Useful Tools: Google AdWords

Photo credit: Danard Vincente via / CC BY

Every month I’ll be highlighting a free or low-cost tool that community groups and not-for-profits can use to improve their marketing and communications. This month’s focus is on Google AdWords.

What is it?

AdWords is Google’s online advertising platform, and where it generates the bulk of its revenue. It allows advertisers to display ads to users based on keywords and cookies that link the advertising copy to the advertiser’s website. These ads take a number of different forms, with the most common being ‘search campaigns’ that appear at the top of Google’s search results (with a small ‘Ad’ banner next to them) when a user types in keywords that match. Search campaigns are useful if people are likely to be searching for your product, service or organisation in Google.

If you’re running a search campaign, you need to make sure you’re clear about what you want users to do once they’ve clicked on your ad, and that your ad copy contains your most effective keywords. Your ad should also comply with your overall marketing strategy and messages.

In your AdWords account you can track different types of ‘conversions’—how people behave after they view your ad. These include:

  • Online enquiries/sign-ups/completed orders
  • Clicks on a link or button
  • Installations of an app, or in-app purchases
  • Sales/transactions/revenue/e-commerce
  • Phone calls to a number listed in an ad or on a website

You need to make sure the Conversion Tracker is optimised in line with the goal of your ad so you can see if how effectively your strategy is working. In addition, AdWords can be integrated with Google Analytics so that you can also see what people who are directed to your site from your ad do once they get there.

The other types of AdWords ads are Display Campaigns, where banner ads are displayed on relevant websites, and Remarketing Campaigns, which tag visitors to your website and target them with advertising to get them to return. Display Campaigns may be useful for some volunteer organisations if you’re not well known or have a new service or event that you’d like to publicise but which people are unlikely to search for directly. There are also Video Campaigns, which get your videos shown in the top of YouTube search results (although you should only use this campaign if you have a professional-quality video and if doing so will fulfil a tangible objective). However, for most volunteer organisations, search campaigns will probably be most useful. Click-Winning Content has a useful article detailing the pros and cons of each type of campaign.

How much does it cost?

AdWords operates a number of different cost structures, including pay-per-click (PPC), cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-acquisition (CPA), and cost-per-thousand-impressions or cost per mille (CPM). In all of these variations, you only pay for results (i.e. when people click on your ad). You are also able to set your own budget, including the maximum you’re prepared to spend, although you may not get the results you desire if your maximum spend is too low.

There are extensive online resources available that detail how to get the most out of Google AdWords. If your organisation is considering running a campaign, make sure you do your research and, most importantly, have an overall marketing strategy and clear goals in place before you start, so as not to waste your money.

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