Perry Marshall on the AdWords Stupidity Tax & Why You Should Never Let a Google Rep Near Your Account
Perry Marshall is one of our favorite people in PPC. We’ve partnered with him on a few webinars, and we love that he doesn’t just parrot back conventional wisdom at you. He shares real insight into web marketing strategy and has a knack for analogies that hit home. He recently sent me the new edition of his popular AdWords guide, The Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords, and spoke with me about some of the great advice you can find inside.
About Perry: Entrepreneur Magazine calls him “the #1 author and world’s most-quoted consultant on Google Advertising … He has helped over 100,000 advertisers save literally billions of dollars in AdWords stupidity tax.” His Chicago company, Perry S. Marshall & Associates, consults both online and brick-and-mortar companies on generating sales leads, web traffic, and maximizing advertising results. He’s one of the world’s most sought-after marketing consultants, and his work is referenced in dozens of influential marketing books. He’s published thousands of articles on sales, marketing and technology, as well as books including The Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords (Entrepreneur Press, 3nd Edition 2012), the world’s most popular book on Google advertising, and The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising (Entrepreneur Press, 2011).
What is the “AdWords stupidity tax”? Why is it crucial for beginners to set a low daily budget initially?
Every way in which you misunderstand your customer costs you money in AdWords. Every way in which you misuse Google’s tools, interface or advertising network costs you money. Google is not out to save you money. You are playing against the House and the House will win unless you’ve been taught by a pro.
Google employees call people on the phone and dispense bad advice, like “Don’t worry about exact match, bid on broad match and our system will take care of everything.” It’s like paying for valet parking when there’s a space for 50 cents across the street.
It’s vital to set a low budget at the beginning because you don’t want your first experience with pay-per-click to be demoralizing. This is a really powerful machine and I want my readers to feel GOOD about using it. It is, after all, the most advanced advertising machine in the history of man.
What are some of the most common mistakes that new AdWords advertisers make?
The #1 mistake is piling all kinds of keywords into one ad group with one generic ad.
The #2 mistake is sending all those clicks to the home page, instead of making specific landing pages with specific calls to action highly related to the original keyword.
The #3 mistake is not doing nearly enough testing of ads, copy, landing pages and conversion.
You write in Chapter 3: “The real power in Google AdWords comes from logging in every few days or once a week and making constant refinements … This doesn’t take a lot of time – sometimes only a few short minutes each week.” How much time do you think advertisers need to allocate on a regular basis to optimization techniques, and how should they divvy up their time for maximum effect?
WordStream software certainly helps. But with or without it, if you focus on the areas that bring the most traffic, I find that once you find a rhythm, you can really do this with a few minutes a day, at most a few hours a week, and that’s with a large campaign with a $10,000+ spend per month.
Look, you can only do so much testing with any given amount of traffic. Beyond that you’ve optimized as much as you can. But the big mistake people make is not testing at all, letting months go by with no tests. That’s a waste of one of your most valuable resources: Data.
Lots of people struggle with writing effective ad copy. Can you offer any tips for ad copywriting and split testing?
The #1 secret of copywriting is: “Enter the conversation inside your customer’s head.” The easiest way to do that is to write a page of your customer’s diary. You should actually try that. What does she wake up thinking about? What bothers her? What gives her indigestion? What causes her to snap at her husband or cuss under her breath?
To that I would add: “Talk to your customers the way they talk to each other and themselves.” If you have questions about tone or style, this will almost always answer those questions.
Why shouldn’t you ever let a Google rep “optimize your ad campaigns”?
Because 99% of the time they’ve never learned Google AdWords by having to support a profitable business by spending their own money. And if they haven’t done that, they haven’t learned AdWords. I find it’s almost impossible for a person to become a great marketer learning entirely on someone else’s dime. Just like it’s almost impossible for a person to become a great salesman working on straight salary with no commission.
Plus, Google frankly does not have their advertisers’ best interest in mind. Heck, they won’t even talk to three-fourths of them. If I only had a dollar for every person who said, “I let Google change my campaigns and it cost me a LOT of money!”
Actually the most popular Facebook post on my fan page was about precisely that. I said “Have you ever allowed Google to ‘help’ you by editing your AdWords campaigns? How'd it turn out?” People were ANGRY. You can read over 100 comments at http://budurl.com/googletriestohelp -- it’s quite entertaining, actually.
Oh, and if you read closely you’ll find a few people who did find it helpful. Most of those were AdWords ninjas who forced the Google rep to create new, separate ad groups. Sometimes they were able to glean insights from what the reps did.
