Review: Winning Results with Google AdWords

There’s been a spate of search people trying out AdWords. First there was Shoemoney, then Shoemoney pulled DaveN into it. Then a day or so ago I read that Battelle is trying AdWords. And I thought: “Crap. I have to write that review.”

What review? The review of Winning Results with Google AdWords. Let me explain.

Several months ago, someone sent me a package at the Googleplex. Inside I found a courtesy copy of Winning Results with Google AdWords. First, let’s talk about the moral dilemma. On one hand, I’d rather people didn’t send me stuff. For example, every few months, someone who got caught spamming gets the idea to send a package to the Googleplex. Like this one from a few years ago:

Spam cookie!

“I got caught spamming, so I’m going to send a cookie to Google”? That’s just not right somehow. :)

I believe Google’s policy is that token gifts are fine, but for me personally, I want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

On the other hand, Amazon sells the book for $15.74, which seems pretty small/token-ish. I did enough back-and-forth in my head that it felt like the iocaine powder scene in The Princess Bride: “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.” And because I’m a busy person, I solved the dilemma by shoving the book on my bookcase and deciding not to do a blog review about it. Ah, the hazards of trying to do right in a complex world.

Now with everyone trying AdWords, the issue has resurfaced for me. And I think I’ve found a way to cut the Gordian knot: I just bought another copy of the book from Amazon. Now that I’ve paid for it, I feel free to review the book.

Still with me? Okay, let’s start the review portion. The cover of this book looks like your typical “How to use Adobe Elements/Microsoft Word/3D Studio Max” book. I normally hate those books. Do I really need a book to walk me through what the File menu does in an application? Do I need a chapter devoted to simple things that anyone could figure out in five minutes just using the software application? No! Personally, I hate that 60% of the bookstore space is filled with books that tell you how to use a software application. Where are the books such as Hackers and Painters or The Mythical Man-Month or Tufte?

Luckily, the cover is deceiving. This is not a “We will show you a screenshot, then explain that screenshot in words” book. This is a serious jump-start on getting started with AdWords. I was in the Google ads group when it was five engineers, but this book still taught me a ton of things. It gives tips on writing the copy, strategies of how to bid, ways to improve your ROI–it’s just a good book with solid coverage of all the important aspects of AdWords.

The other main concern with a book like that is that it gets outdated fast. It’s been a few months since the book came out, but the book is still quite up-to-date on how AdWords works. More importantly, it covers the principles in such a way that changes in AdWords shouldn’t throw you for too much of a loop. Goodman also writes in a fun-to-read style; you don’t have to force yourself to read this book. You can pick up the book, open to any point, and enjoy a few good pages of reading. If you’re a serious SEO or have anything to do with AdWords, I’d recommend picking up a copy.

The moral of the story is: if you’re going to advertise on AdWords, pick up a copy of Winning Results with Google AdWords. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The other moral is: never ever send me stuff. Nothing. Not even a free pen. Thanks. :)

44 Responses to Review: Winning Results with Google AdWords (Leave a comment)

  1. Harith

    Hi Matt

    “The other moral is: never ever send me stuff. Nothing. Not even a free pen.”

    And if they don’t listen and do send you stuff, you just reciprocate
    by sending them this fancy T-Shirt :D

    So they are hereby warned :)

  2. Matt, I respect the higher moral ground you take on gift acceptance. If you stick to your guns you should run for a political office some day.

    I don’t care what office you’d run for or what your political views are. A politician who isn’t influenced by bribes is most likely a decent man! By the way, did you receive the gift certificate I sent you???? :-)

  3. David Quiec

    How about if you already advertise using AdWords? Will it still help?

  4. So was the cookie any good? It may be wrong on some level, but hey, it’s a giant cookie! What’s not to like about that?

  5. omg I have been mattdotted! My server is burning!

  6. Jim

    The real question is, did you eat the cookie?

