Do feel like advertising your business online is a good idea but don’t’ know where to start?  We’ve got Google Ads for Photographers Explained!

I’m a photographer.  I also have degrees and experience in public relations and economics, specifically in the natural resources industry.  So I know a lot of stuff about some really weird subjects, like pneumonia in bighorn sheep.  But I went to college and took advertising and marketing classes when the Internet was still in its infancy.  Online marketing can feel like a bit of a mystery to me, even still. But it doesn’t need to be.  In this tutorial, we’re going to break down one online marketing and advertising tool all photographers know about but don’t often understand…Google Ads.  You’ll learn all about Google Ads for photographers, including how they work, the benefits of them and how to improve your chance of converting interest to booked clients!

What this tutorial isn’t…

This tutorial isn’t a step-by-step guide to writing and launching a Google Ad.  I include a few resources at the end to help walk you through this process.  And honestly, those resources do a better job than I ever could.

But I want this tutorial about Google Ads for Photographers to focus on what Google Ads are, how they might work for you and give you some considerations about how much work is involved.  So with that caveat in mind…

What are Google Ads for Photographers

To start, you should know that Google ads for photographers work just like Google ads for attorneys, bankers or bakers.  There’s no secret formula for using Google Ads to grow your photography business.  But in this article, we’ll use examples of ads and keywords specific to photography so you can make them relevant to your business.

Google ads, formerly known as Google AdWords, is Google’s pay-per-click advertising program.  It’s how Google makes money to pay all its people to do all the cool stuff Google does.  It’s also a program you can use to advertise your photography business.

Unlike other advertising platforms, you only pay Google when a potential client clicks on your ad.  Google has different types of ads you can use (which we will cover later).  You can choose which type of ad to use to reach your potential clients.

Google Search Results Ad

What do Google Ads cost?

I know you’re going to hate me for this but…it depends.  This is where Google AdWords can feel a little evasive and hard to understand.

Google AdWords isn’t like advertising in your local newspaper.  There you ask the sales rep how much it costs to run a ¼ page ad for two days and she give you a price.  It’s easy to understand and budget for.

Google Ads is based on an auction system.  Businesses bid on ad placement for keywords and pay Google when their ad is clicked on.  You enter a maximum budget and have total control over that budget, but we can’t tell you exactly how much a campaign will cost because it changes.  Google rewards businesses that have high-quality ad campaigns with lower costs and better placement.

On average, the cost per click for a Google ad is about $1-$2.   Keep in mind those are only clicks.  You pay for the click through to your site even if that person doesn’t end up being a customer.

The key is to set up a monthly budget with daily limits.  Google AdWords will spend every penny you have if you let them!  Don’t let them!  Set a budget that works for you for the month and limit it to by the day so you don’t blow your monthly budget in the first twelve hours.

Need help optimizing your images for SEO? Read this!

Why should photographers advertise on Google Ads?

Do Google Ads for Photographers work?  Yes.  Google ads can and do work for photographers if you are savvy about why and how you use them.

Why?  Because Google AdWords can be a really great way to reach your target audience.  Unlike Facebook ads or even an ad in your local newspaper that gets shown to everyone, Google ads are only shown to people who are searching your keyword.  And why do people search?  Because they are often intending to buy something or invest in a service.

Plus, Google is huge.  It’s the single biggest search engine out there.  In fact, the word Google has become synonymous with “find something online.”  Customers are using Google to find goods and services and you are hitting them with your adjust when they are searching for your keywords.  Ahh, serendipity.

Google Ads also offers some other advantages, especially when compared to using SEO (search engine optimization) methods.  Google Ads work faster than SEO, they can be changed and tweaked faster than SEO and its an incredibly flexible platform compared to other mediums (SEO, radio, print, etc.)

However, Google Ads don’t help your SEO. So don’t use paid Google Ads as a way to improve your organic reach or SEO for your site. That requires different strategies entirely!

should photographers advertise on Google?

Are Google Ads for Photographers a good strategy?

Just because Google Ads work for some photographers and businesses doesn’t mean it’s a good strategy for all photographers.  First, Google Ads should be part of a well-planned advertising and marketing strategy.  Too many photographers throw money at different advertising opportunities, convinced that one ad will have customers beating down their door.

That’s not how it works.  It doesn’t matter what medium you use…a single ad isn’t going to launch your business into superstardom.  A successful advertising and marketing campaign uses multiple ads and tests different ads and calls to action over time.  So should a Google Ads campaign.

You also need to understand costs and return on investment. 

