Building and maintaining a successful AdWords campaign is mostly about following the same recipe over and over again.

The ingredients will vary and sometimes you’ll use less seasoning because you’ll know your guests aren’t that into spicy food.

Your basic rules, routines and procedures for properly-building your campaigns hardly ever changes. Only if you find a new tool (like when I found or when you see that you can optimize your time spent on certain tasks.

As for me, I’ve followed the same basic recipe for a long time now and have had great success implementing clusters of it into the White Shark Media Search Team’s standard operating procedure when the Department was first conceived.

The recipe has since evolved to better suit our target audience, but my original rules still apply. I use them regularly for my own search efforts and have seen great success for 5 years straight using these rules. They have become better and clearer over the years.

My 7 Rules for Getting the Biggest Bang for your AdWords’ Buck

7 Golden Rules from AdWords Expert Andrew Lolk of White Shark Media

Even though I mention 7, it’s not the full list. Other AdWords experts might completely swear by other key strategies, but that’s what makes AdWords wonderful. You can have success in so many different ways that it’s just about finding the best approach for you.

Always Do your Research

Prior to building an AdWords campaign, I will visit competitor websites, search on Google, click on related searches and enter a state of trance. I don’t have any real goal in mind, but rather I’m trying to just take everything in and get an overall feel for the industry. I tend to ask myself:

  • Who are the industry leaders?
  • What’s the pricing look like for the main competitors?
  • How do people talk about the industry?
  • Are they active in forums, communities and blogs?
  • Who usually uses the product and how do they feeling about it?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you be a lot more specific about building your campaign and particularly your ads.Always do Your Research Before Starting an AdWords Campaign

Some industries are not eager to talk about their product, such as with the case of flatulent underwear (yes, I watched a Shark Tank re-run). I’ll try to be more serious now and get to the point with my ads.

Know your Product and your Audience

One of the keys to achieving success with any kind of advertising is to thoroughly understand the product in question and your audience.

You need to be intimately brand-known. Furthermore, your products’ advantages and disadvantages must be established  and be compared to that of your competitors. If you don’t know why your competitors are better than you (some competitors are always better in some aspects), it’ll then be hard to find a way that will make your product seem superior.

Knowing the Audience will Facilitate your Keyword Research Incredibly

Let’s say you’re selling broadband services. It’s an industry I’m intimately familiar with in Europe so I basically know everything concerning the matter.

All broadband connections are sold with an accompanying phone line. You don’t pay for it if you don’t use it, but a lot of people don’t want the phone line or think they’ll have to pay for it.

By knowing this, we were able to set up an ad group focusing on keywords such as:

  • Broadband without a phone plan
  • Broadband without phone
  • ADSL broadband only

We could then approach the sales leads generated specifically with promises of a $0 phone plan or offer the choice to not include it.

Know your audience.

Use Negative Keywords Early and Never Stop

I’ve seen many advertisers kind of skip over negative keywords. They add a couple of negative keywords from a general list and then move on.

Huge mistake.

Building a thorough negative keyword list is one of the key ingredients to making sure your campaign is profitable from the get-go.

Getting slammed with a lot of impressions and low CTR is the super fast-track to low Quality Scores. Quality Scores can be very difficult to recover and will take you a lot of time to recuperate decent scores.

Start from the Beginning

Take the time in the initial research phase to build up your negative keywords. I always keep a notepad open where I write everything down I find that I consider to be a negative keyword.

My philosophy is that I’d rather exclude too much, than too little.

Use Negative Keyword Sculpting to Control Impressions

Negative Keyword SculptingAnother part of proper-utilization of negative keywords is what I like to call negative keyword sculpting. I build my campaigns with a pretty simple structure:

  • High-volume keywords get their own ad group
  • Low-volume keywords are bundled together until they reflect a decent amount of clicks or conversions

I like to bid aggressively on my high-volume keywords. This can cause the smaller, higher-volume keywords to take away impressions from the long-tailed keywords in my low-volume ad groups.

A good example are doll clothes.

Doll clothes are high-volume.

Seventies-style doll clothes is long-tailed and low-volume.

If my Ad Rank (see this video for calculation) for doll clothes is higher than seventies-style doll clothes due to a higher bid, then doll clothes will run with all clicks.

My campaign structure might as well be non-existent.

I therefore make sure to implement cross-referencing negative keywords from the beginning.

I will take my long-tailed keywords, turn them into negative keywords and implement them in my other ad groups for that campaign.

This is super effective and not that time-consuming.

Bid Higher on Exact Match Keywords

I like to know what I’m getting. That’s why I’m a sucker for exact match keywords.

I always start out bidding higher for exact match keywords. They’ve almost always had a bigger success rate for me – especially when the keyword is high-volume.

Another example is if you’re bidding the same for phrase match and exact match keywords, then you might end up having your phrase match keywords get all the clicks.

It shouldn’t happen, but it often does.

Don’t be Funny – Funny Kills Sales in AdWords

Funny kills sales in AdWordsTo all the aspiring David Ogilvy’s out there, I’m sorry to disappoint you: Funny AdWords ads rarely do well when it comes to generating profits.

I simply believe the reason lies in the format. There’s very little room to be funny and still convey a message. You therefore end up with an ad that looks kind of odd and doesn’t make much sense.

Yes, of course I’ve seen funny ads have success, but I never start out my campaigns with funny ads.

Focus on benefits, USPs and a call-to-action in your ads. It will take you to attractive numbers much quicker.

Never Activate a Campaign the Day You Finish It

This is a frequent mistake I used to make. I would get so excited about a campaign that I would instantly call my Client, do a quick review and then activate it the same day.

I’ve had sufficient situations where there were just too many bad mistakes made and then felt forced to have to stop campaigns that same day.

I found that the more you rely on search-and-replace and other AdWords Editor features, the higher your chances are to overlook mistakes.

Give yourself a day and review your campaign again. It doesn’t hurt and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches.

Golden Rules Are Not Truly Rules

To be honest, after working with AdWords for 5 years, I consider achieving success in AdWords search to be rather easy if I just follow my key principles.

The golden rules mentioned in this blog post are by no means my entire list, but they follow my basic principles on how to achieve AdWords success:

  • Simplicity, but do the nitty gritty work too
  • Don’t leave anything in the hands of Google
  • Know your customer

Some of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen during my career come from not being thorough enough. If you have an eye for detail, put in the required hours and set up the proper structure from the beginning. Your potential will be endless.