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This week we talked to Dave Collins of
www.SharewarePromotions.com about how to choose, maximize and monitor your marketing efforts via online advertising via Google AdWords and other services. Dave and his company are masters at this complex art and he reveals some of his secrets and points
out how to find out if anyone is even searching for the keywords you might buy.
Google AdWords Management Service:
Google AdWords Report Service:
Competitive Edge Monthly Newsletter: http://www.sharewarepromotions.com/newsletter/
ORGANISATIONS: Association of Independent Software Industry Professionals: http://www.aisip.com/
Association of Shareware Professionals: http://www.asp-shareware.org/
GOOD INFO: Joel On Software's The Business of Software: http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/?biz
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Michael Lehman: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the MicroISV Show here on Channel Nine. I'm Michael Lehman, Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, along with my co-host, Bob Walsh, Managing Director of Safari Software. Today we are going to be speaking with Dave Collins of Shareware Promotions.
Bob has his new book, "Clearblogging," which is just out, and he is also running a weekly series on his blog, MyMicroISV.com on which he is evaluating web sites. So if you would like to be a victim or, excuse me, a volunteer go to MyMicroISV.com and drop Bob a line.
Also, on the projectglidepath.net site, where I am running an evangelism program for Micro ISVs, we are now featuring the Project Glidepath Windows Vista Spotlight. If you are a Micro ISV and you have an application that runs on Windows Vista, please come and click on the link at right, and submit your application, and if you are one of the first 30 companies to pass our compatibility tests, you'll receive a free Zune. In any event, you'll get listed in the spotlight and covered on my blog, and in a number of other venues here at Microsoft, and we will promote your application as a MicroISV.
So now, without further ado, Bob Walsh and Dave Collins. Take it away, Bob.
Bob Walsh: Thanks, Michael. Today we have with us Dave Collins, who is the founder and Chief Bottle Washer and busy man around town of Shareware Promotions. Shareware Promotions is basically a MicroISV without software, based in the UK. What they do is they work with MicroISVs a la shareware authors and startup companies to get the word out about their product. They do software marketing, SEO, submissions, and Google AdWords, which is going to bring us to the topic today.
Dave can talk a lot about a lot of different things that are useful to MicroISVs, but for today we are going to focus on Google AdWords and what a MicroISV needs to know about them. We're going to start with the question of, let's say that you're just about to start selling your MicroISV product or web site, and you know that Google is out there at least, you should and now the question is, do you go for AdWords or not? That's the first question for Dave, here.
Dave Collins: Thanks, Bob. I think the answer to that really depends on the state of the MicroISV, if the company is ready to sell and if, specifically, the web site is really ready to, if you like, sing the praises of the software and really do a good marketing job and sales job; then absolutely, there is no reason to hang around. The sooner you can get your software, push it in front of the eyes of the people who are interested in it, on Google, the better.
But the web site does need to be ready in terms of doing a good job of presenting the product, the benefits, the features, and basically taking the user, the visitor, by the hand, leading them through the product and convincing them that they want to, at the very least, try it if not buy it.
Bob: Well you know, it sounds like besides putting forth your MicroISV user proposition, there may be some elements in there that you have to contend with in terms of search engine optimization and metawords and all those other good things that are out there. What would be the three things beside having a ready-to-show, good looking, intelligently designed web site that expresses your marketing position, what other things do you have to cover before you get into AdWords?
Dave: The main difference, I mean, if you are comparing regular SEO channels with AdWords, the two main differences are, first of all, with SEO it is a lot of work, a lot of experimentation, and especially new web sites can often wait six, nine, twelve months or longer before actually showing up in the index. The difference with AdWords is that it's up there more or less within minutes. You open your account, set up some ads, put in your keywords, and before you know it, it is up quite literally minutes after you open the account. The problem with it is that you're paying for it.
Bob: So probably AdWords comes before SEO.
Bob: It sounds like AdWords would be the thing you want to do before you get into the whole sort of SEO briar patch.
Dave: I'd say, for me, it's not a case of either or, it's a case of both. The advantage of AdWords is that it's instant, you can be up there immediately. The disadvantage is, whereas with SEO you learn as you go along and mistakes don't really cost you any more than ranking, mistakes in AdWords can end up costing you a fair amount of money. You do need to know what you are doing before you just start burning through your expensive clicks.
Bob: Well maybe the place to start, then, is, OK, if AdWords are the right thing to do when you are about to start selling, what would be your sort of two-minute view of what that is going to look like for that MicroISV? What sort of things can they expect to see happen there?
Dave: Assuming that the person responsible for the AdWords account had got a reasonable grasp, what you can get from AdWords is an incredibly qualified stream of visitors and traffic coming to your web site, in the sense of, you are in complete control, exactly what people are looking for. So you can say, "If they are looking for these precise things, show them the ads." The beauty of the system is, if they see the ads and they are not impressed, they are not going to click on it and you are not going to be charged.
So really, I mean, it is more or less unparalleled in the sense of, the company can direct the exact people they want to come to visit their web site and see their product or products. They are in complete control. Not only that, but that can even put the value on each and say how much they are actually prepared for each of these visitors. So there is an amazing degree of control there.
That is really quite different, in a sense, from regular SEO, where realistically you are always going to get a lot of traffic coming from Google and the other search engines through regular SEO who are, in fact, interested in what you are looking for. There are a whole host of reasons why, but really that costs you nothing other than bandwidth, which is, especially today, it is remarkably cheap.
Michael: Let's jump in here for a...
Michael: I just want to jump in here for a second, Dave, and ask you to define what SEO is, in case somebody doesn't know that particular acronym.
Dave: Sorry, yes. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is basically a process of making sure in essence it is a process of making sure that the search engines can find the material that is on your site to read it and index it. And that the people looking for whatever it is, whether it is product or information, services that you may be selling from your site or pushing from the site, that they find it. It is basically making sure that your site is well set up for the search engines.
Dave: So as I was saying, the key difference with AdWords is you are not only in control of what it is that people are going to be looking for that brings them to the site, but you are even in full control of exactly what they are going to see when they arrive. There is no random factor where they may see certain pages of your site. You can make sure people searching for a specific phrase get to land on a page on your web site that is completely tailored around that specific phrase. If you get it right, it is pretty much the most targeted form of marketing that exists.
Bob: It sounds like, one of the things that I get by implication, there is that if you go out and you are spending money on AdWords, you should not just point them to the front page of your web site, you should be pointing them toward a landing page that is tailored to the word that got them there in the first place.
Dave: That's right. There are occasions when the main index page, the home page of the web site, will work very well for specific ads and specific keywords, but generally speaking, if you are maintaining an AdWords account, by default the ads shouldn't just all point to the same page. You're missing out, really, on a lot of the flexibility of being able to set up these tailored pages. So bearing in mind that you're paying for every single click, it is extremely important that you can do absolutely everything in your power to make sure that once they click on your ad that they find exactly what they are looking for and they stay on the web site.
Michael: Let me ask another question. Oh, go ahead, though.
Bob: On the keywords side, how does a MicroISV go find their starter kit of keywords?
Dave: The process is actually very simple. In a sense it is not dissimilar from the same process as regular SEO, the search engine optimization. The key mistake that people make is that they focus on the words that they think that users may be searching for, and in actual fact it can be very, very different from what it is that the majority of the people out there are searching for. So the good news is, there are a whole load of different sites and services out there that make finding these keywords very, very easy. Google themselves, within your AdWords account, actually have a keyword tool which is, it is better than nothing but it is very, very imprecise and it is very, very basic.
The couple of services that we work with and recommend are WordTracker at WordTracker.com and also Keyword Discovery at KeywordDiscovery.com. Both of these sites' services tap into massive, massive databases. So basically you put in a word that you think people may be looking for, and you get all the synonyms, the variations, associated words, and you can actually see for all these lists, you can see for each word exactly how many searches, to get a good feel for how much demand there is out there. So growing the keyword list is a critical part of the process, but with WordTracker and Keyword Discovery it is actually a very, very easy process.
