Google AdWords quick-start guide

Best practices and proven strategies to get you started on the right foot

By Heather Blessington

Imagine you and 100 other dealers are all sitting in a room when a customer comes in and says, “I want to buy a lawn mower. Who can help?” Naturally, everyone in the room raises a hand — there will be some tall guys (dealers with websites with a long history), so their hands raise up just a little higher, and there will be the wavers (dealers that regularly post relevant content to their websites, blogs and social channels). And then, there are the tall wavers — wave as you might, it can be pretty difficult to be seen with these guys in the room…unless, you get a giant foam finger.

Paid search is your giant foam finger. And with a staggering 67.6 percent1 of all web searches conducted on Google, the search engine behemoth’s AdWords should be your go-to vendor for paid search.

How it works

The AdWords marketplace is an auction where keyword ad placement is offered up to the highest bidder every time a customer conducts a Google search. The following link to an infographic, courtesy of the team at WordStream, will give you a good picture of how the AdWords campaign bidding process works:

Get started with Google

It all starts with a single Google account controlled by one master username and password. Google’s AdWords connects all of your dealership’s Google accounts, including Analytics, Google+ and YouTube. If you currently have multiple Google accounts to be merged or need to change account ownership, Google has you covered with easy-to-follow instructions that can be accessed at

Note: If your Google accounts are tied to an employee’s personal Gmail account, this needs to be rectified immediately — allowing an employee to own these accounts is like giving that person the only set of keys to the dealership!


 Figure 1Your first campaign

Ready to get your foam finger pointing in the right direction? When you log in to AdWords for the first time, you’ll see the screen shown in Figure 1, which walks you through your options to set up your first campaign.

Your budget

First and foremost, you are always in control of your spending on any campaign. AdWords uses cost-per-click (CPC) based auctions, which allow you to start small and ramp up your budget as you see results. We’ve seen dealers net great results starting with a budget as small as $500 a month or about $16 a day. In addition to setting your daily budget, you can set the maximum amount you are willing to pay for someone to actually click on your ad — a good starting place for most dealers is 50 cents per click. You’ll set that in the “Set Your Bid” section, but keep in mind that the keywords in the highest demand cost the most, so don’t be surprised to see single words bidding out at $1-$2.


 Figure 2
Your target audience

Location: While you may decide to experiment with national campaigns to drive e-commerce sales, the majority of your customers likely come from a 25-mile radius around your dealership. Google gives you the ability to zero in on exact radius.

From the Locations tab, select “Let me choose” and click “Advanced Targeting” to arrive at the page shown in Figure 2. Select “Radius Targeting,” enter your city and state or zip code, and select your target radius.

Networks: You’re automatically opted in to the “Search Network,” which includes Google and other smaller search engines it controls. You also have the option to add on the “Display Network,” which is Google content sites and non-Google partner sites that display ads. If you’re just starting out, we recommend sticking with the Search Network exclusively.

Keywords: As the name implies, Google AdWords uses specific keywords to match your advertising message with prospects that are actively searching for your products and services in your area. You’ll want to develop a list of 15-20 keywords for your campaign.

While you may think targeting branded keywords like “Cub Cadet” or “John Deere” is a good strategy to capture the largest audience possible, these branded terms as a general rule just don’t work for dealers.

Why? Good old supply and demand. The companies themselves, Cub Cadet and John Deere, are going to outbid you for their branded keywords every single time.

In order for you to win at the AdWords game, experiment with developing long-tail keywords that are extremely relevant to your dealership’s offerings. So while the keywords “Cub Cadet” won’t work, you could try:

Cub Cadet zero-turn mowers
Replacement parts for Cub Cadet
Series 1000 garden tractors

While there is definitely some trial and error involved in developing keywords that deliver results, Google’s Keywords Planner takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process. Among other features, the tool allows you to see historical performance of your desired keywords to gauge the potential future performance. Get started with Google’s Keyword Planner at

Set your bid

While Google recommends that you allow it to automatically set your bid, as we discussed earlier, to be on the safe side we recommend that you keep tabs on your maximum bid from the onset. Set your bid manually at 50 cents to start and tweak from there.

Write your ad

The goal of your content is to entice online shoppers to click through to a specific page on your website. Are you having a service special? Use specific and actionable content to direct people right to your service page, fast-tracking them to the deal your ad promises. Following is a sample ad:

Lawn Mower Service (Headline, 25 characters)
25% Off Tune-Ups through July 5! (Description Line 1, 35 characters)
Schedule Your Service Today (Description Line 2, 35 characters) (Display URL, 35 characters)


 Figure 3 – Sample Google AdWords Campaign
Measure your success

Your campaign is ready to launch! Job well done, but not mission complete. Now, you need to monitor your AdWords’ performance like a day trader to ensure you’re getting the most out of your AdWords spend (see Figure 3).

The AdWords platform offers many key metrics to help you measure success, but the one metric that is the most critical is the click-through rate (CTR). CTR is the number of clicks your ad receives, divided by the number of times your ad is shown (impressions).

For example, an ad that receives:

1,000 impressions (number of users who were served up the ad in their Google search results)
20 clicks (number of users who clicked on your ad)
2-percent CTR (percent of total users who saw your ad and clicked on it)

You can find your CTR in the campaigns tab of your AdWords account. What’s a good CTR? According to Google, 2-percent CTR is the average ad performance. 

There’s no single strategy to ensure the success of AdWords, but this quick start guide, paired with a hands-on approach, will give you a running start. Need a little help? Drop me an email at, and I’ll connect you with one of ARI’s paid search consultants for a complimentary AdWords coaching session.


 Heather Blessington joined ARI as Chief Marketing Officer in November 2013, in conjunction with the acquisition of Duo Web Solutions, a digital marketing start-up she owned which grew to be the leading provider of social media marketing services. Blessington has a 20-year track record of success in website design/development, search engine marketing and social media strategy. Blessington’s portfolio features work for Fortune 500 clients, including Microsoft, Samsung, Bank of America, Lowe’s and Whirlpool Corporation. An award-winning blogger and nationally renowned speaker, she earned a BS, Mass Communications, from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a PMP, Project Management Certification, from the Project Management Institute. ARI creates award-winning software solutions that help equipment manufacturers, distributors and dealers “Sell More Stuff!” online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website ( and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”


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