I’m packed (mostly) and ready to go! Tonight I fly out to Paris to begin my adventure in France (while I continue this internship via the wonders of the web).
Before I leave, though, I wanted to write a blog about my adventures with something else – Google, particularly Google AdWords.
I’ve already mentioned the Porcupine’s Quill’s grant from the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC), which we received a couple of months ago. I didn’t mention that in the grant we received some money to use Google AdWords to increase traffic to our site. Google AdWords is the method that businesses use to put up those little text ads beside searches on Google – for example, if you search ‘Nike shoes’ on Google, you’ll see several text ads around your search that advertise Nike shoes. These text ads also show up on Google affiliate sites, like YouTube and many other sites that have agreed to host Google ads.
All of these ad locations can be tightly controlled by the person who controls the ads account. That means that I can control, if I like, exactly which sites my ads appear on, as well as which keywords may trigger my ads. This is important because Google AdWords is pay-per-click – only when someone actually clicks on your ad do you pay for it. Of course, to get the most out of your click, you want to make sure that the people clicking on the ad are people who might actually go on to buy your product (instead of just flood your website’s traffic).
The ability to control your ad presence is also important because Google AdWords intelligently keeps track of how popular your ad is – how many people actually click on the ad when they view it – and Google uses that popularity information (called the ‘click-through rate’) to adjust where your ad is displayed, how often it is displayed and how much you’ll pay per click. Google wants to ensure that the ads displayed are the most relevant to their users, so the better your click-through rate, the less expensive it is to pay for the ad – Google wants ads that users click on!
Tim made me mildly responsible for getting Google AdWords to work. It’s pretty complex. Optimizing PQL’s account – that is, getting the most clicks for the lowest prices – has taken two weeks of experimentation and fairly expensive failures, and the account isn’t perfect yet. There is also the additional concern of making our OMDC budget last until the end of the grant period, which is midway through next year. This means our daily pay per click budget needs to stay pretty low.
The first challenge was to create the ads and their corresponding keywords. Google has a hierarchy for organizing your ads. The top level is Campaign, the intermediary level is Ad Group, and the last level is the ads themselves. You can have multiple ad groups per campaign, and multiple ads per ad group. Here’s an example of one of our hierarchies: Canadian Artists (Campaign) > Wood Engraving (ad group, one of many ad groups) > ad text (I’ll get to an ad example later).
It took us a bit of experimentation to reach this method of organizing our ads. At first our ads were only organized by author. For example, we had a campaign for wood engraver George A. Walker instead of just an ad group about George A. Walker in a Wood Engravers campaign. At first this seems to make sense, but then consider we also had an entire campaign for Marta Chudolinska, Megan Speers, Jim Westergard, etc. Where’s the problem? The problem is that our keywords – one of which was very prominently ‘wood engraving’, since they’re all wood engravers – were nearly identical across these campaigns, meaning that our campaigns were competing with each other for ad space on Google. We were undercutting our own campaigns. This problem extended to our individual campaigns for poets, authors, etc. (Now, we have a campaign just called Canadian Poetry, one called Award Winners [for people who search for the Griffin Prize, etc.], and so on.)
The trick is to think like a searcher – sure, a person may search for George A Walker specifically, in which case we’ll want to show them a George A Walker ad. Hence a George A Walker ad group. But a person may also search more broadly for a ‘Canadian wood engraver’, in which case we want a broader ad that reflects that person’s broad interest.
A funny keyword anecdote: I also established a campaign for the Devil’s Artisan, and divided it into ad groups for different important designers, etc. that people may search for. I also created an ad group called ‘Letterpress’, for those people who are interested in the art of book printing and design rather than specific individuals. The number of impressions – the number of people who saw the ads – jumped off the charts. 50,000+ in one day! And none of them were clicking on our ads. This destroyed our click-through rate and I couldn’t figure it out: surely there weren’t that many people interested in fine printing in Canada? And if they are, shouldn’t they love the DA?
It was only when I searched “about letterpress” (one of our keywords) that I found the answer. Of course, thousands of people were searching for letterpress invitations – wedding invitations, to be exact. Letterpress stationery, custom letterpress cards, etc., etc. And unsurprisingly, not a single one of these wedding planners was interested in the DA. This is where Google AdWords’s fabulous negative keywords feature comes in – I can add keywords that, if searched for, will not trigger our ad even if it includes another of our positive keywords (like ‘Canadian letterpress’). Someone searching for ‘Canadian letterpress invitation’ will no longer see our ad. Our impressions dropped like a stone, our click-through rate improved (marginally …), and this mystery, at least, was resolved. (The Letterpress Ad Group saga is still ongoing, but I’ll talk about that next week.)
But what exactly do our ads look like? Here’s an example from the Wood Engravers campaign:
Wood Engravers Network
Buy gorgeous 2011 calendar by
global Wood Engravers Network
Pretty nifty, right? Google gives a few tips on ad text. Two that I took to heart are to use an action word (ours is ‘buy’) so that users know exactly what they’re getting into when they click on the ad, and to try to use the most popular keyword (‘Wood Engravers’) in the ad somewhere. I think that this ad could still use a little work: the display URL (porcupinesquill.ca) should also include something about Wood Engravers, because people are more likely to click on it when it does. There is also probably a better way to use my word space than by repeating ‘Wood Engravers Network’ in the title and body text; the number of characters I can use in the ad is very limited and I’m sure there’s something more interesting to say.
Of course, I’m going to France tonight, so my time is a little limited right now! No AdWords playing today.
I realized halfway through this post that there is a lot more to say about AdWords. The experimentation is endless. Next week I’ll write a little more about our budgeting adventures and also the importance of targeting specific websites. The last item, in particular, is important, and I can imagine that there are people in the world who have perfected Google AdWords targeting, are familiar with the audiences of many of Google’s affiliates, and can say exactly which websites the ads should appear on so that their click-through rate is phenomenal. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people!
Maybe by the end of this internship, though.
Part Two is here.