Bob: Well let me kind of give you a hypothetical here. Let's say I do a MicroISV Web 2.0 service for nurseries, and it is basically an accounting package for nurseries so they can track what they sell, the plants, and the basic stuff, but of course it is on the Web so that makes it shinier and easier to use. And I'm going to charge, let's just say for the sake of argument, $30 a month, and I want people to come find this. So would a good keyword be "nursery" or "nursery software," or am I not going in the right direction there?
Dave: It's a good start, it's a very good start, but the point is that really in a sense the base, the starting point, for your searches are all common sense. So if it is nursery software then obviously you should actually be looking for that as a starting point, if nothing else, just to get the ideas, just to get an idea of what people may be searching for. The reason why you really need services like WordTracker and Keyword Discovery is I suspect there isn't a person in the world who can tell me off the top of their head how many people a day, or even a week, may actually be searching for the phrase "nursery software."
But when you run that phrase through these services, you not only find out it could be anywhere from literally zero to hundreds a day I suspect it is closer to zero but you just don't know. But you get a feel for how many people are searching for them, and you actually get a feel for what other phrases they may be searching for that are related. And while you were actually talking, I actually ran "nursery software" through one of these companies, and I see there is no one searching for "nursery software."
Dave: But there are two searches a day for "tree nursery software" for the phrase "tree nursery software." In a million years I would never have guessed that that is a phrase that people are searching for, but services like this make finding these phrases very, very easy.
Michael: Let me jump in and also ask another question, partly because this is going to run on Channel nine here at Microsoft, and of course as everyone knows we also make a search engine, as do other people. In the process of thinking about these things, I guess I have two questions. One of them is, right now are there any viable alternatives to Google AdWords, and if so is it something that you would recommend a MicroISV be looking at right now.
I understand that the lion's share of the market is obviously, right now, in what Google is doing, but how would you advise people, if at all, to consider other search engines and other advertising things? What I believe is happening is that our adCenter product is now accepting advertisers, and in some future date will also accept something allowing people to put links on their blogs and so forth to drive traffic.
Dave: Right. In answer to your question, there are actually a lot, a lot of different alternatives that are out there. At the present time I'm sure 99.9 percent of people listening to this will already understand Google is by far the most dominant in terms of size and in terms of, really, return on time invested, in terms of how much you are going to spend on this and how much money and time, and how many people you are going to see at your website.
In the past, I mean really the first big one historically was GoTo, that then became Overture, that then became Yahoo! Search Marketing Net; and anyone who knows me and has heard me speak at the conferences knows that I am no great fan of Overture or Yahoo! Search Marketing as they are now, really mainly because they haven't evolved with time. Aside from fairly regularly changing their name, their actual system is still stuck more or less at the same place it was five, six years ago, if not more.
There are other options as well. There are a lot of pay-per-click schemes. You mentioned specifically Microsoft adCenter. We have dipped our toes in, we set up an account a while ago and played around with adCenter, and my theory on it is this is the one to watch in terms of if anyone's got the resources and the expertise to make a new scheme really work, then clearly Microsoft has got to be pretty much at the top of that list. I'm going to see what is going to happen with MSN adCenter. But at this point in time a problem that a lot of MicroISVs have is limited resources in terms of time, and at this point in time everything that we have worked with has suggested that, in terms of return, AdWords is the one to be working with right now, and at this point in time nothing else comes close.
Michael: That makes sense. One other question I had for you is: I'm a MicroISV, I have written an application, now I am thinking about doing AdWords. How much money per month should I be expecting to spend on AdWords, or what is a reasonable amount of money per month to spend, and what kind of return do I get for that? What are typical results, I guess?
Dave: OK, that was a variation of the question that I was dreading, actually, that I was hoping wouldn't be asked. It is obviously, it is a question that a lot of people ask me. The bottom line is if I take a step back, if you don't mind there are two ways to succeed with Google AdWords. One is with expertise and finesse, and the other one is money; and you actually can completely do, really, really run quite a good AdWords campaign with absolutely no expertise and knowledge, and just throw money at it, and you will do reasonably, you can do reasonably.