But in general, you should never put a German Shepherd in charge of ham sandwiches.
Remarketing: creepy, or effective?
Sometimes both. But frankly having a cell phone in your pocket where any one of 200 people could text you day or night would have been considered creepy 20 years ago. Gmail ads seemed creepy when Gmail was new. So what’s creepy changes.
Some products simply require a certain amount of “Chinese Water Torture” to get people to embrace them. I understand that Post-It™ notes took quite a while to catch on, simply because people had to learn to habitually think about using a sticky piece of paper. I have a Roundtable Member who sells a certain kind of software that’s extremely useful, but requires a slight change of habit. He’s getting most of his sales from remarketing traffic, from people who downloaded the free trial but didn’t use it at first.
Do you think the display network is underused? Any tips for creating effective banner/image ads?
Yes, absolutely it’s underused. According to AdGooRoo’s database, in Spring of 2011 Google AdWords had:
- 1,265,047 advertisers on the Search Network
- 273,879 advertisers on the Display Network
- 26,080 Display advertisers who use banner ads
Actually, more than being underused, it’s misunderstood. It’s like a big giant cloud that most advertisers don’t understand at all. Once you learn to x-ray that cloud, you find all sorts of interesting things.
But if you look at these numbers, you see what’s really underused is banner ads. Banner ads have more “pixel power,” inch for inch, than text ads.
Image ad tip: Hire two banner designers and pit them against each other. Have contests. There’s no telling what’s going to make your next ad killer. You just gotta try stuff, and think out of the box.
What kinds of businesses should focus on local advertising?
Ignoring the obvious answer “local businesses,” a lot of national advertisers should use local advertising and geo-targeting. Two reasons:
1) They should test new ideas on a smaller scale before going national. It will probably save them a ton of money.
2) If you’re a national advertiser who is sometimes competing against local advertisers, it is very possible that your ads are not being seen in the local market at all. You’re drowned by the local competition. Sometimes you need to bid more in certain areas.
And finally, 3) almost all businesses have very significant geographical biases in where they actually get customers. Even though I grew up in Nebraska and even though my wife grew up on a farm in Nebraska, I get very few customers from the Midwestern United States, and very few from rural areas. Almost all my customers are from larger metros and the edges of the country.
That’s peculiar to me, and other national and international businesses may be very different. But this is something that merits looking into. Many businesses should be avoiding certain states entirely.
You’ve added new material to the book about using social media to boost your AdWords performance. Can you give us a hint as to how that works?
I have a website about astronomy that I was advertising on Facebook, and I discovered something really interesting: Two of the top 5 books that people clicked on in my ads were Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell.
Dang, that is weird.
You can read my book to find out the reason why that was true, but here’s what was interesting: We found out we could feed that information back into our landing pages and boost our Google traffic.
I added one sentence to the middle of the landing page:
“This ultimate question touches the distant past, and – with the forewarnings in Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World – it touches the distant future as well.”
Forget Facebook traffic entirely – the conversion from Google Display Network traffic went up 11%. From one sentence! And the website has nothing directly to do with science fiction stories.
What does this mean? This means that arguably the most powerful use of Social Media is insight into things that on the surface appear to have nothing to do with your Google campaigns. Facebook data can tell you your customers’ favorite books, movies, TV shows, politicians, talk show hosts, etc. Just like the geographic data, there are huge biases and micro-stories lurking inside your customer base. When you add those elements to your existing advertising campaigns, it supercharges the response you get and reveals new sources of customers you would have never thought of.
Buyers of our book get access to Fanalytix™ software which makes it easy to analyze Facebook likes and interests. We find that a hybrid between Facebook and Google advertising gives super-powerful insights. In this day and age, you need every advantage you can get – I say, take it.
Can you tell our readers what they’ll learn if they read your book?
An AdWords education is very expensive if you have to pay for it yourself. It’s not even realistic, nor is it necessary. Based on our 10 years of working with clients, readers will discover how to start a Google AdWords campaign from scratch, see early signs of what’s working and what’s not. They’ll learn how to track their results, whittle down the cost of their clicks.
They’ll know how to show their ads only to highly likely “suspects” and get only high-quality traffic from the clicks that they buy.
Along with all the “mechanical” Google stuff, they’ll develop an important understanding of larger online marketing strategies, including search engine optimization, email marketing, landing pages, testing and tracking, pricing, and copywriting. Plus the book comes with a bevy of bonuses including software that analyzes psychographic information from Facebook fans, which can be very useful in writing ads for Google.