH TERM. The price that Google values keywords for can change every single time you look in Adwords Keyword Tool, so you’ll HAVE to monitor your campaign account to see where you are AVERAGING coming up. If you are showing 1-3 then all is great. If you’re not, then up your max per click a bit. …and you should do this per Adword…not per group.If Google is SAVING YOU TIME with AUTOMATION, they WILL automate some extra money for themselves, no different than my local Taco Hell girl.Be advised. Don’t go for the shortcuts when it comes to Adwords. They can still pay off…but just know that your results MAY vary. You’re not going to get rich off of Google Adwords any more or less than any other, traditional advertising. If you work it smart, it works. Just don’t expect any get-rich moments to come. …and don’t expect Google to refund you any money if you screw up or even when THEY do.Keep your cards close to the vest and keep a tight grip on your money…cause Google is VERY loose with it.The best tip I can provide you is to keep your Adwords SMALL and focused. Small, targeted groups will spend your funds more frugally and wisely (not a word according to Miss Google). If you use keywords and ads that Google deems to be a low quality score, they can charge you more. Not sure why that is, but it’s kind of like a tax on being stupid.That’s where LANDING PAGES come into play because your keyword that you’re targeting should appear in your ad and on your landing page. That’s ALSO not convenient when you want to sell widgets to people in every city of the United States.Adwords can be complicated and take some time to learn. However, it’s important to keep your campaign up to date and optimized. If you keep working, you will see positive results…even if THE MOST POSITIVE RESULTS will be MORE for “Miss Google” than for you.Such is life.