The Art of the WordPress Startup: Part 18


This post is part 18 of a series on how to launch your startup on WordPress. Last time I talked about the importance of wireframing and why skipping over it doesn’t make sense even though some self-proclaimed gurus may not feel the same. This time we’ll talk about something nearly every startup uses as part of their marketing arsenal, Google AdWords™. Yes, I agree it should be written as “Adwords” and that “AdWords” looks goofy much like FaceBook would, but oh well. Zuck, please shoot Larry an email and get that resolved.

Mistake #1

Everyone thinks they’re a pro when it comes to AdWords, but here’s a little secret, most people suck at it. How do I know? I’ve managed maybe fifty plus campaigns over the past ten years and I’ve seen it all. I took the time to study and sit for the certification exams, which aren’t nearly as hard as passing the California Bar, however they are no joke. Yes, you can attempt to cheat on them by running two laptops side by side or hacking your OS, however you’ll just be cheating yourself. Not learning the info kind of defeats the whole point of taking them.

It’s easy to think that you can do AdWords. Programmers do this a lot. Hey, I can write code in Python, I can do anything including AdWords! Um, not really. That’s like a lawyer saying they can win civil suits so they definitely can tackle wireframing without taking the time to learn. Just because the UI is friendly-looking and it appears there aren’t that many buttons compared to Photoshop doesn’t mean it’s not a powerful system, with huge gaps in knowledge between beginners and those who know every single setting both in theory and in practice. If you want to call yourself an AdWords expert, study for and ace the exams.

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Mistake #2

The second mistake I see all the time is that of incorrect targeting. By default, AdWords will do what’s best for AdWords (in financial terms) and hence its parent, Google. That’s no surprise and I don’t blame them. It’s the user’s job to know how to set things up. Google is publicly traded and has to meet or exceed quarterly estimates. It’s not that they’re evil now, it’s that they’re huge.

So how does AdWords do what’s best for AdWords with respect to targeting? Well, a lot of the settings by default are pretty broad. Location might default to entire world, devices to all types, and so forth, even if your product is only applicable to your home country and your mobile site sucks. Do you want all those extra clicks that probably won’t convert? No!

So here’s a tip. Make a list of all the countries that your product can be sold in and where the average purchasing power makes sense for what you’re selling, and target those. For example, we don’t target Nepal for enterprise hosting terms because although they might use WordPress, they don’t have many enterprises (if any) and a decent apartment rents for $150 per month (thanks House Hunters International). So the purchasing power isn’t there and neither are enterprises. Even a $400 VPS will seem like a fortune to them. But sadly most people who setup AdWords accounts don’t think about stuff like this. If our mobile site isn’t as easy to use as our main site (our soon to be launched new site will take care of that) then we decrease our bids for mobile accordingly by say 75% since we’re only willing to pay 1/4 as much for a click as we are for laptop/desktop.

In addition, targeting China and India is tricky as well. Many advertisers get all excited because they comprise nearly half the world’s population and target them without realizing the huge disparities in wealth between the haves and have nots. There is a lot of talk about a booming middle class in each however they are all concentrated in a few cities respectively. In India, most of the wealth is in Bombay/Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore (trust me, I’ve been there). In China, most of the wealth is concentrated in the cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen (trust me, I’ll be in China among other countries next week).

The people in the cities have 10x the wealth of the rural population, some of whom do have internet. So the city worker’s apartment in downtown Shanghai might be $1000 USD per month and the rural farmer’s rent might be $100/mo. In the U.S. we have disparities in wealth between the large cities like LA/NYC and say rural Kansas, but the difference is that the rural family in Kansas has rent of $1000 whereas the family in LA might pay $3000. That means the rural family still has significant purchasing power to buy most products and services. All of this doesn’t account for the language, cultural, currency, timezone, and shipping barriers. Make sure you’re bidding only where people can afford and more important are definitely willing to buy your products. If you are going to target India and China, then be sure to try and narrow your bidding for each to their major cities. You don’t want the rural farmer who lives on $100/mo clicking your ads at $5 per click for a SaaS product that costs more than their rent.

Mistake #3

Set it and forget it. Ron Popeil made a great living off of it, but it doesn’t apply to AdWords. Yes you can use their automated bidding feature to maximize your clicks per budget but that doesn’t mean your work is done after setup. You have to continually refine things such as trying new ad variations, new keywords, eliminating bad keywords that are triggered via broad match by using negative keywords, and more. You have to monitor and review your account at least twice per week, typically Monday and Friday are best in my opinion, to make sure nothing funky is going on. Managing an AdWords account properly takes a good 5-10 hours per week. The funny thing is that if your budget is high enough, it’s actually cheaper to pay someone say $1000/mo to manage your account than to just set it and forget it. They’ll save you that much or more in crappy clicks and if they’re good they’ll increase your CTR and conversion rate so you’re both spending less and making more than you would have been without them.


If you want to run your own AdWords for your company, don’t be a doofus and think anyone can do it. Study for the exams and ace them. If you don’t have the time, hire someone who both does and knows what they’re doing. Like most things in life, winging it is really just a waste of your time and money.

Full Series — Click here to see all articles in this series.