Last updated on July 5, 2017
Update [24th March, 2017]: In addition to the formula explained in the post, I would add the following general criteria for a good AdWords case: 1) Low-Medium competition (high CPCs force to look for alternative channels), 2) Good website/landing pages (i.e., load fast, easy to navigate, have text information relevant to the keywords.
Google AdWords is a form of on-demand marketing which matches demand (keywords) with supply (ads). Because it provides good relevance between demand and supply, it efficiently fulfills the core purpose of marketing which is, again, to match supply and demand. However, while this property of AdWords makes it generally much more effective than other forms of online marketing, it also leads to a major limitation: the campaigns cannot scale beyond natural search volumes.
I often tell this to my students participating in the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC), but a few of them always fall into the “trap of low search volume”. I will explain this in the following.
First, the relevant dimensions for assessing the potential in AdWords are:
- geographic range: the based on the company’s offerings
- product range
These can vary from low to high so that
Low geographic range x Low product range = Trap of low search volume
Low geographic range x High product range = Potential risk of low search volume
High geographic range x Low product range = Potential risk of low search volume
High geographic range x High product range = High search volume (Best case for AdWords)
In other words, this formula favors companies with nationwide distribution and large product range. These campaigns tend to scale the best and offer the best ratio between cost and value of optimization. In contrast, local business with one or two products or services are the least feasible candidates.
What does the trap of limited search volume mean?
Well, first of all it means the spend will be low. In GOMC, this means some teams struggle to spend the required $250 during the three-week campaign window.
Second, and more importantly, it means these cases are less interesting for marketers. They offer little room for optimization (because spend is low and there is very little data to work with).
Also for this reason the management cost of running these campaigns (=the amount a marketer can charge for his/her services) can become unbalanced: for example, if the yearly spend of a low-volume campaign is, say $400 and the marketers charges $100 per hour for his/her work, there is no point for client to pay for many working hours, as their cost quickly exceeds that of the media budget.
As a marketer, you always want to select the best case to amplify with your skills. You can think of it through two dimensions:
By multiplying them, we get the following.
Bad marketing x Bad product = Bad results
Bad marketing x Good product = Okay results
Good marketing x Bad product = Bad results
Good marketing x Good product = Good results
The same in numbers:
0 x 0 = 0
0 x 1 = 0
1 x 0 = 0
1 x 1 = 1
In other words, it makes sense to choose a case which is good for you as a marketer. A good case will work decently with bad marketing, but not vice versa. And only coupled with good marketing will the maximum potential of a good product be achieved.