By Richard Rutigliano, PriMedia Inc.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series on search marketing via Google.
Google AdWords continues to be one of the most effective tools for connecting with new customers, and some recent changes strengthen the platform and enable companies to advertise with more precision.
Many energy marketers and home comfort providers already use AdWords to grow their businesses. Working with an agency or a trained staff member, they roll out seasonal AdWords campaigns to support core services such as fuel delivery and system installation. They also use the platform to build a customer base for a new service such as home automation or plumbing service.
The basic principles of Google AdWords have not changed much in the 15 years since Google launched the service, but Google has recently revised the ad format, introduced a new way to automatically update ads, and made several other important changes. At the same time, a third-party provider has delivered a powerful keyword research tool that helps advertisers hit their targets with precision.
As the platform becomes more sophisticated and complex, it makes sense to work with an agency like PriMedia that is Google-Certified for AdWords.
Here are some key considerations to help you use Google advertising most effectively.
1. Improve Your Quality Score. Every AdWords advertiser is continuously rated by Google, using a metric known as Quality Score. Google assigns the Quality Score (from 1 to 10) to incentivize advertisers to create a great experience for Google’s search engine users.
The ratings help Google by ensuring that the best ads appear at the top of the search results, so that users will find the ads helpful and have more reason to continue using Google.
For advertisers who earn top Quality Scores, costs can decrease by as much as 50 percent. Top-ranked advertisers can also gain the coveted lead spot on the first page of search results—even without placing the top bid for that keyword. That’s a lot of reward for giving users a good experience. If, on the other hand, your Quality Score is too low, your bid costs are higher, and Google might not even serve your ads to users.
The primary factors that Google measures for Quality Score are relevance to keyword, clickthrough rate, and quality of landing pages. This means you need to write effective ads that align precisely with their keywords, and your landing pages need to be relevant and easy to use.
When you are preparing to launch a new set of ads, take the time to look up your Quality Score. If you are not satisfied, use Google optimization tools to troubleshoot and fix the problems, or start working with Google-Certified professionals.
2. Align campaigns with company strategy. Google AdWords is a cost-efficient way for bringing in new customers, but it is not inexpensive, particularly when your Quality Score is low. Before you plan your campaigns, take some time for a planning session and identify your goals and your best ways of meeting them. If you have a product or service that stands out as your most lucrative opportunity, prioritize it appropriately.
At the same time, step back, take an overview, and question your assumptions. Set goals, and target your ad groups to support them. If there was a campaign that underperformed in 2016, take a close look at it. Google Analytics data can be very useful for tracking where things went wrong. Pull up your reports and do a forensic analysis with your agency or in-house expert.
3. Make maximum use of the Expanded Text Ads format. Google recently announced a major change to AdWords: the introduction of Expanded Text Ads that double the amount of text you can place in an ad. Google made the changes with mobile search in mind, but they carry over to desktop search as well. The headline is bigger, and the description is longer, and writers now have a total of 140 characters for a single ad.
That breaks down to 30 characters in Headline One and 30 in Headline Two (up from a previous headline total of 25); 30 characters for two URL description paths (which are extensions of the company URL that display in the ad); and 80 in the description (up from 70). In a browser on a smartphone or on a desktop, the new ads are typically one line deeper and offer a lot more characters that a writer can use to inspire a click. Here are a few tips:
• Rewrite all your ads, and use the increased character allotments effectively.
• Within the Expanded Text Ad, create a display URL that aligns well with the ad’s product or service.
• Make the first headline extremely relevant and compelling.
• Use the description to call the reader to action.
• Use ad extensions to increase the real estate that your ad gets and extend functionality.
• Test your new expanded ads against your older-format ads to see what is working and what isn’t. You can no longer edit your older ads, but you can still run them.
4. Target your keywords effectively. Keyword targeting is how you match your ads to the Google searches you want to target. You develop a selection of keywords and pair them up with the ads that you create. When a Google user who matches your criteria (such as location) runs a search that matches your keyword, Google will serve your ad up with the organic search results if it qualifies in terms of Google Score, bid and relevance. Assuming your Quality Score is strong, a good selection of keywords will get you in front of the Google users you are seeking. A knowledgeable AdWords professional can use specialized tools to improve your keyword targeting, determine which keywords are working and which are not, and improve results on AdWords campaigns.
5. Write great copy. Entrusting your AdWords creative writing to an untrained staffer makes no more sense than asking your receptionist to visit a customer’s home and repair the burner. This is a specialized skill that requires knowledge of both the medium and its tools. An agency that is certified in Google AdWords is often the best choice.
6. Create a great user experience. Creating a great experience for people who click on your ad is essential when you use AdWords. As mentioned above, Google itself is so concerned with the user’s experience that it assigns higher positions for ads from companies with superior Quality Scores, while also charging lower clickthrough costs. The search giant has its priorities straight: Search ads should be precisely relevant to the keyword and should click through to a landing page specially designed for that ad. The landing page itself should be easy to navigate and use on any device.
If you are advertising a specific product or service, the landing page should feature it front and center. Comprehensive information about the company should be available on the page but less prominent.
If the ad is more general in nature regarding the company, the page should discuss the company in the specific context referenced in the ad. If there is a clickthrough to another page or a form to complete, be sure to provide all the supporting information that the visitor needs to decide whether to proceed. Also, make sure that your contact information is easy to locate.
When you provide an excellent experience on your landing page, you help yourself by sending a strong signal that you are a savvy company that values customer service.
7. Manage ad budgets effectively. Google offers great tools for analyzing the performance of campaigns and ads. With the Dimensions tab, advertisers can learn when in the day their ads work best and which keyword groups get the best results, while also gaining other insights into performance over time. A good campaign manager can adjust settings and bid levels to allocate more resources to the timespans and keywords that achieve the best results.
8. Keep your ads up to date. Google allows advertisers to use advanced ad scripts that are highly useful for managing ad copy. For example, if you want to specify that a promotional offer is good for 24 hours only, you can use an advanced script to make the number a variable that counts down to the expiration time. Without any manual adjustments, the ad will always reflect the correct number of hours remaining. This is very useful for fuel marketers who are promoting delivery ahead of a large storm that is a couple of days away. This feature can also improve analytical reports on the ad, because it avoids breaking the data into separate chunks with each daily edit.
9. Stop competitors from draining your ad budget. Google enables advertisers to prevent ads from displaying to select IP addresses. It takes expert work to find competitors’ IP addresses, but once you know them, you can block those addresses from your ads—and prevent them from clicking on your ads.
In the next issue of Oil & Energy, we continue our look at marketing via Google with a discussion of Google Analytics.
PriMedia is a Google-Certified agency, and we can help you connect with buyers more efficiently via the internet. To improve your search engine marketing, please give me a call at 800-796-3342 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.