AdWords for Startups

Google AdWords for Startups

Google AdWords is all about user acquisition. It’s just another opportunity for you to find new, qualified customers who are looking for your products and services online.

I’m running Google AdWords campaigns for my clients since 2004. During the last 12 years, I’ve directly worked with over 50+ ad accounts – startups, SMBs, SaaS, marketing agencies, and ecommerce companies – managed over 10M in ad revenues.

The journey started from a limited budget, cost-per-click campaign for a trading software vendor. After a few years, I entered into ecommerce search marketing with a way more sophisticated ‘ad stack’ – Display Network, Shopping and YouTube campaigns, mobile audience targeting, and remarketing.

And it’s the ecommerce world where I have learned the ropes of what it takes to create a full-fledged campaign with a great ROI. The high demand for the products – with active buyers across the globe and the plethora of advertizing tools – fueled my creativity and helped develop analytical approach to managing an AdWords account.

Beyond AdWords, every project I worked on included a great deal of website improvements – from addressing site speed and mobile experience issues to conversion rate optimization and analytics tweaks. Off-site and on-site efforts should be always executed in sync.

There’s been a lot of speculation lately around using AdWords for startups. Let’s see what we can do to put AdWords at work.

  1. Users’ attention is getting harder to attract (and not only with AdWords)

The hard thing about AdWords is that the cost-per-click is getting higher and higher every month, the competition is fierce, and there’s a high barrier of entry for a new website / app / service / Kickstarter campaign to get its business on AdWords up and running with a good ROI.

In 2016, for a highly competitive keyword you can pay $10, $25 or even $50 per click. While an average cost-per-click is $2-3, some of my clients are enjoying a CPC of $0.50. It’s much cheaper if you want to use Google’s Display Network, where startups, with correct targeting and the right message, still can get quality visitors for just $0.04 per click.

For the record, it’s not about AdWords PPC campaigns only, the Facebook Ads ecosystem is also becoming highly competitive and challenging for companies with limited budgets.

Many businesses, and especially startups, are dissatisfied with AdWords. Their primary concerns are:

  • It doesn’t perform that well (or as promised by someone)
  • Too expensive
  • We don’t have a budget
  • We’re not in a position to employ a marketing manager

The most common scenario I’ve seen with AdWords “exits” based on the above scenarios: startups with a budget of 1-3K switch to content marketing and growing their email lists. Say, a SaaS company started to concentrate on creating 8-10 high-quality blog posts per month (paying around $300 per post) and it was an extremely successful user acquisition strategy.

There’s no one solution for all. You need to give AdWords a try to see how it works for you.

  1. Your goal with AdWords

All you need to do is to set up some good campaigns, scale them for a bigger spending and then fine-tune it to perfection.

But before you begin, you need to cover some of the important things to make sure that the campaign you about to set won’t be a money wasting project:

  • Know your budget, goal cost per acquisition and LTV.
  • Who is your ideal customer? Create a customer profile.
  • What you need: initial feedback, awareness, growth, sales, backers?
  • Set crystal clear campaign goals and objectives.
  1. The things to keep in mind

There are several major things you need to consider first to get some momentum: a solid budget, time, and a professional who is able to execute it without wasteful spending.

If you’re on a very limited budget, say just have a $150 coupon, most likely you’ll end up with nothing.

To get a critical mass of data, you need initial time to execute your experiments – give it 2-3 months to deliver those results.

Most ad campaigns will eventually work out as AdWords campaigns are profitable – it’s Google behind them. As you progress, you have to trust the data: be ready to adjust or pivot. Or stop, it you don’t see a decent ROI.

Red flags to watch out for:

  • Target search niche is too small, no search volume
  • You haven’t evaluated the competitive landscape – big guys pay big money, the niche is saturated
  • Your website (or app) isn’t prepared
  • Don’t blame AdWords marketing if your product is a problem

I’d highly recommend you to subscribe to AdWords channel on YouTube to stay up to date with the latest. They have covered many specific topics like Measuring ROI, Understanding Bid Strategies, and App Install Campaign Implementation.

  1. Get your analytics early

Analytics setup is your killer feature, spend as much time as needed to get it up and running. You won’t regret, there several debugging tools to make the process much easier: Google Analytics Debugger and Tag Assistant.

  • Set analytics, conversion tracking
  • Use Tag Manager
  • Google Analytics
  • AdWords Conversion Tracking
  • Remarketing Tag
  • Use Google Tag Assistance to find any issues

If you’re using Mixpanel, here a good article on how to Measure your AdWords campaign with Mixpanel.

  1. Relevancy is your mantra

AdWords is an intent-based advertising and Google wants its ads to be as relevant as its search results as possible. And it’s not only ads – everything you create has to be in sync with that vision: the keywords you select, your ad creatives, and the landing pages on your website.

“Better relevance and clickthrough (CTR) lead to higher Quality Scores, which in turn can lead to better positions, lower CPCs, or both. That leads directly to the bottom line: better returns for your ad spend.” ~ SEM Best Practices Series by Google

The good thing is that it’s an ongoing process. The more you learn with AdWords about your audience and more relevant your offerings become over time.

  1. AdWords for success

Here’s my set of pro tips:

  • Ideas first, tools second: build a backlog of ideas, develop and then test your hypothesis
  • Do a really comprehensive keyword research
  • In Campaign Settings, segment and separate everything
  • Create a specific call-to-action or, even better, an irresistible offer
  • Create several conversions, including micro conversions
  • Keyword Match Types, start with Phrase and Exact match, don’t go with Broad
  • Use keywords in your ad copy / Dynamic Keyword Insertion
  • Include one or more mobile-preferred creatives per ad group
  • Use phone, location, sitelink extensions, customer reviews
  • Watch your Bounce Rate. High BC = ads are irrelevant
  1. Fine-grained reporting
  • Use built-in AdWords reporting
  • Use AdWords Reports in Google Analytics (connect accounts)
  • Don’t rely on a single metric, segment your reporting
  • On a weekly basis, make sure you have a healthy account: CPA, Quality score, CTR, CPC, impressions
  • Separate PPC performance and Conversion performance

Hope that helps! I want your ad campaigns to do well, be analytics-driven. Good luck to you! If you have any questions, please email me at alex@marketingsutra.com or comment below.

About the Author: Alex Grechanowski is a marketing mentor at Start-up Chile and an owner of Marketing Sutra, a digital agency that loves helping startups, SMBs, SaaS and ecommerce companies build better products, find traction, tell compelling stories, and scale growth. Say hello: https://twitter.com/grechanowski