Today’s post is by Chris Sparks, Content Strategist at

Is your website floating in cyberspace? If you built it – and no one came – starting a Google AdWords’ campaign is one of the fastest ways to generate highly targeted web traffic. AdWords campaigns can be set up in a matter of minutes with minimal fuss. For just $1/day, your campaign can start driving qualified customers straight to your website.

AdWords is basically a silent auction for keyword phrases. Your business places a bid on a specific phrase or certain keyword. When potential customers search for this word or phrase, Google will display ads containing the targeted word. Depending on your bid (and your competitors’ bids), your ad may be displayed next to the search results.

AdWords is a smart investment for any business because it is highly scalable and measurable. While major corporations spend millions on Google AdWords each year – Amazon spent $55.2 million in 2011 – thanks to AdWord’s scalability, however, your business can still be competitive with a smaller marketing budget. Even if you’re only spending $1 a day or $100 each month, smart advertising decisions can help you score the biggest bang for your buck.

Get Started with AdWords

To get started, all you need is a Google account. There’s no need to use your personal account; you can create one specifically for measuring and tracking your AdWords campaigns. Once your account is set up, click the “Campaign” tab and the green “New Campaign” button. Select whether you wish to target your ads towards Search networks (e.g., people who search Google directly) or Display networks (individuals who have AdSense installed on their websites). If you’re just getting started, focus your efforts on the Search networks, which arguably are better at targeting users who actively search for long-tail keyword phrases.

Next, you’ll need to set budget. There are two components to setting a budget: (1) the bid per keyword and (2) the overall budget per day. The bid is how much you pay for a single click. For example, if you bid 25 cents, then every time someone clicks your ad you’ll be paying Google 25 cents. Keep in mind that if your bid is too low, then your competitors will “win” the keyword and your ad will not be displayed. If your bid is too high, you may be overpaying for the keyword phrase. Keeping a close eye on your performance analytics will help track whether you are overpaying, underpaying, or in the perfect sweet spot for keyword bidding.

Bid Strategy

Managing the daily budget helps prevent your business from spending too much too quickly. If you’re just getting started and are bidding 25 cents per keyword phrase, consider capping your daily budget at $5 to $10 a day while you learn more about how AdWords works.

Write Clickable Ads

Finally, you will need to write a creative and compelling ad that captures the interest of your target audience – and does so in under a hundred characters. With a headline of only 35 characters and two additional lines, you don’t have a lot of real estate with which to work. Keep it short, simple, and powerful. This is the time for “buy-it-now”, “one-day-only-sale!” and other strong calls to action. Remember, the more common the keyword phrase, the greater the competition – and the greater the overall cost per click.

Be strategic when writing your ads and selecting keyword phrases. While narrower search terms are generally better than broad terms, highly obscure terms with little to no traffic won’t do your business any good either. Even if you are on the only bidder for an obscure phrase, Google may not display ads at all for terms with very little traffic. You should also activate the “keyword match” option, found under Advanced Settings; select the “include plurals, misspellings and other close variants” option.

Advanced Settings

How to Avoid Bidding Wars: When Bidding Less is Better

Once your AdWords campaign is set up, don’t just kick back and call it a day; keep a close eye on your campaign’s performance. One of the most common mistakes is bidding too much for top terms. While it’s easy to think that scoring the top AdWords position in search results will generate the most clicks, this is not always the case. The clicks associated with generic, popular terms may come from less qualified prospective customers in comparison with the clicks associated with very specific keyword phrases. Highly motivated customers know exactly what they are searching for online, so use your ad copy and target keywords to give these customers specifics!

For example, if your company is a bedding store, you may have better luck with highly targeted ads for specific phrases (e.g., “feather down comforter” or “high thread count sheet set”) than more generic phrases, such as “discount bedding.” Not only will the highly targeted phrases cost less (on average) than the generic phrases, but you will also reach a more targeted audience of highly primed shoppers searching for a specific item that you sell.

Don’t get trapped in a bidding war during your first week. Choosing low bids and setting a low daily cap will help keep costs down. At the same time, don’t skimp on your keyword research. In some cases, bidding less is better than trying to “win” every keyword bidding war. Top search phrases are expensive and often have a lower click-thru rate (CTR). Rather than bidding for the top spot, identify unique long-tail keyword phrases that connect with your target customer. Having your ad displayed in the second or even third spot means when customers do click on this ad, they are already highly motivated to learn more about your product or service. This improves CTR and decreases total cost per click.

Finally, your business will benefit from creating “rules” for keywords. These rules, such as “raise bids to top of page CPC when…” or “Pause keywords when…” help automatically manage your spending while optimizing campaign performance – without requiring close monitoring for every campaign.

Create Rule for Ads/Keywords

Bottom line:

Online advertising ROI – especially for SEO and social media – is notoriously difficult to measure. AdWords PPC, however, is one of the most measurable online channels and provides a wealth of metrics for performance evaluation and optimization. And thanks to AdWords’ scalability, the PPC system can be as complex – or simple ­– as you need it to be.

During your first week, focus on identifying unique long-tail keyword phrases that resonate with your customer base. Keep a close eye on other performance metrics, such as location, time and device. In the coming weeks as you gather more data about your AdWords campaign’s performance, you will be better able to optimize your campaign for maximum ROI. For now, however, don’t let all the different options overwhelm you. Stay focused on finding the right keywords for your customer base.

Chris Sparks-Chris Sparks is an online marketing and content strategist at – a search marketing competitive intelligence and analytics provider based in Silicon Valley. Chris helps build awareness and engagement with SEO and PPC agencies as well as businesses seeking to improve the results of their search and content marketing tactics. Connect with Chris on Google+ or on Twitter.


1 Comment

  1. Chester April 13th, 2016

    Ok thx for the greate guide, but i have one question that has been bugging me and it doesnt matter how i use google i cannot find the awnser.
    For instance i want to bid on the keyword apple or 2 words apple pie where can i directly check what the current biddings are?
    If i at least know what i am bidding up against i can at least know if it has any use participating.
    I just got a small time site/company i do not wish to spend more than 100 euro’s a month it would be paradise to just have a 0.1-0.5 per click.
    But as i cannot check the current war on the keywords i intend to use i really dont know with what budget i should start.

    Would be great if u could help me solve this question!

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