Learning from Google AdWords Marketing

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1 Learning from Google AdWords Marketing Introduction AdWords is a marketing product, in which the customer pays for visits to their website (clicks) generated by ads appearing on Google search pages or associated websites on the Google Network. In 2013, Eldis has run a number of AdWords campaigns with the objective of increasing traffic to the Eldis website, broadening our global audience and increasing the number of return visitors. The campaigns discussed in this learning paper were related to the Eldis Climate Change Resource Guide (CCRG) and supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). The aim of this paper is to better understand, if Google AdWords is a cost-effective marketing tool for Eldis and share lessons learned with others considering using it as part of their marketing activities. The AdWords campaigns have been the largest single source of traffic to the CCRG website in They ran in two stages: large-scale one-off campaigns for the Climate Change Resource Guide (CCRG), Climate Change Reporter ( bulletin) and Climate Change Country Profiles (CCCP) in February 2013, which are referred to in this paper as the clicks campaigns; and smaller-scale ongoing campaigns for the Reporter from March onwards, which are referred to as the subscriptions campaigns. The primary objective of the clicks campaigns was to boost traffic to the Eldis website particularly from developing countries. They generated 12,252 clicks in total. The subscriptions campaigns focused more on increasing the number of return visitors to Eldis by expanding the number of subscriptions to the Climate Change Reporter (CCR). They generated 1,388 clicks during the first month, but on average only about five per cent subscribed to the Reporter. Learning from responding to this is discussed in more detail later in this paper. Google AdWords was chosen as a marketing tool due to the success of previous campaigns and because it was considered good value for money as it required a fairly low investment in terms of staff time. We also felt that it enabled us to reach audiences in countries where we lacked good contacts or partners that would otherwise have been able to assist in other, more direct, marketing activities. Prior experience of using AdWords was, however, limited within the team and learning from the process was also a central objective. The analysis below presents this learning by dividing the operation of Google AdWords campaigns into four main components, also represented in a diagram on the following page. V. Erkkilä, F. Rajabali and A. Stanley; June 2013 with the support of 1

2 Glossary Ad: appears on search pages or associated websites on the Google Network; consists of a headline (25 characters), display URL and a description (35 characters) AdGroup: a collection of ads that are all triggered by a shared set of keywords Average position: how high up the ad appears on the search page compared to other ads Bounce rate: the percentage of visitors who leave a website after viewing only one page Campaign: top level component where location, language, bidding and budget are set CCR: Climate Change Reporter, fortnightly bulletin CCRG: Climate Change Resource Guide Clicks: when a user interacts with the ad by clicking it Click-through-rate (CTR): number of clicks the ad receives divided by the number of times it is shown (see impressions) Cost-per-click (CPC): average amount charged per click on the ad, i.e. the total cost of all clicks divided by the total number of clicks received Impressions: how often the ad appears on search result pages or websites on the Google Network Keywords: words or phrases that determine which ad shows on Google searches Maximum CPC (also known as the bid): the most you are willing to pay for a click on your ad Figure 1: Example of how the key components are structured in delivering an AdWords campaign Campaign A: Eldis CDKN Kenya February 2013 AdGroup 1: Reporter AdGroup 2: Resource Guide AdGroup 3: Country Profiles Ad i: Climate Research Updates Ad ii: Climate Change Newsletter Ad i: Climate Change Research Ad ii: Climate Research Updates Ad i: Kenya and Climate Change Ad ii: Climate Change in Kenya Destination URL 1: Reporter subscribe page Destination URL 2: Climate Change Resource Guide Destination URL 3: Kenya country profile page Campaigns: geographical focus and budget Once you have a Google AdWords account, the first step to creating your ads is to define the limits of your campaign. Essentially this means choosing the geographical area and language(s) spoken by your audience. Both the clicks and subscriptions campaigns targeted mainly English-speaking developing countries, although we also ran campaigns in a few Latin American countries. However, these did poorly in comparison to the campaigns in English-speaking countries indicating that language is a key issue affecting the success of the campaign. 2

