Googlefu me, baby!
March 6, 2008 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Google keywords and AdWords for a business. How does the whole shebang work? Does it? What's your experience/advice?

On my last site, everything was in html. With that and typed keywords in html I just automatically showed up high on people's searches. The text on my new site is entirely images now though, so I know that won't show up on searches. A competitor of mine was telling me how I need to sign up for Google AdWords and that by doing that she has gotten so much more work than she can handle that she had to turn it off. She also said that there are good and bad ways to enter keywords in there, that you shouldn't put too many... but I didn't really get what she was talking about and to be honest, google's explanations didn't really clarify what she was saying either.

Soooo, if I'm going to do this how should I go about getting the best bang for my buck? Gimme the scoop, my peeps.
posted by miss lynnster to Technology (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I proposed via Google AdWords, and since we hitched the knot last September it seemed to have worked.

On a more serious note, I've got a small business in London importing MP3 players and other electronic trinkets from China. I've purchased key words so that if folks type them into Google my sponsored search results show up in the right side pane. It started out as a curious sideline, a hobby that paid for itself and let me mess about with neat toys, and recently has taken on a life of its own. I've actually cut back on the AdWords as biz is a little too good.

Every keyword has a "click through" fee associated with it. The good & bad is simple; you want to choose keywords, associated with your business, that drive customers your way and result in a sale. Bad keywords will drive a customer your way but no sale.

As each keyword has a cost a secondary goal should be to maximise paying customers by purchasing the minimal number of keywords. Set your daily budget low to begin with until you get a feel for how this works.
posted by Mutant at 12:24 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

First off, for the search engines to find your site more easily, you should give your images names, rather than numbers (for example, "shinynewpony.jpg" rather than "95765392.jpg"), and try to use key words where appropriate in the image names, and then those image names will come up for the search spiders as text. You can find the most-searched-for keywords by googling, and try to put them in your image names, if you really want to work the system.

Google Adwords is expensive. That doesn't mean it isn't the best, but you might want to search around for something less costly and try it out first, see how you like the system, before you go for the Big Guns.
posted by misha at 12:31 PM on March 6, 2008

Google Adwords is an auction-based search results system. You say "I'm willing to pay up to $1 when someone searches for widgets and clicks on my link." The highest bidder gets the top spot and the most clicks. Second place gets the second spot, etc. Click-through rates fall off dramatically the lower you are in the ranking. Advertising a low cost low margin item (like tomato seeds) will be cheaper than advertising a high cost high margin item (like a home theater).

There are a lot of tricks to getting the best return from Google Adwords, but they largely depend upon what you're selling. Is it a product or service? Are your customers local or global?

Without knowing anything about your product or service, here's some general advice:
  • Make sure ads work to filter out unwanted clicks. Don't try to get clever, just explain exactly what it is your offering and why it is good. E.g. "Acme Widgets, 25% off retail, Same day shipping!"
  • If you're local, make sure Google only targets local searches.
  • Focus on search keywords that establish buyers' intent: a search for "widget store" is worth many times more than a search for "widget." It means the searcher wants to buy a widget, not a write a school report on them.
  • If you really want to go crazy, grab the "leaked" AOL search terms database and find out how people really searched for your product/service (Requires some technical skills).

posted by justkevin at 1:23 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, one route to go is to hire someone to manage your adwords campaign. (Disclaimer: I do this freelance). If you decide to do this, and have questions about what to look for in a adwords specialist, feel free to mefimail me.

Second - there's a book that I've recommended: Ultimate Guide to Google Adwords. Marshall uses some techniques that I employ as well - and it's also a great primer on marketing in general. Be warned, however, that parts of the book are designed to push his subscriptions and services on the reader -- and, I suspect, those of his friends/affiliates. DO NOT BOTHER WITH THESE. They are very tempting, because he is an excellent salesmen; but totally unnecessary. There are some useful links to some free resources, but I've not needed/used them, generally.

Another very good read - a bit more straightforward, which is its advantage and its disadvantage - is PPC SEM for Dummies. Looking at Amazon, I see that there is another, specialized For Dummies on Adwords - and it seems to have great reviews. I love the For Dummies series.

Of course, the AdWords learning Center is also excellent, but moves a little slowly for my taste.

If you're looking for a one-liner, the best advice I can give is to really think like your potential customer. Imagine that you are interesting in whatever it is you are selling - but perhaps you don't know much about it. What would you search in Google to learn more? Is there jargon they might be using? On the other hand, might you be assuming they are searching for jargony terms that they don't actually know?

Then, once you have done some of these searches - get a feel for what is the most appealing to your (imagined) customer on the SERP (search engine results page). Are there some great titled hits in the results? Any seductive ads? See where your mouse wanders naturally. These are your biggest competitors. You will either want to emulate them or contrast with them. Ideally, you will try both - and run thorough testing to see which results in better results.

Oh, and that's another point. Be extremely clear to yourself what the specific results are you hope to gain. Then aim for it. Don't expect that your visitors will find your site and figure out what you want them to be doing to make you happy. Make sure the call to action is clear, though obviously not pushy or in-your-face.

