I've spent time recently in Google Adwords and things are as or more complex than ever. I'd say more. Here are a few issues that confront the Adwords User:
- Ad display
- Ad extensions
- Keyword match types
- Ad group to keywords to ads configuration
- Dynamic ads
- Tracking templates
- Landing pages
- Quality scores
First Principles with Google Adwords
- Bidding is key
- Campaigns, Groups, Keywords, Ads
Simplicity begins with the singular
The very first principle needs to be simplicity, for management of complexity takes time and introduces more error. However, the simplest campaign would likely be a single keyword, a single ad, and a single geographic market. That is simplicity, not the dump everything together into a stew. So we should start by building up rather than breaking out. Of course we all make this same fundamental mistake.
Too little data is not actionable
There needs to be enough data from a set of parameters in order to have actionable intelligence. This means that if you are setting up 100 ads for a low frequency keyword, there will never be enough data to decide which ads are better. Therefore, ensure the traffic patterns justify experimentation at low levels.
Landing pages are for humans
Landing pages are for visitors, who (mostly) first encounter the website at that page. There should not only be a match between ad, keyword, and landing page, but a match between human, landing page, and site. This of course means low quality content, which means irrelevant content, is content that is irrelevant to a high quality, highly relevant human. Focus on the relevant human, then derive the relevant content, the relevant landing page, the relevant keywords, and the relevant ad. Yes, there is always a bit of research, guesswork and error, but the feedback of conversions helps guide these things.
Bidding is the key to campaign management
I've embraced this as a core concept. Campaign management is not managed by a budget, but by a bid. Manage the bids, and you manage the budget. And bids need to ultimately get to a reasonable price per customer acquisition. Of course one needs to know the value (or lifetime value) of a customer, but for the small business that means at the most, the profit margin for a given transaction (conversion), and relative to other marketing channels (and their volume). In some cases, with time-based goods and sufficient inventory, the profit margin can be sufficiently gouged by marketing costs, as what is left becomes free money that will expire (provided there are few variable costs and quality can be maintained at a higher volume).
For a given set of keywords and match types, a set of ads and landing pages, there will be costs per conversion. It is simply an optimization task to find the place where profit per month is maximized. The main fixed parameters are market size (in terms of keyword search).
Bidding is the key to campaign management as well, because bids, relative to other factors, will provide ad positioning, which may have an effect on cost per conversion via both conversion rate at a given position as well as CPC. And finally, reach factors are also driven by bid, namely higher bids will account for more first page ads, which are more plentiful than second, third, fourth page ads, in general.
First things First - Geographic Campaigns
Geographic targets, which can actually be metro area-focused, are essential. Since this is a Campaign-level variable, that means each geographic segmentation is in fact a campaign. This means campaigns need to be created first, targeting geography, and also segmentation at the level of search vs. display (if any display is needed).
Second things Second - Ad Groups
Ad groups can be single keywords (SKAG), but also any groups that might share an ad. Bidding is at the level of the ad group, but keyword-level bidding can override. However, for any given ad group, only a single keyword bid may be entered, and applies to all ads in that group. For granularity, any given ad group can have one keyword (or more) and one ad (or more). Single keyword, multiple ads -- or -- multiple keywords single ads can provide information (but the two together have a more muddied response.
Only ad is displayed for a given account, for all campaigns, for a given search, and those ads are determined (among other things) by the best match of keywords (given more than one). We don't want campaigns competing with each other, as that is where budgets are set, but multiple ads for a keyword match can be useful.
Third things Third - Primary Keywords
Actually, primary keywords are first things, but not the order for dealing with Adwords. Take the primary keywords, the ones that define a category, and do extensive permutations. Usually this is a thing + place keyword combination, but can be anything, really. Bidding will be adjusted based on conversion costs, but that does require a lot of data. The point is to guesstimate and do enough bidding to find out the search volume with major permutations. Focus on negative keywords as well, but be careful not to be trigger happy there.
Fourth things Fourth - Landing Pages
Fifth things Fifth - Ad Permutations
Finally, the Bid
Yes, the most important, but it comes last, though there are obviously intimations and estimations come at the beginning, but really a bid is a tool to achieve reasonable customer acquisition costs while remaining within budget.