  7. Pex Cornel

    Nice publicity stunt for Adwords Matt.
    “Pour” Shoemoney :))
    I can see the CPC rates rasing trough the roof now.
    Q: Was that “cookie” in the pic, what I think it was? :))
    Best regards.
    Pex

  8. Hey Matt, were you ever on the AdSense team?
    :-)

  9. Terri

    If I promise not to send you anything will you send me the fancy T-shirt? ;-)

  10. And if you are an SEO who makes mad paper already you may want to get Andrew’s Ebook over the print book. The ebook will be more up to date, and then print book is a free throw in with the ebook purchase.

  11. Now I won’t be sending Matt anything – for sure! He might bye and review it… ;)

  12. Ben

    Can I get your address Matt?

  13. Ok, so when you come to Omaha this fall, you’re buying the drinks. LOL.

    Seriously, taking the high ground like this is awesome. It fits your personality well, too. You’ve got my vote… Cutts for Congress. Oh, I’d have to move to CA first.

    Also, I’m sure most of us SEO/SEM types would have never thought to try AdWords until you just mentioned it here. Thank goodness someone can show us the light… ;-)

  14. nuevojefe

    Dude, is that cookie Raw? Personally, If I were the one to have sent that, it would have been made from spam. Chocolate Chip Spam Cookies; delicious.

    BTW, did you try a bite?

  15. Several reviewers on that Amazon link claim the book is already obsolete. Just wanted to warn anyone who were thinking of immediately jumping and ordering the book. Check the reviews.

  16. Eric, I was never on the AdSense team. Yup, that was a cookie (not made out of spam, thank god) that someone sent.

    Ben, don’t go there. :)

    Peter, I think there’s a fair fraction of the book that applies more generally and won’t go out of date. If I’d stumbled on the “buy the book myself” solution a few months ago, then the book would have been even more up-to-date. :)

    Brian, thanks. AdWords isn’t for everybody, and I don’t want to push it on people that aren’t interested, but I do think that learning AdWords can help hone your SEO skills. Just like practicing SEO can probably hone your PPC skillz.

  17. Heh heh. Mattdotted. Heh.

  18. The other moral here is “never get involved in a land war in Asia”. Why do I feel like no one will understand this…

  19. Matt,

    You could just go to Tools>Options>Privacy and turn off cookies…

  20. please just return the empty can of spam I recently sent you when you get it :}

  21. So are you using an amazon affiliate code on this? :)

  22. Dude, we KNOW you ate that cookie. Saw it on Google Earth. With 3D shadows :-)

  23. Wow! – After a long day of working at Google, you go home and read books about… Google?

    You might need to get out a bit more often or take a vacation somewhere tropical and remote like Easter Island or somewhere else that doesn’t have much in the way of internet access or computers.

    BTW – Please tell my AdWords rep to feel free to send me whatever Google logo merchandise they want. Nothing is too extravagant. I have no shame. Thanks!

  24. What a Maroon

    I want to know what the expiration date is on the cookie.

  25. Brian, thanks. AdWords isn’t for everybody, and I don’t want to push it on people that aren’t interested, but I do think that learning AdWords can help hone your SEO skills. Just like practicing SEO can probably hone your PPC skillz.

    “Skillz”? There’s the next April Fool’s Day joke:

    Matt Cutts Joins AOL, Becomes 12-Year-Old 1337 G4nG574

    *shudders*

    Not right, man. Not right.

  26. gOTTA K33P YOUZ ON Y3R TO3S, @DAM.. ;)

  27. Harith

    Good morning Matt

    “gOTTA K33P YOUZ ON Y3R TO3S, @DAM..”

    That must be an IP for a new Google Datacenter.

    English please :D

  28. I got the Book about a month ago as bonus to his current eBook “Google Adwords Handbook” http://www.page-zero.com/google-adwords-book.asp .

    The promotion to get a free copy of the book with his new one expired already, but I just checked and saw that he revived it. I assume that your post is one of the reasons for it :).

    I agree with you, it is a good Book, but I missed some of the undocumented Adwords features which I found somewhere else..

  29. bowa

    Can you send me a free Google pen ? I promise i wont mention it on my site ;-)

  30. Well, you got me to buy it simply to see what you’re talking about. I suspect I won’t be the only one. If you really want to discourage people from sending you stuff, then don’t do what they really want you to do with it? :-)

  31. Matt, that was a bit of a joke, seeing if you’d like to promote my book the same way :-) But of course neither you nor anyone reading this blog is in the target audience….

