Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last few years, you'll be aware that the dominant player in online search (estimates of Google's domination of the US search market range from 50% to 80%) operates a search marketing program, known as AdWords.
If you are a Web marketer, your clients are looking to you to provide them with expertise on how to make the best use of the Internet as a marketing tool. A dynamite website with great information architecture, brilliantly intuitive usability and glorious graphics is only a good tool if it can attract enough traffic to achieve an efficient return on investment.
Getting traffic is the target for which we all aim. If you know your stuff, you've read up on current search engine optimization techniques and have implemented them, and you're merrily building links and partnerships with relevant sites that can drive traffic your way. You have your URL on all of your marketing materials, and in your offline advertising, and you're watching your analytics for areas of improvement and are pleased with the growth that you are achieving. But how do you capture those people who are searching for your products and services, that you aren't currently getting? How do you connect with the people who are researching your competition right now?
Enter Google AdWords. This program can help drive visitors to your website who are engaged in the shopping process and are ready to make a purchase. When used well, Google AdWords can be a highly effective and cost-efficient way to make your websites successful and profitable.
The key here is to use it effectively - and this takes a thorough knowledge of the AdWords program and all of its options. AdWords isn't just paid keywords and search pages. It is also about graphical ads on network sites (such as The Wall Street Journal) and video ads, mobile ads, widget ads and even offline traditional media ads such as radio, television and newspaper. The breadth of the options alone can be overwhelming, but figuring out how to make your spending cost-effective is where it really gets tricky.
Becoming a Google AdWords Professional is one way to ensure that you know how to make your accounts effective, and to be able to illustrate this to your clients. To become certified you will need to meet certain requirements, such as managing active accounts for a defined period, a minimum spending level in that same period, and passing an online exam. These requirements ensure that you are learning from an active account and are spending enough money to be able to understand what changes can be made and how they can affect results.
The exam itself is particularly useful because it will force you to study everything about AdWords. Google has provided a comprehensive learning tool as part of the AdWords program and if you follow all of the lessons and take the practice tests you will certainly be able to give your clients good advice on their AdWords campaigns. You'll also be confident on what you can promise and deliver.
Being a certified professional has additional benefits. Google has a 'Pro Center' for you to use that has ready-to-go presentations on AdWords and other marketing materials, and you will be able to use AdWords to advertise your own company with this honor. In my experience as a media buyer of both traditional and online media, I find that the flexibility and accountability of paid search make it one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to use a marketing budget. When I took the Google exam I was surprised to find that there were lots of questions that I needed to check the answers to, although I had been running AdWords accounts already. The fact that I needed to thoroughly study all of the elements of the program for a test raised my awareness of the subject significantly, and I am certain that I am providing better service to my clients as a direct result of that.
Providing better service to your clients on a highly-effective marketing tool is, without a doubt, going to improve your customer satisfaction, your customer's profitability and your customer retention. All from a $50, 90-minute test.
About the Author: Claire Devereux Thompson owns and runs Sterling Advertising, a Pittsburgh-based advertising agency focused on blending traditional media with emerging media.
Digital marketing executive with proven experience in all aspects of search engine optimization (SEO), performance-based advertising, consumer-generated/social media, email marketing, lead generation, Web design, usability, and analytics. - 20-year Internet marketing veteran, currently serving as the Digital Marketing Campaign Manager at Antenna Group (formerly Chicago Digital). - Former Editor-In-Chief of Website Magazine, and a regular speaker on Web technology digital marketing strategy - Author of several books on digital marketing Including Web 360: The Fundamentals of Web Success; Affiliate 360: The Fundamentals of Performance Marketing; Domains 360: The Fundamentals of Buying & Selling Domain Names, and SEO 360: The Fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization.