Does Google AdWords Work?

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Does Google AdWords Work? Absolutely!

Of course you might think I’m a little biased since I’m writing for the WordStream blog. But I work here because of my deep-rooted love of PPC, and I truly believe AdWords can work for almost any business: small, medium, or large.

Does Google AdWords Work gif of a grandma looking at her computer wondering if it works. 

Throughout my time at WordSteam I’ve heard every excuse in the book as to why AdWords doesn’t work, including “My leads don’t know how to use the internet” (like, REALLY dude!?). My 95-year-old great aunt knows how to use Google, so I’m really not buying this one. I can only begin to image what our sales reps hear on a day to day basis. I can remember one of the first clients I worked with trying to back me into a corner as to how this could possibly work for her business. Essentially, she wanted me to re-sell her the idea of paid search marketing… It was our second call… I wasn’t about to go into a sales pitch (the result would be a lot of um’s, uh’s, wells – I’m not a sales person).

Instead I’d like to address the most common arguments we hear about why Google AdWords doesn’t work, and provide some counterarguments to show you why it actually DOES work. Because the fact is, Google is one of the most profitable companies on the planet for a reason – Google makes money from AdWords because people keep using it! Check out how much money some of the biggest spenders on AdWords spend annually – $40 to $50 million a year! No way they’d be dropping that kind of budget if they weren’t getting great ROI.

Does Google AdWords Work? Image of the top 5 industries.

Now, if you're still wondering "Should I use AdWords?" read on for my responses to those common arguments…

Argument #1: Google AdWords is too expensive!

“Google AdWords is like throwing your money into a black-hole!”

“ROI is unreachable due to soaring costs.”

“You’re advertising on Google? HAH! Say goodbye to your marketing budget!”

Alright, pipe down! Yes, AdWords does cost money, and often when advertisers start out they might not allocate all of their marketing dollars to the right places, leaving them with a loss of faith in the platform. But it’s important to remember that all marketing channels cost money; the question is whether or not you’re getting return on that investment. Before abandoning AdWords as a lost cause they should identify why it is costing so much.

More often than not when I look at new client accounts, they have let their AdWords account run on auto-pilot or let an unqualified third-party run their account, and therefore, yes, they’re wasting a ton of money.

Here are a few things you can do to make AdWords less expensive and more profitable.

 Does Google AdWords work. Image of PPC University.

  • Use more restrictive match types: Are all of your match types on broad? Well, bingo, that’s why AdWords is so darn expensive! With broader match types your ads are more likely to be served to a much larger, and sometimes irrelevant audience, leading to wasted clicks. I’m not advising that you stop using broad match keywords, but make sure to set up negatives to block irrelevant searches, bid on phrase and exact keywords at higher bids to get more relevant clicks, and regularly monitor your Search Query report to get a sense if you’re bidding on the keywords people are actually searching for.
  • Set a realistic budget & bidding strategy: Determining budgets and bids can be a full-time job in itself, but don’t over-complicate the process. Map out what you’re realistically able to spend on each campaign and set your daily budget accordingly. What about bidding? For budget conscious advertisers I always recommend bidding manually to have the most granular control over your account without letting Google run the show.
  • Make sure you’re not on Search with Display Display Select: Being on search and display can work great for the advertiser looking to get the most visibility and branding possible, but often users blindly chose this option and end up confused as the how their daily budget was depleted so quickly. Well, the display network is taking your ads and showing them across the web rather than just in the search results. The intent is different when browsing the web compared to doing a search, so typically I recommend splitting these campaigns and having separate strategies and budgets for each.

Does Google AdWords work - screenshot of selecting Search Network only. 

  • Track spend: There can be so many reasons your spend gets out of control. Perhaps your keywords are triggering irrelevant clicks, or you’re using automated bidding that is quickly depleting your budget, or an algorithm update caused your spend to skyrocket. The main point here is that you need to be extremely active and review KPI’s and spend on a daily basis, even if you set aside just 10 minutes per day. If you do this, you’ll be guaranteed to not waste money on irrelevant clicks. 

Argument #2: We have great SEO so we don’t need to pay for clicks

Oh, do you now? I laugh out loud, legitimately, out loud when I hear this argument (yes, I’ll put the client on mute whilst laughing). I refuse to believe this argument for several reasons, the main being that study after study can back up the fact that paid search complements good SEO and increases overall profitability.

I recently attended HeroConf in Portland, OR, where Bing Evangelist John Gagnon shared an interesting case study of an account that saw 32% gain in brand clicks from bidding on their keywords rather just relying on SEO to get the top spots.

