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Where to Start (I) - Before you begin with AdWords

Adwords can be a great tool to increase business, sign-ups and exposure for your company.  However, your chances of success depend greatly on building upon a good foundation.  This article covers aspects you should consider before you start your first Adwords campaign.


Look before you Leap

If there is one thing you should always remember when working with Adwords it is that Google can only deliver potential customers to your site.  It is up to you to make good use of those visitors.  Over the years I have been working with Adwords customers, one of the most common themes in posting is along the lines of:

“I’ve had 200 clicks this month and not a single sale!  Adwords is useless and a waste of money!”

In fairness, I can’t think of a single way in which Adwords will be at fault in this situation.  If 200 people have come to the site and none of them have completed a sale, there’s really only two possible reasons:

a)  The site doesn't appear relevant to the advertised product/service
b)  The site doesn't encourage sales.

The first is largely a matter of Adwords configuration and optimisation and these topics are covered elsewhere within this Wiki, so for the purposes of this article, we’ll concentrate on the second aspect:  When the site is relevant to the ad, why don’t people buy?

If there is one other thing I see constantly it is new Adwords users that have started one or more campaigns without doing any preparatory work on their site.

How good is your current website?  Do you monitor the performance, examine conversions from visits to sales, analyse which keywords are triggering organic visits, follow visitors from entrance to exit and consider why they leave?  These issues may all sound like something for Adwords, but they should be something you’d already be doing before you use Adwords.  Your “organic” visitors (those who come to your site via a free search engine result list or referrals) are really not much different from those who will come to your site from Adwords.  If you’re not getting good sales from these visitors, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get any better sales from Adwords.  

It can often be helpful to think of your website as though it’s a High Street “bricks and mortar” store.  Let’s say you open a new shop in a busy town.  For the first three months you get a lot of people coming in and browsing around, but only 5% actually buy something.  Is it a good idea to then pay for a large advertisement in a local newspaper?  Even if you get three times as many people come in, there’s no reason to think your buying ratio (your “conversion rate”) will be any better.  You may be able to cover your costs for the advertising, but you may not.

A better approach would be to consider why only 5% buy, try and turn that into 20% and then run an advertising campaign.

It’s not quite as simple as this, of course, as it can (and is!) argued that advertising - especially Adwords advertising - is more directed and focused, so the "paid" visitors could be more likely to buy (any shop owner will tell you that some people are always going to be just “browsers”), but that doesn’t mean there’s not a problem somewhere that should be solved.

Let’s consider just one part of high street shopping that is a personal bug-bear for me.  Displaying prices.  How often have you been in a shop, seen something you like, then found there’s no price ticket.  You look round the shop but there’s no assistant nearby and you don’t want to be embarrassed by taking it to the till only to find it’s way outside your price range.  So you put it down and leave.  Consider this on a website.  I’ve seen countless websites that either don’t show prices, or which hide postage or taxes, or which hide what payment methods are available.

I recently reviewed a site where the payment process was a complete mystery. Once you’d put items in your basket you were asked for personal details, then simply presented with a “Complete” button.  There was no indication of where this button click may take me, what payment options I might have or what I may have to pay.

There are really too many aspects of site design to go into here - this article is intended more as a “thought provoking” exercise rather than a complete manual, but here’s some bullet points:


  • Make sure you’re measured and analysed your existing site before you run your first Adwords campaign.  Don’t pay for visitors that are unlikely to buy.
  • Be open, honest and clear.  Display total prices clearly, show payment options wherever possible - every page ideally, make it clear what each stage of the payment process is.
  • Build a site that loads quickly, which shows the products/services on offer prominently and which makes it easy to find and buy those products.
  • Make navigation easy, clear and easy to read.
  • Don’t make it difficult to buy.

Just one final thought on that last point. For me it often seems that website builders have spent hours around a table trying to make a site difficult to use or navigate.  Visit your own site at least once a month as though you were a new potential customer who knows little about the Internet.  Once you’ve got the habit, you may be amazed at what you see.


What should I spend?


If I had a penny for every forum poster that has said:

“I spent $20,000 in the first week with no sales.  I demand a refund!”

I’d have enough to buy a newspaper (and if you live in the UK, you’d know that’s a lot of pennies).  Remember, there’s no rush, no urgent need to throw all your profits at Adwords from day one.  The Adwords system alllows you to set any budget, any end date, and when first starting a new campaign, you should make good use of these features.

