google_adwords_dashboard
A dashboard I pulled from the internet. I'm a nice guy, so I photoshopped out the account number that someone left on the screenshot!

I am an expert at failing spectacularly with Google Ads. Seriously, I’m the best.

See, now that this place has some good content for people to read and I’m feeling comfortable with the layout, I thought I’d move to Defcon 3 and start playing around with building traffic via a little tool called Google Adwords. You may have heard of it. I think it’s actually been rebranded as Google Ads these days, but whatevs.

It takes time for search engines to send all of their little bots out to site, get the pages indexed, and start plugging them in to search results. Accordingly, I’m not expecting to see a lot of organic search traffic for a while. For beginners, that means that this site – as amazing and entertaining as it is – isn’t likely to show up as a search result when people actually search for things in Google, Bing, Yahoo, Alta Vista (I kid) or whatever. Not for a while. (You all could help that by linking to us. Wink, wink).

Since I’m super impatient and want to expose everyone to the vast wonderfulness of this blog as quickly as possible, I thought I’d help things along by just buying a little traffic. That way, instead of waiting for Google to organically place me in the results when people search for “how to start a blog,” I’ll just buy some ads that show up above the search results that appear when people search for “how to start a blog.” Mwahahahahaha. That’s like super-number-one positioning. What could possibly go wrong?

My Amazing and Foolproof Google Adwords Campaign Plan

The mission was really simple – find a good piece of content on the site and create some ads via the Google Ads system that let me promote that piece of content for a small amount of money.

The first step went fine – I reviewed a lot of the content that’s been posted so far and narrowed down the choices for where my ads should point. I wanted to point to content that was fairly specific, didn’t use video embeds, and had a good number of links to other content pieces on the site. Oh, and it also had to have some actual keywords that real people might type into a search engine, so that my ad would trigger.

I did not want to link to something really high level, like one of the articles on how to write blog posts – that didn’t seem like it was narrow-scope or actionable enough to be of interest to a random general audience who would be coming upon the content without any type of context.

I ended up choosing the article on managed wordpress hosting. I thought this was a good choice because

  • It was fairly narrow in scope
  • It contained actionable information that people might find helpful
  • It was formatted pretty well (if I do say so myself)
  • It was a good topic for finding keyword triggers in an adwords campaign
  • It had a couple of affiliate links to my besties over at Kinsta (who I love), which could even earn the blog a few bucks

Keyword Research

Armed with a solid piece of content to which I could point my soon-to-be-created ads, I got down to business trying to figure out what keywords or keyword phrases I could use as triggers to tell Google “Yo Dawg, when people search for this stuff, I want you to show them my ad.” Since I watched Miles’s super good video on free keyword research, and actually installed the Keywords Everywhere extension on my browser, it was pretty easy to start figuring out some lists of potential keywords to target. (Again, I don’t know Miles, I just thought the video was good)

Since the article my ads would link to was about the various managed hosting options available for WordPress sites, my keyword research focused on terms related to that topic. Thing like

  1. Managed wordpress hosting
  2. best wordpress hosting
  3. fast wordpress hosts
  4. wordpress hosting comparison
  5. wordpress host reviews
  6. …and so on

I even got a little bit clever and checked out terms related to actual hosts like Kinsta, WPEngine, and Flywheel.

Almost immediately, an enormous problem became clear. The keywords related to my targeted content were ridiculously expensive. I mean, look at this crazy list. Now, I love building this blog, and I’m actually on board with the idea that I’m going to have to spend some non-trivial money to do it up the right way, but there’s about a 0% chance I’m going to spend twenty freaking dollars per click to drive some introductory traffic to content that generates no revenue. That’s just bananas.

A keyword list produced by Keywords Anywhere. The columns show the specific search term, the number of searches per month, the amount of money one click would cost, and how competitive the search term is (with 0 being the lowest and 1 being the highest)

Failure Number One: I came up with a content marketing plan before I’d finished doing the homework required to actually formulate such a plan. As a result, my plan was bad. It was low in traffic, very expensive, and wouldn’t be a viable way to push traffic to the site.

Devising a Better Google Adwords Campaign Strategy

After discovering that basically all of the keywords that would drive any kind of decent traffic volume to my article on web hosting were priced stratospherically high, I went back to the drawing board to formulate a new plan.

As it happens, at the same time I was formulating my brilliant Google Ads strategy, I had also just installed a plugin called Thrive Leads, and was starting to learn about landing pages. As it also happens, I had simultaneously started playing with some of the layout features that my WordPress theme provides.

I began to hatch a new plan.

What if I used my fledgling knowledge of both landing pages and layout features to build a landing page I could use as a target for my ads? Brilliant.

So now I had to come up with a concept for my landing page. What was the landing page going to focus on? How did I want it to direct traffic? As the gears turned, a plan solidified.

I built a landing page that had the basic navigation structure of the site and an abbreviated version of the web hosting article to which I’d originally planned on linking. This abbreviated version had more links to related content on the site. Perfect.

Putting the Master Plan Into Action

Once the page was built, I actually went and signed up for a Google Adwords account (painless, did it in like 5 minutes, super easy) and got to work building some ads. I just used the guided ad tool that Adwords provides, since I am not a PPC guru (or wasn’t. I’m way better now, after a bunch of failing).

As an aside, I’d read about the Google Adwords Express tool, which is supposed to let small advertisers / small businesses kind of put the whole Ads thing on autopilot, but I’ve read some things that say it’s a bad idea, so I took the plunge on my own (though I still used Google’s guided tools)

For my first round of ads, I targeted keywords related to both WordPress hosting and blog building, since my landing page was about one topic and linked to the other. I kind of just dumped the keywords into my ad campaign, since, again, I was using the guided tool and didn’t yet know much about the different ways you can target broad, phrase, and exact matches.

Failure Number Two: I rushed through the creation of my first set of ads, because I didn’t know that there was so much to do. I used Adwords a long time ago, and it was not as sophisticated as it is now. Now, when you set up an ad, there are three layers of title, two or three layers of descriptive text, and this whole new set of Adwords ad extensions. The ad extensions include a set of callout extensions, and a set of sitelink extensions. There’s a lot to do, and that’s a lot of ad copy to think up.

After spending about an hour creating ad copy, I finally had two ads that were ready to run. Because it was taking a long time to set up, I skipped most of the ad extensions and focused on the copy itself. It wasn’t “think different” but it wasn’t too horrible.

With the ads created, and marked as awaiting editorial review/approval, I played with budgeting a little bit. I decided to let Google manage the cost per click (CPC) math with their supercomputers and just set a daily budget of $50. Yeah, yeah, don’t worry, my plan wasn’t to let the ads run on autopilot for 500 days. Plus, some of the keywords in my keyword list were pretty expensive – like $5 – $7 per click. With their supercomputer math, Google estimated that I’d get in the neighborhood of 700 – 800 clicks per week at this level of spending. On a limited time basis, that seemed like an ok number.

Finally, after rushing through the creation of a couple of ads, and getting two (bare bones versions) of them written and posted, then wrangling with the money side of things, I was excited when the status was updated to Approved and they actually started running on the ad network.

I then sat back and waited for the sweet, sweet success to come rolling in.

Stay Tuned For Part 2: The Sweet, Sweet Success Does Not Come Rolling In

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