NOTE: This post was written in 2014… Many ideas are still relevant, but some of the details about how to create online ads have changed since that time, so this is only a loose guide – you may be better served by more current articles.
Another Note: The process I recommend below is first building your ads in Google, then just importing them to Bing. If you want to advertise ONLY on Bing, you can start by creating ads there… the process is reasonably similar to the Google process I describe below.
What are search engine network (SEN) ads?
When someone goes to a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) and types in words to search for (called keywords), they get their search results, and they get targeted ads.
These ads might appear just above the search listings (looking almost like a search result, but marked as “ad”) or in the sidebar on the right hand side (again, marked as “ad” or “sponsored.”) These are very effective at reaching some consumers, but honestly, others have learned to “filter” that information – they don’t even look at that portion of their screen.
As the advertiser, you choose the location for people you want to reach (city, state, country…), and a collection of keywords that would trigger your ad. If someone in that area types in the keywords that match yours, then your ad will run…. assuming your “bid” of how much you were willing to pay for an ad beats out how much other people are willing to offer for that same ad space. (You set a maximum bid you’re willing to pay. The search engine can suggest a customized range for your keywords. There is more competition for certain demographics and keywords. For example, I found it was much cheaper to run ads for toddler classes than for preschools – $1.25 per click on average vs. $2.14 per click – apparently there’s a lot more competition in the preschool market.)
You only pay if someone clicks on your ad to learn more. So your ad could display to a 1000 people for free if none of them clicked. Or, if you were really lucky, and you had a 5% click through rate (this would be really high), 1000 people would see the ad and 50 people would click to learn more. If your cost per click was $1.00, that would be $50.
Don’t worry, your ad can’t run away from your over night and hit you with $100 in unexpected ad costs. You can set maximum budgets: maximum per day, or lifetime maximum on an ad. I tended to run $6.00 per day maximum, or $20 lifetime for an ad.
Ads on the Google network run on Google searches, AOL, YouTube and other search partners. Ads on the YahooBing network display on searches on Yahoo and Bing.
What are display network ads?
You can also choose to run your ads on the display network (formerly known as content network) which is a huge collection of websites that have Google AdSense enabled or are partnered with Bing (MSN, MSNBC, NBC News, Today show, etc.)
Again, you select keywords, and the search engine basically finds websites that have lots of similar keywords, and if people from your desired demographic go to that site, your ad will display. So, if someone wanted to sell a toy screwdriver for toddlers, they might have keywords like “toy screwdriver” “toy tools” “play tools” “kids build” and so on. Then if someone was reading a blog entry about letting kids “tinker” and build things, your ad might display there. If someone looked at a toy chest on a website that said you need a screwdriver to assemble it, your ad might display there.
Like search network ads, you only pay if they click on your ad.
Running display network ads is MUCH cheaper. Your ads will show to a lot more people. However, they are much less likely to click through to learn more. If someone searches for “toddler temper tantrums” and sees an ad that promises an article with practical tips for managing tantrums, they’re likely to click through. If, on the other hand, someone was browsing through a bunch of articles on babycenter, and just happened to click to an article about toddler tantrums, they’re not likely to care enough to click on that same ad.
I ran two different types of ads: “program ads” were for local classes, and were targeted at people who live in the cities where classes are offered. “Article” ads were for either an online article about temper tantrums in toddlers or an ad for free printable resources for parent educators; these were targeted nationwide.
Most of these were “search engine network only” ads, so only appeared if people searched for the keywords I had defined.
|# impressions for $10||Click thru rate||Cost per click|
|Bing programs (4 ads)||240 – 1260||540||.8 – 4.2%||2.4%||.71 – 2.77||1.54|
|Bing articles (4)||250 – 1160||400||1.8 – 8.1%||4.8%||.49 – .64||.51|
|Google programs (7)||500 – 2500||1241||.3 – 1.1%||0.6%||1.32 – 2.14||1.60|
|Google articles (5)||223 – 5200||2160||.4 – 3.1%||0.5%||.51- 2.22||.88|
Your results may be very different depending on what service you are marketing, and what demographic you aim your ads to, but this will give you a sense of what to expect.
Difference between Google and Yahoo Bing
Based on my experience and industry results: You’ll get more impressions (your ad displays to users) on Google. Yahoo Bing will have a much lower cost-per-click. Industry says Google has a higher click-through-rate (percent of people who see you ad, and click through to your site to learn more) but I found that Bing’s CTR was much better. I don’t know whether that’s my geographic location or my targeted population that leads to that.