Whenever I start a new campaign I do two things:

a)  I set a low daily budget - sometimes maybe as low as $5 a day,
b)  I set an end date some weeks away (rarely more than a month).

I set a low daily budget initially to avoid wasted money on keywords that don’t “work”.  Exactly what this budget should be depends on the average CPC you’ll be seeing - obviously if a “good” CPC is $7, then $5 a day is not going to tell you much.  I set an end date in case I fall under a bus before I can optimise the campaign.

Doing this allows you to say:

“We’re going to spend $X over Y weeks”

and know that’s all you’ll spend.  Once this is done (and while it’s running) you can analyse the account and tune it so that when you’re ready to set a real budget, you can be more confident you won’t end up with a $20,000 bill for three days.  

There’s no limit to how often you do this either.  You could run for 3 weeks at $5 a day, then 6 weeks at $20 a day, and so on.  


All of this requires that you can..  Measure Your Results, which I'll cover in the next article in this series.


Interested in trying AdWords? Check out

about Jon Gritton

AdWords Management Consultant, a Google Partner, based in Dorset, UK, but working worldwide... I'm very proud of having been a Top Contributor for AdWords since 2006 and enjoy being able to help others improve and develop their AdWords usage. I now work primarily as an AdWords Manager & Consultant. You can read my eBook "AdWords Preschool", just search on Amazon.

September 2012 - last edited October 2012 Eric Google Employee

Excellent information for anybody new like me. Thanks.

Phil 1957
January 2013

Thanks very useful


March 2013

Well said, well put bro. Specially 'testing-the-waters' bit by starting on a very low daily budget.

I am a first timer like many and currently managing a campaign for a friend (for free) and I had set the budget at $10 a day and CPC to $2. The CPC I had put was far lesser then what the Traffic Estimator had suggested. I was suprised with the results. Not only my client's phone rang, the average CPC is sitting at 93 cents. And like you said, I had made sure that the the Ad, the description and landing page had consistent content. The average Quality Score is running at 9/10.


My Client Manager at Google had advised that it does not matter what numbers you see in Keywords Tool and/or Traffic Estimator, you've got to run the campaign to see the actual results.


Will await your next article. Thanks for sharing with us. Smiley Happy

Monty W
March 2014

Amazing analytics

Yelp, Bing, google and all the other fine services that are all designed, created and in business to DRIVE traffic to your site all do so and in some cases do so with amazing results.

I receive the reports, I pour over the analysis looking for ways to fine tune and capture customers when they search for my products. I see the user views, impressions and the 10’s of thousands of customers who are looking for products just like mine.

Amazing; I make white and black widgets and I’m told at any one time there are one million people in a 30 mile radius who are looking to BUY white and black widgets from a company just like mine and as an added benefit they want a company with a location just like mine.

My heart pounds as I see the analytics, the number of clicks on my ad and wait for the sales to come pouring in…

All the services report similar AMAZING activity, it’s even divided by the types of devices used, their mood and color of their hair. They even know how much they’re willing to spend and at no cost to me, costly reports and analysis conducted by some of the most respected organizations in the country all confirm that there really are over one million people looking for products just like mine!

My heart pounds again as I stress at the thought of keeping up with demand, can my little business handle the influx of orders predicted by and confirmed by and promised by all these fine services.

Is it foolish to position my little company to all this professional muscle and house power; what if I’m overrun with orders, how will I keep up with demand?

A call to my campaign consultant comforts me because now I’m told that even though my activity is high and demand for my products is strong, records indicate that it’s the 7th to 9th month that really starts to see orders.

You can imagine my relief as I continue to enjoy reading all the reports confirming that right now there are over 1 million people looking to buy products just like mine at a location just like I have.

Wow, wow, wow, who could have imagined a small company like mine would be able to take advantage of such expensive and powerful advertising resources and have it so well defined that only those who are looking for my products are driven to me. It’s simply amazing.

A double check; yes the store sign is visible, the door is unlocked and there is a dial tone…tapping fingers on the counter looking out the window as all the potential customers drive by.

Raylene W
April 2016

Great info @Jon_Gritton 


I'm with an agency just starting to work with Adwords, and we're trying to get our intake process refined for new clients looking to start Adwords campaigns. This article is very helpful.


Is there a standard series of questions that should be asked of new clients when getting started with them?


Also, how can I find more posts in this series, as it appears this is the 1st?


Thanks so much!

24 bd news s
June 2016

give me help account setting adwords

24 bd news s
June 2016

i am frist time