Marketing With Google AdWords – 8 Success Tips for Photographers

Marketing With Google AdWords – 8 Success Tips for Photographers


When a photographer asks me if they should run ads for their business through Google’s AdWords, I usually tell them that unless they want to invest the time and effort necessary to do it right, it could be a costly endeavor.

Google’s AdWords – we’ve all seen them. They are the paid text ads that show up on the right side of the search results page. You pay Google everytime someone clicks on one of your ads. Although this can be a powerful form of performance based advertising (you only pay when Google drives a prospect to your website), it’s not going to pay off if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Many people think that the main objective of AdWords is to drive as much traffic as possible to your website. This type of thinking is incorrect. While it is certainly important to widen your marketing “funnel”, AdWords can be a very costly way to do it. As we’ve recommended in the past, this is what SEO is for. The goal of SEO, or optimizing your website for search engines, is to drive as many people to your site as possible – for free. On the other hand, AdWords is different because you’re going to pay for each click, so you only want the right people clicking on your ads — the people who are most likely to turn into paying customers.

Based on the lessons we’ve learned here at PhotoShelter (we advertise via AdWords too), I’ve prepared a list of things any photographer should consider before, during, and after using Google’s AdWords.  Plus, for interested photographers who want to try the service, Google has a $75 discount for new AdWords users (included below).   

Marketing with Google AdWords – 8 Success Tips for Photographers

1) Set up a monthly budget with daily limits
Google’s AdWords will spend every dime you’ve got, if you let them, in an effort to generate more traffic for you. That’s why you should identify a set amount of money you’re willing to spend in a given month, and set up daily limits so that your spending is spread out evenly through that period of time.

2) Choose the right keywords

You don’t want your ad showing up for people who aren’t likely to buy something from you – their clicks are less likely to convert but you’ll be paying for them!  Using keywords that aren’t specific enough will cause you to blow through your budget and get unsatisfactory results.

Here are some tips that can help you choose the right keywords:

Use phrases
Think beyond single words and think about the things people might using to search for your services. If they were looking for a wedding photographer in chicago, what would they type? “Photographer”? “Wedding photographer”? Probably not. “Wedding photographer in Chicago” would be a better bet.
Add in location keywords
As I just identified above, adding a location is a great idea. People are often looking for photographers in a specific region. There’s no reason you can’t write ads that contain multiple regions (or neighborhoods) too.
Take the ‘long tail’ approach
The “long tail approach” means writing lots of very specific ads that get very little exposure individually, but are highly targeted to a specific searcher’s need. This precise targeting will enable the ad to convert better. A more general ad that gets a lot of views will be more expensive in the long run (and usually have a lower conversion rate) than several niche ads that only appear for searchers when the time is perfectly right.


Use exclusion keywords
When you’re creating ads, think about the people who you *don’t* want to see them, and use exclusion keywords to keep these people from clicking on them. For example, if you are selling premium custom made museum quality fine-art prints on your website, you could use “free” and/or “cheap”, or “low cost” as exclusion keywords.

Get advice from Google
Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Google provides a fantastic research tool to help you understand the actual search volume that occurs for specific terms.  So you don’t need to guess what term/phrase will get more impressions (ie. “National Park Art Prints” or “Zion National Park Photos”) We highly recommend using it to plan your campaign. 

3) Use landing pages
Landing pages are a critical element. No, actually, they’re required. You are wasting time and money if you aren’t using landing pages.

Landing pages are simple pages that live on your website that are specially tailored to receive traffic from specific ads. Once you get someone to click on an ad, now you need to convert them into a paying customer. The landing page is your way of selling them. If you sent them to the front page of your website, you lose the ability to really “set the hook”.

The main objective of a landing page is to immediately show people who clicked the ad that you’ve got exactly what they were searching for. Since you already know what keywords they were using in their search, you can customize your landing page presentation to fit their specific needs.

For example, if you’re advertising an archive of old baseball photography that includes images of NY Mets pitcher Tom Seaver, you could mention Seaver in the ad and set up a landing page that includes images of Seaver along with a call to action (buy a print, download an image file, license for publication, etc.)

This is a much better option that simply dumping these people at your front door and expecting them to search themselves.

Think of the overall user experience – and create a user experience that you would appreciate yourself. Walk the visitor all the way through from initial contact to completed sale and you will convert better.

4) Create compelling ad headlines and copy text
Your ad needs to be written so that people will click on it. The best way to do this is to let them know that you’ve got exactly what they are looking for.

Remember to write the ads for someone searching for something specific.
They’re already searching for something, which means they already have something in mind. If you create ads that use micro specific niche keywords, your headlines and copy text should reflect that.

Make sure there’s a “call to action,” or a reason they should click on the ad. It’s also good practice to appeal to a person’s emotion, instead of writing an ad that is just straight facts.

No appeal to emotion:
“Affordable wedding photographer in Chicago, always available”

Emotional appeal:
“Photos so good, they’ll produce happy tears long after the wedding”

Emotional appeal:
“Your search for a trustworthy wedding photographer ends now”

5) Experiment with headlines and copy text
You should create ads that contain different headlines and copy text, and the Adwords optimization feature to let the best ones rise to the top. You can actually set Google to automatically show the better performing ads more often. Using this optimization feature, you can be constantly improving the ads you’re creating. The process doesn’t have to be pure guess work. (The folks at Google are pretty smart – might as well let them help.)