Does Google AdWords work? Image showing graphs of branded click growth when combining SEO with PPC 

Yup, you should even be bidding on your own brand terms because your competitors likely are doing so, and therefore you’ll want to steal these clicks from them (it’s your OWN brand for heaven’s sake! And these clicks tend to be very cheap).

Further, when you want to target new keywords in organic search, it can take a long time for your content to rank – and sometimes, it just never does. But you can target new keywords with PPC right away, then determine very quickly if they’re worthwhile, profitable keywords for you.

Also, different types of keywords with different levels on intent drive different search behavior. SEO is great for informational searches and top of the funnel traffic, but search queries with high commercial intent tend to deliver very different SERPs with a lot more ads – sometimes nothing but ads above the fold. And for those types of high-intent, high-converting keywords, ads are often stealing most of the clicks. People may never get to your organic result at the bottom of the page.

Finally, the thing about great SEO is that it isn’t 100% reliable. You can follow all of the best practices, but top rankings aren’t guaranteed. Also, remember Penguin and Panda? No? Well, many marketers remember these Google algorithm updates clearly because they plummeted their organic traffic, leaving them in a puddle of panic. With PPC the control is in your hands. But the real winning formula is optimizing your site and content for SEO purposes, whilst implementing an effective paid search strategy.

Does Google AdWords work? GIF saying SEO & PPC for the win 

Are you already doing both, but doubting the effectiveness? Just check out the paid and organic report in analytics. It will help you fully understand the value of combining your SEO and paid efforts is having, and help you win bigger. “As a paid search marketer, you’ll be able to identify all the long-tailed queries for which organic is earning great performance and enhance your bid strategies accordingly,” says Thomas Stern, SVP of Clients Services at ZOG Digital. “To date, we haven’t found an account that doesn’t at least contain some top ranking keywords that we’ve proven should also be bid on with PPC.”

Argument #3: The traffic I get from AdWords never converts.

Oh dear, there’s a reason (or several reasons) for that! In all seriousness, this is a legitimate problem, but I know from experience that with effective management you can turn your paid search efforts into a conversion generating machine (unless your business is doomed to fail for lacking a quality product or offering).

Back in 2013 eBay faced a similar dilemma, threw their hands up, and made the bold claim that Google AdWords doesn’t work. In response, they received a lot of backlash from marketers and business owners laughing in their faces and deeming eBay’s marketing team naïve and uninformed. The reality is eBay just sucks at paid search. Sorry eBay, I know I’m being a bit harsh, but let’s explore the reason why some companies, like eBay, fail to get conversions from paid search. 

  • Your account is structured poorly: Often times advertisers aren’t seeing conversions because there account is a disaster zone. Perhaps they’re targeting keywords that are either too broad, not relevant, or have awful quality scores. They’re likely not using negative keywords to block irrelevant searches, and their ad groups are probably stuffed with unrelated terms. Follow this guide to set up your account structure properly because the way your account is structured is the building blocks to achieving results with paid search.
  • You’re abusing dynamic keyword insertion: The problem with eBay’s AdWords account was clear: “eBay’s AdWords strategy appears to be to pick every possible word in the dictionary and run them on Dynamic Keyword Insertion,” says Larry Kim. Dynamic keywords insertion is an option in AdWords where you can dynamically insert a query searched for on Google into your ad to make the ad as relevant as possible and increase click opportunity. This strategy can work wonders if done well, but eBay abused DKI by bidding on irrelevant keywords and using them with DKI. Just look at the old example below that Larry shared for a search done for a perpetual motion machine.

Does Google AdWords Work? Screenshot from eBay's poor use of DKI

Seriously? Be careful! If you’re new to AdWords you might want to steer clear of DKI until you’re a bit more comfortable. It’s downright embarrassing to show up for unrelated terms.

  • Your ads aren’t relevant: Ah yah! Relevancy can’t be stressed enough when it comes to AdWords. Your keywords need to match your ads which need to match your landing page. If you searched for a pair of new sneakers and were directed to a landing page with hats you’d probably bounce back, and lose faith in that brand. This tip might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people group together a large set of keywords, directing to a specific ad not directly related to the keywords searched for, that then leading the searcher to their homepage. No wonder conversions aren’t coming in!
  • Your landing pages suck: This one is often hard for marketers to stomach. Break your ego down a bit, and come to the realization that your landing pages might, well, suck… I know, I know, you spent hours upon hours designing them or perhaps you paid a contractor to create them. Well, if you’re getting clicks, but no conversions, it could be a landing page issue. Read up on best practices to revamp your landing pages, and don’t be afraid to run A/B tests to try out variations of a page. You might be surprised by the results!
  • You’re not remarketing: Oftentimes, especially with B2B companies with longer sales cycles, you can’t rely solely on gaining conversions through search. You need to take it a step further. The easiest, and what I’ve found to be the most successful way to do this is with remarketing. Cookie your site visitors and follow them around with relevant offers. Remind them that you’re there. Nowadays people have browsing ADD, so you need to reinforce your brand and their need to buy your products or services.

