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Here's the thing: I have competitors – with very similar products – who are always advertising on Google, showing up in the top 5 slots for keywords that are very expensive (eg. “funny t-shirts”). And they must be making a profit, because they have run these ads month-after-month-after-month. If I tried to run the ad campaigns that they run, I'd empty out my bank account in no time. I just can't figure it out. How are they doing it?
I know your probably thinking “you need to optimize your landing page for your chosen keywords” - but I really have checked out the competition's landing pages, and I simply don't see how they are any better than mine. I don't see what else I can do to optimize my landing page – at least not without compromising the actual quality of the page (it's ironic when you have to lower the quality of your page in order for Google to see it as higher in quality).
And I use hundreds of keywords/key phrases, every combination I can think of, even though many are completely ridiculous (funny dog t-shirts, kill me t-shirts, tree t-shirts, etc.). Most of these get “rejected” by Google in short order, and I'm left with keywords that are either getting very almost no clicks at all, or keywords that they want me to raise to 15 cents a click.
Can anyone tell me what I'm missing? I must be missing something...
keywords: funny tee shirts, fun tee shirts, humourous tee shirts blah, blah - maybe about 20 focused terms/words
Then make the advert very specific to those keywords. For Example
Funny Tee Shirts.
Funny High quality Tee Shirts For Only $8.
Or some such. :)
The top 3 AdWords positions are bought up by my long-time-as-brick&mortar competitors. They have deep pockets and are almost certainly subsidizing their AdWords campaigns; knowing the trade as well as I do over many years in it, I just cannot conceive of any way, even remotely, that it could pay off. I can't conceive of any way those campaigns could do anything but drain away an ocean of money.
Never say never, but it seems impossible that in aggregate, those clicks could ever make a profit. Maybe they don't do any ROI tracking, so they just don't realize. Overall, perhaps their businesses are profitable simply by virtue of a large and longstanding stable of customers, so it all kinda just evens out for them.
Thank Google I consistently sit at number one in the organic serps for the hottest keywords in my trade. I'm not just saying it. I've been unmoveable there for a couple of years now: w00t (although at the same time, Yahoo! thinks I simply don't exist, so I'm forced to pay for play there. Aargh. I still gladly give G my money for other campaigns, which total more than Y gets).
I have one client in a niche where the words can go up easily to $30 per click. I have basically an unlimited budget, but I don't want to waste their money, because I want to keep their business. So I started watching and tracking what some of their hottest competitors were doing.
In some cases, the competitors would bid really high at the beginning of the month, but they'd start running out of steam by halfway through - their positions would drop lower and lower and then by the end of the month, they were gone. Then they'd show up again the first of the month.
In another case, one competitor's budget and ads would be reserved for showing ONLY during 9-5 business hours (which is a huge mistake for this particular niche, but that's their problem) and they'd disappear for night and weekend searches - allowing us to swoop in and catch all the business they left on the floor - at a cheaper CPC, too.
If you really pay attention to what your competitors are doing, when they're showing in what positions - you could very possibly find the spot where you can wedge yourself in and get a decent return. And all it really will cost you is the time and effort to do it.
For example, there was a new product for which I started running an ad a few months ago. Nobody else was bidding for any of the popular keywords for a it at the time. I jumped in with a bid of about 65 cents, even without competition. Traffic and my CTR soon shot through the roof as the product's popularity took off. Now there's a bunch of people bidding on those keywords, and I'm sitting top dog paying 17 cents per click at the moment.
one of my students did really well with custom printing of shirts / sweats / etc for the local frat house parties. Repeat customers doing bulk purchases. SWEET.
there are clearly opportunities that the other guys (who don't seem all that smart) are missing!
AdWords is a great place to learn, learn, learn. Paying to learn is a good thing (to a point...)
What you learn there apply to organic stuff.
Make sure you install conversion tracking, and Google Analytics too.
How much is a customer worth to you over their lifetime? Do you know how much revenue the average customer will provide you in their lifetime? How much profit?
If you don't know how much that is, you are at a HUGE disadvantage. Counting your adwords marketing directly against a single sale is not very productive if you run a business where you have repeat and potentially loyal customers.
If you discover your average customer provides you with $350 revenue and $175 in profit in the next 5 years, how much are you willing to spend getting that $175? I hope it is more than 15 cents. If you know 1 out of 200 of your Adword customers become long-term customers, you just spent $30.00 to make $175.00 over the next 5 years.
Why do you think some companies spend 100s of dollars going after new customers (cable companies, satellite companies cell phone companies?). All of them pay much more for a new customer than they make on the sign-up, first month or first year even. Obviously those are subscription based businesses, but the principle is the same. My family used to own a regional chain of grocery stores. We knew each new customer we got to regular shop in our stores was worth $50,000 in profit in their lifetime.
How much is your customer worth to you? If all your customers only buy one t-shirt and never come back again, then you are managing things properly. If not, well take a deeper look.
About people branding their items - I'm sure this goes on, but I tend to think it's not all that much of a factor with these particular sites. These are small sites that don't seem to get a whole lot of traffic or web mentions. In fact, it appears that the monster sites use almost no paid advertising at all, but rely on natural search results and affiliate programs.
"Affiliates fresh off the e-book boat, willing to plow through some or all of their savings before throwing in the towel. And the boats keep landing. And landing. And landing."
Yes, I've watched them come and go, but there are the few who continue to advertise. Even if this is the case with all of them, it still mystifies me that the click costs would be so high... would the market still naturally settle into a somewhat reasonable cost?
"I may be wrong, but it sounds like you have adgroups with large amounts of keywords. Try breaking the keywords down into much smaller adgroups"
I've started doing this, and for some reason the estimated cost-per-click rates stay the same, even when I spread them out. I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but the cpc seems to stay the same no matter what I change.
For example: I have a keyword group that centers only around the words "funny, fun, humorous, tee, t-shirt, and shirt", and the ad I write uses those same words. Then I send it to a landing page with those words in the title, the metatag keywords, the page text and the links leading into that page.
Then I create another campaign that in which none of this is true - the same keywords, but completely irrelevant ad text, and a landing page that is about gardening. And, I kid you not - I get the same estimates. It's insane. Does anyone know a possible answer for this?
"My advice, dont bother with the big G."
"Do yourself a favor and try Yahoo and MSN - at least they're affordable."
It's true, I haven't tried them, but I was not under the impression that they were cheaper. I figured I'd get G figured out, and then expand to the other big ones. Are they actually cheaper?
"My take, invest your money on serp ranking, not on adwords... "
At this point, trinorth, that idea is looking better all the time.
This is where I'm at now: I haven't given up on adwords (I'll do anything to get traffic if it's feasible) - but I'm putting a lot more thought into my affiliate program. I mentioned before that this seems to be what the more popular sites are doing.
I had this idea that if I spent X amount on ads, and could turn an immediate profit by actually converting those clicks into sales, then I could safely advertise as much as the market would allow. I now think that this was a little naive, and of course it goes way beyond just playing with numbers.
The one thing that is going well - though very slowly - is that I'm building relationships with other websites and blogs and what-not. My customers do come back, and it is building. There are individual websites with in-house advertising that, considering their user base demographics, look promising...
I'm rambling. Thanks for all the advice, everyone, I'll try out what I can.