6) Avoid serving your ads on third party websites and blogs
One option that appears to be a great idea, at least on the surface, is to let your ads appear in as many places as possible. You can choose to allow your ads to appear within Google’s search results AND out on third party websites and blogs, which exposes your ads to more people.

Although there is a time and place for doing this, I would avoid it at first. The reason is quite simple – you can’t expect an ad that’s carefully written for specific search keywords to work in what is essentially a banner ad environment. They are two entirely different types of ads. (It is also possible to run banner ads on third party websites through Google’s AdWords with much success. But that’s a different subject which I’ll write about in a future post.)

7) Give yourself a realistic timeframe
Don’t expect overnight success. As outlined in this article, the process of creating and maintaining a successful AdWords campaign has many moving parts. You should be prepared to dedicate at least a few months (if not a full year) to the process before determining if it is truly working.

Depending on your choice of keywords, your timeframe will vary. If they are high volume keywords, you should have a good idea within a few months. If you’re taking a true “long tail” approach with very low volume keywords, it could take a year or longer to find out how successful your efforts have been.

Photographers should take their time with AdWords, test different ad copy and headlines to see what it working best for them. They should give Google
enough time to determine which ads get the most clicks and conversions and how relevant people perceive their ads to be. The more receptive people are to your ads, the less each click will cost.

8) Study the analytics
Google AdWords can integrate nicely with your Google Analytics account, so you can closely monitor performance and traffic behavior, and even compare traffic data relative to your other marketing efforts.  If you’re not using Google Analytics yet, stop reading now and learn more about installing this critical tool. Analytics can help you make smart marketing and content decisions with your website, instead of making blind decision based on gut feel and artist’s intuition. 

Special Google AdWords discount & more resources:
Interested in getting started with Google AdWords? Google has a special offer ($75
worth of ads for free)
for people who are just getting started. Expires 12/31/10. 

To learn more, another good resource is Google’s recently announced Google Adwords Small Business Center.

If you have experience with Google AdWords, please contribute by sharing your stories (successes and watchouts) below.

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This article was written by

PhotoShelter co-founder and GM

There are 15 comments for this article
  1. National Photographer at 6:06 pm

    Good advice on using ad words. Often over looked is why the websites themselves don’t perform already, and if your website fails with the traffic that it does already have, is paying for driving people to the website really worth it? After spending a full years in R&D on website and their users to get updated on over a decade of experience, most websites don’t work, miss the point and never consider all of the factors of visitor conversion. No amount of SEO and PPC is going to make a bad website work for anyone. When I get the time to publish the findings and a full report I will be posting them on the website.. Its going to take days to write!

  2. at 5:43 pm

    Excellent post Grover. Great tips! Your example about writing to emotion is key. It should also be carried into the writing for the landing page. If writing isn’t your strength, I highly recommend making the investment and hire a copywriter who understands the web, your audience, your brand and ideally your overall strategy. Just hiring any writer isn’t enough. #9 I think is the icing on the cake. Without metrics and the understanding of them, your efforts and money are wasted. Patience is key. Thanks!

  3. Adrian at 5:41 am

    An insightful article that should be read by all business owners before opening an AdWords account rather than just photographers. You have missed out on one very important thing however. Every AdWords account owner must be able to track conversions. Only then will you be able to focus your account on keywords that generate sales and delete those that cost you money but don’t convert.

  4. Jenny at 12:26 pm

    I’ve been researching different posts/blogs/articles on Google ad words and this one is by far the most informative and helpful. I’ve book marked it for future reference! Thank you.

  5. squbg at 4:03 pm

    good advice i just got my third call from some guy selling me “first Page results” on Google in 24 hrs. $300 a month for a subscription add…. no thank you

  6. Lucy at 4:54 pm

    Thanks for the great tips, I was getting decent traffic from my Adwords but not the ideal type for conversion, hopefully the changes I’ve made will improve this

  7. George Vernon at 1:06 am

    Great article as I am looking at ways to market my business. I only shoot commercial and industrial work yet I get enquiries for weddings all the time. The commercial and industrial sector is suffering at the moment. My 1,500 square foot studio is getting less and less work. I know that business goes in cycles and at the moment we are at the bottom. I have worked in this studio for the past 15 years so it is time to change things.

  8. Pingback: Must Have Google Tools for Photographers : Part 2
  9. Nick Peters at 6:37 pm

    I find also using anything but “exact match” drives search results to my website for searches which will not convert. For instance someone searching for “gold coast photography” and the person is looking for scenic shots of the gold coast, they may click on my ad if it’s set to “phase, or broad” match, whereas my keyword may be “gold coast photographer” but have the word “photography” in the title, thus this will generate an unwanted impression.

  10. Mike Turner at 9:06 pm

    I have used Adwords for some time now and have learned from my mistakes and done alot of reading and research, the key to Adwords is not being focused on CTR but conversions. test test and test again until you make it pay. concentrate on a small geographical area to maximise your chance of conversions. Dont aim to be top of the Ads otherwise you are likely to attract the happy clickers. good luck

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