Google AdWords: Hits the Target, Misses the Bullseye

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By Randall Erkelens

At first, Google AdWords sounded too good to be true. The pay service claims to reach people actively surfing online for info about your products and services. Here’s how it works: you only pay Google when people click on your ad. You will also know exactly what you’re going to pay, too, as a cap is placed on spending. For pennies a day, you can target the consumers you want with accuracy.

That was their sales pitch, and it was a marketing tool we couldn’t pass up. Our ads appeared when our target audiences would type in “Denver,” “Advertising,” “Agency,” and a string of other keywords.

We started to get some momentum. Clickthroughs were made to our site. The phone rang often. Deals were made. We stumbled upon what we believed was a marketing secret weapon. We scratched our heads over why more small agencies we’re snubbing AdWords. We soon knew why.

After the first few months, we quickly realized that our newfound client base lacked a solid understanding of marketing. They had no idea what they wanted. Time became quickly scarce as we wound up training our clients versus creating work for them. The end results of Google AdWords turned out to be the most painful and short-lived nightmares in our first year in business.

AdWords may be great for anyone on the lookout for a flower shop or an oil change. We have our doubts that it can generate qualified leads for our more specialized industry. Yes, visibility may increase for you. You’ll garnish some calls. But in the end, are these pay-for-click calls the calls you want? Our advice: save your cash.

Randall Erkelens is Principal and Creative Director of Denver advertising and design agency Section 45.


My experience exactly. I got leads, but lame ones. I think that the trick is to use clever clues that only qualified leads will understand. e.g.:

Via Moi: When competitors are Googled, be present, clever. January 26, 2006

Its personal experience might not apply for all agencies. It begs the question is word of mouth and a chance encounter with an ad agency employee a better client than those seeking out advertising agencies online? I think both can create great clients. I would like to ask Pure’s (Section 45) Randall Erkelens about there adwords copy? Was it well written and geared towards the clients they wanted? Was the language used savvy and understood by there true target market? Could there lack of educated clients be due to there lack of information on there poorly designed website? Who knows? My inclination tells me that with lack of expertise in search and understanding of ppc could lead to exactly what Pure got “uneducated clients”.


We should get together over a beer to discuss.


We rotated several ads in our campaign targeting specific services to a specific audience. Always testing between A/B/C language. We refined our keywords over time looking for exact keyword phrases. We tracked our conversion ratio vs. investment. Both per client and keywords/specific ads.

We included our keywords in our ad as suggested by so many tips and tricks sites and leading professionals. We only focused on one core competency. We didn’t try to be all things to all potential clients (although our website says we’ve done it all). And a number of other considerations went into the writing of the ads and choosing the right keywords.

Perhaps, we missed the mark in our AdWords campaign. As you know, advertising is a never-ending series of tests. We consulted on the topic, read most of what’s available before diving-in to our low cost click through effort. Learned along the way.

Thanks for your comment.


I am compelled to point out that Randall/Section 45 subleases space in our building (Pure), but he is not our employee. Although we both benefit from some occasional cross pollination, he maintains an entirely separate client list—not Pure clients.

Secondly, while we are on the subject of words, you really should spend a bit more time crafting yours.

My sincerest apologies Gregg, I was misinformed. My thoughts were nothing more than mere opinion. Thank you for the feedback and have a wonderful holiday weekend.

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