Editor's note: "The First 90 Days" is a series about how to make 2016 a year of breakout growth for your business. Let us know how you're making the first 90 days count by joining the conversation on social media with the hashtag #Inc90Days.
Should you advertise your business using Google AdWords? Is it effective?
Yes! And I'm going to tell you why.
More than anything else, AdWords enables you to target the people who are searching for and ready to purchase the exact products or services you're selling right now. Often these people need little persuasion - they just need to know where to buy it.
That's just one reason why AdWords is so freaking cool. It puts your company and message in front of people who are ready (or very nearly ready) to buy.
Google AdWords isn't the only marketing channel or bit of technology that can help grow your business. You'll also want to invest your time and money in other key technologies to fuel your growth - such as remarketing, Facebook ads, your website, and tools to understand your target market, to name just a few.
But AdWords is your next big win. With a little effort and the right investment, you'll start attracting more prospects and customers, making more sales, and growing your business and revenues.
For more than 15 years, businesses of all types and sizes have realized the value of Google's advertising system.
Google is constantly adding new features and functions in an effort to improve their product. AdWords is so deep that you can literally do thousands of things.
Overwhelmed about where you should focus? Don't be. I'm going to tell you where you can get the biggest bang for your business.
Here are seven of the most powerful AdWords features from the last year or so.
1. Call-Only Campaigns
Call-Only ads are very much like the traditional pay-per-click (PPC) ads you see on Google's search results pages. The key difference is that these ad encourage people to call your business, rather than visit your website.
What's so amazingly powerful about Call-Only Campaign ads is that they are immediate. Google makes it super easy for potential customers to reach a business at the exact moment they want to do something, and also makes it easy for that business to capture the lead.
It's incredibly smart to allow hot prospects to simply call you, rather than sending them to a landing page. Call-Only Campaigns allow you to capture 100 percent of leads, rather than the 3 percent conversion rate, on average, you'd get from sending people to a landing page.
Another incredibly valuable Google AdWords feature--especially for small businesses with a smaller advertising budget--is Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs).
Basically, RLSAs let you target people who are already familiar with your brand (people who have visited your site and received a cookie) and searching Google using keywords you're bidding on. Talk about people who are ready to buy!
Your ads will cost less and result in more conversions. Win-win!
3. Customer Match
Customer Match is a featured I've called "THE most exciting AdWords update in the history of the platform." No hype. This is another way Google helps you reach people who already know your company - talk about low-hanging fruit!
Customer Match is an extremely efficient way to reach people on Search, Gmail, or YouTube. They will experience different ads based on their stage of their consumer journey (e.g., a prospect vs. an existing customer vs. a frequent buyer).
Simply upload a list of your prospects' email addresses, and then Google matches that list with customers who use Google products. I did an experiment and determined Customer Match had an excellent match rate of 50.4 percent.
4. Gmail ads
Gmail ads appear within the Promotions tab of Gmail, and target users based on their personal account activity.
One of the biggest keys to Gmail ads success is to write subject lines that will attract huge numbers of clicks - the more clicks you get, the less you'll pay.
Check out the performance data from your existing email marketing campaigns. Look for the ones with the highest open rates - your unicorns! - and use those for your Gmail Ads campaigns.
Keyword targeting is also incredibly powerful. Consider targeting the trademarks of your competitors to potentially steal some sales. If people are thinking about buying something from your competitor, that means they're also in the market for what you sell - they just might not know it yet!
5. YouTube ads
More than 6 billion hours of video are watched every month on YouTube. That makes YouTube a massive opportunity to reach your target audience. How?
Using YouTube's TrueView ads, you can reach your target audience as they're watching videos.
With TrueView videos you only pay when people view 30 seconds of your video ad (or if they otherwise engage, such as clicking on an overlay, banner, or card). If someone clicks on the "skip ad" button before your video ad finishes, you don't pay.
6. Custom affinity audiences
AdWords' custom affinity audiences is a Display Network feature that gives you the ability to target an predetermined group of people who are likely to be interested in your specific product or niche.
There are more than 80 options - from technophiles, to pet lovers, to sports fans, and so much more.
You can take this a step further with custom affinity segments, which lets you create your own subsets of each affinity audience. Google shared an example from Electronic Arts, which created 32 custom audiences to reach fans of specific NFL teams.
7. New AdWords app for iOS
In January, Google released the AdWords App for iOS, nearly an entire year after the app became available for Android users.
This helpful, complementary tool allows you to quickly manage your AdWords campaigns while you're on the move - you can change your keyword bids, and enable or disable campaigns, ads, and ad groups.
Essentially, AdWords for iOS has two helpful functions: it provides a way to handle the small stuff quickly, and acts as alert system to let you know which areas of your account need your attention when you can get on your PC or laptop.
To truly be successful, your company must be present in the places where people are looking for things (Google search) and spend so much time (YouTube, Gmail). If your company isn't there, chances are your competitors are.
Without a doubt, Google AdWords is extremely effective. AdWords can deliver more traffic from consumers who are more likely to convert or are ready to buy at this very moment.
Many businesses and brands have grown through AdWords over the past 15 years, and this will only continue this year. Start using these seven powerful features and you'll be well on your way to becoming the next AdWords success story!