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Should Dummies Be Using AdWords?

Published: January 23, 2012

Author: David Rodnitzky

One of the first things I always tell marketing newbies about AdWords is that it is “easy to do, but hard to do well.” There’s a reason search engine marketing agencies like PPC Associates get paid big bucks to manage AdWords campaigns for savvy clients. If it was easy, we’d be out of business! So I was naturally a little skeptical when my colleague Howie Jacobson asked me to review the latest edition of his book “AdWords for Dummies.” My concern, philosophically, was that any book that claimed in its title that a “dummy” could succeed at AdWords was at best hyperbole and at worst dangerous.
And as an aside, let me just say that the Dummies franchise seems to have jumped the shark, in that there appear to be around 20,000 different titles in the collection at this point. Some of my favorites are ones like “Happiness for Dummies” and “Space Exploration for Dummies” (dummies should definitely not attempt to exit the earth’s orbit, no matter how simple the instructions are in this book). If the Dummies franchise is looking for additional books to write, I’ve got a couple of ideas: how about “Writing Dummies Books for Dummies” and “Intelligence for Dummies”?
So, with a hardened heart, I picked up Howie’s book and began to read. Almost immediately, Howie started to break down my defenses. Multiple times throughout the book, he clearly emphasizes the difficulty of AdWords and the peril of thinking that you can master AdWords in a few short hours:
Although AdWords sometimes (but not always) can be a source of profitable traffic, that’s seldom achievable from the start . . . Think of a kid just starting to play the violin saying, “I want to perform professionally after my first month of lessons.” Virtuosity may be a wonderful long-term aspiration, but that unrealistic focus on instant results will clearly lead to quick frustration, failure, and disappointment.
Howie also does a great job of encouraging AdWords newbies to start slowly and conservatively. Start with exact match, start with the Search Network only (a personal favorite of PPC Associates’ Jeremy Mayes!), and so on. He even tells “new mousetrap” advertisers that traditional SEM might not be the right fit for their business, noting “some business can’t make a living off of Search because not enough people are searching.” One of the last chapters of the book, “The Ten (Or So) Most Serious AdWords Mistakes,” continues to drive home the message of the difficulty of learning to run before you walk.
For us advanced AdWords folks (yes, I can call myself that because I passed the AdWords Advanced test!), there’s also stuff in this book that is useful. I particularly liked Howie’s chapter on writing ad text and his approach to competitive ad text research (basically creating a matrix of your competitors’ ads based on several criteria). An entire chapter on landing-page optimization was also a good refresher course for best practices in conversion rate optimization. There’s even a chapter on Website optimizer and another on retargeting and even behavioral retargeting (er, sorry, Google, I mean “remarketing.”) That’s advanced stuff that most intermediate AdWords practitioners are unaware of.
All in all, this book does a nice job of providing beginners with a launching pad for future AdWords success, and there’s enough advanced stuff to keep crabby old-timers like me reading until the end. I’ll also say that – unlike most business books I read these days – the book is worth reading from cover-to-cover. Indeed, it’s in the latter chapters that the advanced techniques really start to flow. At just over 300 pages long, this is definitely not a weekend read.
Certainly if you sat down and read this thoroughly, by the end you would not be a “dummy” when it comes to AdWords. Come to think of it, maybe this book is more appropriately titled “How Not to Be a Dummy on AdWords.” As we all know, there are far too many SEM losers out there that don’t even realize they need such books!
David Rodnitzky, CEO

1 S Wacker Drive
Suite 2250

Chicago, IL 60606(650) 539-4124


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