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.”)
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, the keyword “preschool Mercer Island” costs $2.80 for a first page bid, and “preschool Sammamish” costs $4.92, even though it’s the same product in two different suburbs of Seattle.)
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. When advertising small non-profits, I’ve done as little as $6 – 8.00 per day maximum, or $25 lifetime for an ad. Obviously, if you have more to spend, your ad will reach more people.
Ads on the Google network run on Google searches, YouTube and other search partners. Ads on the YahooBing network display on searches on Yahoo and Bing.
Online ads are an effective way for small businesses and non-profits to reach potential clients. If you have an ad in a newspaper, magazine, on a bus, billboard, or TV, it’s seen by a whole wide range of people, many of who may not be interested in your service. A search engine network ad allows you to target only to people who are looking for your service in your area.
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 and use tools, your ad might display there. (Perfect placement.) If someone looked at a toy dollhouse on a website that said an adult would need a screwdriver to assemble it, your ad might display there. (Not as perfect a placement.)
Like search network ads, you only pay if they click on your ad.
Running display network ads is MUCH cheaper. Your ads 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, and just happened to click to an article about toddler tantrums, they’re not likely to care enough to click on that same ad.
Here are the results of my five most recent campaigns, 3 for local services, 2 for websites with a national reach
|What I advertised||Impressions
|Clicks for $10||Click-thru rate||Cost per click|
|Program (local preschool)||630||6||1.0%||$1.62|
|Program (toddler classes)||430||6||1.4%||$1.63|
|Rentals (local facility)||270||6||2.2%||$1.73|
|Blog post (STEM Gift Guide)||504||10||2.3%||$0.87|
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.
How to set up a Google ad
Go to ads.google.com.
Set up a Google AdWords account by typing in your email address and website URL.
You’ll get this screen.
I have not used AdWords Express – it’s newer, and doesn’t have all the functionality of AdWords. So, I’m going to write the rest of this post assuming you choose to use the main AdWords. If you’d rather use AdWords Express, it should be even easier than what I detail here.
So, in the upper left, click on “compare AdWords Express with AdWords”, then when this pops us, choose “Switch to AdWords.”
You’ll get this page next:
Step 1 – Decide How Much to Spend (Budget)
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.
Step 2 – Choose a Target Audience
Locations: It may default to US and Canada. Click on the pencil there to edit that. 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. You’ll notice it asks if you want to “add” it, or “exclude it” or include “nearby.” We offer classes on the Eastside of Seattle. I could separately add in all 7 cities we have classes in. But instead, I typed Bellevue, and then clicked nearby, and it gives me this map. I can then go to the list there, and add in any cities I want. If a city I want doesn’t appear on the list, then I use the tab at the top where it says search.
You can just click on that “radius targeting” at the top right, type in your address, then choose everything within a 10 mile radius of that address. (Or 6 miles or 26 miles…)
That might be perfect for your location. For our area it’s not, because we know that people in Seattle would be much less likely to come to a class in Bellevue than people in any of the suburban cities east of Lake Washington (Redmond, Issaquah, etc.)
So, I’m going to edit it down a little, but using that list of cities, I could exclude Seattle and Cascade-Fairwood and Burien. I could use the search tab at the top to add in Carnation and Snoqualmie. And so on, till I get it just right.
Networks. Choose search network and display network, or search only.
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 next to those words to delete them. You can also enter your own keywords into the box below the list, and click “add” to add them to your list. When you’re done, click save.
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.)
Sometimes you might include keywords that feel weird to you. For example, many of my co-workers are troubled by the fact that many parents of two year olds say they are “looking for a preschool.” My co-workers worry that we’re rushing kids into academics too early to be developmentally appropriate. But, if a parent in our area searches for “preschool for two year olds”, ads for our toddler classes come up. Then if they click through to our website, we describe clearly what we offer. If that meets what they are looking for for their child, then they may well sign up. When they searched, they probably didn’t even know exactly what they were looking for – they may have just wanted a developmentally appropriate learning experience for their child, and that’s what we have to offer.
Step 3 – Set your Bid
I always pick the option that says “Google Ads automatically sets your bids to help you get as many clicks as possible within your budget.” Later on, when I view my results, I can always make manual adjustments.