I'm sure you can probably guess, in many industries money wins over expertise hands down. But one of the things that is quite interesting about the MicroISV industry is a lot of these companies, they are not sitting on huge amounts of money, and they are not prepared to just throw X thousands every day, every week, or every month, into AdWords and just hope that it works. So they basically lean more towards trying to get the upper hand in terms of the control and the expertise as opposed to the money.
Now the bottom line of how much a company needs to spend, it is absolutely impossible to answer, because the factors that will affect the amount that you are going to have to pay per click will, first of all, be your competitors. If, let's say hypothetically, your company has five, six competitors, and they are all throwing a lot of money at their ads, and they are paying a lot of money per click, then realistically at least initially you are also going to have to spend a lot per click just to get towards the top of that list.
The other point is that Google sets an actual initial value of each keyword. It seems arbitrary but I don't believe that it is. I mean, it is essentially demand and supply, and they know if a company is prepared to spend $10 per click on a particular keyword, well why should they sell it for five cents. So there is Google and there is your competition. They are the two main factors that will actually set how much you have to spend per click. So when you add that together, you've got the combination of how much you actually, you want to spend per click, how much you want to spend per day.
So for instance, you've got a $10 budget, a $10 daily budget, but you actually have to spend $2 per click, it is not really going to get you very far. You are going to get five, possibly six clicks a day, and that's it, you have hit your daily budget and nothing else is going to happen that day. Whereas other people, perhaps they are going after keywords that you don't have to spend anywhere near as much money.
For the same ten dollars a day they could literally be getting hundreds of clicks for the same money. It really depends on the keywords that you're after, how much other people are prepared to spend on them and really most crucially, critically, in a way is how well you can work the AdWords system. Because if you can work the system, you can turn it around, you can actually get more traffic, more clicks, spend less.
But if you don't really know what you're doing then you're more at Google's mercy and you'll actually get less traffic and spend more. But the bottom line is that $1 a day might be enough to get a reasonable number of clicks or $200 a day might not be enough at all.
Bob: And how you do your job with AdWords can really have that type of a range of impact.
Dave: It can have a massive impact. A very important point to understand is that the Google AdWord system by default is unbelievably heavily biased towards Google. And it goes without saying, it's not going to surprise anyone that Google AdWords does work to the favor of Google. But by default the whole system sets up a whole series of defaults that are actually quite bad for the advertiser but very good for Google.
An example I often give conferences to try and get this point across, I give an example where fictitious companies spend a hundred dollars a day on their AdWord account and every single day they make consistently $120 worth of sales. So from their point it's spend a hundred, make a 120. It's only $20 profit but it's in a sense money for nothing.
So that company might consider the option of "Well instead of spending a hundred, let's spend a thousand, so that then we'll be $200 a day for nothing." In the example that I give, what may actually be happening in this example where they're spending 100 and getting 120 back, what they may not realize is that of the 100 being spent each day, only 20 is actually generating the 120 worth of sales. And the other 80 is thrown straight into the bin or into the pockets of Google depending on how you look at it.
And this is a farfetched example but it's actually a scenario that we're very used to seeing. So I quite absolutely take my hat off with utmost respect for Google for the genius that underlies the system. In a sense they're running a casino, and one knows the house always wins in the casino.
But Google's stroke of genius is that even though you are actually losing, you walk out of the casino with a big grin on your face and you think that you're walking away a winner.
Bob: OK. So it sounds like on my whole list that I'm making of how to do AdWords right, I've got two things so far. First-of I want to get a good healthy pool of keywords. If I can find keywords that aren't going to cost me an arm and a leg - as far as Google thinks the markets for those are - that's a good thing.
My clients needs don't have budgets where they can afford, typically, $100 a day ad buy, more likely they are going to be spending $15 to $20 a day, at least initially. If they spend $500-$600 in a month, that's a significant outlay.
The second thing sounds like they need to really bone up on how Google really works. Don't take the defaults as being in their best interests, but the time they spend there will be time well spent, learning how the system really works. So does that make sense as a recap?
