What I Learned About Google Adwords In The Past 2 Years

When I started out on digital marketing, I had zero knowledge on how to optimize SEM and SEO. As an E-Commerce graduate, I find this to be extremely embarrassing.

I’ve read a lot them back in my Uni days, but I didn’t really know how to execute them. All I had with me was my curiosity and my understanding on consumer behavior.

Fast forward to today, I’ve spent 2 years working on digital marketing particularly in lead generation and lead nurturing activities. In this post, I will be sharing the my learnings on Google Adwords and how I optimize them to achieve 300% conversion rate.

How Google Adwords Works

Adwords to Landing Page
People search based on keywords and the ones appeared in red box are Google Ads. Upon clicking onto any ad, you’ll be redirected to another page which is what we call – landing page. Think of Google as a librarian that organizes the Internet.

Have you ever tried searching on Google? The first 3 queries that’ll appear will always be advertisements. In fact, the red boxed region above is where the online advertisements appear. Once you click onto any link, you’ll be redirected to a new landing page which prompts you on new promotion or sign ups.

Here is my summarized learnings thus far:

  • Keyword planner traffic estimates are only ESTIMATES.
  • High clicks don’t mean anything if it doesn’t convert.
  • Impression is meant for brand awareness, it doesn’t work so well for lead gen activities (depending on industry).
  • High impression doesn’t mean you’ll get high CTR.
  • High CTR doesn’t guarantee high conversion of prospect into lead.
  • Converted lead doesn’t equal to closing sales.

I made tonnes of mistakes along the way, and here is a list of them and how I optimized them for better good.

Mistakes I Made Throughout The Journey

My objective was to capture leads, and driving them to my homepage seems like a legit move.

The idea was to drive as many people to the website and conversion would happen magically as the website would provide them the information they  need. All they need to do is to navigate the website. I thought it was a good move, and in fact I was dead wrong.

My result said otherwise – I had a 90% bounce rate with 0.5% CTR.

As I was driving traffic to the homepage through PPC, I was also conducting several SEO initiatives. I couldn’t justify my ad spending VS traffic as I couldn’t identify which lead sources that converted better – whether they are paid or organic – as all of them landed on the same page. All of them came through mix of emails and web forms.

To make it worse, I found out that I was competing with my principal to bid on first position – which lead to a high CPC.

Throughout the journey, I also made mistakes like:

  • Not having enough Ad variation for A/B tests.
  • Not running long enough to be statistical confident.
  • Did not setup proper goal for conversion.
  • Not grouping keywords together for relevant interest.
  • and many more that I couldn’t recall…

A Series of Small Wins (and Stumble)

It happened when I came across this post by Hubspot. It inspired me to:

  • Revamp my keywords based on interest level. I segmented them into awareness and middle tier interest by grouping different keywords together.
  • Setting up proper tracking to track which keyword / ad group are performing much better than others.

This lead to my first win, my CTR went up to 2% from 0.5%.

I was expecting conversion to grow but apparent my stats are not showing that.

It was then I realized, having higher CTR doesn’t mean you’ll get more conversion.

It simply means you’re getting past the first layer, a.k.a. getting someone interest in your product.

That is why I started to create dedicated landing pages and series of test with it. My initial version was coded from notepad (oh how nostalgic!) and it looked like some webpage designed in 90s (remember geocities?).

I hit a bottle neck.

To continuously optimize the landing page, it would take a big chunk of time from me and my IT as it involves constant communication. That leads me to search for landing page software – and that is how I came across Unbounce.

Creating a dedicated landing page for specific keyword segment allows me to maximize my content relevance which leads to lower keywords bidding (lower CPC). Whilst there is no transparency in seeing quality score VS actual position ranking, I do experience significant decrease in cost whilst maintaining the clicks amount.

While maximizing my content relevance, I also did many tests on:

  • Types of videos (I test 4-5 different videos for product explanation).
  • Long form VS short form.
  • Different headlines.
  • Different layout to communicate easier.
  • and many more…

Landing page example

The Power of Compound Optimization

Result of Optimization

With the small wins all the way, it lead me to a clearer picture for the whole sales funnel.

Instead of asking people to fill up shitload of information upfront at first touch point, I’ve turned it into progressive profiling.

Seriously, you don’t need that many information for initial touch point, your prospects are just getting familiar with you.

It’s not really an issue between short form or long form is better.

It is a question of how your sales funnel works. This is how I setup mine:

Fill up form > download guide > automated email (1 round for specific industry guide, a much more detailed one than before) > follow up with call.

The moment I turned the long form (which previously houses 8 fields) into 4 main questions which include what do they intend to achieve and their contact details. My lead number grew and surprisingly, my lead quality didn’t drop as much as I expected.

The key here is to understand what are they looking to do, and how can they achieve that. This means I simply can’t expect to make them knowledgeable and comfortable with me simply by filling up a single form. Hence I only asked for contact details and things that you would like to achieve – which led to a bigger win.


The key here is to make the whole process conversational, from landing page to emails and lastly, calls. This progressive profiling method allows my salesperson to spark more conversation and interact with prospects, simply because:

  • They can now speak on the same wavelength as they vetted through the guides.
  • They actually understand better on how the technology works, hence setting their expectations right.

Instead of looking at digital marketing component alone, I find it much more beneficial if you were to think it from sales funnel or consumer behavior, then slice it down to actionable steps by relying on tools.

So what did you learn in your Adwords journey?

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