9
0
Gini Dietrich

Using Google AdWords to Test Your Messaging

By: Gini Dietrich | October 10, 2011 | 
59

I am a communication professional, with a bent toward marketing because of the bottom line results it drives.

I understand advertising.

I understand the value and benefits of it. I even work with my team to recommend it to clients in integrated programs.

But I’m not an advertising expert.

That’s why I was so interested to read, “How to Test Your Advertising Quickly, Cheaply, and Effectively,” on the Harvard Business Review blog.

The blog post discusses how to use Google AdWords to test your messaging before you go to your customers and prospects with it.

While a huge advocate of the many free Google tools available, I’m not a Google AdWords fan, unless it’s tied specifically to search engine marketing and landing pages that create a call-to-action to generate qualified leads.

So you can imagine my skepticism while reading.

It turns out the author uses three very distinct, and clear, examples of how well this can work. The examples follow.

1. The 4-Hour Work Week vs. Broadband and White Sand
In 2006, Timothy Ferriss and his publisher were searching for a title for his book about productivity, outsourcing, and mini-retirements. Ferriss used AdWords to test several titles and subtitles, and admitted that the winners (The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich) were not his first choices. Yet in hindsight it’s hard to imagine Broadband and White Sandgenerating the same buzz.

(Sorry John Falchetto. It turns out there WAS a strategy to the name of the book.)

2. The AdWords secret of The Secret
The publishing phenomenon The Secret began as a humble AdWords campaign with a $500 per month spending limit. Dan Hollings, online marketing director for The Secret, used AdWords to identify hot-button keywords and test landing page themes until he hit upon the winner: a series of curiosity-provoking trailers based on the human need to solve riddles. The phenomenal sales of the DVD and book ($100 million last time I checked) and subsequent spin-offs testify to global relevance of Dan’s AdWords test results.

3. Mars, Inc. invests pennies to earn millions
In 2009 Vitruvian’s Joel McDonald was hired to manage a $1000/month AdWords account for a division of Mars, Incorporated. Keep in mind that Mars’ advertising budget for 2009 was estimated by Advertising Age at $1.6 billion. Using AdWords to boost sales was like having Larry Page make a few extra bucks by tutoring math on the side. But the investment paid off handsomely once Joel harvested their AdWords data and had them apply it to their advertising in “unmeasurable” media.

Joel ran keyword tests to discover the most searched-for ingredients in this product line. Through ad testing, he found “free shipping” generated nearly twice the sales of the original “30% off” offer (specifics have been changed for confidentiality reasons.)

Within about a month of reporting his AdWords tests, Joel saw a virtually identical product description, price, and offer on Mars’ national TV commercials. Now a miniscule AdWords investment was paying huge dividends in other media. Mars no longer had to depend on the creative impulses of expensive Madison Avenue ad writers. They just applied common sense to AdWords data and cloned tiny successes on a massive scale.

Now I imagine you, like me, can see the applications for your own business or for your clients. I caution you, however, to not try this willy nilly because it’ll be a waste of time and money.

Rather, find yourself a search engine marketing expert (different from search engine optimization) and, at the very least, have them help you create a strategy.

Or learn it yourself. There are plenty of blog posts and tools from Google that teach you how to do this. Or, at the very least, read “Always Be Testing.” That’ll teach you what you need to know.

This first ran as my weekly column for Crain’s Chicago Business.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

45 comments
busymommybee
busymommybee

Thanks for sharing Gini.  My first online marketing strategy was to use Google AdWords and it resulted in ZERO sales!  After that we started using OpinionAmp as a proactive way to use real customer reviews to market our product online. Now, 90% of our sales comes from OpinionAmp! Once you put the advertising in the hands of your clients, they'll sell the product for you. You can't beat online positive reviews - no better advertising than a happy client!

ExpatDoctorMom
ExpatDoctorMom

Dear Gini

As always at the top of your game by providing us with this valuable information. I will be reading "Always be testing" And then what I don't know, I will sit down with a friend who has offered his help for free to learn it!

I had read Tim Ferriss's book and was intrigued by the testing he did for the book.

The Secret is at 100 mil? Wow! I was skeptical after the +/- reviews. Then a friend said him and his wife listened to it in the car to de-stress from the stressful things that come with living here. Just downloaded for my husband on itunes... May have to have a listen.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

I am not questioning the value of using AdWords as a tool to help improve your online impact for selling, marketing etc.I like there are so many unique ways to use it.