    I can sympathize with Andrew’s problems in regards to keeping the book up-to-date with Google’s constant changes. Even as I was writing mine I had to retake snapshots a few times as things changed, and of course the screen layout changed a few months after the book was out. Anyone writing a book about Google’s technologies (as opposed to a historical recap like Battelle’s) is going to run into the same problem. Even a book released as an e-book is going to be occasionally out-of-date unless the author keeps right on top of things and isn’t distracted by other projects. That’s why it’s important for good Google books like Andrew’s and (I hope!) mine to focus just as much on the theory of how things work, not just the mechanics, and to provide advice from experience as to what to do and what not to do.

    And don’t forget, there’s still a sizable crowd of people out there who like physical books. So those of you worried that Andrew’s book is out-of-date, go ahead and buy it anyhow, read it, and then play with AdWords to see what’s changed. You’ll still have a good understanding of how it all fits together and discovering the changes and how to use them should be trivial at that point.

  32. To those who only know about me because of that book review (thanks Matt, will address your admirable ethics shortly!!), or as an “ad guy,” by way of introduction, I’ve also been an avid follower of the search side of things for many years. I guess if we’re picking hats, I’ve always been whitish, or no hat :). I have rarely if ever helped clients with SEO per se. At seminars such as those for Nielsen Norman Group, I teach half a day on organic. A lot of it might be dismissed as white hat stuff, but what it really is, of course, is listening to the “drumbeat” of comments from people like Matt, Tim Mayer, etc. So, that’s just to point out that book or no book, I’m big on dialogue and discussion and supporting the type of stuff that makes our industry great. (Sending review copies to people I respect, like Matt, was something I did on my own, after the publisher got tired of sending review copies … or too cheap… or whatever…)

    The nice thing about a blog like this is it is a “real” place where members of the search community hang out. So it hopefully will allow me to briefly address some of the attack comments on Amazon. To be clear, bad reviews are bad reviews, and you have to take the good with the bad. In writing a book on this topic, I could feel which chapters were relative shit compared to the others. I could also feel time slipping away as features changed again, and again. If you read it, you have my word that as I composed Chapter 7 while on vacation, staring out at a beautiful lake near Algonquin Park, I thought it was a gem. In fact, it’s rather crappy.

    That being said, a number of the reviews that mention the book is “obsolete” are purely mean-spirited. Some are by the authors of competing publications. Others are by… just mean people.

    Clearly, the section on ad rank is outdated, because Quality Score came into existence in August, officially speaking. The book was being printed as that happened. I went through and updated the whole thing about four times as it was being written. But some parts got outdated again, and new features were released that bear discussion. But the explicitly outdated parts make up only about 5% of the book. Of course, in forums, talks, newsletter, and in real life, I am all about the most updated versions of this stuff. But as for the book, which is printed on paper and won’t update itself, nearly every reader will find new ideas in there. I believe it is pitched at the intermediate level. Few books are supposed to be pitched at the “advanced” reader. But I am incapable of writing for absolute newbies, so there are enough easter eggs there for industry folks to make it fun.

    At 80 cents a copy or whatever I make from book sales, coming here and telling you about this is not motivated by sales. Rather, it’s just an issue of reputation and setting the story straight. The very first unfair review from a writer who was flogging a competing ebook struck me as below the belt. There would be fair criticisms of any work, so why make stuff up?

    Now, turning to Matt and your ethical approach. I think you’ve got it exactly right. It just gets harder to do a job like yours if the slope gets slippery. My dad was chief of the planning department in the suburb I lived in in high school. Many planners receive gifts and hints of bribes from land developers. One year a turkey arrived at our doorstep. We didn’t eat it. The last thing you want to do is take a single gift from any land developer. The next thing you know you’re taking a bribe, and then you’re at the bottom of Lake Ontario wearing cement shoes. It’s not as if we were poor – the city paid a good salary – and I’m guessing Google pays pretty good too.

    That being said: I must say it never occurred to me that a review copy of a book was a “gift” in that way! :) Publishers send them out like crazy. Presumably they know a $16 book is not going to be enough to generate positive reviews. The reviews can always be bad!

