Adwords for photographers

First, I want to thank @picseshu for encouraging me to write more about AdWords.

I’ve spent some time lately dismissing AdWords due to my frustration with Google’s bidding system and click fraud. All that aside, AdWords still offers photographers many opportunities.

There is a lot to AdWords. Now that I’m running more AdWords campaigns for Synectics Media clients, I’m taking another serious look at how the advertising medium can benefit photographers. I can’t share everything in one post, but I will make it a point to add the topic to the rotation of subjects I cover on this blog and podcast.

What is AdWords?

It is a pay-per-click system offered by Google and other search engines. You can create text-based advertisements for search engine results relevant to your Web site.

Sometimes search engine optimization (SEO) doesn’t offer the search placement results photographers require. Google AdWords allows photographers to buy their way to the front page of Google, related Web sites or Google partner search engines.

Many photographers have given up on AdWords. This is especially the case after Google changed its system of bidding on ads. This is good news because now there is less competition driving up bid prices.

Is AdWords right for you?

If you wish to sell cheap stock photography or low-cost head shots, it may not work. You have to test the system to see what works for you. The good news is you can test for a fraction of the cost of other ad models with better tracking information. This will allow you to test, change ads, and figure out if your plan will work before wasting an entire advertising budget.

Fortunately, photographers have higher price points and can risk a larger amount of money and still receive a quality return on investment. If done well, AdWords should be profitable (with tests and tweaking) within a month depending on the target, skill and competition.

The first thing you need to understand about AdWords is that it works like search engine optimization. Relevant words in the ads need to match the landing page, which is the page the ads are directed toward. Unfortunately, most photographers link their front page to AdWords campaigns. In many cases, photography Web sites don’t even have words on the front page. This lowers their Google ad score and ultimately costs money and quality placement.

Google wants its ads to work. If an ad score is too low based on Google’s criteria, a photographer can’t even buy his way onto the front page. This is why a good customized HTML landing page is recommended. Photographers need to create landing pages related to the search terms they are trying to attract.

If a photographer is bidding on the words “food photographer,” the ad should lead to a page with good information about her food photography. The ads should contain images to keep people on the page, quality written information about the service, and a method of contact. A form requesting more information is often advised to support the collection of prospects’ e-mails for future campaigns.

Be careful of the automatic tools Google offers. Many are valuable. Others, unfortunately,  optimize best for Google’s profits rather than the advertiser’s success. An example of this is auto bidding. Use Google tools and make your own judgments on how much to bid on keywords.

Use tools such as Google’s  Insight for Search and Keyword Tools to help find the best high-traffic related keywords. Start off with two to four unique ads using the keywords related to the search words bid on.

Consider focusing on local advertising placement. It seems like the more localized and geographically focused it is, the less click fraud is involved. Note: Click fraud has been estimated to be as high as 33 percent  for some expensive key words. Another way to fight against click fraud is to avoid content advertisement placements until you understand the system better. These are ads found on Web sites. Fortunately, Google allows advertisers to manage their ad placements. This can be very beneficial if you know or suspect a local high-traffic Web site may attract photography buyers.

To start a campaign, log into AdWords and set up an account. Decide on your best keywords. Remember the importance of search engine optimization. Use custom landing pages or subdomains connected to the main site and test, test, test everything until you find the winning combination.


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