Ask Spork Marketing: Can We Manage AdWords In House?

A potential client recently asked the following question:

Question: Can we manage our own AdWords campaign just as effectively as a PPC management company like yours can?

Answer: Unless you’ve got an experienced Adwords certified pro on staff, probably not.

The reason? Google AdWords is deceptively simple. It seems as if all one needs to do is select some keywords, write some ad copy, and put in a credit card number…but it’s much more complicated than that.

Successful AdWords management is a lot like spinning plates, especially if you’re just learning.

AdWords is a competitive advertising system with complex rules and an incredible variety of settings. Success requires a complete understanding of the AdWords system and experience. Here’s why working with a PPC management company is a good investment.

What Makes AdWords So Complex?

Let’s assume we’re selling lift kits online and start with the basics. What keyword(s) are we going to advertise against?

  • The keyword “lift kit” is probably too broad…it’s unlikely that we’re going to carry every kind of lift kit for every make and model.
  • The keyword “Chevy lift kit” might be better (assuming we sell Chevy lift kits), but we’re going to need the plural version (“Chevy lift kits“) as well as all the models…Chevy Colorado, Chevy Silverado, Chevy Tahoe, etc.
  • We should also create keywords that don’t include the word “Chevy” – some people just search for “Silverado lift kits” and we want to make sure our ads reach them as well.
  • Of course, some people don’t use the words Chevy or Silverado. Some might use “GM 1500” to describe their truck, “K1500”, or maybe even just “1500”. Let’s add those to our pile.
  • Let’s not forget that “Chevy” and “Chevrolet” are used interchangeably…we’re going to need to cover both versions.
  • What about the brands of lift kits we carry (like Tuff Country, Fabtech, Rancho, etc.)? We should probably advertise against those keywords too. Model numbers are also a good idea.
  • In order to make sure our ads don’t show on searches for “pictures of lift kits” or “lift kit instructions,” we’re going to have to setup some negative keywords.

Depending on how thorough we are, we could easily generate a few hundred keywords here.

Once we’ve got our keywords, we’re going to want to sort them into ad groups of 6-20 keywords (Google’s recommendation), write 2-3 ads for each group (and make sure those ads target the specific keywords), set bids for each group, etc.

What About The Competition?

Once we’ve done all of the above and our ads are up and running, our work has just begun. We’re going to need to analyze and re-evaluate everything in our account constantly.

If – for example – we bid too much for a keyword that doesn’t convert, we waste budget. If we bid too little, we miss opportunities. The trouble is, our competitors are constantly adjusting their bids as we are adjusting ours. This means that bids are constantly in flux, especially on competitive keywords. It would be a mistake to manage our bids via the “set it and forget it” method…our competitors are too savvy to let us do that.

Our competitors are also always looking for an edge. They will steal or co-opt our ad copy, one-up our offer text, etc. Our ads must be updated regularly.

Finally – and most importantly – all of the above doesn’t even begin to touch on managing our ads to be profitable. Are we measuring conversions correctly? Do we know how much we’re really spending to generate a sale? Do we know how our landing pages are working? Are there changes we can test? etc.

Summing Up

The best way to sum up the complexity of the AdWords system: The AdWords Learning Center provides free training to anyone interested in becoming a certified AdWords professional. Certification requires passing both a “fundamentals” course and a specific system course. The PDF help guide for the fundamentals course (the easier of the two) is 424 pages in length. You can download it here to see for yourself.

It’s not necessarily hard to manage your own campaign, but it’s certainly not easy…especially when you consider that at least one of your competitors (and perhaps all of them) are employing experienced AdWords professionals to manage their ads.

In other words, don’t bring a fork to a knife fight…bring a SPORK. 🙂