How I Used Google Adwords to Make $150,000 With Very Little Work

I have a love/hate relationship with Google. They are a fantastic company, but sometimes I feel that they have too much of a monopoly on paid search, and they are very ruthless when it comes to making sweeping changes – these changes can destroy small businesses in one fell swoop. However, since I was laid off in 2005, I have used Google Adwords to run my own successful lead generation business and I now help companies maximise returns from their own PPC campaigns.

In 2012 I earned over $150,000 from Google Adwords alone, doing very little work, over the course of around 9 months. I’m now going to share with you how I did it. If you find this article helpful, please share it with others.

 

1. I found a lead buyer

I found a company who wanted to grow their business by buying targeted sales leads. I am not going to reveal the company or the niche as I’m still active in this space and I could frankly do without the extra competition, but there are several niches in which companies are willing to pay a good price for a high quality sales lead that is likely to convert into business for them.

How do you find potential lead buyers in a profitable niche? You look at affiliate or lead generation networks, and find out which companies are paying a decent price for valid leads. Google Adwords clicks are not cheap, so you need to find a company who’s willing to buy leads for around $30-$70. Don’t bother with cost per sale deals as this places all the risk on you, and doesn’t give the lead buyer enough incentive to convert the leads to sales. Leads from Google Adwords are very highly targeted – you need to be paid for every valid lead you supply. Another way to find potential buyers once you’ve identified a niche is to see who’s appearing at the top of Google searches for keywords in that niche. I knew I was better at PPC than them or their agencies, and crucially I know how to minimise wastage on Adwords, so I could generate leads far more cheaply than they could.

2. I looked into compliance issues

I already had a company set up, so this wasn’t an issue. But in the niche I had chosen I discovered that I had to inform applicants where they were being referred to as soon as they applied. This wasn’t a real issue as the leads I generate have always been exclusive – I never sell the same lead to more than one buyer.

3. I negotiated a lead trial

Once I had found a potential buyer I managed to get them on the phone and pitch them the idea of a lead trial. They were very receptive as they wanted to grow their business and their own PPC efforts were proving to be very expensive. They didn’t even have a proper grasp on what each lead was costing them, and they had made the crucial mistake of allowing Google to automatically set bids and suggest keywords for them. Suffice to say they were losing lots of money.

I said they were receptive. However the very first time I spoke to them, they were wary – companies like this get swamped with calls and emails from ‘data’ companies offering them cheap leads. These leads are usually generated via some massive email list where people have opted in to win an iPad or similar. In short, the leads from these data companies are terrible. My leads on the other hand were premium high quality sales leads – as they were to be generated via Google Adwords, the cost to me would be high (I had to pay for every click) because they were virtually pre-qualified – the applicant had actively searched for the product in question before they even saw my ad. They then had to click the ad and fill in the application form, with no incentives to do so other than to ‘get a quote’. I had to explain to them the difference between my leads, and cheap data leads. Thankfully they understood the difference and we settled on a 100 lead trial at $60 per lead. These would be mobile-leads, i.e. they were all generated via Google ads on smartphones.

4. I created my website

I have used Dreamweaver in the past to create terrible websites. To my surprise most of them converted really well despite looking like they were made in the late 90s. I now know that the reason for this is because actual design is not crucial to good conversion – it’s more about having the required elements on your page in the right place. I have written at length about landing page conversion tips here.

I sketched out a basic layout of the mobile site, wrote the content and sent it off to my developer. We used HTML5 elements to make the application form super-easy to complete, which had a dramatic effect on conversion from mobile devices. I should say at this point that I own a mobile web design company called The Art of Mobile. I started it in 2011. So the costs were low for me, but you can get a high converting mobile version of your website for around $799. With conversion rates of 30-40% from click to lead, compared to 10-20% on PCs and laptops, it’s a no-brainer and worth every penny.

5. I created a Google Adwords campaign

I now had the buyer in place and the website created. The next step was to create my Google Adwords campaign to drive traffic to the website and generate highly qualified sales leads. This is the point at which a good knowledge of what makes a PPC campaign successful is crucial. By implementing money-saving measures and structuring ad groups to produce extremely highly targeted and relevant traffic I managed to achieve over 100% ROI from the Adwords campaign. In effect it was costing me $30 to generate an application that could be sold for $60.

6. I re-invested the profit from the lead trial

The 100 lead trial produced a $6000 with a gross profit (before tax) of $3000. As soon as the trial had finished I got in touch with the lead buyer who wanted to continue buying leads – they were converting them into sales and making money. Unless you’re providing value to your lead buyer in terms of highly converting leads, a lead trial will never turn into a longer term arrangement. I ploughed the money from the trial back into Adwords, tweaked a few things within the campaign based on feedback from the lead buyer on what was converting best for them, and continued to generate leads.

About a week later I got a call from the buyer asking if I could produce more leads for them. They wanted to use their own Adwords budget to buy more leads from me instead – I was selling them for less than it was costing them to generate them, so it was a no-brainer. I said that if they could increase the cost per lead, I could increase the volume. They agreed, and the CPL went to $85. My own costs went up as I shifted budget to some more generic, short tail, higher volume keywords, but the volume skyrocketed, and so did the profit from this campaign. I also created a BingAds campaign to supplement the volume further, and this actually produced a better ROI than Adwords.

