There are 3 distinct phases of Google AdWords advertising.

And depending on which phase you’re in you need to adjust your focus and your expectations for the ad campaign.  In other words, using tactics that are not appropriate for the phase you’re currently in will result in poor performance.

Let me put this into perspective for you…

The Butterfly’s Journey to Adulthood

As we all know, butterflies are not born as light, quick, and beautiful butterflies.  They are born as plump, slow moving, and ugly caterpillars!

Every butterfly must complete each stage of metamorphosis from caterpillar to chrystalis to eventually emerging as an adult butterfly.  It’s one of nature’s most amazing transformations.

While AdWords campaigns are not quite as dramatic, they do follow a similar path to maturity.

This brings us to the first key takeaway…

Just like every beautiful butterfly begins life as a slow, ugly caterpillar, every successful AdWords campaign starts slowly and usually unprofitably.  Only after completing all 3 phases can an AdWords campaign reach it’s full potential.

With this in mind, let’s walk through each phase in more detail…

Adwords Butterfly MSROI

Phase 1: Campaign Setup (The Caterpillar)

The first phase is the most critical.  This is where you’ll do your homework to determine the best keywords, ad copy, offer, and landing page(s) to test.

99% of the work during phase 1 is outside of Google AdWords! In fact, you don’t even need an active account to complete these steps.

The goal of the campaign setup phase is to answer the following questions:

  • Which keywords are most likely to drive sales
  • Is it possible to profitably advertise (based on the estimated cost per click of your target keywords and your customer value)?  In some cases the numbers simply don’t work and you’ll either need to find ways to increase your customer value and/or find cheaper keywords to target.
  • What is the most compelling offer you could make in your ads and landing pages? Hint: You need a more compelling offer than the other advertisers targeting the same keywords!
  • What is the best ad copy and landing page copy to test first?

You’ll be able to answer these questions after conducting keyword and competitor research.  Again, this work is completed outside of AdWords and the actual account setup is the very last step before turning on the ads.

At this point, your campaign is like a caterpillar.  It can’t fly and it doesn’t look anything like a butterfly.  That’s because we must complete the next phase…

Phase 2: Testing & Optimization (The Chrystalis)

Phase 2 is when you launch and optimize your campaign to make it profitable.  Despite all the hard work in Phase 1, most campaigns do not sprint out of the gate and instantly become profitable.  They need to go through a metamorphosis.

From the outside, it’s not clear what’s going on when you see a chrystalis hanging from a tree branch.  But inside, the caterpillar is going through a complete transformation into a butterfly.

The same is true with an AdWords campaign after it’s launched.   Keywords will need to be replaced, ad copy will be tweaked, landing pages will be rearranged, and campaign settings will be adjusted.

By the time your campaign moves out of phase 2 it will likely look completely different from when you first launched the ads!

Of course, this will not happen overnight so I recommend penciling in the first 3 months for this phase.  It could be shorter and it could be longer depending on your industry.

Next, it’s time for the final phase…

Phase 3: Maintenance & Expansion (The Butterfly)

Congratulations, you made it to phase 3!

This means you now have a profitable AdWords campaign and you can change your focus to maintenance and expansion.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you can “set-it-and-forget-it.”  AdWords uses a bidding auction, which is always in flux so you’ll need to constantly update your bids to ensure you’re not overbidding or underbidding to hit your target cost per sale or cost per lead.

Plus, you’ll want to test ad and landing page copy to continually improve your sales conversion rates.

Finally, take what’s working for you and look for opportunities to expand within the Search Network, as well as the Display Network, and even the Video Network (Youtube).

Which Phase Is Your AdWords Campaign In?

Take a minute to determine which phase your AdWords campaign is in.  Remember, if you’re in phase 2, then focus on testing and optimizing all areas of your campaign so you can make it through to phase 3 as quickly as possible.

If you need additional help, then click here to learn more about our AdWords setup and optimization services.  We can help no matter which phase you’re currently in.