Google Ads Hangout On Air – Q&A

This Hangout on Air (HOA) was a follow-up to the ‘AdWords – How It Works' presentation given earlier in November 2015. It was a question and answer session (Q&A) on Google AdWords (as was, now known as Google Ads) between Mark Vang (host) and Adrian Bold.

The Q&A HOA!

HOA Transcript

Mark Vang: I’m Mark, from, and today I'm hosting an HOA with Adrian Bold of Bold Internet. Actually, we're on Adrian's YouTube channel today and we're going to talk a little bit about AdWords. We've set this up as a Q and A presentation for a video that we had previously set up on a presentation, so those links will all be in the description for this video. If there are any questions you have and you're logged into your Google+ account and you can click on that event, post any questions there, otherwise we're just going to hit some of the top questions and issues with AdWords and have our own little Q and A. How you doing today, Adrian?

Adrian Bold: I'm okay now, Mark, thank you.

Mark Vang: Okay, yeah. Just share a little pre HOA story. Adrian this morning decided to launch the Windows 10 upgrade for all of his computers. We were down to, I guess, 10 minutes-

Mark Vang: And it's before the HOA deciding whether we were going to be on the Chromebook or on the windows machine this morning, but-

Adrian Bold: I really thought 5 hours would be enough time. Honestly, I, you know-

Mark Vang: Right, right. Why do things the easy when you can add a little fun to the day? Launch your major upgrades before the event, but-

Adrian Bold: I had my Chromebook here just in case, so-

Mark Vang: That's right.

Adrian Bold: It was all in hand.

Mark Vang: That's right. You were way ahead of me there. You and I have talked a few times in the past about AdWords and you know I've done a couple of small campaigns where I pretty much … You could almost use me as the poster child for everything that you could do wrong with an AdWords campaign. Why don't we start out, since a lot of people kind of … Since Google makes AdWords available through your brand pages, there's a little menu you can go there or it's in, say, you can set up your own AdWords account. Why don't we talk a little bit about why ads matter, do people click on them, do they benefit the business, and approach it from that way to start with. Why do people use display ads?

Adrian Bold: Okay. I think AdWords absolutely matter. There was a survey I saw yesterday where they talked about how many 12 to 15 year olds didn't recognize the difference between paid ads and organic ads. Now obviously, children are not really spending … Well, they do spend money, they get their parents to spend money. I think on a more serious note, we work with clients who the return on investment from AdWords is very measurable, and in most cases if it's managed correctly it can be very effective. I think the problem with AdWords is that for most people coming into it for the first time, it seems really, really simple. Google make it incredibly easy for you to give them your credit card details and get the billing information set up and away and running. In less than 10 minutes, you can have an active campaign, but therein lies the problem because the simplicity masks a multitude of blind alleys that people can go down where they can be spending money incorrectly and then walk away from AdWords either saying that it doesn't work or, you know.

I think AdWords is fantastic, don't get me wrong. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Google in terms of the way they manage it, but it's a fantastic platform. There's no denying, of course, that Google has a massive reach in terms of people going online and shopping. You all know in the states this week, Thanksgiving tomorrow and then Black Friday and Cyber Monday and all that. It's a huge shopping experience. I don't think people will get crushed to death on the internet, but they might at Walmart. Anyway, it's big news, advertising, and done properly it can work really well.

Mark Vang: You've touched on one point there in that there's a lot of depth to the set up to properly measure results from AdWords. I think that's the one place where somebody like a small business owner dives in. Google makes it very easy to create the ads and they give you this coupons, right?

Adrian Bold: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mark Vang: Where you get … They'll give you a hundred dollars of free advertising if you pay for 25 dollars worth or something like that, all these different deals to get you to set up something. When it comes to measuring the results, a lot of people haven't done the leg work where it takes to tie their website into the AdWords or tag Google Analytics into the AdWords where they're setting up landing pages where they're measuring conversions, where they have goals and conversions set, and stuff like that. Did you want to talk just a little bit? I know that's a huge, huge topic, but did you want to talk a little bit about what kind of preparations should go into just your general marketing, your website or whatever social media, before you start? Before you even plunk that money down and start trying to set up ads.