For example, if you budget $10 per day for a month, your Google Ads campaign will cost $300.  Assume your campaign gets an average of 3 clicks per day, which feels really exciting.  Three new people looking at your site each day?  That’s like 90 new eyes on your site each month.  That’s awesome, right? Well, yes.

But you also need to realize not every click turns into a customer.  Most photographers get about a 1-2% conversion rate from Google Ads.  So for the 90 clicks you received that month, only 1-2 will likely become paying customers. 

Now consider how much you charge for a session and weigh that against your costs.  If it cost you $300 for 2 paying clients, that’s $150 for each new client.  When you are able to convert that click into a wedding client booking a $3,000 wedding package, that’s a pretty good return on investment.  If you convert that click into a client booking a $250 family photography session, it becomes less attractive.

Google Ads vs. Other advertising opportunities

You also need to weigh those costs against how much it might cost to acquire new customers through other marketing efforts such as Facebook ads, bridal expos, radio ads, etc.

I can’t tell you what a good budget is or how much is too much to acquire a new customer.  You have to make those decisions for yourself and your business!

And finally, it takes a while to learn how to use Google Ads effectively.  Marketing firms have people that do nothing but bid on and buy Google Ads for customers. Be sure to value your time as part of your cost-benefit analysis.

We’ll help you be a kick bu

We’ll help you be a kick-butt business owner and photographer. At Cole’s Classroom we have dozens courses and hundreds of videos on topics like advertising, marketing and photography! Check out our SEO Success for Beginners’ Breakout Course. The first lesson is free!

How Do Google Ads Work

Google Ads display your ad when your keyword is searched or on the pages of websites containing relevant content (see types of ads below.)   Advertisers bid on these keywords.  The highest bidder is placed at the top of the search results page or get the best-related webpage placement.

You start by choosing what type of campaign you want to run.  Google offers search ads, display ads and video ads.

Search ads are probably what you’re thinking of when you hear Google Ads for Photographers.  These are text ads displayed on the search results page on Google.

Display ads are shown on web pages within the Google Display Network.  You see a lot of these ads on websites and blogs, like How Sweet Eats, one of my new favorite food blogs.

Video ads are those ads you see run before the YouTube video you’re trying to watch.  I see a lot of ads for Wix and Square Space when I’m trying to access photography tutorials.  You also get some popup ads at the bottom of your screen.  Those are all Google Ads and they can be yours with the right bid.

Bidding for Google Ads

Understanding Keywords and Bidding

Your first step is to pick a keyword you want to use to connect with potential clients.  Let’s say you want to use the keyword “newborn photographer Odessa Texas.”  You bid on that phrase with Google.  If you are the bid winner, your ad will appear at the top of the search results whenever someone searches those keywords.  Your bid is the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a click on your ad.  So your bid gets you the placement you want but you’re only charged if someone actually clicks on your link.

This is where the process of Google Ads for Photographers gets a little…nebulous.  Your ad placement isn’t just about your bid.  It also depends on your Quality Score, which is based on the quality and relevance of your ad.  Quality and relevance is measured by how many people click on your ad (Google calls this the CTR or click-through-rate.)

Creating and mastering Google Ads is not a straightforward process.  You definitely need to put in the work to make awesome ads, find just the right keywords and tweak things constantly. 

Google Video Ads Example

Tips for better Google Ads

There are some general things you can do to improve your Google Ads effectiveness

  • Pay a consultant
  • Use really specific, targeted keywords
  • Understand negative keywords
  • Have an awesome landing page

We will look at each of these best practices a little more below.

Pay a consultant

Here’s my best advice…to get the best bang for your buck, pay someone who does this for a living to help you with your campaign. 

Why?  Because creating an effective strategy for Google ads for photographers isn’t something you can really learn from a single tutorial.  You have to do some experimenting and tweaking.  It’s a process, not a one-and-done solution.  And if you do it wrong, you’ve wasted your money and have no clients to show for it.

After all, would you tell your auto mechanic to take his own family photos after reading a blog post?  Or would you recommend he hire a professional, such as yourself, to get the best results he can.

“Oh sure, now she tells me,” you think.  “After I’m five minutes into reading this.”

This tutorial isn’t a total waste of time and effort though. It WILL give you a basic understanding of how Google Ads for photographers work and why they may or may not be right for your business

Use specific targeted keywords

Keywords are critical to success with Google Ads for Photographers.  The better your keywords match searcher intent, the more successful your ads will be.  Keywords are usually one to five words, not necessarily just a single word

To make matters slightly more complicated, Google has different kinds of keywords, like broad, phrase match and exact match.  Each match type has its on pros and cons.  You need to understand what they are to choose the right tradeoff between impressions and relevancy that’s right for you.