But this is where I have issues with Business Books: Only the 2nd example had a real result ($100million in sales). Saying things like Free Shipping generated twice the sales is marketing spin for (but we can't tell you the real numbers because they wouldn't be good). What if in July he shipped 1 box using 30% off and in August he shipped 2 boxes using Free Shipping. And too often the real life examples either are 1 time unique events or have outside influences. If the book the Secret sucked no Ad Words analysis would save it from the product morgue. And since I never heard of the first book and clueless as to whether 1] Did it sell well and 2] How does anyone know if that title maximised sales. How do we know broadband and white sand wouldn't of been the crusher?

What I come away from this besides I have to read the HBR (grumbles) blog post is there is a tool that can be used in very unique and potentially powerful ways for your business...now if only you can find out exactly where to apply it 8)

But you are in luck! For only $49 you can sign up for my Ad Words Webinar. In the time I read this blog post and typed this comment I have been pounding the crap out of the Ad Words interface and running algorithms and business models. In those 11 minutes I have insights I guarantee will blow your socks off and ramp up your bottom line way into the stratosphere. But guess what? That is not all! For $49 you get my webinar and you get a free @livefyre pen and pencil set. The pen embossed with 'Reach for great heights' and the pencil embossed with 'Reach for a Budweiser'. This is a limited edition pen and pencil set only available through this special offer. Hurry this offer is moving fast!!!

Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2
Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2

"Through ad testing, he found “free shipping” generated nearly twice the sales of the original “30% off” offer"

As someone who places a heavy duty focus on marketing/advertising I found this sentence from teh Mars example highly interesting.

To me, it seems that this campaign rode on something people who buy online have been trained to love by Amazon, Zappos, and other big e-retailers who've found they can push people's buy button easier by promising them they wouldn't have to pay for shipping.

Very smart.

briancrouch
briancrouch

Thanks, Gini. Hadn't heard about Vitruvian/Mars before, very useful example.

Shonali
Shonali

I think these might be my favorite couple of sentences in the post: "Keep in mind that Mars’ advertising budget for 2009 was estimated by Advertising Age at $1.6 billion. Using AdWords to boost sales was like having Larry Page make a few extra bucks by tutoring math on the side."

FTW!

John Falchetto
John Falchetto

I absolutely agree there was a strategy behind the book. Actually this is one of my issues with the book, where does the Google keyword tactics stop and the actual content start?

Is the book a big list of keyword rich content? A printed content farm?

If 4HWW and new rich are sexy keywords and not really what you are actually trying to communicate, a comment I get often on my post abt this book, then what are you actually selling?

Plagiarized work from others with some attractive keywords to make sure it ranks well and sells?

Sexy keywords, hot air, 6 packs of unicorns?

The secret is another great example of how using adwords can make your rich selling BS.

Choosing a book title based on keywords says a lot about the content of that book.

Looking back the 4HWW and The Secret should have been books on SEO and Keyword marketing...oh but wait, :)

glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell

Fascinating Post -- and a great lead in for your next post: "What is the Difference Between a Search Engine Marketing Expert and an SEO Expert ?" :)

Levi Wardell
Levi Wardell

Great article and a great idea. I do want to emphasize that trying this without an intimate knowledge of adwords is not advised.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@ExpatDoctorMom I didn't read The Secret, but I know a lot of people found value in it. I've always believed, if you write down your goals and keep them in a spot where you can see them, you're more likely to achieve them. That's the genesis of the book. So I can see why it was popular.

You'll like Always Be Testing. It'll make some things more clear for you.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@HowieG And I'm not convinced the $100MM in sales was solely from AdWords. It was an Oprah book. I think that had more to do with it than anything.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@briancrouch I hadn't either...which is why I thought it was a good one to use. Hope it was helpful.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@John Falchetto And here I thought my little note to you would get lost in all that copy! :)

I agree with you, but I also think it's an interesting way to use Google AdWords and some search engine marketing to get to what you need.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@glenn_ferrell I actually don't think an SEO expert exists. :) But I like the idea and will definitely do something with it!

How did the reunion go?

Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2
Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2

@ginidietrich Great question Gini! The Chief Nerd, Dexter could be considered Nerd #1. But the real derivation of Nerd #2 is when the Chief declared ultimate Nerd status by calling me #2 in connection with the Star Trek - Next Generation character who'd played Captain Picard's right hand man - Riker, I think his name is. I only remember how he looks. Picard always referred to him as #2. So that's how it all began. Pure Nerdage. :)

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@ginidietrich@Shonali I told Mars that for only $50mil I could reduce that Budget to just $1.3billion with no drop in sales. I put both of you as testimonials on my pitch. Hope that was ok.

