Don’t Play AdWords Poker with High Rollers

A reader whose entire online business consists of a $20 book on a health topic wants to know how she can compete, AdWordsily, against big pharmaceutical companies bidding on the same keywords.

My answer:She can’t. Not with AdWords.

AdWords is a lot like poker, a game in which I reached my pinnacle in 7th grade. I’m no shark, mind you, but my brief foray into the game at summer camp taught me two things:

1. Don’t play against people who are much better than you at poker strategy, unless you want to part with your entire summer’s supply of Captain Crunch and Freihofer’s cookies by June 27th.

2. Don’t play against people who are mediocre at poker but have a stash of junk food the size of a offensive lineman in their trunk, and aren’t afraid to bet it all.

In other words, both skill and prodigious amounts of stupid cash can squash an opponent.

True of poker. And true of AdWords.

With AdWords, skill can look like marketing technique: great ads, strategically-chosen positive and negative keywords, insta-blink landing pages, and so on. 

But skill in AdWords also refers to the most important metric in the whole system: visitor value. 

The Importance of Visitor Value

Whoever makes the most money from a click, on average, gets to spend the most to acquire that click. If you sell a $20 self-help book and you compete against someone selling a course of treatment that costs thousands of dollars a year (and that end-users don’t even have to pay full price for because of insurance), you just can’t make the math work for you.

What does this mean for the reader with the $20 book and no way to compete at AdWords?

Two things.

First, use AdWords to hone your marketing, not to make money from book sales. Find out what keywords, what ads, and what sales language on your site do the best.

Second (and if you saw the passion and sense of mission in her question, you’d understand completely), use the non-AdWords web to become a prominent leader in this particular health field. Seth Godin’s new book is about how to create and lead a Tribe using online tools and your own passion and personality. Sean D’Souza has been teaching me a step-by-step methodology to leverage my own expertise and personality to establish a leadership position in my field. (Hey, if you guys both happen to read this post and you haven’t connected personally yet, I highly recommend it. I’d love to eavesdrop on the conversation between two of my marketing heroes.)

Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg, and all the others – learn from Dan Hollings (Twitter dhollings) how to leverage social media to grow your presence and influence among your target group. When people KLT (know like trust) you, the books will fly off the shelves. 

And if the books are truly helpful, your tribe will joyously share them with others, giving you free viral exposure.

Third (nobody expects the Spanish inquisition), build your business far beyond a $20 book. Come on, you’ve got more than that! Consulting, coaching, courses, patient advocacy, membership web site – think about how to add more value once someone has read your book. Ask your readers what they want (that’s why I survey every AdWords For Dummies reader who gives me their email address).

That’s where AdWords and poker diverge, and it’s the crux of the whole matter. Poker is about taking. Business is about giving. As John Lennon sang, “In the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

A Blatant Pitch

Hey, while I have you here, I’m offering a teleclass series for AdWords advertisers on what I call “AdWords Ball” – measuring and testing everything for quick and significant improvement. It’s easier than it looks, and in 8 weeks you’ll learn – and implement – all my techniques for increasing your sales while decreasing your spend.

The sales letter isn’t up yet, so if you’re interested, just shoot me an email – howie AT askhowie DOT com – or comment on this post and I’ll get back to you.

And if you’re one of the kids who won all my Freihofer’s in 1977, I haven’t forgotten you. I raise you a raisin nut Chunky bar.

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