An Adwords Tutorial For Restaurant Owners: Restaurant Idea Roundup
Adwords Really CAN Work For You
Unfortunately, an improper view of advertising budgets and incorrect assumptions of how online advertising works have both aided in the false notion that Google Adwords & Microsoft AdCenter (Bing & Yahoo) are foolish business ventures for restaurants to pursue. As the PPC campaign manager here at Prima, I am a firm believer in the fact that small businesses can be very successful at personally running their own campaigns. My hope is that this blog post will aid your restaurant or cafe in this area as well. You as the owner or manager of a local, small restaurant really can work up a well thought out and successful campaign for online advertising without sacrificing hours per day. Here are six suggestions that will greatly enhance the way your Adwords/AdCenter campaigns perform:
Keep It In Your Budget
An easy mistake to make when beginning an online advertising campaign is to believe the marketing claims promising that your business will grow into a multi-billion dollar company in the first 3 months. As with any expenditure, when you first begin advertising online, do not spend money that you are not willing to lose. In other words, a great place to start is to try a number that works for you... let's say $50 per month... for the first 3 months to see how things go. If you won't go bankrupt by spending $150 after 3 months, then you have found a good beginning budget. Stay within your budget. Google is not to blame if you spend more money than you have because you thought you would immediately turn a profit.
As you begin to see how your traffic is doing (by tracking it... as we will cover later), then slowly raise your budget in accord with your revenue. Remember, once you get to a certain point where your Return on Investment (ROI) demonstrates that you are making more money that you are putting in, you can continue to raise your budget and experiment with how comfortable you are at different budget levels with the revenue you are tracking. Whatever you do though, do not hesitate to drop non/under-performing ad groups/keywords. There is no point spending hundreds of dollars for a series of words that never gets you any conversions (just make sure you are actually accurately tracking conversions).
Keep It Local
Both Google Adwords and Microsoft AdCenter provide a way to only display your ads in very specific geographical locations. This is an absolute must for every restaurant (even if you are a multi-site national chain, there are places you are not... and you don't want people in those places to cost you money on your ads). If you do not have your campaigns set up to only reach people who live close enough to actually visit your cafe, then you are wasting clicks and money on people who don't even have a chance to convert.
Another thing you can do to target yourself locally is actually quite simple. Simply get a spreadsheet of all your keywords, and then append your city name to each keyword for another column. Do this again with city and state. And do it again with common misspellings or nicknames. For example, let's say you are Bluegrass Burgers here in Louisville, Kentucky (FYI, this place is amazing, I recommend the Bison burger with smoked Gouda cheese). You do a keyword search using the handy Adwords keyword tool and decide it would be worth it to begin advertising for the keyword burger joints. Here are just a few ideas for what you can do to expand your keyword options to snag the locals:
- burger joints louisville
- burger joints louisville ky
- burger joints louisville kentucky
- burger joints in the ville
- burger joints in the ville ky
- burger joints in the ville kentucky
- burger joints lousiville (anyone else struggle spelling louisville like this?!)
- burger joints lousiville ky
- burger joints lousiville kentucky
Keep It Specific
Quick Adwords keyword tutorial: there are five kinds of keywords google recognizes:
Exact Match- Your ads will only display for the exact keyword/keyword phrase you specify. You do this by using brackets. For example, if you bid on the phrase [happy clown ice cream sandwiches] then your ads will never display to a user in Google search results unless they type in those words in exactly that word order and nothing else but that exact phrase.
Phrase Match- Your ads will only display for the exact keyword/phrase that you choose, but other words can be added. You specify Phrase Match keywords in Adwords by using quotes. For instance, if you type in "happy clown ice cream sandwiches" your ads will display for anyone who types in that exact phrase and any other words (i.e., where can i find happy clown ice cream sandwiches in Iowa?)
Broad Match- Your ads will display for any of the words that you choose or any variations for those words that google determines is relevant. In other words, you can type in: happy clown ice cream sandwiches into Adwords, and your ad could potentially display for someone searching for: joyful clowns who ice skate while eating Subway sandwiches. Theoretically, Google and Bing have algorithms that help the keyword variations only display for relevant synonyms... but the reality is that you can get very interesting searches for your keywords. This is where using negative keywords is crucial.
Broad Match With Modifier- In the last year, Google released an addition to their broad match keywords that immediately created a joyful atmosphere among all PPC campaign managers. They added something called a modifier to the broad match category. When used, this modifier (+) allows you to specifically choose which keywords you want to specifically display, while not maintaining a phrase. For example, +happy +clown +ice +cream sandwiches would allow only searches where all 4 of those words specifically appear to display your ad. The words can still be in any order, but the accuracy is much higher by using modifiers. Experiment with them, I have really grown to love them in keywords.
