Each month, your credit card is charged by Google for all the AdWords clicks you’ve received.
Each month, you question yourself whether it’s worthwhile, yet there’s a good chance that you’re never able to come to a satisfying conclusion.
Google provide some tools for measuring success, such as conversion tracking. But realistically you know that it’s little more than an inaccurate indicator.
In an ideal world, you would be able to see that out of all the people who clicked on your ads, X purchased your product or service.
The problem is that conversion tracking doesn’t paint a complete picture. You don’t know if you are looking at 90% or 5% of tracked conversions. This can render conversion tracking more or less useless.
So how can you tell if you’re wasting money on AdWords?
Start by making sure the right people are clicking on your ads.
It’s pretty obvious that if the wrong people are clicking, you’ll be paying for traffic that isn’t interested in what you’re offering.
I would therefore recommend that you review the following areas within your AdWords account. These are often overlooked and can easily result in irrelevant traffic.
Review the location targeting
Begin with reviewing your location targeting to see where visitors are clicking from. When you setup your campaigns, you picked a location or a group of locations that you wanted to target. The problem is that you might be receiving clicks from locations that you never wanted. This means you might be wasting money.
If you’re interested in the detailed explanation as to why Google are showing your ads to people that you didn’t want to target, please read more about it here. I would recommend you monitor this closely, because even if the clicks appear to be coming from your targeted locations this may change over time.
Review device targeting
In the early days of AdWords, Google allowed advertisers the ability to control the types of devices they wished to target. This meant that an advertiser could turn on or off tablet or mobile according to their needs.
Nowadays you can disable mobile devices, but you can’t disable tablet devices from seeing your ads.
If your website is not mobile or tablet friendly, and you weren’t aware of the device settings, you’re probably presenting a poor experience to your AdWords visitors. This may waste money on clicks that can’t even view your website properly.
Review your keywords
Next, you’ll want to analyze your keywords and ask yourself how targeted they are.
For example, let’s say you’re selling laptop computers. Someone that searches for “low cost laptops”, “buy laptops” or “laptop deals” is probably looking to purchase one. It’s therefore a good idea to have your ads displayed on these types of searches.
If you were to bid on more general terms like “laptops” or “windows laptop”, you’ll probably receive some clicks from those who are interested in buying, but you’ll probably also receive clicks from people with other agendas. In this case it might not be a good idea to have your ads displayed.
Finding the right keywords is far from easy. If you’re too targeted, you tend to see less traffic. And if you’re too broad, you tend to see traffic that’s more off target.
This will be an ongoing struggle which brings me onto my next question: are you using negative keywords? If not, start doing so immediately. Negative keywords tell Google not to show your ads if someone searches with those keywords.
For example, if you’re selling laptops and you’re receiving clicks on searches such as “low cost laptop repair”, it might be a good idea to exclude the term “repair” since you are not offering a laptop repair service.
Negative keywords don’t only save you money, they also improve your performance by reducing your ad impressions. This will increase your CTR which will in turn lower costs.
Review your ads
Take a step back and perform a critical review of your ads, but within the context of your keywords and ad groups. This is something that is often overlooked.
Your ads need to make a direct connection with your keywords. Ad groups allow you to group keywords within common themes, so you can craft ads connected to their keywords.
If your ad groups each contain many different keywords and many different keyword themes, it will be difficult to write ads that communicate to the multitude of keywords and keyword themes.
Most importantly, people are less likely to click on your ads.
After you’ve reviewed your AdWords account for potential leaks or problems with your targeting, you then need to review what happens after the click.
Now make sure that your website is working
If your potential customer just clicked on one of your AdWords ads, do they immediately go back to Google to click on the next? If this is how most of your AdWords visitors behave, you’re almost certainly wasting money.
Now you’ve confirmed that only the right people are clicking on your ads, visitors to your website should be finding what they’re looking for. In other words most should be doing exactly what you wanted them to do after they arrived. That could include filling out a form, downloading your software or purchasing your product.
If they’re not doing what you wanted, there may be a problem with your website, product or service.
Solving these types of issues can be difficult. It can also require a great deal of effort as well as experimentation. I would recommend beginning the process by looking at your website through the eyes of your AdWords visitors.
Remember that when someone arrives on your website from an ad, it should have a clear connection to the page they landed on. You only have a few seconds to capture their attention.
Now you can make sure that your costs are reasonable and not out of control
You’ve just confirmed that the right people are clicking on your ads and they’re doing what you wanted them to do once they arrived on your website. You now need to consider your costs.
Are you paying more than you should, and are you wasting money?
This is one of those questions that’s difficult to answer and will depend on your particular business needs.
To try and answer it, I would recommend that you perform some experiments.
What happens when you decrease your bids or budgets? Do you receive more for less? Did it have a negative or a positive impact on performance?
What about the opposite? What happens when you increase your bids or budgets? Do you receive more targeted traffic that produces the results you were looking for?
These types of experiments will help you make more informed decisions.
Always remember that you’ll never have a complete picture of exactly how many sales AdWords produced. You might see that some sales are attributed to AdWords, but you’ll never be able to tell how representative that data is. Tracking the true ROI will always be problematic and may even be impossible.
In the end, it’s best to focus on what you know and not be bogged down by the unknown. Make sure you’re paying for the right people to click on your ads, that your website is producing the results you want, and experiment with the price you pay for AdWords.
Taking these steps will help produce better results.