    Sorry to be so long winded, but I gotta say this: I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on the book, but many months have passed since release, and I can tell you I haven’t felt as happy about any review as I do today about yours, Matt. When a true skeptic (and non gift taker) gives the thumbs up, it is more rewarding than anything else. My wife’s taking me to lunch to celebrate! (I’ll take her bribe…)

  33. It’s funny how few people realize how little authors get from the sales of their books (and no wonder more authors are turning to e-books as a way to generate some real money).

    Bad reviews are sometimes good if they provide details about what they didn’t like, because that’s more information to help potential readers decide if a book is right for them or not. You can’t write a book that addresses all audiences, and sometimes it’s not clear from the publisher’s description what the book’s audience really is.

    What really bites are the reviews that say “this book sucks” without any details. Those are just mean. If you take the time to write a review, spend a few more minutes and give the author some constructive feedback, good or bad.

    Also, if you every see a review on Amazon that is obviously flogging someone else’s book, there’s a link to report it as inappropriate. Those kinds of reviews DO get pulled if people complain enough, especially ones with URLs leading off Amazon to affiliate sites. If we all did that for Andrew’s book, I’m sure he’d be happy!

  34. Matt that cookie looks disgusting – was it made out of actual SPAM?

  35. Andrew,
    I appreciate your posting as I am sure others do. I was getting ready to order your book on your site now I will for sure.
    Keep the editions updated! Looking forward to reading your book.
    -Victor

  36. What a Maroon

    I am a skeptic and a critic. I pay little attention to reviews except my own. What I look for are references/feedback from people who have a clue and no agenda. Matt fits that category with respect to AdSense.

    However I still wasnt biting until I read your Andrew. Hopefully you make more than 80 cents from the ebook so you can take your wife out for the dinner she deserves (the spouse of a writer usually deserves more than they get to make for what they put up with when one is writing a book).

  37. P.S. Read the UK reviews (on Amazon). Now those are some dialed-in people! :)

  38. What I look for are references/feedback from people who have a clue and no agenda.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&rls=GGLG%2CGGLG%3A2006-19%2CGGLG%3Aen&q=%22people+with+a+clue%22+-agenda&btnG=Search

    Apparently you’re not going to find too many of those.

  39. Ian

    Matt – you might end up with a large number of pens in the post from your readers after that! :D

  40. I’d be a bit nervous about eating something from someone i didn’t know. Yuck. you never know what could be in it or what happened to it! B E W A R E

  41. Guys, I’m new to the PPC, Adsense and Adwords arenas. I spent 20 years in a law firm and retired in December to take care of a sick parent and start a 100% online business developing web sites and web content, writing every day, and even buying decent domain names. I’m no where near covering the salary I gave up, but we’re managing not to hit the savings and I’m not greedy.

    I have several web sites, including AddMultimedia.Com (no Google on that one), and a site where I promote my voice-over skills (I was a narrator and sound engineer in college, pre-digital). Frankly, though it’s been a real challenge setting up pages to get contextually relevant Adsense to come up. So now I wondered if I should shift and learn about Adwords and start launching Adwords campaigns.

    I’m going to read both Goodman’s book and Giguere’s, but frankly I remain skeptical. I honestly don’t want to be critical but, isn’t this all just a little self-serving? A lot of comments here have been about how noble Matt was in not accepting a review copy of Winning, but, Matt, don’t you work for Google? When you promote a how-to book on Adwords (a product your company sells), aren’t you self-promoting? I’m just trying to figure out how on the level you guys are being and whether I’m investing my time wisely in reading this blog and these books. I’m not sure what kind of response I’m expecting to this.

    I’m very much for learning and understand how to apply what I read, so even if portions of Goodman’s books may be outdated (as anything remotely Internet will become), I’m sure I’ll find something useful there. I’m also looking forward to Giguere’s book and newsletters (which I just signed up for). The whole initial idea of this was to develop better web designs and web content for clients who will be more dependant on SEO, page ranking and possibly monetizing their own sites. I’m in no current position to offer them guidance, but I learn by doing. Maybe others not trying to sell a book here or promote their company’s products will want to chime in here. Again, I’m not out to slam anyone here. I’m just trying to approach this analytically, which at first means with skepticism and a lack of trust. That doesn’t tend to engender warm, fuzzy feelings in the people my questions may be directed to.