Okay, that wasn't really a one-liner. But take the first clause after my one-liner promise and take that as the one-liner. The rest is just explication.

Good luck!
posted by prophetsearcher at 1:49 PM on March 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Also, unrelated to Adwords, have alt attributes for your images that contain the keywords (but you probably shouldn't put all the text in the image in, or it will look as though you're trying to stuff keywords) and title attributes as well.

And properly setting up the Google Webmaster Tools will probably increase your traffic and rankings as well. Opt-in to enhanced image search. There's also a Google Image Labeler Beta though I'm not sure it's of particular use in this case.

Maybe even a "no images" version of your site where each no-images page auto-redirects to the images version at first? Though that could be alot of work and you'd have to be careful how you do the redirection - not a 302 but something javascript-based, I think.
posted by XMLicious at 5:04 PM on March 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Well, here's my site if that helps people give any particular advice. My goal is to do design and art direction (print, advertising, branding, packaging, children's design) for companies (preferably in the San Francisco Bay area & L.A.), as well as be contracted for high end design and art direction projects that are either telecommuted or could be short-term contracted elsewhere.

I just feel like I really need to concentrate on expanding my client base to a higher level. I feel like over the last few years I was trying to cater to Bay area clients and that I did myself a disservice, that I need to be thinking bigger and better than I have been and stop limiting my growth. I've been told this is a smart way to expand my visibility. I don't know if that's true.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:05 PM on March 6, 2008

As another consultant / small business owner, in the fairly niche market of web content management system implementation, I would say on the contrary rather than thinking big you should think small and develop a very specific, narrow expertise and portfolio (though it does make you more versatile to be personally broadly informed and experienced as a professional - that may not be what's best for your business, though). It's just that you want to focus down like this within a market scope that is fecund and profitable, and determining your market scope based upon your geographic area usually doesn't get the right results.

I would recommend that you evaluate what makes a good client for you (lots of cash, doesn't need lots of post-contract support, prestigious name, you get to work with kids maybe, etc., whatever kind of person and company you like working with) and use that criteria to select a niche market that will provide you with those sorts of clients. Once you've got a goal market, it should be easier to find other marketing channels (like trade magazines) that would be alternatives to AdWords for your marketing dollars. (And even if you go with AdWords, having the target of a specific market in mind will give you more of a rudder as far as how to use AdWords.)

For example - if packaging design is an option for you and you live in California, how about getting on the trail of people who import stuff from China? Does stuff come over already packaged, or is it packaged over there by people with a limited grasp of English who often produce unintelligible packaging? Either way, if you could develop proficiency and knowledge in that market, and maybe find a local Chinese speaker who could serve as a go-between when you need to converse with a Chinese manufacturer, it seems like that would be a rich and constantly growing market to target. If you're lucky there won't be too much competition from other U.S.-based designers and you might find you get your pick among a variety of clients along the West coast!

And by the way, nice web site. I really like the rough / reclaimed wood background image. My bit of advice would be to place links to your case studies / portfolio directly on the main page and make them more prominent - maybe a tastefully rotating graphic with the logos of your client companies - Cingular and Pizza Hut Bistro seem like they'll be eye-catching and familiar to anyone who hits the site.

Let me also say that, as someone who has done web work in most areas of the country, that while there's competition for web design work everywhere the West Coast in particular has seemed especially intense and shark-tank-feeding-frenzy-like to me. Some of the most cutthroat, ruthless, and low-bidding design agencies I've worked with have been in the SF Bay area and L.A. So that could be a factor if you've had disappointing results in those markets.
posted by XMLicious at 8:08 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

One other little note - as a web software engineer, I vastly prefer and find it more easy to work with designers who are proficient in XHTML and CSS and who are familiar with content management systems, Drupal is a good low-end one which can (relatively) easily be installed on most web hosting accounts if you don't have your own server.

But engineers aren't usually the decision makers unfortunately ;^) so that sort of experience won't necessarily get you more clients.
posted by XMLicious at 8:17 PM on March 6, 2008

Response by poster: SMLicious: if you look at my site, I'm not promoting myself as a web designer or to do sites. I'm an art director & designer with specialties in branding, print, packaging, product graphics, advertising and stuff like that. When working on web stuff that isn't basic, I'm generally hired to concept the design look with web designers and programmers hired to do the other stuff.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:21 PM on March 6, 2008

Yes, I realize that you don't exclusively do web work. That's why I said all of that stuff about packaging design. My comments related to web design were directed solely at the instances when you're doing web-design-related work, because I saw that you had some web project experience listed.
posted by XMLicious at 10:52 PM on March 6, 2008

Just to make it clear - only in the very last paragraph of this comment and in this comment was I trying to say anything about web design. In the rest of what I've said in this thread I was speaking about marketing a business on the web in general, as someone who markets my own business on the web and who is hired to market the businesses of my clients on the web and search-optimize their sites.
posted by XMLicious at 11:04 PM on March 6, 2008

Response by poster: Cool, I appreciate all of the advice!
posted by miss lynnster at 8:14 AM on March 7, 2008

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