On the surface using Google (or Yahoo or Bing) AdWords looks simple: pick some keywords, write a few ads and close a few deals. In actuality, creating and optimizing AdWords campaigns is very complex, touches many facets of an organization and requires many different skills.  Further, if you are entering a new market with a new solution, chances are that an AdWords campaign won’t work. If you are entering an established market it is likely going to be very expensive.

Following are steps for creating and optimizing AdWords campaigns:

  • Define each solution being offered
  • Specify each market(s) for each solution
  • Specify the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each solution/market combination
    • i.e. 2 solutions each addressing 2 markets = 4 KPIs
  • Generate keywords: thousands of them
    • View the world as prospective customers might
    • Use synonyms, homonyms and even misspellings
  • Cluster keywords into campaigns
    • You should try several campaigns for each solution/market combination
    • Set a monthly budget for each campaign
  • Create multiple ads for each campaign
    • Ads must connect with the thought behind the keyword entered
    • Two ads/campaign is the minimum
    • Cancel ads that don’t get clicks
    • Continually experiment with new ads
  • Drive the visitor to a specific landing page
    • Connect the thought, with the keyword, and the ad, to a call for action
    • Create at least  two landing pages/campaign
    • Continually optimize landing pages to ads
    • Perform multivariate testing of each landing page
  • Interface to a CRM system
    • Determine how conversions from each campaign are defined in terms of your sales funnel
  • Use analytics to lower acquisition costs and increase conversion rates
  • Use automated bid management to ensure that your ad budget is used optimally

The more transactional your solution (typically translated to lower cost) the quicker the correlation to ad spend success. For enterprise sales where it may take as long as 24 months to close a deal, it is critical to monitor all leads brought in through AdWords in terms of where they enter the sales process and how they move through it. One may then determine the success or failure of campaigns from pipeline analysis.

There can be an immediate increase in traffic through AdWords campaigns. However, to optimize campaigns it typically takes about 4 to 6 months. Why it takes so long:

  • Strategy, including setting budgets and determining KPIs – 2 weeks
  • Setup and launch – 2 to 4 weeks, includes:
  1. Keyword generation
  2. Campaign creation
  3. Ad writing
  4. Landing page creation
  5. Interface to CRM
  6. Analytics and bid management configuration
  • Optimization – 4 to 6 months, depending upon:
  1. Competitiveness of market
  2. Budget (you need a sufficient sample size to optimize)

No one person has all of the skills to create, manage and optimize AdWords campaigns. And even in the rare instances that one does have the skills, there just isn’t enough time for one person to handle all of the moving parts. It requires:

  • Product knowledge
  • Market knowledge
  • Customer knowledge
  • AdWords knowledge
  • Writing skills (ad copy, landing page copy)
  • HTML programming skills (landing pages)
  • Financial skills
  • IT skills
  • Project management skills

There is more demand for this talent than the supply of competent resources. The end result is that you are either over-paying for talent or you are hiring unqualified personnel. In those rare instances when you recruit a good one, they will leave for a better paying position in less than 12 months.

If you are just “testing the water” with some AdWords campaigns, create a six-month test budget and retain a firm to manage it for you. If you begin to see a correlation between your ad spend and a pipeline with qualified opportunities in it, increase your budget. Then continually optimize it as you would any other business process.