Starting an Adwords Campaign on a Budget: Our Real-Life Hands-On Training

Until recently, SpyFu relied on a third party to run our PPC campaign.  We wanted a better sense of what it takes to manage an Adwords campaign.  What did our visitors encounter in their day to day management?  Deciding to take it into our own hands for the first time, we thought this was a great opportunity to document the process for newcomers who might be curious about what to expect.

Follow our bare bones start of a PPC campaign, from the eyes of a novice.

Setting up our Google Adwords Account

When we started building our Google Adwords Account, we learned that many choices need to be decided from the start.  First, we opted to start a US-specific campaign (North America) and return to UK once we’ve gotten our feet wet with our first run.

Here are some other campaign “settings” options to consider, as well as the choices we made.

Networks and Devices–In the “Let me choose…” feature you decide where your ad is visible.  Will it be only on Google’s search results page or on other sites?  Do you want people on mobile devices to see your ad?

Search–Selections are Google Search and Search partners.  This one can bring up a lot of questions worth researching.  Who are Google Search partners?

Dogpile, AOL, and other sites using the “powered by Google” search bars on their sites.  (Later note: we tested performance and found significant cost per conversion results between using Search Partners and going without.

We opted against using the Search Partners.  While this might not be the same result with you, we can’t stress enough that testing the results is well worth it and could save you-or make you-money in the long run.)

It’s important to note that Search Partners is the default when you set up your account.  Make sure to uncheck the box if you don’t want to go this route.

Devices.  We passed on this and removed iPhone and other mobile users from those who will see our ads.  The nature of our site requires much more interaction and usually desktop/laptop interaction during in-depth research.  To limit a mobile user’s experience would not give them

Bidding and budget–the decision here is between focusing on clicks or on conversions.  Since our new campaign didn’t have enough conversion data yet to trigger this option, we default to “focus on clicks.”

From here, there are options to set manual bidding or automatic bidding.  Erring on the side of caution as we test the waters, we’re going with “manual bidding for clicks.”  Setting that maximum cost comes next.

Adwords is definitely set up to allow you as much automation as you’d like.  If your goal is to target a high position among the ads, you have help here.  Position preference and delivery method can be set to return your ads at a higher cost and with fast spending, but in return you hit a higher ad position and appear more often-probably a strong move with limited-time promotions.

Under advanced settings, break your campaign into time slot segments or even give preference to days of the week.  Want to run on weekends only?  How about leaving out Tuesdays after 4:00 PM?   In the same category, frequency capping at the very least helps your budget.  At extreme levels, it might even help you guard against consequences of serious click fraud.

Next, we must create our first Ad group, but we are not ready.

No, to create our ad group, we need the right keywords.

Selecting Keywords

We want to build short tail keywords first.  The idea behind this clashes with plenty of advice out there, but here’s our stand on it.  Our strategy is to compare and measure performance and filter down from there.  Low volume activity associated with longer tail keywords would take too long for us to measure, and we plan to develop the longer phrases based on our better performing keywords.

Decide on your settings for broad match, phrase match, and negative match.   Negative match  is going to take some thought and research that you might want to return to on occasion.   Consider how you can tighten your campaign with terms you never considered.

Off to SpyFu!

As part of the experiment, we also chose to use SpyFu as a resource for setting up our PPC campaign from scratch.  We want to see what you see and from your perspective.

First Stop: Kombat

We started with three competitors in SpyFu Kombat.  By taking ourselves out of the equation and matching up three related rivals, we can get the quickest path to the most popular keywords in our niche.

Once you have the results back on shared keywords from the three competitors, click on the segment where all three overlap and click the button to export to Adwords.  This gives you a user-friendly format where you can easily copy keyword ideas from here, open Keyword SmartSearch, and paste.

Of the competitors that we selected, all of them advertised on the term “keyword” and variations of that term.  We noted that with a broad match on this term, we did not have to consider the variations like “keyword tool” or “keyword research,” so we are setting those aside.

It doesn’t mean that we will not advertise on them; it means that for the sake of time we won’t plug these into our keyword generator or collect more variations.

In fact, as we are collecting keywords that we know we want to advertise on, we organize them in an Excel file.  The nice thing about that is that when we run a related term through the keyword generator (Keyword SmartSearch), we can copy this growing list and paste it into the “exclude” filter for new keywords that we see.

This is a nice time-saving step for anyone.  If you know that related ad groups will have some similar keywords in them, you can continue to exclude recurring themes in the results from Keyword SmartSearch.  Let’s say your niche specializes in candy.  The term “chocolate” is going to appear frequently along with variations of it like milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and chocolate-covered.  Once you have reviewed these, add them to your exclude list on Keyword Smart Search.  Now when you run a search on “sweets” and candy” you don’t have to worry about coming across “chocolate” yet again since you already found it on another search.

Watch for negative match opportunities in these results, too.  For example, SpyFu is relevant to “SEO research” and “SEO tool,” but since we are not an agency or a consultant, “SEO services” goes into our negative match list.

Also, watch for “cost per day” statistics from Keyword SmartSearch and remove any potential budget bombs before you move ahead.

Recommended Reading

Internet Marketing Basics