Golf is a fairly simple game, one that even I understand even though I played it only once, when I was eight years old. So I’m going to illustrate four common AdWords mistakes using golf as a metaphor.
Golf Mistake #1: Not knowing where the hole is.
Tiger Woods is a better golfer than me. His clubs probably cost more than my car. But I could beat him easily, using a beat up 3 iron and a rusty putter, if I knew where the hole was and he didn’t.
He’d be hitting beautiful, long drives in the wrong direction, while I’d be shanking and slicing ugly shots, ever closer to the green and the hole.
AdWords Mistake #1: Focusing on the complexity of the tool rather than the desires of the market.
AdWords is an amazing program, but when you come right down to it, it’s just a conduit. You’re at one end, and your prospects are at the other.
Before you focus on the details of the conduit itself, study the market.
If you know how to serve them and talk to them, you will succeed in spite of your ignorance of the medium.
Golf Mistake #2: Not watching where you hit the ball.
Imagine standing at the tee, swinging and hitting the ball down the fairway, and not even glancing up to see where it lands.
Imagine putting and turning your back before you can observe whether the ball curved left or right, overshot the hole or came up short.
For a beginner, that would be crazy, right? Without feedback, they’ll never improve. No matter how many hours they spend at the driving range.
AdWords Mistake #2: Not measuring your results.
AdWords gives you precise feedback on your marketing efforts. If you’re used to the offline world of put an ad in the newspaper and wonder if it was worth it, you might not realize the value of that feedback.
AdWords feedback renders every element of your online marketing accountable for its results. So when you write an ad that doesn’t work, you can find out quickly. So you don’t keep using that same worthless ad for the next 17 years.
Golf Mistake #3: Judging success only by how far you hit the ball.
Hitting long drives is a critical element of a good golf game. But imagine if you kept score only by measuring the length of your drives.
You might be 32 above par, yet bragging about your 270 yard drives (most of them into the sand or the parking lot, of course).
AdWords Mistake #4: Focusing on your click through rate (CTR), rather than the profitability of your campaigns.
CTR is a measure of how appealing your ads are to the people who see them. High CTR, like long drives, is critical to your success. If you want people to buy from you, they need to go to your site.
But like long drives, CTR is not the ultimate metric. It’s a means, not an end. You can get lots of clicks to your site and end up losing a lot of money if you’re attracting the wrong people, or attracting the right people with the wrong offer.
Yet few advertisers take the time and effort to set up the incredibly powerful conversion tracking features.
So to the extent they pay attention to metrics at all, they just look at how good they are at giving money to Google, rather than to the business outcome of all that traffic.
Golf Mistake #4: Buying only one golf ball and quitting the game when you accidentally hit it into the lake.
Beginning golfers know the game is hard, and will take time and effort to master. Heck, it will take time to be good enough to finish a round during daylight hours.
AdWords Mistake #4: Giving up because your campaign isn’t profitable right away.
When I tell people what I do, I hear this all the time: “Oh, I tried AdWords and it didn’t work for me.”
That’s like saying, “I hit the ball into the lake, so I gave up. Golf doesn’t work for me.”
It’s rare for an AdWords campaign to be profitable from the start. That’s true not just for AdWords newbies, but for experienced marketers as well.
If you’re entering an established market, you must expect that at least some of your competitors have learned something that puts them ahead of you. That puts the average bid price above your ability to make a profit from that traffic.
But just as sensible new golfers know that success will come with time and commitment, new AdWords advertisers should expect to spend money to learn, not to earn, in the first few weeks and months.
About the Author (and What He’s Giving Away This Week)
Howie Jacobson, PhD, is the author of Google AdWords For Dummies. He is offering an interactive home-study course, Traffic Surge, for folks who need more traffic to their sites, or who haven’t found their online market yet.
In Traffic Surge, you learn how to use free tools for quick and dirty online research (including the crucial question of whether a market is worth entering in the first place!), and how to apply that research to send qualified traffic to your site.
Click play below to watch the first class for free:
Howie hopes that you find it so valuable, you sign up for the whole course (launches in early October 2010).