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Avoiding the meaningless AdWords target

Companies frequently approach us saying they want to get involved in search engine advertising (e.g. Google AdWords) for the first time. You’d be forgiven for asking why they hadn’t done it before: some competitors could have up to 15 years of experience. There are many good reasons though, ranging from not previously having advertised at all anywhere, to “the managing director has only just got it”.

If it’s the latter – and that’s not as unusual as you might think – then there’s a lot of expectation management to be done. The problem with search engine advertising is that nobody can really visualise the extent of what happens. So your advert showed 10,000 times? That’s just a number. If you look at the list of the actual searches where your advert was clicked, you get a much better grasp of things. But you don’t get a list of the many, many searches where your advert showed but was not clicked. Most of these are obscure searches which might never have been made before and may never be made again, but they can still be the search made which led someone to a big new customer.

That’s all difficult to explain to the MD though. So I’d urge you, if starting out with search engine advertising, to specify a specific goal which needs to be met. Unless you have an online store, your goal is likely to be nothing more complicated than visits to the website. If so, make it clear that’s what the campaign is setting out to achieve. Something like: “We get 250 decent visits a month to the website, and with our £1000 a month of search engine advertising we aim to double that. We’ll then look at the impact on enquiries”.

Don’t set the outcome of the campaign to be the campaign itself (“We’re going to spend £1000 a month to appear at the top of the search results for ‘blue widgets'”). That’s meaningless.