Adrian Bold: Yup. It is quite a big topic, but just to try and address some of the key areas. Within Google AdWords, you can get a piece of JavaScript where you can measure a conversion. Now, to give an example of a conversion, if you've run an online store, clearly that would be somebody buying, making a purchase. If you ran a website where, I don't know, you wanted people to sign up for a newsletter, it could be the thank you page that the subscriber arrived at after they've signed up. I think the key thing for anybody is before you start advertising, whether it's with a hundred dollars of free credit or whatever, but before you start spending a penny on advertising, why are you doing it is point number 1. Having identified why you're doing it, can you measure it? The key thing is with AdWords is that you can either use the AdWords conversion tracking script, but if you are marketing through other channels, so it could be social media, could be organic search, could be email, whatever it might be, then using analytics type programs, and obviously I'm going to refer to Google Analytics, but within Google Analytics you can create conversion goals in there as well.

The conversion goals there differ slightly to AdWords, I don't want to go into lots of detail, but basically AdWords will count the first click that came through on an advert. If that converted, they'll count the conversion with AdWords, whereas in Google Analytics it would be the last click. If somebody clicked on an advert, but didn't buy, but then came back a week later having done their review, if they came back a week later through organic search then in Analytics it would be the organic search that would capture the conversion. The point being really is that, if you use Google Analytics, those conversion goals can then be imported into Google AdWords. Whichever road you choose to take in terms of measuring conversions, you've got to have at least one. To start advertising blindly, and not having any form of conversion tracking is foolish, because you're just spending money on clicks to arrive at your website. If you just want to get clicks to your website, you're probably already getting clicks to your website through other channels, organic search. If you can't measure what's coming through organic search which is free, why would you then start spending money on something you can't measure?

Mark Vang: Right. Basically, what I'm trying to get across is if you haven't figured … As opposed to organic search or social media where you're pretty much working for free, as soon as you start using AdWords you're going to be paying for any of that traffic that comes through the ads. You really should have already looked at your website, decided whether you have specific landing pages for products and services, maybe already have established some sort of conversion tracking with Google Analytics so you can see what is working and what isn't. Whether you use Google Analytics as a tool or the AdWords interface as a tool, you should already have a feel for how you can measure results, because this is now out of pocket versus social media where people tend to just throw things out and hope they work. If that's your mindset with AdWords, I hope you have a lot of money to throw out there, because you can end up spending a good chunk which brings me to something that you brought to my attention.

You did an analysis of a couple of my little campaigns a while back. You told me about negative keywords which is something I didn't even know about. Once again, without drilling down too deep there, talk a little bit about maybe that or what people should expect when they're trying to set up a working campaign. How should they structure that and what are some of those tips that you would toss out there?

Adrian Bold: Negative keywords are basically words that we put into AdWords, and you can put them in a number of different places, but you can put them into AdWords and they act as a stop word. If that word formed part of the user's search query, so in plain English, if somebody goes onto Google and performs a search containing a word that you've put into your AdWords account as a negative, then they won't see your advert. Let's say you run a shop and you're selling, I don't know, colour televisions, but the only televisions you sell are all Sony or Toshiba. You might bid on the phrase, I don't know, colour television or latest television, whatever it might be. Words like JBC, and [inaudible 00:10:07] … I don't know all the TV brands, but let's say JVC was one of the brands, that would be a negative keyword. Similarly, words like Amazon or eBay might be negative keywords, because if you're bidding on a fairly short phrase, a 2 or 3 word phrase that on the surface seems very relevant to you, I guarantee there will be longer versions of that search string. It will contain your phrase, but a longer version. Somebody's looking for a Sony colour television on eBay, you might sell Sony colour televisions but this person's looking for a deal on eBay in assistance, so then-

Mark Vang: You don't want to pay for that traffic, it's just wasted, because if the guy clicks on your ad, he's going to immediately realize, “Oh, well this isn't where I wanted to go.” You're going to be paying for that click, but the guy's immediately going to jet somewhere else.

