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Small businesses are equipped to compete with any sized organization. The questions that are asked after this statement is, why and how? The simple answer is the Internet. There are an endless amount of tools on the Internet that allow small businesses to succeed. Then why do 2 out of 3 small businesses fail? They don’t know what they don’t know.

Recently, I spent some time with 8 small business owners who expressed similar concerns. During our conversation one gentleman who owns a neighborhood restaurant started talking about how Google AdWords did nothing but waste money for him. You might be surprised, but a lot of people feel that way.

So, I started probing the situation a bit. What surfaced during our conversation was basically; he didn’t really know how to properly setup an effective online advertisement campaign. He was pulling together keywords with generic ad content. What made matters worse was that he was driving people to his home page. After some more back and forth, I gave him some pointers in how he could set up ads that drive sales and offer a high ROI. That sparked the inspiration for this piece. Let’s take a look at how he could better position himself to succeed.

Missed Goal - Missed Opportunity

Pick a Focus

With this gentleman we didn’t get into the specifics about his ad structure because he didn’t remember a lot, but one thing was apparent, he didn’t have a focus. When you create an online ad, whether in Google AdWords or Bing Ads or another platform, you need to have an area, service or product focus campaign. If you are not exactly sure what I mean by this, there will be other posts that describe setting up potent campaigns.

As a restaurant you could pick an area of focus like a special event coming up. If you have a special six course dinner for Valentine’s Day or you are offering Free Burgers to Dad’s on Father’s day. You have to have a focus in an ad campaign. Another focus could be the type of food you serve. Focus your campaign on Italian food or American Bistro or Asian Fusion. The campaign could be location focused as well. Or location and food specialty focus. Once you decide what you like to focus you will need to move to the keywords.

Keywords that Click

Once your online ad campaign is focused, you have to go onto researching the keywords that work for the ads. Depending on your platform, which could be Google AdWords, Bing Ads, or one of the many other platforms, you should use their research tools. These tools will allow you to see what keywords are driving traffic and which ones are competitive. Typically, you want keywords that have high traffic volumes and low competition, unless you want to pay more money for the traffic. The higher the competition, the more money you will pay to get clicks.

The other detail you want to think about when researching keywords, is thinking like your customer. Put yourself in their shoes. What type of phrase or terms would they use to find your service or product? Let’s say you go with the Valentine’s Day Dinner focus for your campaign. You should search for keywords like: Valentine’s Day Dinner or Valentine’s Dinner or Valentine’s Day Dinner for 2 or Valentine’s Dinner Seattle. The combinations can go on and on.

The key here is to make sure the keywords are specific to your online ad campaign focus. You also want to make sure they have a significant amount of traffic. The cherry on top is if the keywords have low competition, but settling for medium competition will suffice. The goal, at least at first, is to find 5-7 strong keyword terms or phrases. As soon as you do that, it is time to move onto the content of the ad.

Specifically Speaking

With most advertisements the title and description can be very vague and/or they can be very confusing. That leads to a low amount of people who click on the ad. That is a big problem. The whole purpose of the online ad is to have people who are interested enough to click on your ad. If the content in the ad (your title and description as seen here) is boring or vague or does not have a clear cut reason why someone should click on it, they won’t.

Italian Restaurant




People need to be told what to do in these situations. Continuing with the Valentine’s Day Dinner example, let’s see how to create enticing content for the ad.

First we want to start with the message. Take the keywords for this particular campaign and add it to the message. Something like this:

  • Valentine’s Day Dinner
  • Valentine’s Day Dinner – ABC Restaurant
  • Perfect Valentine’s Day Dinner
  • Valentine’s Dinner
  • Valentine’s Day Dinner for 2
  • Valentine’s Day Dinner – 20% Off

There are always options. When you create the title, keep in mind, you can only use 25 characters or less. You can expand the default setting. For that trick, read this post on dynamic keyword insertion. You will want to test the titles and the descriptions to see what works the best. You have the choice to either include an offering such as a percentage off or something for free, the incentive, in the title or you can wait to include it in the description.

The key to all of this is to be specific, but more importantly, test! Test, test and test some more. Test the ads until you can’t test anymore. That’s the only way you really are going to know what works.

The description will have to back up the title. If the incentive is not included in the title, you want to include it into the description. If you decide to use Perfect Valentine’s Day, you can use a description like this:

  • Voted the most romantic restaurant in New York. Make Reservations Today!

You back your statement of having a “Perfect Valentine’s Day Dinner” with some validation. The “Make Reservations Today!” is a clear-cut call to action. You asked them to do something. That is very important.

Since you will be testing, the description will change depending on the title. The call to action will also change. Try variations, but for the most part you should know what you want them to do.

Once you have all your tests ready. Start with 2-3 at first. No need to go overboard. You will want to make sure your landing page is consistent with the ad.

X Marks the Spot

The landing page is the area where most small business completely miss the mark. It’s either the online ad drives them to the home page or a page on the website that does not work with the content. You have to be very careful here.

When I talked to the owner, he said he was driving them to the homepage. At one point, he even had a simple landing page with a coupon on it for them to print off. Not bad, but there is a problem there, too. The owner said that people where downloading the coupon, but a very low percentage of people used it.

The problem with allowing people to download a coupon without any other action is that you miss opportunity. If he would have asked people to enter in their name and email address to receive the coupon, then he can go back and remarket to them. For example, if you do give people a 10% Off coupon and they enter their name and email address, but never use it, you can send that person emails on future discounts, coupons and special events. They were interested. They liked the incentive. If that is the circumstance, then continue to give them opportunities to come into your restaurant. One of two things will happen, they will either come in or they will opt out of your emails. Regardless, you have more to gain than lose.

Now, let’s take a look at how to create an effective landing page for an online advertisement. The ideal situation is to create a new page on your website that works specifically with the ad. The title should be very consistent, if not identical to the title in the ad. The body of content on the landing page will elaborate on the description of the ad. Lastly, you will have a box for them to complete the call to action. It would look something like this:

Landing Page Example

An effective landing page can be an existing page on your website as long as there is a call to action, such as to purchase an item or to download a coupon or whitepaper. A custom landing page is especially useful for specialty ads. You can design a template for the custom landing page. For each online ad variation you should tweak the landing page to match the text in the ad. Remember, consistency is key. The landing page is the last piece to solve the challenge of online advertising for small business.

Bringing It Together

Now, that we have gone through all the necessary pieces, let’s look at how all of this ties together.  First, we discovered that you have to decide what you want to advertise. To help you stand out from the competition, use creative ideas or events or promotions. The secret is to bring value to your audience.

The topic is set. The next step is to write a stimulating advertising title that has an offer of value that catch’s your interest. The value offered will be in your title or in the description.

The award for the most important area of an effective online advertisement goes unanimously to the landing page. It can either be an existing page on the website or a custom page you create just for the advertisement. Either way, making sure it is an extension of the ad, which means the verbiage is the same and that it has a very apparent call to action.

There are a few key characteristics to keep in mind throughout each step.

  1. Consistency
  2. Test, test, and test some more
  3. Continue to improve your efforts

It is unknown whether the restaurant owner who was having trouble with his online advertising efforts actually took my advice. However, I hope you get a chance to learn from this story. If you use it to your advantage, it was all worth it. A strong online advertising campaign can be that marketing channel to increase sales and exposure for any business. You just need the knowledge to know what works and what doesn’t.

What say you? Have you experienced this type of situation?