Step 4 – Write Your Ad
If someone clicks on your ad, it will take them to a specific page of your website. Pick exactly the page of your website you want users to go to when they click on your ad. (And make sure that when they go to that web page, it looks appealing, and it has all the essential info they need to make a decision about your services and “Act Now!”)
It’s limited to 30 characters! Put your most eye-catching keywords here or the best summary of your program. (Capitalize each word.) For example, “Tips for Calming Tantrums” or “Parent-Toddler Classes”. Remember to think about the ad in the context it displays. Imagine someone just typed your keywords into a search, and your ad pops up and they glance at your headline. Will it catch their attention?
- Tips: Try asking a question in the headline: “looking for a great… ?” Or start with “How To.”
- Don’t be afraid to use special characters like & or %. They use up less of your character limit, and they’re visually interesting, so catch a reader’s eye.) Also, readers like numbers and specific data. (That’s why there’s so many magazine articles titled “The top 8 ways to…”)
- Talk directly to your potential customer (aka write in the second person): “What YOU need for YOUR baby.”
It’s another 30 characters. On some devices, this displays on the same line as headline 1, and on some devices and browsers, it will be a separate line. Make sure it makes sense both ways!
- Tip: Try promising a benefit. “Your child will… ” The headline answers the “What’s In It for Me” question.
- Or make a time-limited offer “Register now for 20% off.”
- More headline tips here.
Now you have 80 characters for additional info. You’re probably going to have to draft lots of ideas before you come up with something you like. Try writing 20 different versions of your ad. Take a break, and look at them again the next day to see what you still like.
The goal of your headline is to hook a user’s attention enough to read the description to see whether your service is even relevant to them. The goal of the description is to convince them enough that they will click through. Tips:
- Look at your competitors’ search results, and see what they’re doing for site descriptions. Does it work well? Use their ideas. If it doesn’t work well, learn from their mistakes.
- Highlight what makes you different / better than other options.
- Do include your location. When we do web searches, sometimes it’s not obvious to us WHERE the business is that we see an ad for us. If you live in a small town, and you see the name of your town in the description, you’re going to click there!
- Note: if you also use extensions (see advanced options, below), then you can use this section more to describe the unique features of your program, and use the call-outs for things like: “register now”, “ages 3 – 5” and “Bellevue and Sammamish.”
- Instead of listing features, talk about how those features benefit your reader. Instead of “we offer parent education sessions on discipline and tantrums” say “in parent education, you’ll learn how to handle discipline and respond to tantrums”.
- Use action words: “sign up” or “join us”. Tell them what you want them to do and how they do it.
- Engage their emotions – “Are you worried about labor pain? Our classes will boost your confidence.” (Read more on emotions in google ads.)
- Include some of your keywords here, because they will be bolded in the search results. Here’s what I see when I search for “preschool in Carnation, WA”
Save and continue
When you’re happy with your ad, choose “save and continue.”
Step 5 – Billing and Finalizing Campaign
- Set up all your billing info.
- Review your ad and keywords, then “finish and create campaign”
Step 6 – Don’t Let Your Ad Run Forever!
The default once you set it up is that it keeps on running automatically till you manually stop it. This could get pricey quickly!
So, once it’s all set up, go back to your homepage at adwords.google.com. Then click in the left sidebar where it says “settings.” That will take you to a screen somewhat like this. Look for the column that says “campaign end date” and be sure it’s set when you want the campaign to end!! If not, mouse over it, then click on the pencil icon to edit it.
Monitor Your Results
In the first few days of your first ad, check it often to be sure you didn’t screw up somehow. From the homepage at adwords.google.com,
- Results: click on campaigns, and you’ll be able to see how many impressions you’ve had, how many clicks you’ve had, and how much you’ve spent so far. Make sure you’re looking at the correct time period. In the top right corner, you can set it to see today’s results, or results over the last week, or results over the lifetime of your account, etc. If you mean to see what you’ve spent in the last 5 days, make sure you’re not accidentally viewing a period a month or two ago.
- Adjust Keywords Bids: click on keywords, and you’ll be able to see how your keywords are performing, and what each is costing, and adjust as needed.