 Does Google AdWords work? Image from Wedding Crashers saying "Don't ever leave me cause I'll find you."

Argument #4: I don’t have time to manage it.

Another argument that I hear far too often. Yes, I understand paid search can be time-intensive, and if you’re not dedicating the proper time to evaluate, track, and tweak your PPC campaigns then your results could plummet or never arrive. What can be done? Well, nowadays there are so many tools and systems that can help drastically reduce the time spent on paid search. For instance, at WordStream we offer a tool called the 20 minute work week, which scrapes through your AdWords account to identify areas that need improvement, for instance an ad that isn’t performing well, or a keyword that’s brining in irrelevant traffic and should be set as a negative. Make your life easier by implementing a time-reducing system to help you along the way. Here are seven more tips to help you save time in AdWords.

So, stop making excuses! You and I both know that AdWords does work as long as you’re putting in the effort to do it well. Humans are lazy by nature, so recognize this, and change your behavior to start growing your business through paid search.

About the Author:

Margot is a Content Marketing Specialist at WordStream with a background in PPC, SEM, content and digital marketing. Margot is passionate about writing and is also a regular contributor to socialmediatoday.com. She enjoys running and eating ice cream during her free time (not simultaneous although that would be impressive). Follow her on:

Twitter: @ChappyMargot

Google+: +Margot da Cunha

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/margotdacunha

 

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Comments

Citra
May 13, 2015

Awesome post! Great learning for me today, and you success to open my mind more than before. Honestly, sometime ago I felt that Adwords did not make any conversions to my project so I felt rather dissapointed. But after I read your article today, now I know why my project did not make any conversions to me. Thanks for your lesson today, really feel happy now.

Margot da Cunha
May 13, 2015

Thanks! I'm so happy to hear you found my post so useful. Hopefully it compelled you to give AdWords another shot :)

Steve Cameron
May 14, 2015

Great post, Margot.

I, too, find it frustrating when I hear people claiming that Google AdWords doesn't work. Or that it is some kind of a scam.

I have absolutely no axe to grind, and yet I am compelled to say that I have been able to make the platform work for clients of different sizes and budgets.

With that, however, I recognise that there is a growing groundswell of dissatisfaction with Google. And I wrote about their business model recently: http://goo.gl/1mS3rn

Condensed version : Google encourages newbies to try out their system, making it simpler and simpler but knowing - and they DO/MUST know this: that "out of the box" it will not work for the majority of users. This is irresponsible at best and whilst they might still have a very large market base they can still churn it is not the way to treat your customers.

A more honest approach would be to put people off running their first campaign without running a kind of "simulation" campaign first. Or unless they are using a certified professional (although the certification process would also need to be reinforced).

Unfortunately, much of the criticism levelled against Google could be easily avoided by placing more restrictions to entry on the platform and whilst this in itself might sound heavy handed, it would, in fact, serve to protect users from themselves.

If you went into a Ferrari showroom with a big bag of money I'm sure the salesman would at least walk you through the main controls and best practices before giving you the keys - especially if he knew you'd never driven a car before. Think about that - it's not that different.....

Margot da Cunha
May 15, 2015

Thanks for the comment Steve, and I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the post! Doing AdWords right definitely takes time and studying of how it works before gaining performance so I hope that marketers will learn from content like this, and dedicate the time and resources to making Google AdWords work for them instead of blinding spending money.

Dan Magill
Jul 21, 2015

Steve -- this is an awesome comment. You've summed up a big problem with Google (and much of internet tools in general). It is possible for things to be TOO easy.

For example, I think it's too easy to set up a website. It should be harder. Why?
Because what we have now is tons of websites being thrown up in a day, and they're terrible, and end up just sitting there.
Furthermore, the people setting them up want everything for free, further reducing the quality of what we see because the only people willing to work for almost nothing live in faraway places and have no chance at creating effective advertising, copywriting, or messaging for an audience they know nothing about.

Thus, we see a ton of terrible websites. Google Adwords tool does work well if you put in the time and follow Margot's recommendations, but how many small businesses and nonprofits can do that? It's tough.

