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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

Using Google AdWords to Attract Design Clients

Any time designers get together in person or online on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn or Reddit, you’re sure to hear someone ask how to attract more clients. It’s one of, if not the most significant problem faced by designers.

Without clients, your business fails. It doesn’t matter how good a designer you are if you don’t have people paying for your services your business will not survive.

There are many ways you can attract new clients. Last week I shared 12 inexpensive ways for you to promote your design business. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post where I shared 10 proven ways to attract design clients. All methods I’ve used myself to gain clients.

Today I want to talk about a great way to attract clients that for some reason, not many graphic designers or web designers are taking advantage of. Google AdWords.

How do clients find you?

Ask most designers, and they will tell you the number one way they gain new clients is through word of mouth referrals. Referrals are great. But what if you don’t have a large catalogue of clients advocating for your business? Let's look at it from a client's perspective.

Let's say you need a plumber. Who will you call? Your first choice would be to call a plumber you know, or at least one you've heard of before. Your Second choice would be to ask family, friends, co-workers and associates who they would recommend. That’s the referral part. If it doesn’t work, you would probably turn to a search engine and look for plumbers in your area.

Design clients do the same thing. They contact a designer they know or have heard of before. That’s where brand awareness comes in. Second, they ask family, friends, colleagues, associates etc. That’s where referrals come in. But when that fails, clients will turn to the internet and search for a designer online. And chances are they will formulate their search to look for someone in their local area.

That last part is a huge benefit for you, especially if you are using Google AdWords to get in front of them.

If you’re already familiar with how AdWords works, you’re probably nodding your head right now in agreement with me, but I’m going to continue with the assumption that you are not familiar with Google AdWords. Forgive me if I'm wrong.

For the record, Yahoo and Bing also have similar advertising platforms, but since the majority of people use Google, I’m going to concentrate on it.

So how does Google AdWords work for attracting design clients? Let me break it down into the simplest terms using only three steps,

  1. You figure out what keywords people are searching.
  2. You create an ad that Google puts in front of people actively searching for those keywords.
  3. You pay Google for the people that click on your ads.

That’s all there is to it. The best part about Google AdWords is you only pay when your ads are working, and people engage with them. If they don't click, you don't pay.

Now of course, “when your ads are working” is a relative term. In this case, it means when people click on your ad. Whether or not they become a client after clicking on your ad is not Google’s concern.

A deeper dive into AdWords.

I won't go into the technical nitty gritty of setting up a successful AdWords campaign. There are plenty of other resources where you can learn the ins and outs of fine-tuning your ad campaign to get the most bang for your buck.

I will, however, elaborate on the three steps I mentioned above.

Create an AdWords Account

The first step is creating a free AdWords account and telling Google how to charge you for your ads. They have to make their money after all.

Once your account set up, you can create your first ad campaign by choosing the type of ads you want to run. There are several options, but in my opinion Search Ads are the best ones for attracting new design clients.

Next, you select the campaign type. I suggest you choose website traffic and don’t include Google Search Partners or the Ad Display Network. Both are good for driving traffic to a product or resource, but your goal is to attract clients.

Set up the delivery

What makes Google AdWords such a valuable marketing tool is the ability to pick the geographic location where your ads will appear. If you live in Cleaveland Ohio, you can set up your campaign so that only people in Cleaveland will see it.

There are several reasons to limit your search to particular geographic regions. Top among them is the amount of competition you face the broader your target area. If you set your campaign to all of the USA you are competing with every other designer across the whole country. It is possible to win in that scenario, but since a kind of bidding/auction system is used to determine ad placement, it could get costly.

Of course, there's a lot more to the whole thing that I'm not getting into which is why I suggest you take an AdWords course before starting. But basically, targetting an entire country is just too difficult for someone just starting out.

By narrowing down your geographic area, you are narrowing down who you are competing with and the effort required to get your ads in front of potential clients.

Set your budget

You need to set a budget for your ad campaign. It can be as high or as low as you want. There are several options for choosing how to invest your money in your campaign. What I suggest is using the standard delivery method since it gives you better analytical data on your ads.

For the bidding method. I suggest Clicks over Views. With Clicks, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad whereas with Views you get charged every time your ad is displayed regardless of whether or not someone interacts with it.

The final part of setting your budget is choosing a start and end dates of your campaign. I suggest starting out with short campaigns until you get the hang of it.

Choose your keywords.

Choosing keywords is the fun part. You get to decide what keywords you want to target with your ads. These are the words you think people will type into the search engine to find you.

Start off with common sense terms like;

  • web design
  • website design
  • web designer
  • logo design
  • logo designer
  • etc.

