USA TODAY US Edition

Create your first paid search ad

- Steve Strauss Columnist USA TODAY

One time I decided that I needed to take my own advice and so I launched a paid search campaign, targeting (I thought) event planners who were looking to hire business speakers like me to speak at their conference­s.

As such, I created a Google ad for “small business speakers.”

Can you guess what happened? I dropped about $500 on people looking for a different sort of small business speaker – like Bose and JBL.

There is a learning curve with a payper-click campaign, so I am here to make sure you learn the easy way.

The steps to paid search success are these:

1. Consider your keywords

The point of your ad campaign is to send highly targeted, qualified traffic to a landing page or pages on your website. Your first job is to figure out what keywords will work best to get people there.

You want to micro-target precise words and phrases. If you sell gardening supplies in Denver, you would want an ad that focuses “Roses” and “Denver” and not “Gardening” and “Colorado.”

There are several good tools to help you analyze keywords. The ones I would recommend are Google, Semrush, and Ahrefs.

2. Pick your network

Generally speaking, you can display ads on Google, Bing/Yahoo, or Facebook. There are of course many other options (Yelp, etc.), depending upon your goals. So do some research and figure out which best fits your needs.

3. Create your ad

You don’t have a lot of room in your pay-per-click ad – basically only three or four lines – so you better use them efficientl­y. You need three things:

• A bold heading that grabs their attention!! (See?)

• A line explaining the benefit

• A call to action

For example, your ad might say: “The best gardening gloves in the world!

Never buy another pair of gardening gloves again

On sale, this week only ,15% off”

4. Consider expenses, payoff

Trying to buy ads that always show up first or buying very popular keywords is very expensive. Less expensive keywords and placement can sometimes do the trick just as well.

5. Budget, test and tweak

Set aside enough money to see if this ad will pay off; make sure your budget includes the ability to test more than one ad, more than one headline, more than one call to action, more than one landing page, and so on (called an A/B test.)

6. Monitor your results

One mistake I made when I ran my stupid speaker ad was that I didn’t monitor my results quickly enough. One of the beautiful things about a pay-perclick campaign is that you can monitor it in real time and thus will know very quickly if what you are doing is working.

You need to therefore monitor conversion­s – instances of users visiting and interactin­g with your website. This is how you determine if your headlines are working, which days and times are the best and worst for clicks and so on. A good test might last a month.

7. Review with Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a great tool that helps you understand the actions of people on your site – where they came from, how long they stayed, and so on.

A great search ad can become one of the best friends that your small business can have since, once refined, it can bring in money and customers on a predictabl­e, consistent basis.

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