Google AdWords - the marketing tool developed by Google to target users with intelligent advertising - has been a choice weapon for digital marketers for a few years now, but what are its benefits and drawbacks, how can you best use it, and how much should you spend?
According to Google, 80% of internet users can be reached through AdWords, and this is likely not an exaggeration. The world's number one search engine sees a huge amount of traffic, and crucially a huge share of its users are looking for a particular product or service with an online presence.
What this means is that AdWords allows for the 'ultra targeting' of users according to what they are looking for, allowing advertisers to match up their products and services to potential customers through the strategic use of keyword based campaigns.
Cost is another winner for AdWords, as pay models mean that advertisers are charged by CPC (cost per click) or CPM (cost per impression), providing a pay-as-you-go type structure which means you won't spend more than the limit you set, be it £5 or £50.
There is also a fairness and transparency to Google AdWords that often is not present during price negotiations for other advertising platforms on the web, or through print and broadcast mediums. This is because AdWords uses a bidding process for each keyword, meaning if a keyword or phrase is in demand, the price you will have to bid will be higher, while for lesser used terms you can expect to bid a lower sum.
One of the drawbacks to the cost structure is that there is no guarantee of a customer journey that is converted into a sale - if 1,000 users click through to your website, under a CPC model you will pay for the clicks, regardless of whether they purchase a product or service. For this reason, the onus is on the advertiser to ensure that they are using the right keywords, and laying effective pathways to purchase points within their own websites.
There is also the growing suspicion - although it would likely be hard to get this officially confirmed by Google - that users are becoming more savvy in their searching and are more likely to disregard paid listings in the Google rankings, and look at organic listings instead.
AdWords is becoming increasingly strategic as techniques for keyword selection become more advanced, and this is perhaps the biggest single limitation facing SMEs who don't have the resources for a dedicated digital marketing department. For firms of this size, it is sometimes best to seek outside help from a specialist digital marketing agency.
The best Google AdWords campaigns aren't born overnight, they are the culmination of testing programmes which use small investments to assess the effectiveness of particular keywords, before spending big on campaigns that are proven to work. That is why Google Analytics is such a godsend, giving you all manner of tables and graphs which allow you to analyse who has clicked through from your adverts, where they are from, and what they did when they reached your website.
Only by exploring the full range of keyword options, and tracking their performance closely to assess the return on investment you have received, can a large percentage of advertisers be fully confident that their campaigns are hitting targets.
As outlined in the section above, Google AdWords campaigns often benefit from a period of testing which trials different keywords and phrases using relatively low budgetary caps. Once keywords have been analysed for their effectiveness, and ultimately the return on investment they offer according to the primary objectives of the campaign - be they traffic, sales or impressions - it is a sensible time to begin considering higher amounts to invest. This will vary according to the size of the organisation and their marketing function, but even with higher amounts discretion is advised, along with constant monitoring and reporting on effectiveness.