Google AdWords feels to me like a cross between hiring a hooker, and sitting down to do your taxes: it leaves you feeling dirty and when you start out, you are not sure if someone is going to show up and steal your wallet afterwards…what a terrible analogy, but I am going to try to work with it. One of the many perks that almost everyone recieves with a hosting package but never uses is a Google AdWords coupon “$25 AdWord coupon! That means my site is, like, free!” AdWords is Google’s revenue stream for sucking the lifeblood from small advertisers, allowing people targeted links, like the ones on the right side of any Google search, based on the words a person searches for. These are paid for on a per-impression (i.e. the ad is displayed) and per click (i.e. someone clicked your link) basis.
Like showing up at a timeshare presentation because the girl that invited you was hot, I signed up for the “free” promotion. First off, I had to pay a $10 “setup fee”, which is about as classy as “shipping and handling” on eBay. Ah well, what is sacrificing $10 to buy new friends. My old ones were all complainers anyway. I created a small ad, with “Halifax Web Developer” as the keyword. I dismissed the idea of “Girl-on-girl Website Design” and “Brittney Spears Flash Animation” and picked ones that would potentially further the goals of my blog. In setting up my account I had to set a maximum monthly amount I was willing to spend to buy my new friends (reminds me of the bullies in junior high…but I digress). I chose the lowest maximum at $30 and chose the option to pay them at the end of the month, because likely no one will find my blog via this method and I am not really selling anything. In fact, you should be paying me, you bunch of savages…
All kidding aside: if I had a legit business, this would be a huge way for me to drive traffic because most people can’t get on the elusive “first search page” on Google and must buy impressions however they can. The optimizations for AdWords are actually very interesting: you ‘buy’ keywords by bidding on them. Essentially this means more common terms like “books” and “computers” are extremely expensive per impression, but something like “Halifax Bookshop” would be quite reasonable. Spending time thinking about what users might search for to specifically target you is a good investment in time. Regionalizing, or being specific as to your product, are good ways to find the balance from targeted search terms and cost effectiveness.
On a more speculative level, I think that in actually giving Google money in this way, it is like paying tribute to a volcano god in hopes that he won’t take your virgin…wait, where was I…my point is that Google’s search rankings algorithm are a secret black box. I hope by forming as many relationships with them and jumping through as many hoops for them I can, they will release the cure for cancer that they have been hoarding for years, or at least up my ranking.