ppcAs most recent reports cite Google as having more than 80% of the search engine market share, Google AdWords has become an essential tool for small businesses to connect with and market to potential customers. By targeting users based on what keywords they search for, AdWords isn’t about the tactic of “spray and pray”—just blasting out marketing materials to as many people as possible. It’s about finding targeted users who would be specifically interested in the product or service advertised.

While the time it takes to get set up and running is deceivingly short, don’t think Google AdWords is as simple as entering a few keywords, writing an ad and linking it to your web site. For the best results, follow these 10 commandments for getting the most out of your Google AdWords budget:

1. Get specific: Chances are, you’re marketing more than one product or are marketing to more than one target audience. Instead of using one large bucket of keywords, create ad groups for each product your company offers and for each segment of your customer base. Each bucket should include keywords and ad copy that is specifically tailored for its audience.

2. Plan your budget: Google’s keyword tool is a great way to estimate how much certain keywords will cost, helping you to plan out keyword groups and budget before actually creating each ad. Be sure to consider your overall strategy when budgeting: some keywords are highly competitive and can be more expensive. Use scheduled bid adjustments to maintain your impressions share for these big money terms while giving long-tail or niche terms the chance to display ads as well.

3. Structure for success: Google ads are comprised of 3 lines: a headline and two description lines. Use a captivating and specific headline to draw initial attention to your ad. Then, use the first description line to tell the reader more about your product or service. The third line can focus on the unique benefits of the product or feature another call to action to encourage the reader to click through. As your campaigns continue, experiment with punctuation, capitalizing key words, and making small changes to sentence structure to find the the sweet spot for your target audience.

4. Set yourself apart: Captivate your audience and set yourself apart from competitors who use the same keywords by including information in the description lines about promotional pricing or by asking a question or making superlative claims about your business. Take note that readers must be able to find support for any superlative claims or promotional information within two clicks of the landing page, per Google’s guidelines.

5. Set expectations: Define what you expect the reader to get out of clicking on the ad with a call to action. Are they going to be watching a video? Downloading a white paper? Calling a salesperson? Make it clear.

6. Don’t reuse the same welcome mat: Because each of your products and target audiences have different features and needs, don’t use the same landing page for every ad. Instead, create unique landing pages with information specific to that product and relevant to that segment.

7. Tie it all together: Google uses a quality score to reward strategic marketers with lower cost-per-click rates. Ad copy for each group should include search keywords from that group. Not only will this help cue readers into the fact that your ad is relevant to them, but it will also give you a better quality score. Make sure to include these same key words and concepts on each ad’s landing page.

8. Not all content is created equal: Do your customers prefer watching a video or downloading a white paper? Which of your products are best sold on the phone? Landing page content should be a work in progress. So that means test, test, test. Apply A/B testing to each of your landing pages to determine the type of content that works best for each ad group. This testing can also apply to your call to action: experiment with different locations and styles and see which formula drives the most leads.

9. Watch things closely: Keep a close eye on campaigns that have just launched. Ads typically start with a Google quality score around 7 and go up or down based on factors like click-through rate. If a new ad with a low number of clicks gets a low quality score, you won’t have accurate data on how well your ad, landing page, or campaign is doing. In this case, boost the budget to accrue more clicks and improve your quality score. If your ad has a low quality score and a high number of clicks, it’s time to reexamine your ad copy, call to action, or landing page.

10. Get the whole picture: Google AdWords gives you reports on which keywords, ads, and landing pages generate web leads. But it’s equally important to know which ads generate phone leads, and Google AdWords can’t help. If your business relies on phone calls to close business, call tracking can help you determine what keywords, ads, and landing pages convert into sales calls. Combining call tracking with Google AdWords reports gives you the ability to do accurate closed loop reporting and truly understand what’s really working.

To learn more about call tracking and how it can help enhance your Google AdWords strategy, download our white paper, “Tracking Phone Leads: The Missing Piece of Marketing Automation.” And remember, Google encourages marketers to custom-tailor content in order to keep ad content relevant to users and to keep click-through rates high. Following these 10 commandments should get you started on understanding, writing, and testing successful Google ad campaigns.

What other tips, tricks, and best practices have you found successful? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section!