7. I introduced click-to-call

I figured that if I could give my site visitors (and people who simply viewed my ads) the option of applying online or tapping a button to call the lead buyer directly, this would increase my conversion rate. It did. It had the added benefit of increasing the conversion rate for the lead buyer, because an inbound call is so much more valuable than an online application. Where an online applicant has to be called back, an inbound caller can be converted there and then – they have shown obvious intent to convert into a sale. It’s important to make sure that your click to call option only shows during call centre hours, and that you track call duration – I used a 3rd party call tracking software to ensure I had full transparency of call stats. I charged the buyer based on call duration, so that every call which lasted over 3 minutes became a chargeable lead. The calls are more valuable, so you can charge more for them than an online application.

8. I made some mistakes

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t make mistakes along the way. The $150,000 was made over several months, with very little work on my behalf after the initial setup. After a few months the ROI started to drop off, because I became lazy. It’s very difficult to find motivation when you have money coming in on autopilot, but in order to keep a Google Adwords campaign as profitable as possible you do have to do some regular work on it. Leaving a healthy campaign is like leaving a beautifully landscaped garden for a few weeks – weeds will begin to grow and the garden, although it still looks good, doesn’t look as good as it could. The longer you leave it, the more work is required to restore it to it’s former glory.

I kick myself because had I worked harder, I know I could have earned more. What if that $150k was $1.5m – I had a proven business model, but I wasn’t maximising it. Instead of sitting back and resting on my laurels, I should have been creating multiple websites in similar niches, repeating the same process, growing the income. I was living a part time lifestyle with a full time income. But had I worked harder not only would I have earned more money, I would have felt more fulfilled. I’ve been a ‘solopreneur’ for 8 years and unless you’ve been there it’s hard to appreciate how difficult it can be to find that motivation to really push on when you’re working from home and there are distractions to deal with, and money coming in. It’s a constant battle between work/life balance. Passive income can be fantastic, but you need to have something meaningful to do with your spare time otherwise you’ll fall into the same trap I did and feel unfulfilled. Now that I’m building a PPC Agency, I’m working harder and I feel so much better for it. I love helping clients both save money and make more money by transforming their PPC campaigns.

 

Does this still work?

This campaign ran in 2012. 2 years later, does this method still work?

The answer is yes and no.

No, because in 2013 Google introduced Enhanced Campaigns which made it impossible to run a mobile-only campaign like the one described above on Adwords. Now, if you’re running ads on smartphones they must also run on desktops and tablets. The benefit of running mobile-only campaigns pre-Enhanced Campaigns was that click to lead conversion rates on smartphones are so much higher than desktop/tablet. It was 30-40% compared to 10-20%. Part of the reason is that in 2012, a mobile optimised version of your website gave you a huge advantage over the competition, most of who did not give their visitors a good mobile experience and lost conversions to the ones who did.

Yes, because companies are still buying leads, and still running inefficient, costly Adwords campaigns due to poor account structure, low quality scores and poorly optimised campaign settings. Lead buyers still get excited by mobile and click-to-call, even though you must now lump in desktop & tablet applications with these. And despite it being 2014, many advertisers are still providing a poor mobile experience and wasting money as a result. A mobile-friendly website does not equal a mobile-optimised website – get this right and you will hoover up conversions from the competition who may have just spent thousands on their ‘mobile responsive’ website, which doesn’t convert.

You can still arrange lead trials, and you can still make money by selling leads to interested buyers. It’s a method I have used to make virtually passive income for the past 8 years, and don’t forget I was doing desktop-only campaigns before mobile even emerged as a traffic source. It’s a proven business model, and I have recently created a course on Udemy which lays out step-by-step instructions on how to do this yourself. It’s called How to Make Money Using Google Adwords.

 

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Thanks for reading, questions/comments are welcome…

 

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author

Michael Madew

PPC expert with over 10 years' experience in creating and managing highly profitable PPC campaigns on Google Adwords, Bing Ads and other paid search platforms.

17 Comments

  • James

    Reply Reply January 22, 2015

    Thank you for this article.
    I happened to run a similar campaign on Google Adwords and I lost thousands of dollars due to lack of keyword research. What tools do you use to find profitable keywords and less competitive?

    • Michael Madew

      Reply Reply January 22, 2015

      Hi James. Thanks for your comment and I’m sorry to hear that you lost money due to the lack of keyword research. The main tool is Google Keyword Planner but everyone uses it, so I wouldn’t bother with it. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential applicant and think about what they would be searching for. When you have a few main keywords, go to google.com and type in (main keyword) a…, b…, c…, d… etc and Google’s suggestion tool will help you find long tail searches that people are doing in relation to your main keywords. This is also excellent for picking up negative keywords.

      Hope this helps, please keep us updated with your progress.

      Mike

  • Andy Black

    Reply Reply January 24, 2015

    Great article Michael.

    I do local lead gen using AdWords too. Interesting that you seem to be going towards the agency route. I am trying to go the other way… From a one-man agency to selling leads -swapping clients for customers I guess.

  • umashankar

    Reply Reply February 20, 2015

    Noted all the points. Thanks :)

  • Mark

    Reply Reply April 6, 2015

    Hello I am doing the exact samething you’re doing. My niche is very lucrative.

  • Adam

    Reply Reply October 8, 2015

    Hi Michael, a very informative article! When you mentioned “in order to keep a Google Adwords campaign as profitable as possible you do have to do some regular work on it” what were you referring to? (Aside from using the same business model and repeating) are there any forms of maintenance the initial websites/campaigns need?

    Thanks, I’m totally green to this but am looking at starting my own business :)

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    Aw, this was a very nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to produce a top notch article
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  • Riya

    Reply Reply April 5, 2017

    I have been trying very hard to find a lead generating niche where the lead can be sell for more then $40/ lead, can anyone please help me to find a niche like that? where should I search for such kind of niches?

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