So I totally agree -- making things too easy in the end just produces a bunch of frustrated burned out former customers who make statements like the ones Margot has had to write a post to counter them.

omri
May 21, 2015

I agree with the vast majority that is written above. Of course, nothing of this content is new and we all heard it on posts and costumers.
BUT,
sometimes, PPC is not the right platform for starting a new business on several cases - just look for gambling phrases in england, it can reach hundreds of dollars per click - insane!

so, a good marketer knows how to work with AdWords, a great marketer knows which platform will suit his clients

Margot da Cunha
May 22, 2015

Hi Omri, thanks for your comment. My goal of the post was to address common myths or reasons I hear from clients of why AdWords doesn't work, when typically what I find as a result is that the client is simply doing it wrong.

I agree with your point that there are certain industries that are insanely competitive making it far more challenging, but there are typically ways that someone can find niche keywords, more restrictive match types, and structure their account in a way that they're not spending hundreds of dollars per click.

I have come across business models that don't do well on Google, but at the end of the day a lot of those businesses are going to have a hard time succeeding in general if no one needs to fulfill a need with their product or offering.

stewart
May 22, 2015

Thanks for your post, there were important points there that could help advertisers. However I think that your title is correct but your point #1 is incorrect. I have used Adwords for the last couple of years and it is, in my experience far too expensive. The issues I have as a user is that there are wild discrepancies between estimates and actual bid prices. Interestingly, these discrepancies have never gone my way way ever, they are all seem to land back to paying Google more money for the same words. I used to get correspondence from Google that said "get 0 more clicks for only $25 a day extra - Really? I once had a Google expert suggest to me that I should adjust up all my bids to to the next highest dollar and add 1c and that would solve most of my problems.

It would indeed, Google would own my house.

My final point is that Google subsidiary companies are my biggest bidding competitors and to me that isn't ethical. This is not an auction in the true sense, advertisers make a bid based on what the auctioneer (Google) tells them is a reasonable amount - it may or may not be anywhere near the mark but advertisers don't find out what they have paid until after the auction. Then to find out Google subsidiary companies are involved in the same auction is very disconcerting.

So, my advice to all advertisers is be very careful and don't trust anyone until they earn your trust. Its your money but it won't be for long!

Margot da Cunha
May 22, 2015

Hi Stewart,

Thanks for sharing your story. I'm so sorry to hear you've had such a negative experience advertising with Google. I've definitely heard similar stories before of advertisers feeling someone disheartened by fluctuations in the auction. I guess the sad news is that's the nature of the game. Since it is an auction, the price you pay per click can vary slightly depending on who else is being entered into that auction. I'm wondering what bidding strategy you typically use? I would ALWAYS suggest bidding manually because that gives you the granular control to ensure Google will likely not charge you more then your max CPC price (although I believe they are aloud to charge you 20% more when needed so keeping that in mind id key). Make sure your daily budget is set to a reasonable number you won't overspend.

I hope that helps.

Thanks,

Margot

stewart
May 26, 2015

Thanks Margot, I appreciate your insights. To answer your question, I always use manual bidding and I check every amount, every word, every day. Google sometimes charge over the bid but I can't say I have experienced that too much. I have had some success as well as the negatives with Adwords but it always comes at a price. The system just seems cynically set up to push the unwilling and inexperienced into the "pay more" column. I don't mind paying a fair price, but what's fair and how do we know? You guys keep talking about it being an auction. Its the only auction I have ever heard of where you give your money to the auctioneer and you wake up in the morning and they tell you what you paid them. The only way for small business to be successful with Adwords I think, is to keep learning and experimenting until you understand the system as well as they do. I started with quality scores around 6, which Google people kept telling me was ok, and now I don't have anything under 8 - with a sprinkling of 9's and even a 10 or two! So it can be done.

Steve Cameron
Jul 22, 2015

How do you measure expensive?

The 5 cent clicks that come in all day every day and never turn into business - those are expensive.

The $20 clicks that come in every now and then and convert at a decent level and give a positive ROI - those are cheap.

KNOWING what is working and how much your conversions are a) costing and b) worth to your business is fundamental to successful PPC management.

Without this knowledge then "cheap" and "expensive" become meaningless, arbitrary labels.

Narendra Wetkoli
Aug 26, 2015

Great post now I understand the value of SEO and PPC..

Yolanda Banfield
Sep 07, 2015

I had a limited budget to work with in a field that is very competetive.
My problem, and I would have thought Google would have thought if this, is that my competition notice a new player in town and click continously on my ad until all my budget has gone.
Not a great experience!

wally
Feb 06, 2016

such a self serving article, blatantly raising all the earning curve issues making it sound imperative to get an expert to do it all for you. Yeah, at what cost? Truth is most people see google ads as spammy and jets face it a lot of them are just that. Google Adwords is just too hard. I don't trust someone from Google yo help me cause they are just selling, sell, sell, sell, take my money and not care if I get a sale.