3 The daily budget is set at the campaign level. This was adjusted multiple times, especially during the clicks campaigns, as an attempt to get more clicks for the lowest average CPC possible. This was done by reallocating money from the campaigns where the budget was not being spent, or the average CPC was comparatively high, to the campaigns limited by budget (i.e. the campaigns which were meeting their set daily budget before the end of the day) and with a low average CPC, thus maximising the number of clicks we could get for the overall Google AdWords budget. The tables below illustrate how changing the daily budget and bid affected the performance of Campaign level actions Define your audience: choose where you want to advertise and the languages your audiences speak. Campaigns normally focus on one geographic region or country. Set the maximum daily budget you want to spend. Set the start and end dates for your campaign. the Indian and Tanzanian clicks campaigns. The Indian campaign was the most successful campaign overall, presumably due to the country s large English-speaking audience, which also explains the higher average CPC i.e. a greater search volume also equals a more costly campaign. The comparatively poor performance of the Tanzanian campaign could be due the smaller search volume in the country or a domestic reason (unidentifiable from the statistics) for why people were not searching for climate change related issues. INDIA clicks campaign Date Budget Bid Avg. CPC Avg. Pos. Clicks on the day Day Day Day Day Day Total cost Total number of clicks 1743 TANZANIA clicks campaign Date Budget Bid Avg. CPC Avg. Pos Clicks on the day Day Day Day Day Day Total cost Total number of clicks 242 The aim of the subscriptions campaigns was not to increase the number of clicks, but the number of subscribers to the Reporter, so budget modifications to maximise clicks were less important during this stage. What modifications were made show little impact, possibly due to the overall budget being a lot less: the daily budget and the maximum CPC being set significantly lower (the daily budget was never raised to more than 0.77/day). This meant that the ads were always displayed in lower positions on the search pages and therefore may never have been able to utilise the available budget. On the whole focusing on increasing the budget of the campaigns generating the most clicks was considered an effective approach to bringing in more traffic to the Eldis website, within the limits of the overall Google AdWords budget. However, neither the clicks nor the subscriptions campaigns used up all of their allocated daily budgets within the timeframe. 3

4 AdGroups: keywords and clicks After choosing geographical focus and setting the initial budget, the next step is to define AdGroups within the campaign. These are collections of ads, which share the same keywords and promote the same destination URL. Each of the clicks campaigns had three: Climate Change Resource Guide; Reporter; Country Profile. The subscriptions campaigns had only one AdGroup (Reporter). Keywords are selected at the AdGroup level. All of the AdGroups in the clicks campaigns had similar keywords, about 40 each to start with; more were added over time to include wrong spellings, country-specific and foreign language keywords. The keywords were picked from a list suggested by Google AdWords based on what were the most popular search terms. General keywords, unsurprisingly, generated the most clicks but they were also the most expensive (max CPC required for the ad to appear high on the search page). Climate change was the most popular keyword in almost all countries. However, many of the general keywords had a low quality score, which affected negatively how often and prominently the ads were displayed. As an attempt to improve the quality and CTR, the keywords with low quality score were removed. The effect of this on CTR can be seen from Figure 2, though the amount of clicks remained about the same for the entire duration of the clicks campaigns. Figure 2: Click vs. CTR during clicks campaigns AdGroup level actions Set the destination URL: choose the web page you want to send your audience to visit. Set the maximum CPC: the higher your bid, the more prominently your ad is displayed. Define your keywords: which Google searches do you want your ads to appear under? How often (impressions), and how prominently (rank) the ads in this group will be displayed depends on the max.cpc and the quality score of your keywords. The quality score is assessed by Google based on a number of factors, including how closely your chosen keywords match the text of your ads and the text on your target webpage. Experimenting with keywords in different languages proved to be successful in generating more clicks from especially Spanish-speaking countries, even though the ad itself was in English. However, conclusions should be drawn cautiously, because the bounce rate for website traffic coming through Google AdWords was high (over 50 per cent) and generally the Latin American campaigns performed poorly compared to African and Asian campaigns. Country-specific keywords were successful in generating clicks, which can be seen in the success of the ads in the Country Profile AdGroups. It is important to bear in mind that the ads do not exist in isolation of real world events: for example, Kenya and Bangladesh did well in 2012, but had lesser success in This may be due to people focusing on political events in those countries at the time the ads were running. Ads: experimenting with wording Two parallel ads were running concurrently within each AdGroup. The aim was to see which ad performed best and incrementally modify the text based on what wording seemed to be more successful in encouraging visitors to the target web page. Figure 3 provides an example of the final versions of the ads 4

5 that ran in India during the clicks campaign; the same Reporter ads also ran during the subscriptions campaigns. Overall changing the text of the ads seemed to make little difference to their performance. Initially both the Resource Guide and Reporter ads had Eldis in the headline, but because these ads received few clicks, Eldis was removed from the title. However, considering that both ads for each AdGroup had the same keywords, the team was unable to understand what exactly determined which of the ads appeared when someone searched for e.g. climate change research. Therefore, focus was placed on modifying the budget and the keywords, rather than the text of the ads. Ad level actions: Write the text for your ads to encourage Google users to follow the link to your web page. You can create multiple ads to try out different approaches to attracting users to your webpage. Having at least two ads running means you can then make incremental changes to the text based on what seems to be working best. Figure 3: Indian ads for the Resource Guide, Country Profile and Reporter Target web page: modifying content and analysing visitor activity Many of the general keywords used in the campaigns (e.g. agriculture, livelihoods, poverty) were given a low quality score by Google, because they did not match the text of the ads themselves or the copy on the destination web pages the ads were pointing to. A number of actions were taken to improve the quality score by refining the copy on the destination web pages. A new web page was created for Reporter subscriptions with copy that matched better the keywords used. Copy on the front page of the CCRG was similarly edited. However, according to the statistical data available on Google AdWords and Analytics, editing the copy of the target web page seemed to have little impact on the quality score. Because the aim of the subscriptions campaigns was to encourage more people to sign up to the Climate Change Reporter, conversion tracking was set up in Google Analytics to monitor if the visitors arriving through Google AdWords actually subscribed to the Reporter. In Google Analytics, a conversion occurs when a visitor reaches a specified goal: in this case, subscribes to the Climate Change Reporter by submitting their address into the sign-up box on the web page. As Figure 4 shows, the majority of people arriving to the sign-up page left almost immediately. The bounce rate was also significantly higher (about 80 per cent) compared to what it was during the clicks campaigns (about 55 per cent). In other words, the ads were not attracting the right audience and could not be considered good value for money as the visitors did not take the desired action. However, as the ads were considered easy-to-understand and the keywords were more specific, the reason for the high bounce rate and poor conversion rate could be that the subscription page did not Web page level actions Define the destination URL for the ad. Be clear about what actions you want the visitors to take on your web page and set up conversion goals in Google Analytics to see how effective the copy and layout of your web page is at getting them to take the desired action. 5

6 match the expectations of the visitors. This presents a catch-22 situation: the target web page was offputting because it had too much text, but the text was added to the page to improve the quality score and thus attract more visitors. Because the number of clicks was not the main goal of the subscriptions campaigns, the amount of text on the target page was reduced and reorganised to address this issue. This had a positive impact on the conversion rate, which can be seen from Figure 4. Despite these difficulties, where your campaign has a clearly defined outcome beyond just achieving high number of clicks, we would recommend tracking conversions as a way of ensuring the ads are attracting your target audiences. Figure 4: New Reporter subscriptions a week before target webpage was edited (seven days in total) New Reporter subscriptions a week after the target webpage was edited (seven days in total) Summary of lessons learned The clicks campaigns took about two days to set up and about 1.5 days/week to maintain and review. The lower volume subscriptions campaigns took about 0.5 days/month to maintain. In monetary terms, the staff costs were around 4,400. The overall AdWords budget for the campaigns was 3,000. Figure 5 on the following page demonstrates how much was paid for the number of clicks received. So, with around 13,600 clicks generated in total, each visit cost approximately The subscriptions campaigns have generated over 132 new subscriptions to date at a cost of 387, working out at around 2.90 per subscription. 6

7 Figure 5: Clicks vs. Cost during clicks campaigns Clicks vs. Cost during subscriptions campaigns With little to benchmark these figures against it is difficult to assess the cost effectiveness of this approach. One comparator we have used to try to assess this has been the Eldis jobs service, which costs approximately 1,100 per month to operate and generates, on average, around 5,000 visits to the website per month ( 0.22/visit). At face value Google AdWords looks expensive by comparison; however, it does have some advantages: It allows better targeting of audiences, both in terms of their interests and geographic location. It allows you to direct traffic to your high value content (goals), whereas our jobs service requires an additional step of internal marketing within the site to achieve this (which typically has a high drop off rate). The jobs service is less effective at attracting new users with a high volume of traffic coming from repeat visitors. Considering these factors, we do find Google AdWords to be a cost-effective marketing strategy for getting new users to visit the Eldis Climate Change Resource Guide particularly in the English-speaking countries where we have had limited existing audiences. The clicks campaigns may have also improved CCRG s overall ranking in organic Google searches for key search terms, thus continuing to boost the flow of new visitors even after the clicks campaigns had ended (there is some preliminary evidence that this is the case). The high bounce rate and relatively small number of visitors who signed up to the Climate Change Reporter both suggest that we need to pay further attention to internal structure and presentation of our web pages in order to increase user retention and goal conversion rates. This process has also drawn our attention to the need for more analysis to define our target audiences in order to make sure we are using the right marketing tools to reach them. Some key lessons learned for using Google AdWords are summarised below. Be clear about your objectives: define specific actions you want your visitors to take once they reach your web page rather than just looking at increasing traffic. Define your target audience: who, where and what languages do they speak? Is Google AdWords the right tool for engaging with them? When choosing keywords you need to balance matching keywords closely to your intended audience with picking terms that will return a reasonable volume of searches. 7

8 Focus more on goal conversions than the number of clicks: this will help you understand better if you are meeting your goals and reaching your target audience. Country-specific content seems to work well, but popularity of keywords can vary by country. Remember that ads do not exist in isolation from real world events. The text of the ads and keywords need to match the copy of the web page for you to achieve a good quality score. A good quality score will result in your ads showing more regularly, ranking higher on search pages and having a lower average CPC. Run a manageable number of campaigns and ensure that you have adequate time to review and improve the performance of your ads. Link your AdWords account to Google Analytics and understand how to use different M&E tools: set-up goal conversion tracking and other M&E measures at the beginning of the campaigns. V. Erkkilä, F. Rajabali and A. Stanley, June 2013 with the support of 8

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