Adrian Bold: To be honest, it's not even just about the paying for the click. Even if people don't click on your advert, that generates what we call an impression of your advert. If your advert is being viewed lots of times, but not clicked on, you're not earning any money for Google. If you're not earning any money for Google, they're going to start questioning your relevancy to them. They have other factors, they have a thing called quality school. Basically, if your relevancy score isn't great in the eyes of Google, if you still want to be there, you're going to have to pay a premium to maintain your position. Obviously, if you're a big company, and we see it all the time with big companies that are paying a tax, what I call an idiot tax, to Google where they're just basically bidding on really short one or two word phrases. They're just paying over the odds because they're just bidding on these and just buying up traffic. Maybe it works for them, maybe they've got pockets deep enough to fund that, but most of us smaller businesses, we can't do that.

[inaudible 00:11:52] say, it's not just paying for the click, if you're bidding on a phrase and you're getting lot of impressions, but people aren't clicking through, your click through rate goes down. I'm getting into jargon already, but your click through rate goes down and in the eyes of Google you may not be relevant. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't. Basically just to hopefully cover this one off, we spend an awful long time when we set up campaigns. A big chunk of the time is spent finding the negative keywords associated with the words and phrases that our clients might want to bid one. We then, every week, we'll review the previous 7 day search queries. What we call a search query is somebody going to Google and what they actually search for. We will go and review what search queries lead to somebody clicking on that advert to then go back to the client's site to then look at it and go, “Is this relevant or not?” Just yesterday, I saw on LinkedIn a guy, from Northern Ireland, who's also similar to me, does PPC. He put today's fun search query and I think it was something along the lines of, “Can I do my own liposuction?”

Mark Vang: “Can I give myself liposuction?” Yeah.

Adrian Bold: “Can I give myself liposuction?” That was an actual search query. I don't know what he would've been bidding on for his client, I'm guessing just liposuction because I couldn't get any other positive words out of there. Anyway, “Can I do my own liposuction?” You would never have thought that would come up as a search when you did the initial, but you have to review because … I don't know what the stats are now, but it used to be a few years ago that Google would say that 25% of all searches they see are unique. People search in many weird and wonderful ways. Our jobs is AdWords optimizers is to make sure that we're not getting too many weird and wonderful ways coming through, we're just getting the relevant eyeballs coming to the website.

Mark Vang: Just to jump in, that might be a good question to answer if you ran a liposuction clinic, because maybe you want to direct people back to professional medical services so you can answer the question, only it's going to be a negative, no, you probably shouldn't do that. It might actually be a relevant phrase for a medical client of his.

Adrian Bold: I would rather answer that type of question with an organic search result. I'd rather say … That doesn't sound like somebody's who is serious about buying services, so put up a post, do an article, whatever, answer the question in a free way.

Mark Vang: Maybe sell them life insurance instead.

Adrian Bold: Yeah.

Mark Vang: Every time they type in, “Can I liposuction myself?” Display an ad for …

Adrian Bold: Sure, sign here for insurance, yeah, at 50 dollars a click. Also, I want to just go back, if I may, just about the question about conversions and what should people do at the get-go. We talk about make sure you can measure before you start spending money, but also just have a look at your own website or more importantly get other people to look at your website. If you're coming from a background where you've got Google Analytics or similar, and you're already seeing traffic coming to your website through organic search would be the obvious contender, but nobody's buying or nobody's registering or whatever, then question why. If you can't see the answers to that question yourself, because you're close to it because it's your business, then maybe ask somebody else either informally through friends, colleagues, acquaintances or even there are services. There's a website called, you can actually pay for video reviews of your website. Sometimes, there's fundamental things that you may have overlooked. You might have got caught up in the design or you may have had a web designer that had a very clear idea of as to what he or she wanted to deliver, but it may not be the best way of serving up for your products or services.

Mark Vang: Right. I think the point to get across too is that all of these things are co-dependent. Social media on its own isn't going to market your business, paid advertising isn't going to work, the website on its own isn't going to work because all the things are interdependent. I think a lot of people often are looking for shortcuts and so they focus on one aspect. In this state, relevant to what we're talking about, maybe they focus on paying for display ads and think they can buy traffic and buy sales. If the end result isn't that they're able to actually convert those people at the website or if they aren't able to measure what works, and that's even more important is to measure what works and what doesn't so you know how to make changes because this is going to be a evolutionary process for any business to try to constantly measure what works and what doesn't. If you're not getting that data, you can't do it.