Dave: That does make sense. Well one other point that perhaps I've not emphasized anywhere near well enough, is that the keywords are obviously very important, but what a critical factor is that the keywords have to be as tightly targeted as possible.
As an example, if the product that you're selling is a email client, specifically for businesses, then if you go and set-up and AdWord account and you're going after the keyword "email" it's AdWord suicide. You're going to be getting a massive number of people typing in "email" who actually aren't interested in your product.
Whereas if you target the more obscure phrases like "email application for businesses" or "email application for small businesses" or "email application micro ISV" All these smaller, more obscure combinations. You're not going to get anywhere near as many people searching for that, but those that are should be a lot more interested, really, in what it is that you're selling.
It's a very important factor that your list of keywords has to be very much tightly focused.
Bob: So you want to tie you keywords back to how tight you focus your marketing segment. In other words, if you've got a product out there that's an email productivity application, it might be nice to say, "Well I'd like to sell it to everybody in the world who uses email" but the reality really is you need to start with maybe the 25 to 35 year old people who run their own businesses in the IT industry in the Northwest part of the United States, just to segment that down and then focus on those keywords.
Dave: Yeah, exactly. And, again, this goes back to understanding how the system works I don't want to get lost in the specifics but basically Google has what is called "matching options" by default for keywords, any keyword that you add by default in Google is "broadmatched." Now what that means all this is information that's available online on Google AdWords help if you bid on the word "email" for instance which we've already established would be a bad idea by bidding on the word email, if someone searched for "free email program" they may see you ad, that will trigger it.
If they're searching for "Mac email software" they are going to see it because the word email is in there, if they look for "free email" or for "send email" or for "email server" or for "email client" or "email protection," "email viruses" all of these things have the potential to trigger your ad, by default.
So, again, I'm just using this as an example to reinforce how absolutely important it is to really learn how the AdWord system works. Before you even think about actually dropping any money onto it, other than sort of dipping your toes in as an experiment at the beginning.
There are so many mistakes that you can make in a Google AdWords account, and there are so many mistakes that we see people making time and time again, that really cost them a lot more money than they need to spend.
Michael: Dave one of the things we heard when we talked with Joel Spulsky and we've heard from other guests and obviously we've talked about it at conferences is the fact that Micro ISVs, in general, their skill sets are biased in the technical direction and not in the sales and marketing direction. It sounds to me like some of the things you're saying are sort of basic marketing thinking.
If you had a Micro ISV come to you and wanted to get some help, is there any particular websites or books or courses or anything that you might recommend to one of them to beef up their knowledge of sales and marketing before you start to work with them on AdWords so they can start thinking in the sort of proper viewpoints of where they need to be. Because obviously if they're not even looking at things from the right place, and you said, they could waste a lot of money and even if they used your service they could they could chew up a lot of time and not get the results they wanted out of it.
So do you have any recommendations of things that people might do prior to spending money?
Dave: Yeah, there's actually a lot of information as I'm sure you can imagine the problem is really differentiating between the good resources and the not so good resources.
There are a huge number of different forums, some of which are very worthwhile; the Joel on Software Forums are a good source of knowledge, the Association of Shareware Professionals. There's a book that quite a good introduction, some guy called Walsh according to the cover, "Micro ISV from Vision to Reality" I suspect the name rings a bell. Which covers a lot of the basic and the not so basic.
But the bottom line is there is no shortage of resources, that really in a sense... The issue isn't the lack of information that's out there; the issue is how to actually recognize the good information and how to find it, and really very often the best option is simply to look around, use common sense. I mean, we can all spot a good forum, one that is really worthwhile and filled with good information, from the one that people are perhaps not quite in tune and not quite the vision to take their businesses where they want to go. But if we're talking specifically about AdWords, the marketing basics are absolutely, absolutely critical.
