Artist tries Adwords for the first time

As an individual artist, with a web site from which I sell my own art, write a blog and run a Cafepress shop, I decided to give Google's Adwords a try to raise more awareness of my cat themed art and gifts.

I'm completely new to Adwords. I've studied everything I can on the other side of the equation - which is Google Adsense. You can see Google ads all over my web site, placed where you'll be tempted to click. Trialling Adwords is like being 'the man behind the curtain'. Suddenly I'm in control of what goes on behind the scenes, creating ads and adjusting settings, in the hope I can get a lot of targeted traffic in a big way. Adwords isn't like Adsense. You can't just set and forget.

Before you read further, I highly recommend Dan's series of five articles about Adwords on his site, Empty Easel. These will take you through the process of signing up for Adwords in a more detailed, step by step description. You can also read Dan's experience and compare it with my own.

Succeeding with Adwords is mostly down choosing the right keywords to bring targeted traffic to your site. Traffic that you know is interested in your content because they were either searching, using your keywords, or they saw your ad on a site that shares some common themes, subject matter or keywords with yours.

Before I signed up for Adwords, I looked at my own site's visitor statistics on search engine keywords. I discovered that I have a problem that relates to my blog.

My web site receives around 700-900 visitors per month, approximately 60% comes directly from search engines. My most popular keyword phrase for the first half of June 2008 was 'Krippin Virus' - What the..? (I am Legend fans will know it). The second most popular keyword phrase was Hazel Dooney - who is a great, female Aussie artist but... not me. Both keyword phrases come from posts in my blog.

My blog is an eclectic mix of topics from movie opinions to humorous personal observations on life along with art commentary and more. The problem is, most of my search engine visitors, once they've read the article they followed a link to, rarely stay on and browse. Many never see my art or visit my shop. I can tell this because of another statistic called 'bounce rate' - the number of people who leave my site from the same page they arrived.

The lesson here: If you're writing a blog for the purpose of attracting search engine traffic, make sure you are writing about your art, how you create it and, more importantly, the subjects and themes your art covers. Otherwise you'll be like me with visitors who are only interested in the specific article/post they clicked a link to.

I have very little interest in blogging about my own art. Not only that but it took me a long time to warm to the idea of writing a blog in a way that would fill a creative void for me. I like my eclectic mix of articles - they are another aspect of my creativity and not simply something I write to get search engine traffic. As well, my significant collection of articles is starting to earn a modest but very promising amount of monthly Adsense revenue (a high bounce rate does have some benefits in the form of people clicking ads).

One way I've tried to improve my search engine ranking for my art is to to write about each artwork in my Gallery. It's early days yet so it'll take a while to see if that strategy is successful with the search engines.

The majority of my art is related to whimsical cat paintings. However anyone conducting a Google search for 'Cat Art', 'Cat Painting' or 'Cat Gifts' won't find me at all because 'cats' is a huge theme online. I'm not anywhere within sight of the first two pages in search results for these keyword phrases.

This is why I'm trying Adwords. Adwords seems like it works best when you can target a specific subject or theme. By targeting cat specific keyword phrases I can get my Adwords Ads onto the first page of search results. The ads also make me look some what more professional because, people familiar with Adwords, know I've paid money to get my ads onto that page.

Cost, Pay-per-click and Payment options.

Something that deterred me from using Adwords was the idea of pay-per-click. That is, every time someone clicks on your ad, you pay Google money. Google has the largest ad network bar none online which gives rise to the notion that millions of people will suddenly start clicking your ad and you'll be taking out a second mortgage on your house just to cover the debt.

Thankfully this notion is unlikely, as evidenced by Dan's experience in his article, Advertising Your Artwork with Adwords But Not Getting Many Clicks? in which he received only 2 clicks (at a cost of five cents per click) on his ads in his first two week period. More importantly though, you can set a daily budget and set a specific time period your ads will run making it easy to control spending.

For example, I signed up for Adwords Standard Edition, with a budget of five cents per click, up to a maximum of one dollar per day. Doing the math, that's 20 clicks per day before my ads will stop showing across Google's network for that day.

I also chose to prepay my account via bank deposit rather than have the clicks automatically deducted from a credit/debit card. That way I can budget an exact figure and have my adds running until my prepaid amount runs out. If you pay by credit card then you'll need to pay more attention to how many days you want your ads to show up on the network for. I went for the minimum payment of AU$20.00 for my starting budget ($10.00 of which is an account activation fee).

It's important to remember that, although Adwords does cost you money every time someone clicks your ad, that is actually what you want to happen. People clicking on your ad - the more the better. The strength of Adwords is that people click on your ad because they are interested in what you have to offer. The ideal result is, for every click on your ad (costing a few cents), you make a sale that brings in a few dollars profit.

