Thursday, 27 October 2011

Keep Your Own House in Order

The Adwords support forums receive frequent posts about operating and optimising Adwords itself; the settings, the keywords, the Ad copy, etc. What is far less common is to find questions related to the website to which those Adwords Ads direct potential customers.

A well managed Adwords campaign will deliver customers willing to buy to a company website, but what happens once they arrive? How your site works, how easy it is to use and how easy it is for potential customers to find the product of interest is a vital element of Adwords success and one, unfortunately, that many advertisers seem to overlook.

As a professional manager, when approached by a potential new Adwords client, one of the first things I ask for is the URL of the site to which Adwords will be directed. I'll then examine that site, in some detail, and if I feel the site needs altering or improving in some way I will tell the client this before a single penny is spent on advertising. There is absolutely no point in spending money on clicks if all those clicks lead to a website that takes too long to load, which has poor navigation, obscures the buying process or makes it overly complex. The problems can be obvious or very subtle; I have had clients where the service offered by their Ads didn't appear anywhere on their site, their answer? "We thought they'd call us." I've had clients where the product was available, but was 'hidden' beneath multiple layers of pages and sub-pages that couldn't (usefully) be linked to directly, requiring ad-clicking users to mount their own expedition around the site to find what they needed. I've even had customers where the website didn't actually work - where key pages returned errors or displayed as a mess in certain browsers or where pages were simply 'Not Found'.

Subtle flaws can include sites that are too vague, or too technically (jargon) orientated, or which offer a great many services without focusing on one for the purposes of Adwords. If your company offers a wide range of services, it's worth considering using bespoke landing pages purely for Adwords, designed specifically to match the campaign purpose and Ads.

I'll repeat. Spending money on Adwords to direct people to a site that isn't absolutely the best it can be is pointless. It's like advertising a phone number that's disconnected.

It can be hard for site owners to understand where problems might lie, it requires thinking like someone who knows nothing about your business and has never visited the site before, and it requires some degree of technical understanding and ability in terms of testing connection speeds and browser compatibility. However, many issues can be solved simply by thinking like a new customer.

So, if you're thinking of starting with Adwords, or even if you've been running an account for some time, please look at your own website and try to honestly gauge whether it's as good as it could be before you spend and (more) money.
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