    In the same breath, I want to thank Matt, Andrew and Eric for sharing their experiences. I do sincerely appreciate that.

  42. Nikki, I’m not sure I really understand this mentality about lacking trust in a $16 book. I plowed through thousands of books when in graduate school, at great expense, so maybe I have a different perspective. When you’re in an airport, don’t you pick up light reading? Isn’t that just the price of reading?

    In any case, where you should be sceptical is about claims that any advice can help you “get rich”. To be clear, my experience in consulting is with companies of various sizes (but not typically as small as yours) who need help managing their marketing and growing their sales. I do *not* claim to be able to help complete shoestring operations turn a profit – rather, my experience is mostly with companies with decent marketing budgets.

    As for your claim that you’re approaching this analytically, no you aren’t, if you’re talking hypothetically about a book you haven’t read.

    So this thread was about a book review. That was its title. I am still grateful that Matt reviewed my book, and yes, certainly there are commercial aspects to why we are here. I honestly don’t do AdWords as a hobby, but as a business. In a world where every second talk show is geared towards plugging some general-interest book or movie, it seems comparatively tame that people who are in a niche industry might help a bit to get the word out about that industry. For the record, I moderate on a couple of industry forums where the discussion does of course flow freely about many topics, and self-promo is banned. But that being said, you’re allowed to talk about products, services, and ideas, and the people behind them. That’s all an industry is. Without the commercial side it would be more like a sport… or art… if you believe those things aren’t commercial that is. :)

  43. Andrew, I know I wasn’t attacking your book and I want you to know that too. In my first entry, I was commenting on a book review which I did read, not on the book itself which I didn’t read. I was questioning where Matt was coming from recommending a book on Adwords, a product his company sells. I don’t agree that it’s hypothetical to question a source. Maybe for some people it is :)

    At any rate, I’ve reconsidered and see that my initial reaction to Matt’s review was a little naive — in retrospect, I feel his review was entirely appropriate and helpful. Google’s methodology for Adsense and Adwords is complex and someone with Google is in a better position to know whether a writer, like yourself, understands Adwords and explains it well. Clearly, Matt feels you do, and certainly Google has a vested interest in having people understand how to use their products.

    I’m glad for the opportunity to restate that here. Very simply, my comments aren’t prompted by a lack of trust in your $16 book, Andrew. I tend to question where information comes from, whether I read it in a $16 book, a 75 cent newspaper, or a free book review on the Internet. Don’t you do that too? After all, you went to grad school, right? I went to college too. My degree is in critical analysis and I spent years working in law evaluating information, including autopsy reports, financial records and “expert” opinions.

    Honestly Andrew, it’s not the money that matters, it’s the value of the information. Again, I see the value in Matt’s review. I’m sure I’ll see the value in your book.

  44. Have we incurred the wrath of Google

    A friend and I in UK decided in January to setup a website to challenge default charges by British Banks.
    We were amazed when within 3 months we a membership of 10,000 and now almost 6 months later we have a membership of 40,000!! and growing at a rate of over 400 people per day. The number of guests we receive are just enormous. We expect to have over 75,000 people by the end of the year.
    We have hundreds of sites linking to us and talking about is. Even PR 8 and 9 BBC sites are linking to us. We have been on TV and Radio. We are all about bank charges.
    Yet we are nowhere in the Google rankings.
    Someone said that you have a “sandbox” where some sites are put because their results are so huge that they are suspected of spamming.
    Are we in the sanbox? If we are, how can we find out?
    We are a non-profit making site run by volunteers and a few donations. We are helping a lot of people and the UK banks have already repaid over £4 million because of us.

    Maybe it is just that our SEO is no good – in which case we will work on it. On the other hand, if it is true that we are under suspicion from Google, then could someone check us out because we are very real – not spammers.
    I hope that this post isn’t out of place here.
    regards

    Marc

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