First Impressions: AdWords is...

We had an interesting challenge at work recently. We were asked to run a campaign using Google AdWords and generate as much traffic, and conversions as we could in two weeks. Most of this stuff was new to me, and there is definitely an art, and a lot of science to it. My first impression of Google AdWords is very good -- it's powerful, easy to use (after you get used to some of it's features), fun and cool like most Google Apps.

I took a fairly unscientific approach, and really just tried to absorb and learn what I could. My budget was next to nothing, and I wanted to see what I could do on a really tight budget. I got a reasonable amount of traffic but unfortunately, I don't think I got any product conversions (purchases). My completely unscientific approach and limited budget was a bit of a let-down -- and I really didn't spend as much time as I wanted on it. We were asked to spend about an hour a day on "the challenge" in between our regular stuff.

There's a tremendous amount of really good help and documentation, and a lot of time can be spent just reading -- which was one of my main goals -- there's a lot more to it than just knowing what the acronyms mean. It's probably a good idea to plan for that before starting a campaign.

I think the trick is to come up with a plan of action, and metrics to help you evaluate your success/failure and progress. An obviously critical aspect is to get the right keywords and creative that makes sense for the keyword sets you want or need to use. Then bid-up, burn-in, track, and quickly peel out the stuff that isn't working.

I ran two pretty basic campaigns:

1) Starter Campaign - Budget Optimizer enabled [ $20.00 / 30 days ]

2) Campaign #2 - Price focussed adverts [ $5.00 / day ]

Here are some numbers...
Clicks   Impr.   CTR    Avg. CPC   Cost
11 24,627 0.04% $0.24 $2.63
63 99,620 0.06% $0.79 $49.96
74 124,247 0.05% $0.71 $52.59 (Totals)

Writing really good creative is imperative. Ad position is also another key factor in terms of getting good results. In terms of generating traffic, you can judge for yourself. I was also able to get some purely organic traffic as well, but I don't have those numbers handy. That said, I was able to easily get more than double that traffic on my blog without spending a penny -- so I'm definitely still a strong believer in organic traffic generation.

I didn't get to spend much time on this area but the coolest feature for me was Google Analytics. Lots of data to look at -- graphs, maps, charts, and numbers galore -- and it helps you figure out what's going on and think about ways to handle your campaign.

Granted, there are puny numbers and it feels a little "Mickey Mouse" to me, but it was really interesting and I learned a bunch. I'm not sure of exactly how well others did, but there were a good handful of conversion purchases -- just not from my campaigns. I think my lack of conversions (and the same for other participants) is partly due to the nature of the product, and I think we could probably make some improvements to the product creation and the check-out process as well.

Ultimately, two conversions would have paid for my entire campaign, but as I mentioned before it was my first foray into AdWords and SEM, and there's definitely a LOT to it. I've had an AdSense account for a while (obviously), and I had an AdSense but never really used it until now, so I probably could have done the reading without spending anything but I think you really learn a lot more just by messing around with it.

I learned a lot for $52.59, why not give it a try? Hint: There's an AdWords link conveniently placed in the column on the right »