What does this all mean?  Let’s go back to our earlier example.  If you want to book newborn clients in or near Odessa, Texas, your keywords would need to be specific to that intent.

Newborn photographer Odessa Texas would be a great keyword to consider. 

Newborn photographer is way too broad and even Texas photographer would yield clients that have no desire to come to Odessa for pictures.

But you also need to know what terms customers are searching for.  Are customers looking for a newborn photographer or baby photographer?  Google gives you a really cool tool called the Keyword Palnner to help with this step.  But you need to do your research!

The point of using really great keywords is to find the right clients willing to pay for your services AND not paying for clicks to your website from people that will never become clients.

Use Negative keywords

Optimizing negative keywords is another strategy you’ll need to employ to have successful Google Ads for Photographers.  Negative keywords prevent your ad from showing when you know the audience isn’t interested in your services.  That way you aren’t paying for clicks of people who won’t ever become your customers!

For example, one of my service areas is Torrington, Wyoming.  But there’s also a Torrington, Connecticut.  I don’t want people from Torrington, CT, clicking on my Google Ad because they aren’t going to book with me.  But I get charged for that click regardless of their intent.  So I need to know how to filter those types of searches out.

You can also exclude the types of services you provide.  Maybe you don’t do posed newborns or maternity sessions for instance.  Those could be negative keywords for your Google Ads campaign.  Likewise, you can also exclude terms like cheap or inexpensive if you’re trying to book luxury wedding clients.  The Google Keyword Planner is a great tool for finding your negative keywords, too!

Write better ads!

Writing Google Ads that convert sounds easy. But it requires some work. You need to be clear and concise while still standing out from your competitor’s ads. After all, you want to be the one clients click on and ultimately purchase from. And you have to do this all with just a few words.

This is the hardest part for me. I like flowy, descriptive prose that tugs at your emotions and brings a tear to your eye. Except that Google Ads gives you 25 characters for a headline. 25. Gulp.

A few basic pointers are to focus on the end result, not mirror what the customer is already searching for, keep your ads current and focus on the customer not you the photographer.

Again, learning how to create clickable ads that convert is an ongoing process. You have to be willing to put in some homework to get this right! And you can’t just write one ad…to maximize your effectiveness, you need to write multiple ads and test them against one another to find that Google Ads sweet spot!

Landing Page Example Cole's Classroom

Have an awesome landing page

One of the final mistakes I see fellow business owners make is not having a good landing page that connects to the ad.

Getting clients to your website isn’t the goal of a Google Ad.  BOOKING clients is the goal!  So it makes sense to build a really awesome landing page that gives the client the information they need to make a decision about hiring you!

In other words, don’t just send traffic to your homepage.  And for the love of Pete, don’t send them to Facebook!  That’s definitely not an effective use of that paid click.  Why?  Well, people are actually kid of lazy and are easily distracted.  The harder it is for them to find the info the more likely they are to leave your site without booking.  Someone looking for a newborn session isn’t going to want to wade through your wedding images and might get bored and leave!  Then you’ve paid for a click that didn’t convert.  Sad face.

As an example, if we advertise a product on Cole’s Classroom, we send you to a landing page about that specific product, not just the generic homepage. (See above image!) We want you to find what you are looking for, not get lost in our other amazing tutorials or stuck in a different section.

Overwhelmed by all this?

Google ads for photographers aren’t easy.  It is not a strategy you master from a simple blog post or by watching a YouTube video.  But they can be an effective strategy if you:

  • Are willing to spend some time learning the process and tweaking ads
  • Have a decent starting budget to work with and are willing to invest that to learn the process
  • Are willing to invest time in developing effective keywords and custom landing pages
  • Have a product that will provide a good return on investment

If you think Google Ads might be a smart strategy for your business, I’d encourage you to reach out to a digital marketing firm or a fellow business owner you know who’s conquered Google Ads.  They can walk you through the process and give you some inside pointers to use your budget effectively.

Other resources

Sites like Udemy have some really great courses to walk you through the process.  Or purchase a book like Google Ads (AdWords) Workbook: Advertising on Google Ads, YouTube, & the Display Network via Amazon.

Google Ads can and do work for a lot of different businesses, including photographers. But you have to be willing to learn the system, put in the work and finally test ads and strategies to see which is the most cost-effective for you.

I’m definitely not trying to scare you away from trying Google Ads. But you work hard for your money.  Make sure you are being smart with your advertising dollar and the time you spend creating Google Ads so that your money is working hard right back for you.  Don’t jump on the Google Ads bandwagon just because it works for the friend of a friend or because it’s the next it thing.  Above all, make sure it’s a strategy that will benefit your business and your bottom line!