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.

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59 Comments on "Using Google AdWords to Test Your Messaging"

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trontastic
trontastic
4 years 7 months ago

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

glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell
4 years 7 months ago

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 ?” 🙂

John Falchetto
4 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@trontastic Totally agree. Complete waste of time and money.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@trontastic Totally agree. Complete waste of time and money.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@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?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@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?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@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.

John Falchetto
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich Like any tool it can be used for good or for evil 🙂

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@John Falchetto Wow. I read that as troll, not tool. I need more sleep!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@John Falchetto Wow. I read that as troll, not tool. I need more sleep!

trontastic
trontastic
4 years 7 months ago

Yeah, us SEO pros hang out with Bigfoot, the Tooth Fairy and play poker with elves every Thursday night. @ginidietrich @glenn_ferrell

trontastic
trontastic
4 years 7 months ago

Yeah, us SEO pros hang out with Bigfoot, the Tooth Fairy and play poker with elves every Thursday night. @ginidietrich @glenn_ferrell

glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell
4 years 7 months ago

@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
4 years 7 months ago
@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… Read more »
Marcus_Sheridan
4 years 7 months ago

@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.

Marcus_Sheridan
4 years 7 months ago

@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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@glenn_ferrell We should get on that soapbox together! I could add, “Is SEO really black magic?”

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@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.

TheJackB
4 years 7 months ago

@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

trontastic
trontastic
4 years 7 months ago
@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… Read more »
trontastic
trontastic
4 years 7 months ago

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

Shonali
4 years 7 months ago

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!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@Shonali I thought that was hilarious, too! LOL!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

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

briancrouch
briancrouch
4 years 7 months ago

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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

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

TheJackB
4 years 7 months ago

@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. 😉

MSchechter
MSchechter
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich@John Falchetto Don’t you sleep like a million hours a day or something? Isn’t that why you read and loved the four hour work week?

MSchechter
MSchechter
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich@Marcus_Sheridan Which is kind of a real life Google Adwords if you think about it….

MSchechter
MSchechter
4 years 7 months ago

@TheJackB@ginidietrich I have the title “Give Gini’s and Geoff’s Book A Crappy Title By Consensus!”

TheJackB
4 years 7 months ago

@MSchechter@ginidietrich I like it. It would be a real shame to miss out on this opportunity.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@MSchechter FUMichaelSchechter.com

Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2
4 years 7 months ago

“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.

HowieSPM
4 years 7 months ago
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.… Read more »
HowieSPM
4 years 7 months ago

@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.

HowieSPM
4 years 7 months ago

@Marcus_Sheridan@ginidietrich@John Falchetto the book title has already been tested and approved.

‘G-Daddy Raps and Lady D Sings’

HowieSPM
4 years 7 months ago

@trontastic@ginidietrich@glenn_ferrell Not sure why SEO is needed. Not like anyone uses this Internet thingymabob yet. I mean if you want to be found get a freaking road sign or billboard. Or better yet take out an ad in a newspaper.

HowieSPM
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich@Marcus_Sheridan@trontastic excuse me but I tried this. And being a noob to Ad Words it realised it and tear gas shot out of my laptop. Any ideas on how I can disable this feature?

HowieSPM
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich@Marcus_Sheridan@trontastic excuse me but I tried this. And being a noob to Ad Words it realised it and tear gas shot out of my laptop. Any ideas on how I can disable this feature?

HowieSPM
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich@Marcus_Sheridan@trontastic excuse me but I tried this. And being a noob to Ad Words it realised it and tear gas shot out of my laptop. Any ideas on how I can disable this feature?

Shonali
4 years 7 months ago

@HowieSPM What, no Mashable testimonial?! @ginidietrich

glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell
4 years 7 months ago

@HowieSPM@trontastic@ginidietrich Or blast a gadjillion emails out there ! But use the right keywords — “Viagra to make your business grow” — that might work 🙂

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2 Wait. Who is Nerd #1?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@HowieSPM 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.

Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2
4 years 7 months ago

@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. 🙂

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