This is what happens when you throw $9,746.32 at Google AdWords

$9,746.32, that was my Google AdWords spend by the end of 2016 which comes out to an average of $26.70 per day. This means, I now have a year’s worth of data and advice to share with you.

Why the final number matters.

That number at the top might not be a very big number, but it’s important. You have to remember that I’m an individual and not a company, I represent myself and work for myself. That number is also a good chunk of my total earnings for the whole year.

Rick Ross once said “I bury the most cash and burning the rest”, well that’s what I did last year. I tried to save most of what I made from my sales and threw the rest at AdWords. Was it all burning away on AdWords or was it making me more money?

Looking at the data.

This is where we have to dig deep and find some meaning in the data. I could go on a limb and take a guess by saying AdWords did make me more money because I remember getting the sales, I just wouldn’t know what each of those sales actually cost me.

This is what I discovered.

Excel sheet of the two ads I ran last year to generate 6 sales.

Where did the money go?

I ran two ads the whole year — don’t judge me, I didn’t take AdWords seriously until the end of 2016. My first ad ran with the heading “My Home is Worth, What?” and generated 11,268 clicks and 550 leads. The second ad ran with the heading “What is My Home Worth?”. I ran the second ad from September 1st to the end of the year, as you can see from the numbers there wasn’t much of a difference between the two except that one ran longer than the other.

My CPA (cost-per-action) was a mean average of $1,914.69. CPA in my case, is defined as the cost of acquiring a home sale (which is how I make money) I added an extra column which I refer to as CPL (cost-per-lead), this is just the cost of acquiring one lead (user successfully submitted a form with personal information). The impressions aren’t ground-breaking because the ads are targeted locally, as a real estate agent I make money from acquiring local customers.

So it’s clear where my money went, now we need to ask why.

Why I didn’t improve my ads.

Two ads for the whole year? Seems like the wrong approach doesn’t it. Well, here’s the problem: I used Google’s AdWords Express. AdWords Express is basically AdWords crippled little brother, set it and forget it while burning money type of approach. I know what you’re thinking — “You still got 6 sales”, indeed I did but it was done blindly and thus I spent $9,746.32 in the process. The whole thing is automated all the way from keyword generation to bidding.

Sure, Google is an intelligent company and is optimizing the ads… actually Google is just another business — they want to make more money from you. Operating in a black-box means I had no idea how my ad was being managed. Heck, they even picked keywords that got me a ton of clicks — but in reality the keywords had nothing to do with my ad or my website.

The top search phrases Google picked for my ad.

If you take a look at the image above you will see that these keywords are all Broad Matches (matches any variance in the words or combinations of the words). Take a look at the top keywords:

  1. “sell homes”, 175 clicks. I didn’t notice this until it was too late, this has nothing to do with my ad or my website! I didn’t want to attract buyers.
  2. “homes”, 134 clicks. This is an extremely broad keyword, it can cover hundreds of topics.
  3. “property for sale”, 112 clicks. There goes another $100.
  4. “home for sale”, 97 clicks. Again, I didn’t have any homes for sale! I wanted to attract sellers.

The list goes on, nearly 2 dozen keywords hovering around 80 to 200 clicks were unrelated. I don’t have the exact numbers because AdWords express does not let you do much with the data but I’m pretty sure I burned over $2,500 on keywords that had no value.

Here are the top performers:

Data I manually extracted from Google AdWords Express.

Take control of the wheel.

Total impressions and clicks for January 1st, 2017 to January 25, 2017.

Take control of your AdWords account. It takes time to learn, but you can pull it off. I was able to get 9.1% CTR this month, from what wordstream describes the average for real estate is 2.03% on the high end. The amount of impressions are also much lower, this is due to the targeted nature of my ads and keywords — which is a good thing. I even pulled off more leads, 1.3x more than what I did last year same time. I might have paid a bit more but it’s well worth it.

It took me a year to learn my lesson, I hope you can avoid that time spent.

In my next post I’ll talk about the new ads and what I did to get better CTR.

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I’d love to hear from you.

If you want more advice, tips, strategies and ramblings on being a great real estate agent, visit my blog.