This is not a mandatory step. You could skip it. But, if you want to really finesse the campaign as you go along, here are some examples of what to look for:
- Are people responding? In a recent campaign for infant classes, on most of my keywords, I was getting 1 – 6% click-through, which is what I expect. But the keyword with the highest number of impressions (i.e. the one the most people searched for) was “activities for babies” and on the first 600 impressions, no one clicked on my ad!! I added a new ad to that campaign, which was tuned specifically to interest people looking for “activities.”
- What’s your cost per click and is it worth it? In the example below using some random data from a campaign I ran last year for a STEM enrichment class for 3 – 6 year olds, “STEM Class for kids” and “kids’ science class” are doing well, in terms of they’re each 80-some cents per click, which is much cheaper than the others, and they’ve got great click through rates (5.5% is very good, 13% is amazing). On the other hand, “fun science class” and “kids’ engineering class” are three times the cost per click – but maybe I’m still OK with that, because if someone searched for kids’ engineering class, they’re looking for a class exactly like ours. But the $3.69 per click for the “science education for kids” probably isn’t worth it. People who search for that phrase may have been looking for information about how science is taught in elementary school and would not care at all about our classes. I would pause that keyword by clicking on the down arrow next to the green circle so that it no longer displays my ad for that search.
- What’s the position: Look at that right hand column for “avg pos” – that’s average position on the page. You want your ad to be the first, second, or third ad shown because those show on the first page of search results. If that says 4 or 5, then your ad won’t show up till the user clicks to the second page of search results, which they may never do! So, if the position is 4, you need to re-evaluate your bid. Look at the column for est. first page bid. That’s what amount it’s guessing it will typically cost to get your ad in the top three results. (It’s always a guess, because there’s an automatic bidding war each time that keyword is typed.) If it’s not much higher than your current max CPC and it seems affordable, then go ahead and change your max CPC to be a little higher than that est. first page bid. On the other hand, if the est. first page bid is way higher than you’d like to pay for that keyword, then just pause the keyword – it’s not worth running it for that cost.
How to set up a Yahoo Bing ad
Assuming you’ve set up ads in Google already, it’s really easy. Go to https://secure.bingads.microsoft.com/. 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.
Under campaign settings, Bing allows you to adjust your bids to specific target audiences. For example, if I wanted to reach potential clients in Issaquah more than I wanted to reach people on Mercer Island, I would increase my Issaquah bids by 50% and decrease Mercer Island by 50%. I can also preferentially target by age group and gender. So, for my preschool marketing, I decrease my bids for users under 20 and over 50.
If you need additional help on either of these systems, they both have extensive help files and customer support to get you going.
Difference between Google and Bing
Google is the dominant search engine in the U.S. But Bing has 20% of the US market share with its partners Yahoo and AOL. People over age 35, higher income people, and people who use Microsoft software on desktops are more likely to use Bing than younger folks on mobile devices. Depending on the demographic you want to reach, it may be worth advertising on both Google and Bing.
Based on my experience and industry results: You’ll get more impressions (your ad will display to more users) on Google. Yahoo Bing will have a much lower cost-per-click. Bing has a higher click-through-rate (percent of people who see you ad, and click through to your site to learn more).
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 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. You may want to read “7 ways Bing Ads beat Google” and “Bing Ads vs. Google Ads.”
Advanced Skill: Ad Extensions
Google also allows you to ad on
- “callout extensions” – extra words at the end of your ad. So, after your text, you could add callouts that say things like: “Ages 3 – 5. Bellevue and Sammamish.” Or “Free shipping.” “20% off till August 1.” “Open 24/7.” Or whatever you want. These callouts offer more words for free, and it also makes your ad look a little more robust / interesting on the page compared to your competitors, so use them! You’re allowed 25 characters per callout, but Google recommends using only 10 – 12. Learn more. Learn how.
- “sitelink extensions” – which allow you to add in extra links. For example, if your main ad links to info about your program as a whole, this could offer an additional “register now” link that takes people directly to your registration page, or a “Infants Classes” link that takes them directly to that page. Again, use them! Learn more.
- There are also other extensions like location that link to a map, call extensions allow a smart phone user to tap on them to place a call to your business. Learn about more google ad extensions.
You can set up extensions so they run with every ad on your account, or every ad in a campaign, or every ad in a particular ad group.