I was going to say one reason having a guy like you look at something like that is very good is because you've worked with businesses for so long. You've already built up information on negative keywords for certain types of businesses. Where a small business owner like myself may have to learn the ropes the hard way paying out of pocket to learn how all of the system works, having an expert look at the ad campaign with a prior experience on how to market a local business or how to market a business in this industry is going to be more cost effective as well.

Adrian Bold: Yeah. We maintain lists of generic terms sorted by subject that are almost default negatives. We obviously review them before we apply them to an account, but we have a kind of [I said 00:17:29] generic list of default negatives. I remember a few years ago I guy came to me, a local business selling solar panels. The first thing I always do is say, “Can I connect to your account, have a look at it, see what's going on?” Invariably the first thing I do is then go to their search query report to see what's happening. Without going into lots of detail, this guy was spending about 2000 pounds a month, so probably about 3000 dollars, and I would guess that probably 95% of his budget was just being wasted because he had played word associations. We had a single campaign with a single ad group, and a list of single keywords, the sunroof, solar, whatever. Google's saying, “Well okay, you're bidding on all these words, fair enough.” He's getting all these weird and wonderful clicks coming through, too numerous to mention. Well, they certainly were not commercially orientated to people looking to buy his type of service. That's a shame.

I've often said at Google conferences, at least on 3 occasions now, they tell me they're listening, but I've said to Google, “You must know, you must be able to see a new advertiser that's coming in who doesn't know what they're doing, with the best will in the world”. That's not a criticism of them, but why would you know about negative keywords for example? They must see the data, so low conversions or no conversions, no conversion tracking implemented, pull click through rates. There's some keys stats that they would have and those people should be coerced to go and work with somebody that's in one of their part in the directory because not necessarily Bold Internet but there are plenty of people out there that are qualified and Google could say, “Well, you've got 3 people within a 50 mile radius of your post card. We suggest you go and work with one of these. In fact, we'll incentivize you.” Because to me, it would be better to keep a hold of that client and keep advertising working well for their business rather than risk losing them just for a bit of short term gain in terms of the financial revenue.

Mark Vang: Right, well, that's a good point and it's hard to say whether the whole business model for Google is just to go for quantity and get a large number of people trying to use those free coupons and then make as much money as you can until they give up, but it doesn't seem really sustainable, but maybe at scale it is, I don't know. It makes sense that if there are these common issues that any new advertiser is going to run into, and especially also I know you don't focus on promoted posts a lot, but Google has like an option to take you, kind of lead you into display ads through promoted posts where they make it very easy for you to walk you through a real quick campaign set up, but it's not really going to address the things like negative keywords or address the understanding of the ad system you really need to succeed.

For example, something else you mentioned how the quality of your ad can affect the cost of the ad and the relevance of your ad. A lot of these things are very subtle mechanism that Google is using that will affect directly your bottom line of what you're paying and whether people are even seeing your ads, the people that you need to see them. That's not obvious right up front when you start working with these ads. That was quite an eye opener for me when you give me that eval of my … I just basically ran campaigns just to get a little feel for how the interface works, so I never really had a monthly ad commit to spend. I wonder if that's something you wanted to address, if somebody was wanted to get into display ads, what should they have as a ballpark figure in their head as to what might be a reasonable amount that they should expect to put in to get results or does it work that way?

Adrian Bold: Sure. Just to be clear, you mentioned then display ads, we're talking about search and display just to make sure that there's no distinction. I mean there aren't, sorry, there is a distinction but you mentioned how much you should spend on display ads. Basically how much you should spend on advertising is largely just determined, in my opinion, by how well it's working for you. Although this sounds overly simplistic, if you've got conversion tracking in place and the return on your investment is obviously positive and it's in a ratio that works for your business, why would you have an artificial cap on your paid advertising? Most people put a cap on their paid advertising because they don't know how well it's working.

