Delving into AdWords: The challenge of costly complications

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For most of my business life, Google AdWords (now Google Ads) have been so near, but so far. So near, in that the converse side of the AdWords business — Google AdSense — has been significant, to the point that I’ve been designated by Google as a Product Expert for the past decade, with several expense-paid invitations to meet-ups and summits (and a fortunately fateful decision after one of these events to purchase a significant number of GOOGL shares for my personal investment account.)

So far, in that since we sell advertising, don’t purchase it, for this business, I’ve rarely even considered purchasing and using AdWords or for that matter any form of paid advertising to promote our products.

The recent monopoly-breaking launch of Ontario Construction News, however, seemed to provide a legitimate opportunity to use AdWords.

I conceived that the occasional-use product we sell, a specialized legal advertisement only relevant in Ontario — would be something people would search for on Google; and because we can tightly geofence our clicks, and there would effectively be almost no competition for the specialized keywords, prices would be low.

I was right about the geofencing, but wrong about the pricing/cost — and effectiveness.

First, I failed to consider that the incumbent business would take measures to protect its turf. It has set up its own AdWords campaign, and doesn’t need to spend a fortune to outbid me. And in an uncontrolled keyword auction environment, I know the incumbents will win — first because they have the cash from their existing monopoly-era revenues and second, because they “own” the natural organic keyword search terms here. (They are doing nothing wrong here — their status has been legitimately earned and their measures are entirely appropriate for their business, even if they suck for me.)

I also have noticed that when there is money to be made, experts come out of the woodwork. I’ve been unusually receptive to these cold-call inquiries, because, when push comes to shove, I realize I don’t really know what I am doing here and could certainly benefit by absorbing some intelligence.

Again, though, things aren’t quite working out as planned. At least a couple of the cold call service offers died on the vine when the caller (I speculate) realized the unusual nature of our requirements and that we don’t represent a good (easy) marketing revenue catch.

After all, we have very specific keywords that will search on relatively low volumes (that is okay because of the specialized nature of our offer) and we aren’t going to want to play with extended concepts such as content marketing and other tools that may be sensible for competitive local merchants and service providers.

At least one Google-employed consultant stopped working with us. A second has proposed and set up a campaign, but I can see that there are already challenges in that the system is registering it as “low quality” — frustrating because of course I’m ready to follow whatever rules are required.

The learning curve I’m going through now (considering that I have some marketing knowledge/expertise) suggests that the real world for most businesses must be a real minefield.

How can you get around these challenges?

I suppose the best, though somewhat unsatisfactory, answer is to be patient and stay tuned as I learn what works, what doesn’t and discover the best way to proceed. I expect in the end I’ll figure out the best approach and our simple project will provide useful ongoing insights. Sometimes the best way to learn is by doing, and making mistakes along the way.

Hardly expert advice, I realize. But I’m in for the long game, and will learn what works, and will share these results with you.

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