As a sample, I ran an ad to a nationwide audience for a professional workshop being held in Seattle. The ads on Google and Bing were pretty much identical. Search network only ads, maximum daily budget of $6. I monitored both campaigns and paused them when I had spent just over $40. Results:
Google: campaign ran for 8 days (August 21 – 29). 2716 impressions. 18 clicked through (CTR 0.66%). Cost per click $2.29. Total spent $41.15.
Bing: campaign ran for 17 days (August 22 – September 9). 1453 impressions. 55 clicks (CTR 3.79%) Cost per click $.78. Total spent $43.01.
So, if your timeline is short (say you’re advertising an upcoming event), choose Google, because they’ll get more impressions out faster because their volume is higher. If your goal is just name exposure, choose Google because there will be more impressions. If you want more click throughs and want to pay less per click, choose Bing. Generally it’s probably best to use both, since most users have a preferred search engine: if you’re only advertising on Google, you’ll never reach the Bing users, and vice versa.
How to set up a Google ad
Go to www.google.com/adwords/
Set up a Google AdWords account by typing in your email address and website URL.
You’ll get this screen:
Set your maximum daily budget. I tended to set $6.00 or so. You could certainly do more (lots more, I’m sure) but not less – if I had less than the ad would only run once or twice a day maximum.
Choose a location. Generally, the more targeted the better. I ran a few ads nationwide for my blog, because I figured if one person in Nebraska, one in Delaware and one in Idaho liked it and posted something about it to their social network, that gave me broader reach than if 3 people in Seattle liked it. But, when I’m advertising a preschool, I advertise only to the city it’s located in. You could even target to a single zip code, like 98004 vs. all 5 zip codes in Bellevue, WA. Just click on “let me choose” and type in the city name or zip code.
Keywords. Click on “select your keywords” and it will suggest several just based on the words that appear most frequently on your website. If you mouse over any of them, it will also give you a “more like this” button which you can click on for more ideas. If you like all the keywords they offer, just click “save” and it will select them all. If you don’t like some, click on the X to delete. You can also enter your own keywords into the box below the list, and click “add” to add them to your list before saving. To decide what keywords to use, put yourself in the shoes of the kind of client you want to attract to your site. What keywords would they type into a search if they were looking for a service like yours? (more thoughts on keywords here.)
Set your bid. I always pick the option that says “Automatically set my bids to get the most clicks within my budget”
Then write your ad.
- Choose your landing page. Pick exactly the page of your website you want users to go to when they click on your ad.
- Type in a headline. It’s limited to 25 characters! Put your most eye-catching keywords here or the best summary of your program. For example, “tips for calming tantrums” or “parent-toddler classes”. Remember to think about the ad in the context it displays. If someone just typed in related search terms and they glance at your headline, will it catch their attention?
- Then type in your ad text. You have two lines, 35 characters each. Not much. You’re probably going to have to draft lots of ideas before you come up with something you like. For example, “Research-based & reality-based ideas for handling your child’s meltdowns.” or “Play-based learning for your child, parent education & support for you.” The goal of your headline and text is to hook a user’s attention enough that they will click through. Once they click through, then you need to make sure the content of the web page you take them to keeps them reading! And tells them all the essential info that they need about your program.
- Save and continue.
- Set up all your billing info.
- Review your ad and keywords, then “finish and create campaign”
- Once the ad is set up, you can easily go back in and edit the ad, keywords, etc.
- There’s a little more you want to do once the ad is set up: Go to the campaigns home page. Click on the settings tab, you can then set the start date and end date for your ad in the settings table. In the networks column, you can choose whether to run just search ads, or also run display network.
- You can target your demographics for display network ads (not for search networks). On the ad group tab, click on the name of your ad group to select it. Then click on the display networks tab. Click the red button that says “+ targeting”. Then click on “add targeting”. Choose demographics. I choose female, 25 – 44, parent, but you should choose whatever is appropriate for your service.
Once your ad is up and running, I would recommend returning to the campaign manager and looking at your results at least once a day (with your first campaign) to see how it’s doing, and adjust as needed. You can always edit the ad, change the keywords, adjust your budget, etc.
How to set up a Yahoo Bing ad
Assuming you’ve set up ads in Google already, it’s really easy. Go to http://advertise.bingads.microsoft.com/en-us/home. Set up an account. Click on the Import campaigns tab and import from Google. After import is complete, check it over to make sure everything is right, then run the ad.
If you need additional help on either of these systems, they both have extensive help files and customer support to get you going.