Lessons from my first ever Google Ads campaign

Do you remember the first Google Ads campaign you ever created?

I created my first campaign in 2007. I was working as a marketing intern at a software company near London. The company already had decent organic rankings for terms like ‘CRM software’ and ‘CRM solution’.

Those rankings did them little good, because the website itself was terrible. But they did manage to rank organically for some impressive keywords.

So when I approached the MD with a proposal for running paid ads, he was understandably sceptical…

Why would we pay for traffic, he reasoned, when we already had free traffic coming in? But the reality was we needed more leads. So eventually I solicited a £1000 per month budget to experiment with.

At that point I had known about Google AdWords for two years. I started following AdWords expert Perry Marshall in 2005, through one of Ken McCarthy’s System Seminar recordings. “Jump on in,” was Perry’s message, “cuz these cheap clicks are gonna dry up!”

The two main PPC book at the time were Perry’s Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords, and Howie Jacobson’s AdWords for Dummies. Later on I discovered Advanced Google AdWords, by Brad Geddes. I read all of these, and was well versed in the principles.

Of course, the clicks didn’t feel cheap at the time. When Google first introduced AdWords in 2002, you could buy clicks on any keywords for pennies. 10 cent clicks were commonplace. By 2007, we were paying between £2 and £3 for CRM-related terms. Today, those same clicks would cost at least £15.

For two years I had studied the principles of Google AdWords, without really doing anything. I’m more of an accidental entrepreneur than a serial one. I didn’t have a business at 21. I was a studious and slightly apprehensive marketing intern, desperate to learn as much as possible.

Then I created an AdWords account for the CRM company, and realised I had no real idea what I was doing

I knew about keyword match types. I knew to avoid broad match keywords. But how many keywords were you supposed to put in an ad group? Should you put keywords of different match types in the same ad group, or in different ones?

I knew about conversion tracking, but adding the conversion tracking code to our web pages was an adventure. The website was coded in HTML, so I had to add the conversion script to the page in Adobe Dreamweaver, email it to the support manager who would FTP it up to the website.

If you don’t know what any of that means, then neither did I at the start! Nothing was as simple as it seemed in the books. Everything took longer than expected.

Fully aware that our website needed significant work, I created separate landing pages (which I designed myself in Dreamweaver), offering a free CRM email course. People could opt-in to an email series exploring the benefits of CRM. I wrote the course myself in evenings and weekends, and set it up using the email system AWeber.

None of this work was a spectacular success. After reading Perry’s work, I was obsessed with generating ‘conversions’, which I struggled to do. Failing to understand how company budgets are set, some months I even failed to spend the full £1000, figuring (correctly) it was a waste of money.

Eventually the sales manager (who understood a bit about AdWords, and more about company budgets than I did), advised me to ‘just spaff it’.

But many of the ingredients for success were in place. More next time.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.