Negative- Just like what it seems, if you want to make sure your ads do not display for searches using a certain word or phrase, you can enter in a negative keyword, and your ads will not display in a search using it. For instance, using our illustration, if you don't want to have your ads display for people looking for a circus (since your Happy Clown Ice Cream Sandwiches are unrelated to that), then simply add -circus into your campaign, and anytime someone searches for: ice cream sandwiches served by happy clowns at the circus... your ads will never display.
The key to using keyword match types is to keep things very specific. The more specific you are on your keywords and the more negative keywords you use, the more you can guarantee that the people who type in your query are actually wanting to find you... which means they will be more likely to convert. Also, phrase and exact match keywords tend (not always) to be much cheaper. This means that you will not get as much immediate traffic as you would hope, but the traffic coming will cost you less money and will be high quality traffic (i.e., the kind more likely to convert).
Keep It High Quality
Another Adwords essential (and now AdCenter is getting in on it as well) to lowering your keyword costs is Quality Score. Quality Score is an equation that Google uses to determine what your bid will be. For specific information on how they do it, watch this video by their Chief Economist, Hal: Introduction to the Google Ad Auction. Basically, the Quality Score factors in such metrics as your bounce rate, CTR, relevance, etc. Here's what you need to know: the higher your Quality Score, the less you pay for the same placement in an auction. Google does this to ensure that major corporations with immense ad budgets will not simply buy out every keyword auction and eliminate the competition. This means that you as a small business can now compete with the large corporations because of Quality Score. It really is quite genius.
So what are some things you can do to raise your Quality Score? Well, first, you will need to do some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on your website. This is another blog post entirely, so for Adwords we'll focus specifically on this key point: make sure that the page you send your clicks to, your "landing page" is relevant to the keywords you are bidding on. In other words, if you bid on the keyword phrase "best italian menu in town", make sure you send them to a good page with a menu on it. Look at it from the customer's point of view. Give them what they want to see. Google will see this and reward you with a higher Quality Score.
Another way to raise your Quality Score is to tightly group your keywords and ad groups. Make sure that every single keyword in your ad group is in the display ad you create for that group. If you have a keyword that doesn't go with the others, make a new ad group. Try making ad groups that focus on specific aspects of your restaurant (menu, pricing, location, etc), and therefore can be sent to different pages on your website. Google smiles on tightly grouped keywords and ad groups, as well as keywords that are highly relevant to the ad being displayed and the landing page the user is taken to when they click your ad... and when Google smiles on you, you pay them less.
Keep It Tracked
Don't be satisfied with just tracking visitors! Fact: Any idiot with money can use Adwords to send website traffic. Your goal should be, not just to send people to your website, but to send people to your website who will eventually walk through your restaurant door. How do you track this to see if you are sending the right people to your website? Well, it may require some creativity on your part, but it is possible. The first step, is to get a free account with Google Analytics. This will ensure that you see all of the traffic going into and out of your website, and will allow you to track your conversions (once you have it set up to track them). This is only the first step, however.
Once you have set up analytics, you must then determine what it is that you want your customers to do. You obviously want them to come in to eat lobster and steak in your restaurant, but if you don't know how they came in, you cannot ever optimize your campaigns to get rid of under-performing keywords and to bid up high-performing keywords. Here is where you have to be creative. What are ways that you can track this? Here is one idea, with a little thought (and knowing your own customers and niche better than me) you should be able to come up with even better ones! Set up a reservations page where people can fill out a reservation for when they want to eat. More and more people are taking care of business online with their smart phones. Why not make it easier for them to make a reservation, and also put that to good use, by tracking it as a conversion. Simply send your display ad links to that page and whenever anyone fills out the form, it counts as a reservation. By syncing Adwords and Analytics, you can see exactly which keywords are sending the traffic that tend to convert the most.
Another idea is to try using a specific coupon code that you only place in your ads. Whenever someone walks into your restaurant with that coupon code, you know how they got there (this doesn't help you in identifying specific keywords, but it at least gives you a general idea of a total conversion rate). Whatever you do, the single most important thing you can do in setting up your Adwords or AdCenter account is to begin tracking conversions. Without doing this, you are blind and will be flailing in the dark as to what works and what doesn't.
Keep It Up
Not a whole lot to say here other than, don't give up. It will take some time, it will take some learning. But if you think of how many people are now using the internet to scope out options for everything from purchasing diapers to engagement dinners... you will see that you don't really have a choice but to get involved online. It takes time and patience... but it's well worth it. If you can apply these principles to your campaigns, then you have a really good chance of getting a jump on your competition and driving high quality traffic to your website... and from your website to your restaurant.
Hopefully this has been beneficial to you as you seek to build a successful business in a difficult economy! How about you, restaurant owner or manager? I am curious to hear about your experiences with online advertising. Do you agree with what I have said? Disagree? What have you tried that works? Doesn't work? Is there any way I can help you as you try to build your online campaigns? Feel free to leave a comment on this blog post, I'd love to help you in anyway I can! Until next time...