Levi Wardell
Levi Wardell

With the walls of each digital specialty breaking down and each specialty becoming inter-dependent of another, to say someone is an expert in one is becoming less and less possible. That said, I do think specialists exist in SEO, paid search, email marketing, social, media etc. but to be an EXPERT, you really need to have a solid handle of each. 10 years ago, that wasn't the case but now... @ginidietrich @glenn_ferrell

glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell

@ginidietrich

Ha - another good post title - "Do SEO experts really exist ?" I'll take a different tack: "Does SEO have to be a specialty ?". I think that depends on the size of the client. (And I'm dying to get up on my soap box but don't have the time right now :))

Your 2nd question: The USS Wilkesbarre reunion wrapped up last night. Went great, thanks ! Wonderful stories. Maybe these guys will have one more get together before they call it quits -- as long as us "youngsters" do the heavy lifting :)

Marcus_Sheridan
Marcus_Sheridan

@ginidietrich@trontastic Not trying to be devil's advocate here, but 'intimate' is a strong word in my opinion. I don't think I have an 'intimate' knowledge of Adwords but I've used it for 3 years now, understand split testing, and can easily see when one campaign out performs another. Notwithstanding, I'm not adwords certified and likely only use it on a very 'surface' level, if that makes sense. In my opinion, it's better to experiment and try this out than it is to stay away simply because one doesn't feel like Adwords is their forte.

TheJackB
TheJackB

@ginidietrich We can beat 600. Ask @mschechter and he'll confirm. I figure we can count on some of our other friends to throw in a bunch of great posts.

Worst case scenario we'll praise Facebook. I can guarantee that @skypulsemedia will have something to say. ;)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@TheJackB I don't know if the publisher would go for it. And I'd have to beat 600 comments. That's a lot!

TheJackB
TheJackB

@ginidietrich You know you could devote an entire post to naming your book. I'd wager that we could turn that into the new leader in number of comments generated. @Marcus_Sheridan

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Marcus_Sheridan We're not using it for the book because we already have the title, which we chose based on 50 people coming to our office and filling out a form.

Marcus_Sheridan
Marcus_Sheridan

@ginidietrich@John Falchetto Yes, you do need more sleep Gini. No doubt. ;-) Notwithstanding, using Google Adwords as the ultimate 'test group' is an awesome idea. If you think about it, we can split test any page or copy on our website, yet we can't split test the copy to bring someone *into* our website...unless we use Adwords...or pay a group of 50 people to come to our office and fill out a form. (Personally, I'll choose adwords every time).

But the real question, now that you've said this Gini, is are you and Geoff going to use this to title your book? If so, that would make for a great part 2 (and maybe 3,4, and 5) to this article.

Have a great week lady :)

Marcus

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@trontastic I think you're far more than an SEO expert. You're a content expert that combines organic and paid search. That's totally different. IMO.

Levi Wardell
Levi Wardell

@Marcus_Sheridan If you're running true ad split tests, able to set up a search/network campaign, can nagivate down to specifying if you want your ads to show on mobile or not and can actually specify quantitatively that it has been working for you...you might be a red ne...no, thats something else...you have what I'd consider a higher-than normal knowledge of the system.

What I've seen many times over are those who struggle through getting a campaign set up, but don't have any idea how Google uses their budget to throttle impressions, how to look for keywords or even set the dates that they want their ads to run.

If you don't know the correct ad types, network settings or budgets for your campaigns, what you think is a success could be an absolute waste of money but you wouldn't know because you don't know what a "success" really looks like.

@ginidietrich

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Marcus_Sheridan@trontastic I think that IS an intimate understanding, Marcus. Most of the business leaders we work with say things like, "Oh we've been using PPC for years." And, when you look at what they're doing, they're just handing $50 a day (or more) to Google with zero results. So, comparatively, you are VERY intimate with the tool.

Trackbacks

  1. […] of using the Tim Ferriss method for testing titles (i.e. testing with AdWords – even that was out of my price range), I again went to my community.  I gave them my spec […]

  2. […] terms, it puts you in front of the buyer when they are ready to buy, and it can be monitored, evaluated, and refined, quickly and […]

  3. […] terms, it puts you in front of the buyer when they are ready to buy, and it can be monitored, evaluated, and refined, quickly and […]