Four Tricks to Gain An Unfair Advantage on AdWords

14 comments

Not all AdWords are created equal. You can gain an unfair advantage over the competition with these four simple steps.

1. Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI). DKI takes the user’s search query and puts it right into your advertisement (assuming there is enough space). For example, you could create a headline with DKI that looks like this: {KeyWord:Nike Shoe} Sale. If the user types in “Nike Air Jordan” into Google, he would see an ad that says:
Nike Air Jordan Sale (the search query would be bolded)
A user who types in a query that is too long, would just see:
Nike Shoe Sale.
Google has a tutorial on DKI if you want to learn more.

2. Use Geo-targeting. Google allows you to serve your ad to a specific set of countries, states, cities, or even distance from a specific point. The obvious advantage to geo-targeting is that you can limit your ads to just users in an area where you sell your product, and you can also created geo-specific ad text (ex: “Attention Montana Farmers!”). But the other secret to geo-targeting is that the fact that you have geo-targeted your ad shows up below the ad text. Do a search for “bankruptcy lawyer”, for example, and you’ll see several ads that say something like “San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA” below them, indicating the ad was geo-targeted. This is a great way to get some free ad space for your ad and to convince user that you are the most relevant ad for them. Here’s the link to Google’s tutorial on targeting.

3. Add Google Checkout. As I’ve noted in the past, signing up for Google Checkout is a no-brainer for retailers, simply because you get a giant Google Checkout logo displayed next to your AdWords text. This is basically the only colorful graphic on any Google SERP and reports suggest that CTR can increase by as much as 20%-30% by having this logo displayed next to your ad. The goods on Google Checkout here.

4. Use Custom 404 Redirects to Add Fake Subdomains. I figured I’d save the most complicated tip for last. A “custom 404 redirect” basically means that your Webmaster sets up your Web site such that anyone who types in an incorrect page URL for your site is redirected to a custom page, instead of the blank “404 Error: Page Not Found” that the user would normally see. For example, let’s say that you type in www.blogation.net/ihateblogation and that page doesn’t exist. With a custom 404 error, I can set up a rule that automatically redirects you to www.blogation.net. To see a real-life example, type in www.apple.com/davidrodnitzky.

The advantage of custom 404 redirects with respect to AdWords is that you can create any display URL you want in your ad text. For example, let’s say you have the URL “mortgage-finder.com” and you buy the keyword “San Mateo mortgages.” With a custom 404, you can buy ad text with a display URL that looks like this: San-Mateo.Mortgage-Finder.com. As long as this page doesn’t redirect to a blank 404 page, Google will allow you to buy this ad, even if the sub-domain “San-Mateo” doesn’t technically exist on your site.

When you put these four techniques together, you can create an irresistibly-targeted ad for Google searchers. Can you imagine seeing an ad that includes your search query, your location, a giant Google Checkout logo, and a highly-specific display URL and not wanting to click on it?

About the Author

David Rodnitzky is CEO of PPC Associates, a leading SEM agency based in Silicon Valley. PPC Associates provides search, social, and display advertising management to growing, savvy companies. To learn more, visit ppcassociates.com, or contact David at david@ppcassociates.com.

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14 Comments

  1. Why would you use a 404 (file not found) redirect instead of a 301 (Page Permanently Moved)?

  2. Hi John, you would not use a 301 because the sub-domain does not actually exist. With a 404, you can create fake sub-domains and directories on the fly, like comment-by-john.searchmarketingstandard.com. A lot faster than actually creating a page and then using a 301 to redirect to the home page. Hope that answers your question. David

  3. If I'm not mistaken, Google will allow the Display Url San-Mateo.Mortgage-Finder.com if the destination url is mortgagefinder.com, even if the display url doesn't really exist. So you may not need any redirect. You could also use the non-existent display url MortgageFinder.com/San-Mateo

  4. Seems like that would make sense. Afterall I quite often remove the www. which is afterall a subdomain and then change my landing page to somewhere deep in my site.

  5. abbottsys

    The 404 display subdomain trick is a nice way to get keywords into your ad - and get them bolded on a search. But it's easy to get carried away ;-) DISPLAY URL = {KeyWord:Fake}.mydomain.com or DISPLAY URL = mydomain.com/{KeyWord:Fake}.html LOL!

  6. @ David (and David) .. that's my understanding also. - David

  7. Abbottsys - I don't think you can use dynamic keyword insertion in the display URL, if that is what you are suggesting? If I am wrong about that, let me know, I would love to be able to use that as an additional trick!

  8. We use DNS made easy for our domains and they let you use a wildcard for your subdomain so everything is forwarded. *.mysite.com for example.

  9. Mo

    Ok, no offense David because this is hardly the first time I've seen this. However, I'm always a little miffed when I see a headline like "Four Tricks to Gain An Unfair Advantage on AdWords" and then I click and see that they're trotting out tired old stuff like geo-targeting and DKI. I'd call those two "basic campaign management" rather than tricks. #4 is actually a trick though, good one.

  10. Sunny

    404 redirects? Really? Does the adwords / media bot that checks your site for quality and keywords not notice that the header is a 404 page? As a result why would it want to serve a page which technically (to the bot) does not exist? I would expect that a seperate sub domain, with these same pages on / being generated but serving back a Status 200 in the header instead of 404 would give a far better quality score, not look so fishy and could actually be useful. If you spit all those generated links out into a sitemap of some description (on the seperate site to your main site) then it could provide some extra content for indexing and using again in the future? Just a thought. Sunny Button Badges

  11. Sunny

    Forgot to say that these are otherwise excellent tips! Nice post ;)

  12. Sunny, the AdWords bot may check your page, but keep in mind that the 404 only applies to the *display URL* and not the *destination URL.* Hence, the actual landing page the user (or bot) is sent to is likely to be a quality, highly-targeted page, but the URL that they see in the ad text is a fictitious one designed to increase CTR and nothing more. I'm not techy enough to know whether a 200 or a *.html would work better for quality score than a 404, but since several people have suggested it, it sounds like it is at least an appropriate alternative. Thanks for the comment (oh, and don't forget to subscribe to the Search Marketing Standard feed as well as my personal blog, www.blogation.net)! David

  13. U can have any URL in the "display URL" field...no redirects, subdomains and 404 pages Cheers, Marius, http://www.dnl.ro/serviciiconexe.htm

  14. Ya know, I think I've seen several instances where you can sneak a non-existent Display URL through the AdWords bot. But the redirect would be a good measure to make sure your ad variation doesn't get kicked back.