If you know your films then you’ll certainly be familiar with the phrase ‘build it and they will come,’ but while this might describe your own particular field of dreams, it certainly doesn’t apply to your website. In my previous career as a marketing consultant I worked with a company that invested thousands in a brand spanking new website with the expectation that orders would flood in as soon as it went live. This was, of course, not the case, and marketing was required to drive traffic that otherwise may never have materialised.

Naturally this same thing will happen to your own website unless you take steps to bring it to the attention of the people you want to attract. Paid search is just one tool in your marketing arsenal, and used well with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), it can drive significant levels of traffic to your website. Be warned, however: use paid search well and it will generate sales, but go about it the wrong way and it could end up costing you an arm and a leg.

What is Google AdWords?

While appearing organically in listing is free, the results and impact on your Search Engine Results (SER) can be hard to define and predict. Pay-per-click (or PPC) marketing with Yahoo, Bing or Google’s AdWords is a form of advertising online that allows the advertiser to pay only for instances in which the browsing consumer actually clicks on the ad to gain access to the advertiser’s site.

Basically you are purchasing website traffic rather than having to generate it through other marketing methods. The goal of using SEO and PPC is to increase the chance of appearing on the first page of search engine results for keywords that are relevant to your business, and the power of paid search is immense with an estimated 20% of those searching clicking on sponsored links. The ads enable you to target your potential customers locally or around the world, and for relativity low cost you can put your business in front of people searching for the service you offer.

It’s important to know that PPC is based on a structure that involves the advertiser bidding for a search term. The more competitive a search term happens to be, i.e. the more people bidding for that term, the more the cost will increase. Long-tail search terms with very little search volume might perhaps cost as little as 1p per click, while the highly competitive search terms that can help you to reach top spot could cost the photographer several pounds. When the individual who is browsing enters keywords that relate to your business, for instance ‘Wedding photographer Glasgow,’ your ad will be triggered, and if you are one of the high bidders for that term your result will come high up the search engine results page (SERP). Your ads may also be displayed on Google’s content network of websites that stream sponsored links and split the revenue with the website owner every time a user clicks the text advertisement.

Getting Started

To set up your Google AdWords account visit https://www.google.com/adwords/. On the top left of the main page you’ll find a number of options, including ‘Overview’, ‘Benefits’, and ‘Costs’, among other tabs. Click on the option marked ‘Get Started,’ and from there you’ll be taken to a page that is clearly marked ‘Sign yourself up.’ Scroll down and click on ‘Start now’ and then carry on clicking on the appropriate cues and entering the necessary information. This will only take a few minutes to complete. Simple and user friendly, Google AdWords will guide you through the entire process of choosing, designing, and placing first pay-per-click ads.


You may use the content on your website as the inspiration for the keywords you set-up to trigger your ads, while you can also use Google’s ‘Keyword Planner’ and ‘Insights for Search’ to determine the keywords or phrases you should consider bidding on. Relevant keywords are essential to guarantee your campaign is successful. A generic term like ‘wedding photography’ is likely to be expensive and it’s not very targeted. Think about using more long-tail phrases that highlight your products, services, and geographic location, such as ‘alternative wedding photographer in Birmingham’ for example.
Generally these long-tail searches have lower search volume, but they come from people further along the purchasing cycle. They are cheaper because fewer competitors are buying these phrases and more profitable because the searcher knows exactly what they want. By setting up lots of these long form phrases you can really stretch your budget, and those who visit your site will be highly targeted.
You have a few options to select in regards to match type – broad, phrase and exact.

  • Broad – includes misspellings, synonyms, related searches and other relevant variations.
  • Phrase – a phrase, and close variations of that phrase
  • Exact – an exact term and close variations of that exact term.

Starting off with a broad match will enable you to identify exactly what people are searching for, and over time you can define exact or phrase matches and you can also include negative matches to exclude some results from your campaign.

When you set up your keywords you set a bid for that term or a default bid for all of your terms. You also set a budget for the campaign. Something low, like £5 per day, is a good starting point as you begin to test things. When that £5 is exhausted your ad won’t appear again until the next day. Google’s Traffic Estimator can give you an indication of how much it will cost to advertise against some, or all, of your terms. With the information you provide regarding your budget and bids, the tool will estimate the number of visits your terms are likely to generate.

Natalie S Turner of Photography Web Marketing believes using statistics to compare campaign results is essential. Here is how she demystifies some of Google AdWords’ search lingo:

  • Clicks – how many people clicked on the ad.
  • Impr – how many people were exposed to the ad (impressions)
  • CTR – Click Through Rate (clicks divided by impressions) tells the percentage of people who clicked your ad. You want above 1% CTR. Decrease campaigns that have a low click through and increase (add more campaigns or add money) the ones that have the best click through percentage.
  • Ave CPC – Average Cost Per Click tells you how much you paid each time a person clicked the ad. Lower CPC means you’re paying less and getting better value. Most photographers will pay 50p to £3 per click.
  • Ave Pos – Average Position tells you your paid rank. Up to eleven paid ads are shown per page and you really want to be in the top three to five in order to keep your click through high.

“Advertising cost is driven by quality,” says Natalie. “The number of advertisers (competition) and quality of the ad drive the cost paid per click. A quality ad costs less per click and appears higher in the list of advertisements. Why? Because relevant ads lead to more clicks.”

In a quality ad:

  • Click through rate is higher
  • Time on the photographer’s website is higher (a function of quality)
  • The photographer is more likely to get the sale (and to advertise more)
  • Google wants people to trust its ads because then more people will click on them and Google will earn more money. This in turn means that it will favour the most successful ads.

Linking your ad to your homepage is not the best way to leverage the traffic it will generate. People want the content delivered when they click your ad to match exactly what they have searched for. Therefore it’s important to build specific landing pages for each ad group to increase conversion.

Conversion Ratio

It’s important to understand your conversion ratio, the number of visitors to your website that make an enquiry and ultimately book you. Integrate Google Analytics with Google AdWords to see what users did on your website after clicking the ad. Your conversion ratio enables you to work out the cost of acquiring a new client with AdWords. As with any marketing strategy, evaluate the return on investment (ROI) and if it provides excellent value then include it as part of your marketing strategy.

There are several factors that can determine the level at which you convert visitors:

  • Are your ads accurate and do they deliver what they promise to those who click on them?
  • Can they find the information they need? Think about your site’s usability.
  • How does your website compare to your competitors?
  • Your call to action should be clear and simple – can visitors easily register for your newsletter, make an enquiry and make a purchase?

After your campaign has been running for a while you can identify which keywords are most successful and those that are not generating traffic, and depending on what you find you can then begin tweaking the words, titles and bids. Natalie explains:
“If you have a high bounce rate, 50% or more and a high click through rate, 3% or more, your landing pages aren’t attracting your clientele,” explains Natalie Turner. “There’s a disconnect between your ad and the landing page: people aren’t seeing the correlation and are leaving without taking action. Watch this consistently and make changes, even small changes, to increase your conversion numbers and get them more in line with converting people into interested parties.”

Click here to learn more about Pay Per Click in our best selling Marketing Bootcamp 2.0 course.

Donal Doherty is a wedding photographer who loves education and sharing with photographers through Engage, speaking at conventions and through his writing in Photo Professional Magazine. Find out more here www.donaldoherty.com.