As much as we love to advocate the use of SEO for getting customers (and truth be told, 80% of visitors do come from good SEO as opposed to paid advertising), the fact remains that paid advertising does have a role to play in any successful online business. While it should definitely not be the only thing you rely on to get customers, AdWords should be a part of your arsenal of tools for doing so.

Now I’ll assume that you know what AdWords is. If you don’t, just look at almost every major newspaper and notice the ads that are provided by Google. That’s what AdWords is – ads sold by Google on millions of websites all over the world. Okay, so the question is, how do you create an AdWords campaign which will bring in new business without breaking the bank?

How Does AdWords Work?

While pretty much everyone knows what AdWords is, not everyone understands exactly how it works. You don’t pay a set fee for ads on AdWords nor do you even pay a set fee based on which keyword you choose. In essence, AdWords works on a kind of bidding system.
At any given time, you have a set maximum bid that you are willing to spend for a particular keyword. If your bid is the highest, your ad will be displayed. That is unless of course your budget has been exceeded. You can actually set up specific limits on your AdWords account so that you don’t end up spending more than you have.
For example, if you wanted to bid no more than 5 cents for the keyword “SEO” and you only wanted to spend a maximum of $200 per month, you could set that up within AdWords. You can also choose which kinds of sites you want to advertise on so that your dollars might stretch further by getting yourself onto sites with less traffic but perhaps visitors who are more committed.
Remember as well that you never have to pay for your ads to be displayed. You pay only when someone clicks on your ad and comes to your website.
Okay, so this is all well and good but the thing that is likely most important to you dear reader is how to make your AdWords campaign as successful as possible. The following are five key ingredients that you need in order to build a successful campaign and make serious money by doing so:

Does Anyone Want What You Have to Sell?

This is actually the first question that anyone selling pretty much anything needs to ask. If nobody would be interested in buying what you have for sale then there’s nothing to talk about. So for example if you have a bunch of broken vinyl records, the odds are good that you have a pile of garbage which should be tossed rather than a viable product to sell.
However, in the case of AdWords, the question is slightly different. We’ll assume that you have already done some basic market research and you know that the product you have for sale does have a market. However, just because there is a market doesn’t mean anyone is going to find your products if you don’t advertising it correctly.

Basically, what you need to do is a bit of market research on keywords. Head to the AdWords keyword tool and punch in a keyword that you think reflects what you would want to sell to your customers. Now, you can add some additional features to your search including looking to see whether or not you need to pick local or global search (i.e. is your product something that is sold only in the USA or is it a worldwide product?).

You may also want to check (or uncheck) the setting for mobile devices depending on whether you think your customers might find you with a mobile device (hint: most times, it’s good to target both).

Okay, so now that you have put in your search term and hit Enter, you should see a list of terms which people have actually been searching for. You want terms which have a reasonable number of people searching for them (i.e. at least 10,000 monthly searches is a good rule of thumb) but usually you can stay away from the terms which get millions of searches.Why do you want that? Well, the searches that get millions of hits per month will first and foremost have a tremendous amount of competition on them meaning that you’ll waste a fortune trying to bid for them.

Second and more importantly, if there are millions of hits for a particular keyword in any given month, it’s likely that this keyword is one which generates lots of research clicks as opposed to sales clicks. After all, you’re not interested in the person who searches for SEO because they want to know what it is or how to do it better. You want the guy who searches for SEO Las Vegas because they’re looking for something specific – a place to go and get their stuff done locally.

You should also pay close attention to the cost per click on each item that you look at because you want to ensure that you aren’t going to lose your shirt paying for the clicks. After all, if your product sells for five bucks and it costs $4 for each click, you’re not likely to make a profit (remember that just because someone clicks on your link doesn’t mean that they’ll buy it).
A good rule of thumb is to assume anywhere from 1-10% conversions on the clicks, depending on how good your landing page is (most decent landing pages can manage at least a one percent conversion rate. Exceptional ones can easily get 10% conversions or more).

