As an individual artist with a web site (from which I sell my own art, write a blog, and run a Cafepress shop) I decided to give Google Adwords a try to raise more awareness of my cat themed art and gifts.
The following article describes my experience in using Adwords for the first time, over the period of a few weeks. Hopefully it will be helpful to those of you considering Google Adwords as a way of advertising your art online.
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I also highly recommend Dan’s series of five articles about Adwords. These will take you through the process of signing up for Adwords in a more detailed, step by step description.
As for me, I was completely new to Adwords, but I’ve studied everything I can on the other side of the equation—Google Adsense. You can see Google ads all over my web site, placed where you’ll be tempted to click.
Trialling Adwords was like being ‘the man behind the curtain’ . . . suddenly I was in control of what goes on behind the scenes, creating ads and adjusting settings, in the hopes of getting a lot of targeted traffic.
Before you start Adwords, know where you stand
Succeeding with Adwords is mostly about choosing the right keywords to bring interested visitors to your site. Before I signed up for Adwords I looked at my stats to see which search engine keywords were leading visitors to my site already.
My web site receives around 700-900 visitors per month, and approximately 60% of those visitors come directly from search engines.
My most popular keyword phrase for the first half of June 2008 was Krippin Virus—what the..? (I am Legend fans will know it).
The second most popular keyword phrase was Hazel Dooney, who is a great female Aussie artist, but. . . not me. Both keyword phrases come from posts in my blog.
The problem is, most of my search engine visitors, once they’ve read the article they followed a link to, rarely stay on and browse.
Many never see my art or visit my shop. I can tell this because of another statistic called bounce rate—which is simply the number of people who leave my site from the same page they arrived at.
The lesson here: if you’re writing a blog for the purpose of attracting search engine traffic, make sure you are writing about your art, how you create it and, more importantly, the subjects and themes your art covers. Otherwise you’ll be like me, with visitors who are only interested in the specific article or post that they clicked on.
I don’t plan on changing, because I like my eclectic mix of articles—they are another aspect of my creativity and not simply something I write to get search engine traffic.
In addition, my significant collection of articles is starting to earn a modest but very promising amount of monthly Adsense revenue.
What Adwords can do for you
The majority of my art is related to whimsical cat paintings, but anyone conducting a Google search for ‘Cat Art’, ‘Cat Painting’ or ‘Cat Gifts’ won’t find me at all because ‘cats’ is a huge theme online.
I’m not anywhere within sight of the first two pages in search results for these keyword phrases, which is why I’m trying Adwords. Adwords seems like it works best when you can target a specific subject or theme and by targeting cat specific keyword phrases I can get my Adwords ads onto the first page of search results.
The ads also make me look some what more professional because, people familiar with Adwords, know I’ve paid money to get my ads onto that page.
Understanding pay-per-click and payment options
Something that deterred me from using Adwords was the idea of pay-per-click. That is, every time someone clicks on your ad, you pay Google money.
Google has the largest ad network online, which gives rise to the notion that millions of people will suddenly start clicking your ad and you’ll be taking out a second mortgage on your house just to cover the debt.
More importantly though, you can set both a daily budget and a specific time period that your ads will run, making it easy to control spending.
For example, I signed up for Adwords Standard Edition, with a budget of five cents per click, up to a maximum of one dollar per day. Doing the math, that’s 20 clicks per day before my ads will stop showing across Google’s network for that day.
I also chose to prepay my account via bank deposit rather than have the clicks automatically deducted from a credit/debit card. That way I can budget an exact figure and have my adds running until my prepaid amount runs out.
If you pay by credit card then you’ll need to pay more attention to how many days you want your ads to show up on the network for. I went for the minimum payment of AU$20.00 for my starting budget ($10.00 of which is an account activation fee).
It’s important to remember that, although Adwords does cost you money every time someone clicks your ad, that is actually what you want to happen.
The strength of Adwords is that people click on your ad because they are interested in what you have to offer. The ideal result is, for every click on your ad (costing a few cents), you make a sale that brings in a few dollars profit.
Be prepared to raise your bids
When my ad went live I didn’t have to take out a second mortgage (I don’t even have a first mortgage, actually).
Unfortunately all my keyword choices were either lousy or pointless, or so I thought. What actually happened was that many of my keywords weren’t active for search, meaning that my ads for those keywords wouldn’t appear in Google itself, but they’d still appear on related web sites.
I was also completely overwhelmed by the Adwords Campaign Management pages. So many options and settings that it made my head spin. It didn’t help that I was trying to make sense of it all late in the evening either. In the end I decided to just leave everything as it was for a day—which I highly recommend.
Twenty four hours later my ad had been clicked seven times. Not earth shattering but better than I’d expected. Apparently my keywords weren’t all quite so bad after all.
Closer inspection revealed that all seven clicks came from the same keyword phrase, ‘pictures of cats’. To get those seven clicks my ad was served more than 1100 times on the search network. Obviously that’s a common search phrase because the phrase was inactive for search until I significantly increased my bid to more than five cents.
By day two, all eighteen of my keyword phrases were inactive for search, requiring me to raise my bid on each one by varying amounts to make them active again.
In the next week and a half I created a second variation on my text ad (at no extra cost) which performed just as well as my first. I made a second ‘landing’ page for my ads, which Google switched between automatically (again at no extra cost), to test which layouts performed better.
I also trimmed down all my keyword selections to those phrases that were most specific to my site. Finally I raised my bids to make more of my keywords active for search. After about 10 days my budget ran out, leaving me with the following results:
My ads were displayed more than 29,000 times and received 47 clicks—46 from Google’s search results pages and 1 from the content network. Clearly the search network is where people are more likely to click.
None of those clicks resulted in sales or new web site subscribers. However I can safely say Adwords sent people to my site that were searching for cat art and cat gifts—which is what I set out to achieve.
What I’m planning next with Adwords
At this time I haven’t added any new funds to restart my ad campaign, although I’m very encouraged by the amount of traffic I received.
My budget of $1 per day means I would need to make an average of one sale in my online shop every six days to break even (this is based on my own profit margins and will likely be different for you).
Something I’m very keen to try is image ads. Art is a very visual medium, and I’m interested to find out if seeing the art will encourage better quality clicks. Unlike text ads, people will get to see my art before clicking. If they go ahead and click, then in theory, that suggests they like the style of my art and are interested to see more.
There are other features that I’d like to experiment with too, such as video ads, but all this will have to wait for another article.
For now, I hope you’ve seen that while there’s a lot to learn, Adwords is well within reach of an average artist’s budget—and it can certainly help you capture additional visitors when search engine optimization isn’t bringing in enough traffic.