In terms of what you said in terms of you had a limited trial, that's fine. Just be very clear that it is a limited trial, still have conversion tracking in place, but if it's working you're not going to sit there and go, “Oh, I'm going to restrict this to 50 dollars a day.” When there's enough search demand that could have you spending 500 dollars a day, because if it's working, why would you put the brakes on? Obviously, there is one that you can't serve all those clients you're now getting, so maybe you'd have to put the brakes on, but that would be a nice problem to have. I would also say there are instances where you would spend money recklessly on Google just to gather the data.

I've mentioned a couple of times, you may already be getting organic traffic to your site, but if you're not, what could you do? You could pay for traffic, just to find out what's going on in your marketplace. You might say, “Well, we've got 500 dollars or 300 pounds or whatever it might be and we're going to do a ring fence on a one off campaign on a handful of keywords just to see what happens.” Almost just as a marketing investment. Typically the, “How much should I spend?” Question, my thing is if people are serious and they're talking about being in it for the long haul is to start small, do a fairly limited trial, build your confidence, and as it starts to work scale up. It might be you've got a number of different products or services.

Well, I would say to people, “If you're an ECommerce retailer and you haven't tried paid advertising yet, well, how many products have you got and what are your top 10? Have you compared the prices of your top 10 to your competitors? We obviously know one of the biggest is Amazon, but who else? Just do some really basic research and then if you're selling these products already and they're going really well, then that's where I would stop on a limited basis. Get it working and then scale up and then keep going to the point where hopefully this advertising machine is working so well for you that a budget restriction is the last thing on your mind.”

Mark Vang: All right, it's paying for itself at that point, so … All right, I have not seen any new questions on the forum here today, so it looks like we don't have any new questions. I do want to point out once again that Adrian's written a blog post with a full transcript of a video he released just last week which has the full presentation on AdWords and I'm going to add those links to the description for this video as well. Of course, we'll have Adrian's contact info in that as well, so that if you have questions about AdWords you can get a hold of him. I don't know, is there anything, you want to go ahead and wrap it up? Is there something you wanted to add before we shut it down here, Adrian?

Adrian Bold: No, those questions we've covered today are ones that have come up before actually, when I've delivered that presentation to an offline crowd. They were some of the questions that come up. No, that's it from my point of view, Mark. Thank you again for hosting me today. Obviously, if there is anything else people can comment either on through the Bold Internet site or through the Google+ event page and we'll pick up any questions there as well.

Mark Vang: Okay, also Adrian's on LinkedIn as well.

Mark Vang: We'll throw that in through the video description. That way, you can get a hold of him any which way. Yeah, Adrian I always enjoy talking to you about this. As I've mentioned a couple of times, my forays into AdWords have mostly been just to try to get a feel for how Google is implementing promotional posts and how promoted posts work because my approach is generally from the social media side of things. Honestly, yeah, I can't emphasize how much it's … Before you start playing with your own money, you really need to look at deciding what metrics you need to measure, how you're going to measure what success is, and what … So you're getting your money's worth.

I think it's an ongoing process, because you just have to be flexible enough to understand that as the market evolves or as you try out different products, you're probably going to want to change things. You just have to be open to that. You're not going to be able to set up a fixed campaign and just let it run I don't think for the most part. You're never going to know what's working and what isn't if you haven't looked at your website as well. Is your website addressing the same objectives as far as marketing your business, whether you're selling products or services. It's a 3 pronged approach I guess I would almost say is, you don't just have one marketing system for your business, you have to tie them all together so you can actually measure the results. Enough rambling from me there on that. Adrian, I'll just go ahead and cut us loose here and it was great chatting with you again.

Adrian Bold: Thanks, Mark. Happy Thanksgiving for tomorrow as well by the way.

Mark Vang: Thank you very much and then Black Friday where we're our mandatory purchase. I'll lose my U.S. citizenship if I don't buy something on Black Friday.

Adrian Bold: Let's not forget that holiday season.

Mark Vang: Yeah. What, what happened? Oh yeah, that's what we're buying the stuff for. I keep forgetting that. Yeah, yeah. My God, just crazy. All right Adrian, talk to you later.

Adrian Bold: Cheers, bye Mark.

Mark Vang: Thank you for joining us, bye bye.

If you would like some more help or tips, then our Google Ads Advice post may be of use. 

Failing that, get in touch if you could do with some help with your Pay per Click

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