Paul
Feb 28, 2016

What a load of rubbish... This was clearly written by someone who is selling this service or has something to gain from this pointless example.
The only thing you will get from Google Adds is a whole in your bank account. What is worse, they didn't event tell me they were taking the money. (It feel like theft) After I complained for 3 months I get a lame apology and a possible suggestions that I could get a credit... "A credit to repeat that disaster.. Are you kidding".
Stay away from google adds, the only responses you will get are more people selling your more advertising.
An expensive waste of time.
Not one sale or enquiry from £250 spent - and I was told I set it up wrong... "Well make it easier to use, then"
Pointless and Painful

Steve Cameron
Mar 01, 2016

Hi Paul,

I'm sorry to hear that you wasted £250 on Google ads.

I manage a number of Google AdWords campaigns - all of which generate a positive ROI for my clients. It can (and regularly is) be done.

but there is one point that I cannot agree with... and that is you ask Google to make it simpler. They certainly should not. In my opinion, they have already made it too simple. So simple, in fact, that anyone (and please do not get offended here) with zero knowledge or experience on the platform can be happily running ads - and paying Google - in 5 minutes.

I have been preaching this message for years - Out of the box, Google AdWords will not work.

I explain this as being like a Mercedes dealership who welcome someone into their showroom who wants to buy the top of the range model, hands over the money and buys the car. The dealer then asks them if they know how to drive. They don't. So the dealer says... "Don't worry, look - you put your foot here to go, and here to stop. And you turn this to the left to go left, and right to go right....enjoy!" how long would that car last?

AdWords is complicated. It has subtleties and layers that take time to learn. There is much, much more to it that grabbing some keywords and writing a couple of ads.

And, as a result, the barriers to entry should be higher specifically to protect the noobie advertiser.

But, going from there to say that the platform doesn't work is, frankly, silly.

There are simply too many people using AdWords to build very successful businesses.

The fact that you couldn't make it work is not Google's fault.

johan
Mar 13, 2016

Hi,
you are both right and wrong, but I do think your missing something very, very important. Adwords do not give you a good ROI if you are selling in a competitive market. Professionals that do know how Adwords work also no that you bid for the most profitable frase/word/remarketing/retargeting/google shopping etc. This bidding leads to a higher price per click that will eventually eat up your profit. Big spenders keep spending event though it is not profitable since they can not loos market shares.

And if you are a small player on a mainstream market. YOU CAN NOT MAKE MONEY OF ADWORDS. Yes I screamed it. :). They time and effort it takes to even begin to understand adwords on that kind of market simply costs to much for a small company.

Do other stuff first, like affiliate, SEO(probably also very hard for a competitive market). Facebook and IG still return a ROI, but still very hard. Simply put you can´t market yourself on a highly competitive market unless you have a huge budget, and what works for real. Content marketing, value adding customer experience. Social marketing.. Buying clicks is so 2014...

Harvey
Apr 12, 2016

There is a lot of whining going on here. If you have a product that people want, and search for, and you know what you are doing, you can make adwords pay. Campaign structure is everything. (TRUTH: If it was easy to do, everyone would do it well and then it would no longer pay.)

Further, if you have a campaign with positive ROI and you import it into Bing, it will pay even more. The competition on Bing is lower because the interface is a pain and so many pros avoid it.

Pietra
May 07, 2016

I just got started. I found this article very helpful and I hope that I can apply what I have learned here with success. I previously knew nothing about Adwords until 1 week ago. I made my campaign and was waiting for my ad to be approved and assumed that my campaign would be disabled. I didn't see anywhere where you could disable it. In the mean time I had other things to do before studying about my account more.. about keywords and etc.. and then checked my account 5 days later and had been charged 112,00 € because the campaign was enabled without me learning about the use of key words and how not to have your keywords on broad search on display network with a lot of key words that Adwords suggested. In some ways it was good training because then there was some kind of record created so I could see a bit how it worked. Thank God my Paypal was on disable because I would have been in some real trouble if someone would have bought my product that is not ready.. I would have had to give back refunds. Anyway, now I feel like I am on my way to creating a successful campaign with the help of this article. I am going to really dig into it!

Tzachi
May 16, 2016

Great post, thank you
Had my doubts about google adwards, and on this post you had it all covered.

Now I'm sure gonna give it a try.

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