There are a lot of very good developers out there who need to really polish up their marketing skills because the two really do go hand in hand. And when it comes to AdWords you have got to have these marketing basics and with AdWords you have to know how the system works. Both of them are equally important. I mean, I would never name names, but nowadays our companies turned away. We actually turn away more companies than we choose to work with and send a price quote for simply because we don't believe that the product or the web site or the company is ready, if you like, to actually start spending money on the marketing.
Michael: One of the things that Joel was saying, and I wanted to see if you would corroborate this based on your experience with your clients, is that he said his almost number one rule is never start a company by yourself because you can't wear both hats successfully, both the marketing and sales hat and the technology and support hat. What do you think about that?
Dave: Oh, I couldn't agree more. I mean, it is a beautiful connected, wired world that we live in, and selling software on the Internet, on the Web, has literally has never been so easy. The problem is, these massive doors have been thrown open to the whole world, and the bottom line is that unless you are incredibly lucky there is a lot, a lot of competition out there. And unless you are unbelievably lucky and you actually are a talented businessman, a good marketer, you are good with figures, you can handle the accounts, a fantastic coder, a fantastic web site designer, your graphic design skills are superb and none of us, none of us at all can actually I mean it is not really about wearing two hats, it is more like wearing 15 or 20 hats none of us are in a position to do that and hope to excel at really any of them, never mind all of them.
So I completely agree. The problem is, small businesses don't like spending money. We don't like spending money. We would rather pay ourselves a salary rather than pass it on to a third company who are going to handle different things on our behalf; but it is just one of those realities of doing business. A reality of doing business is you do have to spend, whether it is spend on your AdWords account, spend on someone to handle your AdWords account, pay an accountant to do your admin and your paperwork, you just have to spend. Trying to do everything on your own is a pretty much 100 percent guaranteed way to make sure that the potential of your company is going to be capped.
Michael: It sounds like that is a guaranteed way to make that old adage true about, "The way to make a small fortune in the software business is to start with a large one."
Dave: Right, yeah. Very, very true.
Michael: It sounds like maybe what we need is the equivalent of Match.com except for programmers and marketing people and salespeople and so forth.
Dave: I think in a sense there are these forums out there. I mean there is the Association of Professional and Joel on Software. And all these places, in a way, if you use them correctly, that is what they do, they put the marketing people in touch with the developers because if you have a great product and someone who really knows what to do with the marketing and the sales, it is a fantastic combination. But aside from skill sets, I mean, how many of us are sitting around each day wondering how to fill the last three or four hours of our working day?
Bob: Well when I counted up the number of hats you have to wear when I wrote the book that you, by the way, nicely quote, thank you I got to 47 and then I stopped. And I agree that obviously it really helps if you have two people who have different skill sets, one more technical, one more toward marketing and people and that sort of thing; but I would just like to say for all the solo MicroISVs out there, it is possible to do both. It is not easy, and you will wish to God that you had more time every day, but there are ways of getting somewhere with this and it is possible. But I have to say it would have been easier, at least for me, if I had had a partner who could have dealt with either the coding part of things or the marketing part of things, instead of having to really deal with all of those things.
I want to come back, though, to AdWords for a second because so far we have been talking about, you are going to start selling a product. Well, what if you already are, you already have an AdWords campaign or two or three and now the question is, well, I have gained some results. How do you know if $80 of those $100 you are spending are actually going to waste, and if they are going to waste, how can you take your AdWords campaign up a level?
Dave: It's a very good question. In terms of knowing whether it is going to waste or not, just the simple answer is tracking. You absolutely have to have some form of tracking in everything that you do in your AdWords account. The beauty of the system is, it is more or less set up for this. It is heavily geared towards you being able to track. Whatever you may be interested in tracking, you can.
Now, the two things you need, you need some form of tracking that, personally, I would stick with the simple, stick with the basics; or you could go for Google's option, which they actually have built into the AdWords system, the conversion tracking. The problem with the conversion tracking is it is very, very limited. It is cookie-based and it expires after 30 days, so for a lot of people selling software that might be very far from ideal. But there is nothing whatsoever to stop you tracking, putting a different tracking referral code into each of the ads that you do, each of the ads that you're running, and then to actually follow this in your raw server logs, using web log analysis software to actually see which of the ads are working.
