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Strategic Keyword Bidding with Google AdWords

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Keywords are a huge part of a successful AdWords campaign.  If you think too broadly when picking your keywords, you’ll receive lots of irrelevant clicks.  If you are too narrow, you’ll miss potential customers.  If you bid high, you may be paying more than you need to and not receiving good traffic.  If you bid low, your ads may never see the front page.  So how can you overcome this keyword challenge?

First, it’s important to understand how bidding works in AdWords.  The two most basic options are manual CPC and automatic CPC.  Manual is when you determine how much you want to bid on a keyword.   If for some reason, you have an unlimited ad budget or a large sum of money you need to burn through, you can let Google set bids automatically. If costs are important to you, you definitely want to set bids manually.

Start with a manual bid on the lower side, such as $1.00 per keyword.  Depending on your market, you may be able to get away with this lower amount, but if you’re in a very competitive field, you will need to bid higher.  Google will tell you within a day if this number is off by displaying a message next to one of your targeted keywords.  This will indicate if you’ll need to bid higher to get the first page for that word.  When you start seeing amounts of $15 or so for a first page keyword bid, that tells you that you are likely in a very competitive market.  It may end up being a word you can’t afford to bid on if you have a limited budget.

This is why it’s worthwhile to include synonyms here to see if that results in a difference in keywords costs.  This is an overly simplistic example so hang in there with me.  Let’s say you own a car dealership.   A quick Google search on “buy a car” displayed 645,000,000 results  (as of this writing).  “Buy an automobile” displayed 99,900,000 results.  I’m not at all surprised that “car” is searched more than “automobile”.  Since it’s searched more, it’s also probably a more expensive bid in AdWords.  In this case, you may get more of a return bidding on the word “automobile” in your paid campaign instead of “car” . It won’t be searched as frequently, but if you’re watching your dollars, you may need to be strategic about what words you select.  A better example may be to get a little more specific such as “luxury car” or “family car”.  That way, you still have the opportunity to bid on the popular term “car”, yet you are being more focused, resulting in a more affordable campaign and more relevant clicks.

The other thing to pay attention to when you’re getting started is the keyword type.   (I introduced negative keywords in an earlier post)  The most well known and most frequently used one is “broad match”.  With a broad match, your ad can be triggered by any word in your phrase in any order.  The above example mentioned “family car”.  Because of the word “car”, the ad may also trigger for “luxury car”, which is something you don’t want if you’re catering to more of the middle class family market. Broad match will result in a lot of clicks with a lot of costs.  Be careful about your use of broad match words in your campaign.

Phrase match gives you a bit more control than broad match.  This includes your keywords in the order you specify.  If the keyword you’re bidding on is “family car” and the searcher types “family car”, your ad could display.  This method still allows for additional terms in the searcher’s phrase.  For example, if the searcher typed “Buy a family car”, your ad could still display because it includes your phrase in the search.  However, if they typed “Buy a car for family”, your ad would not display because it did not include your search terms in the specific order.  Phrase match types will result in a loss of traffic but a savings in dollars.

Exact match is exactly that.  It will exactly match the searcher’s phrase.  In the above example, your ad would only show for “family car”.  It would not show for “Buy a family car”, because that includes additional terms.  Your ad won’t display as much and you’ll definitely lose potential clicks.  However, I see this method as the most controlled one for a limited budget with the best return.  If someone is looking for “family car” and your site is about that, you’ll likely get good traffic.

A consideration for another time is focusing on the specific goals of your campaign.  Are you selling cars?  Are you a site that reviews family cars?  This can impact the overall focus of your campaign and the words you use.  But being aware of how you can choose bids and what some of the match type options are is a good place for a beginner to start.

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