Making AdWords Add Up for Your E-Business

AdVice on formulating a successful pay-per-click strategy for your online business.
Ask anyone who does business on the Internet what the most valuable piece of real estate is and chances are they will say the first page of a Google search. "Being listed at the top of the results not only provides the greatest amount of traffic, it instills trust in customers as to the worthiness and relative importance of a company and Web site," explained Lisa Cardarelli, an account manager at Bayshore Solutions, an award-winning interactive marketing services agency based in Tampa, Florida.

But getting to the top takes work — and time. Optimizing your Web site so that the major search engines, in particular Google, can find you and give your business top placement in an organic search is a strategy every online business should pursue, but getting that high ranking can take months. And many businesses don't want or can't afford to wait that long. That's where pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, specifically Google AdWords, comes in.

AdWords costs anywhere from a few bucks a month to a few thousand, depending on which keywords you want, and how often people click on your ads. It gives new businesses (as well as more established businesses, of all sizes) and businesses looking to promote a product or service online the opportunity to appear on the first page of a Google search (typically on the right-hand side, in the area called "Sponsored Links," and occasionally right at the top in the center column) instantly.

But to make AdWords add up for your business, you need to do some homework. Above all, you need to determine how much you are willing or can afford to pay each month for keywords and which keywords will attract the most qualified traffic/leads to your business as you pay for each click whether or not it results in a sale or a lead.

Mayberry/Rich: "Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney"

Criminal defense attorneys Jason Mayberry and Jeff Rich didn't know that much about pay-per-click advertising when they were preparing to open their new law practice, Mayberry/Rich, and launch their Web site in March 2008. They just wanted the fastest, best way to get their name out and start attracting clients.

New not only to having their own business but to the Tampa, Florida, area as well, the two attorneys saw Google as a great way to get some instant credibility and traffic. But they initially balked at the idea of paying for placement.

Like many new and/or smaller businesses, Mayberry and Rich thought that optimizing their site (with the help of Bayshore Solutions) would be enough to get them the visibility they craved. But as their account manager, Lisa Cardarelli, explained, achieving a high organic ranking takes time, and Mayberry and Rich were in a hurry. So Cardarelli suggested they try using Google AdWords, at least on a trial basis, to help them build their Web presence and immediately start attracting prospective clients to their site.

While Cardarelli advised the attorneys to pick keywords specific to their areas of practice (criminal defense, personal injury, and family law) and location (Tampa), Mayberry and Rich preferred broader keywords, like Tampa lawyer and Tampa attorney, which were also more expensive than the longer (or long tail), more targeted keywords.

While the broader keywords did get the phones ringing, most of the callers weren't looking for an attorney who practiced criminal defense, personal injury, or family law. And each click, whether or not it led to new business, cost Mayberry and Rich, both in time (having to refer callers elsewhere) and money.

Frustrated, the attorneys met with Cardarelli to review their PPC strategy. This time when Cardarelli suggested they use more targeted keywords, like Tampa DUI lawyer and Tampa criminal defense attorney, Mayberry and Rich were open to it. They even got their families and friends to help them come up with the right keywords.

"We're attorneys, and when you've been attorneys for a while, you tend to think more like an attorney than like someone who has a legal issue," explained Mayberry. "So we turned to our friends and our family, basically anyone that we spoke to, and we asked them what terms they would search for [if they were looking for a criminal defense, personal injury, or family law lawyer] and basically used what they told us. And that's worked very well."

As a result of the tweaking, the number of calls has gone down, "but the quality of calls has gone way up," reported Rich. "I think for every phone call we get, whether we get retained or not, it's something that we can definitely handle."

(Continue to Page 2 for More Tips and Case Studies)

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