SEO and Google Adwords – Get up there, Get Noticed

This blog series looks at some of the low-cost marketing options offered by the largest internet search engine in the world: Google. The previous blog took a look at Google Trends, which provides a limited scope market research solution absolutely free. This one deals with Adwords, an opportunity to get your website up there in the rankings without employing costly SEO firms to do it for you.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a branch of marketing that has grown up in response to the increasing sophistication of the algorithms used by internet search engines to return results relevant to their users. Back in the good old days, search engines looked for keywords in the text of your website and ranked pages on the basis of how frequently those keywords appeared. Web designers quickly got wise to this and began to add huge reams of white-on-white text containing nothing but keywords – invisible to users, but fooling the ‘crawler’ robots into thinking they’d struck gold – poor little mites. Since then, the search engines have always tried to stay one step ahead. The exact algorithm that Google uses to rank pages in response to a search item is a huge secret, but they do give some information away, and experts in the field are getting good at guessing even more.

Keywords are relatively unimportant for Google these days – pages are ranked on the basis of traffic (total visits to the site that the page comes from), location, time spent on each page by users, associated mentions of the page or site on social networks (facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc), as well as what the sites say about themselves in special ‘summary’ sections available through web-design software like WordPress. Some of the newest developments are likely to be related to the content of comments and shared text on social networks and by email. Facebook and Google are famously working on an algorithm that recognises the emotional content of what you’re writing, and will soon be able to use this to rank more highly websites that are getting positive coverage. There are surely a host of other factors too that nobody knows about.

The result for business owners is that it’s becoming more and more difficult to get your website up there in the top 10 rankings on Google (and let’s be honest, whoever clicks through to page 2?). One solution is to pay a large amount of

money (often something in the region of £2,000 – £5,000 for a normal sized website) to have an SEO expert go through your site with a fine-tooth comb or, if you’re really strapped for cash, to buy a book and do it yourself, which may, or may not, result in a top 10 ranking for particular searches. For many businesses, as a single outlay of time and money, this is just too much, particularly in highly competitive markets.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Google offers a paid-for alternative to this nightmare which, in fact, is now their main source of income, contributing a total of $42.5bn in 2012. Google Adwords allows you to pay-per-click (PPC) for a push advertising service that puts your 35 word advert (or bigger if you pay for it) on the right-hand side of the search results, or (if you pay a lot more) above the ranked search items. You’ve probably seen them already, and if you haven’t, try typing something like ‘Accountants in Manchester’ into Google, and you’ll see them soon enough. The cost for an Adwords campaign depends on the amount of interest it generates. As the name suggests, you only pay when a potential customer clicks on your add or calls you through the service, and the cost per-click is determined by where you want your ad to appear. Better positions, obviously, cost more. A minimum starting budget for this service is around £10 – £20 a day, depending on the number of clicks you anticipate you’ll generate. During the campaign you can keep control of the cost – you get a campaign screen that gives you a breakdown of the number of clicks per day, clickthrough rate, monthly totals and an option to pause, restart or stop altogether at any time.

Your ad can be filtered so that it’s only seen by people who potentially fall into your target market. If you own a restaurant, for example, and only have one outlet in a particular place, you can choose to limit the appearance of your ad to devices with IPs or GPS data registered in that location, perhaps within a certain radius of your street. That means you’ll only pay for clicks from people who are likely to end up being customers. From a marketing perspective, another crucial benefit of this service is that your ad is presented to a potential customer at exactly the moment when they’re looking for your product or service through an internet search, it doesn’t rely on them remembering the details of your company – phone numbers, email addresses, etc., and can even help them navigate to you using their smartphone.

For many SMEs, adwords represents an effective and innovative way to keep a tight control of your marketing budget, to put that money into campaigns that are specific, and connect people directly to your website. A few words of warning however: first, ask yourself how often you click on, or even read the ‘featured pages’ section of your Google search results (these are all Adwords customers). I usually find that the results ranked by the algorithm are much more relevant, and I learned to filter the sponsored links out a long time ago. In that situation, of course, you don’t pay anything, but you might also get a lot of clicks from people who are actually looking for something different, just as I was, the first few times I ‘clicked through’.

Another thing to bear in mind is the fact that, as Google proudly displays on the Adwords pages, more than one million people already use Adwords. If your company is selling Bulgarian stamps from the late 1950s, that’s probably not a problem, you’ll still rank pretty highly for your low cost-per-click ad. If you’re selling iPhones, on the other hand, you’re going to have to pay a lot more to get anywhere close to being noticed. In that situation you might well be better off paying a one-off fee for SEO, which will keep your site up in the rankings more reliably, and for less money in the long-term.

Pointers

  • Adwords provides an opportunity to get your website up there in the Google rankings without employing costly SEO firms to do it for you
  • Search engines no longer rely on just keywords to find your website. Pages are ranked on the basis of traffic, location, time spent on each page by users, associated mentions of the page or site on social networks, and blogs
  • As a result it’s becoming more difficult to get your website in the top 10 rankings
  • Google Adwords allows you to pay-per-click to put your ad on the right-hand side of the search results, or (if you pay a lot more) above the ranked search items
  • The cost for an Adwords campaign depends on the amount of interest it generates; you only pay when a potential customer clicks on your add or calls you through the service
  • The cost per click is determined by where you want your ad to appear; a minimum starting budget is around £10 – £20 a day
  • Your ad can be filtered so that it’s only seen by people who potentially fall into your target market
  • Your ad is presented to a potential customer at exactly the moment when they’re looking for your product or service online
  • However, you could question how much attention people pay to these ads over the ranked search results
  • With more than one million users, you could be going up against a huge number of competitors and have to pay a lot more to get noticed

Apr 14, 2015