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How to explain your choice of search advertising keywords

For many of you using search advertising, there’s a minefield to be negotiated from time to time, which is reporting to colleagues. As I often point out, search advertising, such as Google AdWords, is not advertising in the traditional sense. It’s not at all speculative. It’s simply buying website visitors. But it’s a technique where minimal knowledge is a misleading thing.

You won’t be unusual if you have to report on marketing to a management meeting each month or quarter, and if your expenditure on search advertising is significant, the rest of the team will want to know the details. Unfortunately the stuff they’ll jump on to discuss is nearly always the wrong stuff. I’m talking here about keywords and clickthrough rate.

Here’s conversation number one.

Marketing manager: Last month, we got 800 website visits from our search advertising campaigns.
Sales manager (or MD, or anyone else): That’s good. I know a bit about AdWords. What keywords are we using?
Marketing manager: OK, here’s a list of what was clicked on.
Sales manager (scanning down list past the main ones): Why is ‘how do red sprockets work’ on the list? We don’t sell them. We sell blue widgets. You should get rid of that. And the next one. And the two after that.

This is the criticism which it’s hard to explain to someone who only thinks about search advertising for 5 minutes a month. I think my answer is this: they have to stop thinking about the ‘keyword’ as being the only thing the prospect is interested in. The ‘keyword’ is a way of identifying what pages on Google potential customers are likely to be found each day. It’s a way of making sure your message is in front of as many of them as possible. To be honest, on any given morning, potential customers are as likely to be looking at Google search results pages for ‘The Apprentice’ or ‘Manchester Utd’ or ‘Theresa May’ as they are ‘blue widgets’. Perhaps we should have our adverts there. But if we did get clicks there, they’d be quite expensive. So for reasons of value-for-money, having our message by searches for ‘how do red sprockets work’ is a good compromise. Even if we don’t sell red sprockets.

Another way of looking at it is to say: “Good Housekeeping magazine isn’t relevant to blue widgets. But if Good Housekeeping magazine offered us an advert, and said we’d only have to pay for anyone who as a result visited our website, we’d take it, right? This is the same thing. It might be that nobody who’s of interest to us will see the advert. But they just might, and we only pay if they do.”

Now apply that to people searching Google for ‘how do red sprockets work’. What are the chances that some of them might be interested in our blue widgets? Quite decent, actually. And if nobody is? It’ll probably cost us nothing.

I’ll leave conversation number two for tomorrow.

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