You don't need to get bogged down in the technical side of things but if, for example, you see that one ad may be sending 100 people a day to your web site. If the average time spent on your web site is two seconds, then you know something really isn't right with that ad. On the other hand, if the same ad is sending 100 people a day and the average time spent on the web site is one-and-a-half minutes, and they are looking on average at two or three pages, then you can say something is actually working quite well here. It is very, very easy. Really all you actually need is to add the tracking, and you need the log and AdWords software to actually handle that.
In terms of the other part of your question, how to expand an existing campaign, really, in a nutshell there are two areas that you focus on: you focus on the keywords and you focus on the ads. In a sense, the process is the same for each of them. It is a three-part process where you research, you carry out the research, you then expand what you already have in your account, and from there you track and purge. What I mean by that is track in the web logs, keep an eye on how these are actually performing. The ones that are not good, you just throw them away, delete them. The ones that are good, you leave there and you build on them. So you're sort of basically demolishing the weaknesses and you are building on the strengths, and that is really an ongoing process that you need to be carrying out within your AdWords account, both for keywords and the actual ads themselves.
Bob: One thing I would just add to that, Dave, is that as you delete those items that aren't working out, it might be a good idea to enter them in your business or development journal, just so you don't make the same mistake twice. It is very easy, as we process all this information, to forget that we have actually gone down a particular road. That is one of the things that I mentioned in a post a while ago at MyMicroISV about programmer productivity, and that is having a log of what you decide to do, and that is the sort of thing that would fit right in there.
Dave: Right. I agree. However, with AdWords there is a catch there. There are two catches to that approach, specifically with AdWords. The first is that with time there is going to be a massive amount of data that builds up there; but more importantly, the second problem is that people's searches and search patterns actually do change with time. So what doesn't work tomorrow might actually work fantastically well in three months or six months or twelve months, and you just don't know.
Something that is important to remember anytime you are over looking at one of your ads is that you've always got to remember unless your ad is the only ad being displayed on the page in Google search results, your ad is always going to be next to or surrounded by other people's ads.
So how your ad actually appears and how well it actually works can be massively influenced by the other ads. As an example, let's say you're, again we'll get the same example, let's say you're selling some sort of email client. Let's say there are five other companies all bidding against you. So anyone searching for email clients for businesses will see five ads and yours. If the other five ads are all displaying the prices and yours isn't that could actually work against you, in quite a big way.
If, on the other hand, the opposite's true. You're the only person displaying the price, and let's say hypothetically they think your price is quite high, they actually may be put off by that and the other ads that aren't displaying the price may be more appealing, and can get the clicks.
So in a way there's a catch. This is part of the beauty or, I suppose, the evil of the AdWords system, depending on how you look at it. You're absolutely forever chasing your tail. And there's no shortage of information. There's no shortage of data more or less on tap, but it's one of these examples that really the deeper you actually dig, the more confused you can get. And sometimes you just got to weigh it up, make a quick decision and throw it out there and see.
Bob: Well, let me ask another question kind of turning on that particular point. How often should I be monitoring my AdWords campaign? How often should I be in that dashboard looking at this information? How much of my time in life should I be spending on AdWords after I get it up and running?
Dave: In terms of how often to check it is a very, very important question actually. At the absolute least, I would recommend a very bare minimum that someone be checking their AdWords account spending some time there every two weeks. But really it should be weekly.
The other important point to consider is when you actually make changes to your AdWords account, whether it's adding keywords or deleting them, or adding or deleting ads, it doesn't matter. The point is, you've always got to allow these changes time to actually work and kick in and produce the results and data before you make any decisions. So you can't go the other extreme and sort of add five ads into your ad group tonight and tomorrow night be checking, see how it's working and deleting the three of them that aren't producing anything.
We generally recommend a seven-day cycle. The reason for that is once your ads are up, give it at the very, very minimum, seven full days to really work. The reason that we say seven days, is that you may well see very, very different patterns over a weekend and the week probably almost certainly you will. Some companies choose not to display their ads over the weekend some choose only to display their ads over the weekend. But you have to have a full seven days, or blocks of seven days in order to make an informed decision about what's working and what isn't.