So many options

When my ad went live I didn't have to take out a second mortgage (I don't even have a first mortgage... actually). Unfortunately all my keyword choices were either lousy or pointless, or so I thought. Many of my keywords weren't active for search - meaning my ad wouldn't appear for those keywords in Google searches but they'd still appear on the content network (i.e. on related web sites).

I was completely overwhelmed by the Adwords Campaign Management pages. So many options and settings. It all made my head spin. It didn't help that I was trying to make sense of it all late in the evening either. In the end I decided to just leave everything as it was for a day - which I highly recommend.

Twenty four hours later my ad had been clicked seven times. Not earth shattering but better than I'd expected. Apparently my keywords weren't all quite so bad after all.

Closer inspection revealed that all seven clicks came from the same keyword phrase, 'pictures of cats'. To get those seven clicks my ad was served more than 1100 times on the search network. Obviously a common search phrase because the phrase became inactive for search until I significantly increased my five cent bid.

By day two, all eighteen of my keyword phrases were inactive for search, requiring me to raise my bid on each one by varying amounts. As well, eleven of my keyword phrases weren't even triggering my ad to be displayed anywhere.

My budget ran out after about a week and a half. In that time I created a second variation on my text ad (at no extra cost) which performed equally as well as my first. I created a second 'landing' page for my ads, which Google switched between automatically (again at no extra cost), to test which layouts performed better (my budget ran out before I could get any worthwhile data). I trimmed down all my keyword selections to those phrases that were most specific to my site. Finally I raised my bid on just the keyword phrases, mentioned previously in this article, to make them active for search.

In total my ads were displayed across both networks more than 29,000 times and received 47 clicks - 46 from the search network and 1 from the content network. Clearly the search network is where people are more likely to click (and why not, these people are looking for a link that will give them what they want).

None of those clicks resulted in sales or new web site subscribers. However I can safely say Adwords sent people to my site that were searching for cat art and cat gifts - which is what I set out to achieve.

At this time I haven't added any new funds to restart my ad campaign. Although I'm very encouraged by the amount of traffic I received. My budget of $1 per day means I would need to make an average of one sale in my online shop every six days to break even (this is based on my own profit margins and will likely be different for you). There are other factors that would vary these figures but for the sake of simplicity I'm excluding them. If I can get at least that kind of conversion rate I'll be happy.

Something I'm very keen to try is image ads. Considering art is a very visual medium I'm interested to see if seeing the art will encourage better quality clicks. That is, unlike text ads, people will have seen my art before clicking. If they go ahead and click then, in theory, that suggests they like the style of my art and are interested to see more.

There are other features that I'd like to experiment with too, such as video ads, but all this will have to be for another article.

For now, I hope you've seen that, whilst there is a lot to learn, budget wise Adwords is very manageable. You can learn the basics with a minimum payment then, once you feel a little more confident and understand things better, you can consider topping up your advertising budget.

Adwords is well within reach of your average artist's budget and it can certainly assist in capturing some of those first page, search result clicks when your own Search Engine Optimization isn't achieving the right kind of traffic.

Author's Note: This article is an re-edited and extended version based on three previous articles about Adwords in my blog. It includes some updated information and analysis not previously written about.

4 comments:

  1. Hi,

    I really enjoyed reading of your experience with adwords. I am an artist also but have been experimenting with adwords for a different reason. I trialled it for 1 month. Although I received plenty of exposures and about 200 odd clicks, I had no sale conversions. I have paused all campaigns. Now I had seriously stidied the ins and outs of adwords, working the system etc and only used the search rather than content side of this. I also studied writing great copy and targeted ads, still I believe the results were poor.
    Good luck and I will look out for the results of your trial with image ads.
    ChristiB.

    http://www.cafepress.com/9reddoors
    http://bayareaartbeyondthefog.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm glad you found my experiences with Adwords interesting to read Christie. I will be restarting my Adwords campaign within the next week. I think I'll keep writing about my experience too. Seems like there's a lack of good information on Adwords for artists available.

    I've read so many experiences of people/artists trying adwords once and then giving up on it yet some marketers swear by Adwords and get great results.

    I'm sure there's much trial and error to be had experimenting with Adwords which unfortunately means spending money with little return. However I think Adwords is a long term thing. You might spend a lot of money with little reward at first but the pay off will be when you start to get everything right.

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  3. Great article! I've been thinking that maybe it's time I try out adwords, and your article gives me hope that it can work. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Jen, glad you found the article useful. Adwords is complicated at first but because you can control how much you spend you can take your time working it out without breaking your advertising budget. Best of luck with it.

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