By Mika R

I had filmed one wedding. I had a brand new website, featuring my one video.

I had no contacts in the wedding industry. No SEO. No social media.

But I had disproportionately high self-belief, and I had two years of experience using Google Ads for my corporate video business. I had spent a LONG time on the Google Ads learning curve, and had pretty much worked it out.

I hoped it would translate to the wedding biz.

It did. But not overnight.

I started running ads in April. I paid $121 (USD) that first month ($1.32 per ad click I received). I received one inquiry that woefully failed to convert.

By the third month, after much tweaking of my Google Ads account, I received five inquiries and converted one of those. Boom!

My first paying client, and another video for my website!

By the end of the year I had spent $1,185 on ads ($2.48 per click, and $22.77 for each of the 52 enquiries I received) and I booked 7 weddings.

I easily earned back the advertising investment.

It’s now a couple of years down the track and I currently don’t pay a cent in advertising. The brides I booked that first year referred their friends… who referred their friends. The other vendors I worked with became relationships I fostered. And my (free) social media generates a good amount of leads.

This won’t  apply to everyone in the wedding business, but I should add that as I became more established, my prices increased, and the number of bookings I generated from Google ads decreased significantly. It was no longer worth the cost and effort, and I was better off focusing on all the other lead generation tools I had developed.

But Google ads is where it all began. So here’s what I learned:

1. You will not become an AdWords expert by reading a blog post.

Wait. What?

Sorry, it’s true. I tried.

You’ll get great hacks that will improve efficiency, but that’s once you’re up and running. The interface is not user friendly. There is a lot to get your head around.

The best way to get started is to open your account, and then pay a consultant to show you how to manage it. (Or pay a consultant to do it for you!) Or get a friend who has success with Google ads to sit you down and talk you through it.

If you hate stats and analysis, or if you don’t have a lot of spare time to work on your marketing, it’s probably best to forget this strategy.

2. The advice Google consultants give you isn’t that great.

You’ll get calls from people at Google, who are paid to help you get more out of your account. I found it was kind of helpful back when I knew absolutely nothing. But once I got up and running the hacks they suggested were not at all applicable for my industry and business, and they didn’t take the time to understand my industry.

I usually already had a better system going than the ones they were suggesting.

3. Get great keywords, and modify them correctly.

Google Ads 101: your keywords are what people will search for – like wedding photographer san francisco.

A modifier is when you enter those keywords with either one of these symbols: +plus +before +each +word or “quote marks” or [square brackets].

Study up on modifiers here.

Personally I used a lot of quote marks, or “phrase match” modifiers. So if I have “wedding photographer san francisco” as my keyword, any phrase that includes those words together will also trigger my ad. Eg. best wedding photographer san francisco; wedding photographer san francisco reviews.

4. Continually add to your negative keywords list with the “phrase match” modifier.

If you’re high end, you don’t want people searching for cheap wedding photography to click on your ad (costing you money). Nor do you want them inquiring and wasting your time.

So you want to add words like cheap, affordable and budget to your negative keywords list. (Unless you’re competing on price – in which case – add these to your keyword phrases!)

Read about how to add negative keywords here.

A brilliant hack: always use quote marks when you add a negative keyword to your list. So if you use “cheap” – any time the word cheap appears in ANY combination of words, your ad cannot be shown.

5. Regularly check your search terms! Here’s why.

Seriously take note here. This can save you a lot of money.

When you are in the “Keywords” tab, click on the second tier tab which says “Search Terms.” On the top right of your screen you can choose the time period you want to see stats for, eg. this month / past 7 days / yesterday.

This means you’ll bring up all the terms people actually put into google which led them to your ad, which they then clicked on.

You will see a lot of search terms that obviously have nothing to do with you. Add them as negative keywords immediately. Do this manually, using the “phrase match modifier” (quote marks). If you just click on the button at the top of the search terms table which says Add as negative keyword, you will only exclude that exact phrase, and not variations of it.

You should do this every 3 days or so when starting out, and then at least once a week.

6. Exclude regions to focus only on areas you serve.

Make sure your ads are being seen in the right geographic area, and NOT in the wrong geographic area. Learn more here.

7. Experiment with ad copy.

Run at least two ads at the same time to see which one generates the most inquiries. (NOT click throughs, but actual inquiries.)

My biggest tip: once I listed my “starting from” price, my inquiries increased.

Get rid of a poor performing ad and try something else!

Does emotive language work? A discount offer? Mentioning your packages? Does “photographer” work better than “photography”?

8. Experiment with everything!

Play with your daily budget, your ad copy, your cost per click, your landing page copy and images, your calls to action, your pricing, special deals… See what works!

I kept a spreadsheet where I listed the date of any change I made, and then recorded the result.

Did my click throughs go up or down in the weeks that followed? Did my inquiries go up or down? If stats went down, I’d reverse the change.

You have to be like a curious scientist to get the most from Google ads. And about 6 – 12 months in you will have a winning formula that requires only occasional maintenance.

9. If things aren’t working, consider which link in the chain is broken.

You need to determine which link in your Google Ads funnel is broken. This blog post will explain.

So, are you scared or excited by this article? Have you tried Google Ads and given up? Have you had success?

Tell us below.

Mika R. is a wedding videographer and analytics-obsessed business owner who loves writing, teaching and telling the love stories of her clients.