You can narrow down your keywords even further by adding a location such as “web designer Cleveland.”

Choosing keywords is easy, choosing the right keywords is a bit more tricky. Targetting “website designer” may bring you a lot more traffic than “web designer” or vice versa. There are tools to research what keywords are more popular than others, or how often specific keywords are searched. Google’s Keyword Planner is a popular free one. I use software called Long Tail Pro for my keyword research.

Create your ads

Finally, you need to create your ads. There is an option to create banner style ads, but for finding design clients, all you need is standard search results ads. These show up as the first few listings when you do a Google search. They have a small [Ad] next to them.

Then it's just a matter of choosing the right title and wording to attract clients to your site, launching your campaign and waiting for clients to come calling.

How to get the most out of Google AdWords.

Google AdWords is very easy to learn. However, there is a learning curve if you want to get good at it and not end up wasting money. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your AdWords campaign.

1) Build landing pages.

AdWords campaigns work best when linked to a dedicated landing page and not your home page. Google give each ad a rank that helps determine it's placement (along with other factors) vs the competition. The page your ad is linked to plays a significant factor in your ad rank score. If your ad is for logo design. Make sure it’s linked to a landing page that is just about logo design.

2) Study what your competitors are doing

Figure out what keywords your competitors are targeting and what ads they are displaying and try and outdo them. Keyword tools like the one by Google can help you figure out the best keywords to target, but they also allow you to enter a competitor’s URL and see what keywords they are targetting.

3) Split test

Google AdWords is not a set it and forget it system. You should study the performance of your ads and adjust things on the go. If you are getting a lot of traction with the keyword “web design” but not much with “website design” then you should adjust your campaign to push more of your budget towards the keyword that is performing better. Split testing ads for a single keyword also works well in figuring out which ad copy is earning more clicks.

4) Link your Google AdWords and Google Analytics Accounts.

AdWords has some excellent tracking info, but it only tells you what happened with your ad up until the point it is clicked. By linking your Google Analytics account to your AdWords account, you can follow along and see what happens after your ad is clicked.

5) Start small and grow as you get more comfortable creating ad campaigns.

Although AdWords is easy to learn, there are a lot of things that influence the success or failure of an ad campaign. Until you are comfortable, I suggest setting short campaigns and starting with a low budget until you learn the nuances of the platform.

“Hacking” Google AdWords

I mentioned above that one of the best things about Google AdWords is the ability to target geographic areas because it narrows down the competition. But what if you live in a large metropolitan area with lots of competition? In my example, I used Cleveland Ohio. Let's say there's a lot of competition for web designers in Cleveland and the cost of running your AdWords campaign is getting high. Nothing is stopping you from targeting other areas instead.

There are plenty of smaller areas around Cleveland that you could target. Places like Bedford Heights, Euclid, Olmstead Falls, and others. Nothing is stopping you from choosing keywords targetting those smaller communities. Chances are the competition will be much lower so your budget will go much farther and clients there shouldn't be opposed to working with a web designer in Cleveland.

And the best part is if it doesn’t work out and nobody clicks on your ads, it doesn’t cost you a cent.

Give Google AdWords at try

So many designers are struggling to find design clients, and yet this inexpensive way to target exactly the people you want to work with is at your disposal. It doesn't matter where in the world you are; Google AdWords can help you attract design clients because it's putting your ads directly in front of the people actively looking for your services.

If you are not already taking advantage of search engine advertising, I highly suggest you look into it soon.

What is your experience with online advertising to attract design clients?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Shaun

Hi Mark. Only started listening to your podcast recently, I really enjoy listening. You give us some really good advice and it sounds like you really enjoy your job and lifestyle. keep up the good work!

I am from South Africa and I am currently working for the government as a Graphic Designer, work is very repetitive and boring. I am stagnating at the moment and would like to make a move…I am thinking about freelancing on the side. I am currently busy learning app development. I heard you mention 99 designs and am currently doing some designs…I feel like I am lacking in creativity and skill. But this wont get me down…

What would you suggest for someone that is in a creative rut? any exercises that one can do? to get back on the horse?

Just wanted to say Thank you for your advice and what you are doing. Keep it up!

To find out what I told Shaun you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week BackupBuddy Deployment

With BackupBuddy’s Deployment feature, you can push or pull a WordPress site’s database, media files, plugins and active theme back and forth between a Staging Site (or Test/Development Site) and a Live Site. BackupBuddy allows you to develop on one site and then push changes to another, so you never have to develop on a live site again.

Deployment now supports setting the deployed site’s Search Engine Visibility option to either visible, not visible, or no change. A default for this setting can be set in the Deployment settings.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com