Check What the Competition Is Doing

There is an old axiom in the world of marketing: If nobody else sells what you have for sale then unless it’s a brand new invention (i.e. you created a Star Trek transporter), it’s probably a safe bet that there is no market for it. Basically, you need to think long and hard before creating a brand new product which nobody has ever heard of or would understand why they want it.
Mind you, creating a new brand category can be done – just look at Apple’s success with the iPod and the iPad. However, in most cases, there will be competitors and that’s a good thing. It means that there is a market for your product.
Now, while knowing there is competition is a good thing, you also want to know what they are using for advertising and whether it’s successful. After all, if your competition is already using a keyword like SEO Las Vegas then it’s a safe bet that this is a good keyword to advertise on (assuming you are in Las Vegas and selling SEO services of course).
I found a pretty cool product which will let you find out what the competition is doing. It’s called KeyWord Spy and while there is a charge for the service, they do offer a free trial which can get you started on finding out what the competition is doing. Basically, you want to see how long any given competitor has been advertising on a particular keyword. The longer they’ve been using it, the more likely it is that this is a keyword worth using yourself.

Writing the Ad

The next thing that you need to think about when doing an AdWords campaign is how you are going to structure your advertising. In essence, you need to consider what it is that makes you the right choice for your customers as opposed to your competition. Now there are any number of ways to go about this and I’ll go into that in a moment but I want to discuss a bit more about this.
There is pretty much no business on earth that has no competition (with the possible exception of some state sanctioned monopolies such as the local cable company, although even they must contend with satellite TV providers). This means that you need to show your customers why you are the right choice for their needs as opposed to the competition.
Now one thing that many people erroneously think is that they can undercut the competition and that the reason people will buy from them is that they are cheaper than anyone else. In my humble opinion, this is a fool’s gambit. Nobody ever makes money in a race to the bottom.
Even if you did manage to crush your current competitors with crazy low prices, someone else will inevitably notice what you’re doing and try to undercut you. So unless you want to give away everything for free (and even then, if you rely on advertising, you’ll find that your competitors will compete on who has fewer annoying ads) you need to find a different way to distinguish yourself.
The best way to do this is to take a survey. Ask your existing customers what they like most about your company and what they like least. Not only will this allow you to gain points with your customers, who will feel as if they are being included in decision making for your company (which they are) but you will also gain valuable insight into your company.
Perhaps you’ll find that your customers like you more than the competition because they value the personal level of customer service that you provide. This can be a selling point which you advertise on. We offer personal service to our customers and never treat you like a number. Or maybe they’ll say that you have unique features in your product not found elsewhere.
Whatever it is that makes your current customers prefer to shop from you is likely to also be what you can use for your advertising to attract new customers.
Of course, it goes without saying that when preparing your ads you also need to make them appealing. Show people why this special feature is so important to them. So for example, don’t just mention that “we have great customer service.” Mention that your company assigns a limited number of customers to each customer service agent so that everyone can get the kind of personal service they need.

Have a Great Landing Page

The best advertising in the world won’t help you at all if your customers arrive at your website and find that there’s nothing enticing there. You need to create a good squeeze page which will get the people who visit to want to make a purchase from you. If your goal is not to get immediate sales but instead to get them to look around a bit, have some other introductory page which allows them to do just that.
Bottom line, if you are going to take all this trouble to drive traffic to your site, don’t blow it by giving them a subpar experience when they arrive. See my guide on writing squeeze pages for more information on how to do this correctly.

Track Your Customers

Finally, any successful AdWords campaign must include an active effort to track your customers so that you know how often a click resulted in an actual sale. You should be able to set this up using AdWords where you can tie a specific page (your purchase success page) to the tracking feature on AdWords. This will allow you to see whether or not the sales are coming mostly from organic clicks or from AdWords clicks.
If you do find that most of your sales come from organic as opposed to AdWords clicks then you need to ask yourself what it is that makes this happen and either decide to focus more heavily on your SEO efforts or tweak your ads. By the way, you can also track within AdWords how many of your clicks are coming from a desktop browser and how many are from a mobile device. This will allow you to figure out which kind of advertising to focus on more in the future.