by John Eberhard

As I’ve said before pay per click advertising with Google AdWords is one of the fastest ways to drive traffic to a web site these days. There are a number of helpful features they have to make managing a campaign easier and smoother.

Budget: You can set your daily budget, i.e. how much money you want to spend on people clicking through to your site per day. If you want to spend $600 per month, for example, set your daily budget to $20.

Ad Scheduling: You can set your campaign so the ads appear only from 9-5, Monday through Friday, or any other schedule you want.

Geo-Targeting: You can target where your ads will appear, very broadly or very finely. You can select a small city, or even a smaller section within a city. You can select a series of cities in one metro area. Or you can select a whole metro area such as Los Angeles, Denver or Houston. You can select whole states. You can select the whole U.S., Canada, or any other country.

Networks: Google has two main networks, the search network and content network, that you can choose to be on or not. The search network includes the main box on Google where people go to search for something. It also includes what they call their Partners network, which includes Google Product Search, Google Groups, and search sites like Ask.com and AOL. The content network means your ads will appear on sites that have chosen to run Google ads (it’s called Google AdSense), and the system will select sites that are related to your ad content. In other words, if your ads are about gourmet coffee, then the system will put up your ads on sites that have elected to show Google ads, that have something to do with coffee. You can also select specific sites within the content network that you want your ads to appear on, and they call this “placements.”

You have to be careful with the content network. On some of the accounts I manage, we have the content network turned off altogether. The Google interface allows you to see how much money you are spending on the content networks and search networks separately, how many clickthroughs you got, and so on. So you need to monitor it carefully because the content network often can do much more poorly than the search network in terms of actual results, but it can spend a lot of your money.

Keyword Tool: Google has a keyword tool, where you can enter descriptive words or phrases, a single existing keyword, or it will look at a web site you name, and then give you a long list of suggested keywords, including the traffic that each is getting. This is very handy if you are looking to increase your impressions (number of people seeing your ads) or clickthroughs (number of people clicking on your ads and come to your site).

Traffic Estimator: This is a tool where you enter a list of keywords, your daily budget, and the top bid you want to have, and it will give you an estimate of how many clickthroughs you will get per day. Of course it’s just an estimate, because the real result depends on what your ad says. But this is very useful in that you can try different bid amounts, and this will give you an idea of what the “sweet spot” is for the bids on your keywords and in your market. Since the Google AdWords system is based on bidding – you bid what you want to pay each time someone clicks on your ad – you can see that competition in a specific market for specific keywords can really drive up the bids. I have seen top bids as high as $100 per click with certain specialized keywords. So the traffic estimator tool will give you a good idea of what you have to spend to get clickthroughs on your ads.

Change History: Google recently added this feature. It will show you a list of all the changes you have made with your account, going back as far as you want. I used to keep a spreadsheet listing all my changes, and I don’t have to anymore.

These are all features that allow you to be more effective in managing a pay per click campaign.