Assuming you're going to be checking your AdWords accounts once a week and working on it, the amount of time you're going to be spending there really depends on how much money you're spending there. I mean, there's a common sense approach, if you're spending five dollars a day, so $150 a month, you don't want to be logging into your AdWords account once a week and spending four or five hours there.
If, on the other hand, you are spending, let's say $100 a day, so you are looking in the reach of $3000 a month, you also don't want to have your weekly AdWords session only being five minutes it just not enough. You need to get that balance, but it's roughly in proportion to how much you're spending there.
Bob: Any final advice for microISVs when it comes to Google AdWords?
Dave: Yeah, I'd say to sum it up more or less, I always say that AdWords is usually a moneymaker but not always. And the important thing to make sure that you are making sufficient return on your AdWords is simply to track. You absolutely have to track. It's absolutely critical.
It's equally important to keep up to date with what's actually happening. Now, Google has this fairly irritating habit. They add changes on a continual basis to the AdWords system. They don't have a "what's new" page on the website. They don't have a "what's new" location that you can go to see what these actual changes are. They do have their "Inside AdWords" blog, but they tend to only focus on the big changes. They make a lot of subtle changes that can make quite a big difference and it's never written up anywhere.
So I would also recommend keeping up to date with the news on Google AdWords. It's very, very, very important. Some of the changes that they make can actually have a massive impact on your bill, on your monthly bill and on the return that you are making. Inside AdWords is a good, definitely a good place to start. We actually have a blog on our website that only deals with AdWords changes. That's at www.sharepromotion.com/AdWords. You may go for a week or longer where we don't post anything there, because the only time we add something is when AdWords actually applies a change to the system. We will come across it quickly and tend to put it up very quickly as well.
The bottom line, I do like my analogies now when I say that AdWords is in a sense, to look at your AdWords account like you should be looking at a car. That you need to actually look after it, keep it safe and productive. If you have your car and it sits in the driveway and you never go anywhere you're not going to gain from it, but equally leave it in the driveway with the engine running and no one sitting in the driver seat is an invitation to disaster.
You need to treat the account well. You need to really, really learn how to use it. Really invest the time in learning how the AdWords system works. As long as you do, as long as you know how the system works, you track all of your assets, it's more or less impossible to lose.
Bob: Okay, Michael, any last questions?
Michael: No, I think it's been a great show. Dave, I want to thank you very much for coming on the MicroISV show.
Bob: One thing I want to point out to our listeners before we go here, is that sharewarepromotions.com has a newsletter and there are a lot of things we haven't covered about Google AdWords. For instance, the actual headlines that you write and how to write them. But I just got my nice February 2007 issue of Shareware Promotions Competitive Edge newsletter here. There's an article in here about copy writing for developers. So I would recommend everyone listening to this podcast, if you haven't already signed up for this free newsletter that Dave is doing, do it.
Dave: Thank you very much. I would add the address as well which is http://sharewarepromotions.com/newsletter. And all the information is there. It is similar to our AdWords blog in approach. It only goes out once a month and it's 100 percent unique content, which is all too rare nowadays, I think.
Michael: All right and we will include on the channel nine post, of course, links to all the things we've been talking about and Dave if you have other links besides the Joel on Software forum and the other forums you were talking about marketing, please send them along and we'll put them in the post.
Dave: Great. Thank you very much I will do.
Bob: Thanks, Dave.
Dave: Thank you very much, Bob and Michael.
Michael: Thank you. All right. So this is Michael Lehman, co-host of the MicroISV show here telling you that's the end of our interview with Dave Collins of sharewarepromotions.com. And come back next week for another podcast here on the MicroISV show. And check out Bob's new book at clearblogging.com. And don't forget to check out the Project Glidepath Windows Vista spotlight opportunity if you're a MicroISV to get your application featured and promoted by Microsoft at projectglidepath.net and for all of us and the MicroISV show see you next week.
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