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Ask HN: Spent two thousand dollars on adwords and got zero sign ups, now what?
19 points by eduardordm on Nov 14, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments

I spent two thousand dollars on adwords and got zero sign ups. I did this pretty much to A/B test two landing pages, obviously I couldn't get any useful data of it because no one signed up. Also, it was my intention to get a couple of users help us improve the app.

Even though I founded a startup before, it wasn't a web app and we physically reached potential customers. That said, how does a web startup can get someone to signup without reaching to them individually?

obviously I couldn't get any useful data

I think you did get useful data:

Spent two thousand dollars on adwords and got zero sign ups

With that, now you have to figure out why. There are two paths to explore:

1) Your product doesn't meet the needs of the market. It's not useful/valuable. 2) Your messaging doesn't properly communicate the value of your product to the market. So they couldn't understand why they'd need/want it and left.

Figure out which one of those is the case (could be both!) and keep marching.

I would disagree. You left off (3) Your marketing was so far off as to not reach your target audience. To me that seems the most likely answer.

You're right. Sometimes I take that one for granted.

To identify if the problem lay in the two options I presented you do have to ensure that the people who saw it are part of your target market and that you targeted your communications well.

Also, it could simply that both (or all) pages were poor and you need create a new one. Or simply that the hits you may have gotten were fake, useless or otherwise clickjacked to go to your website by other people advertising their websites trying to simply increase their "ad clicks" to make money.

For A/B testing, organic results work best, AdWords truly is just to get your number of hits up and maybe get ranked on search engines - but it's unlikely anything useful comes from it.

AdWords truly is just to get your number of hits up and maybe get ranked on search engines - but it's unlikely anything useful comes from it.

Sounds like a person who never really did anything on Adwords.

The majority of services I create are designed for heavy Internet consumers - not for the average consumer. Therefore, most the people I am targeting use AdBlocks - so I have never found use in AdWords except to rank up hits.

The building managers, hired by the condo owners, are the ones that would decide to use a product like this.

- The building managers have to justify the cost and run it past the board. They often have some leeway in costs, so this might fall under the amount that needs approval. You need to find that price.

- The building managers also have to show that they are improving the community, and resolving owner issues. You want to demonstrate to the building managers that by adding condoly, they can show the owners that they are improving things.

- And finally, most condo communities might not know that this is a problem. You have to go and convince them. My condo building for example uses Yahoo Groups, which is terrible.

If I had to take a stab in the dark, I'm picturing your target audience being someone who owns and manages their condo (not the individual tenants) or a number of condos.

If I had to further guess, these probably aren't the kinds of people who are very technologically savvy, and thus are very unlikely to find your service (even through google awords), let alone realize the potential and why they'd need it.

You say you had a startup before where you physically got in touch with potential customers... this may be the case for another approach like that.

You might consider setting up a demo where you show them an example of a "Condo" already running in your system, the benefits, etc etc, then show them how to get set up on their own. In other words, show them why they'd want to sign up, then show them how easy to get going it is.

But you might still be a step before that process, if you feel you need to improve the app a bit (which is something you'll always need to focus on, anyways). Maybe try reaching out to some people who own / manage condos in your area, explain the service, and offer them a free trial. Draw up some promotional material to give to their tenants, explaining how this will help them get things done, meet neighbors, etc etc, to help those people get going with the system, and then keep a constant and frequent feedback loop with all of them.

Best of luck!

Your site looks decent. Can you share details on your click through rates? How many people visited your page?

That said, I think there is a weird problem going on. If I am a tenet, this site is useless to me ... unless my apartment community is registered already. If I were you, the first step would be to focus primarily on apartment management. The website is geared towards apartment tenets (on a quick look). For example, instead of boasting that tenants can file complaints (not fun for management), try to stress how management would benefit (instant way to communicate with your residents). My current apartment has a site that lets us pay our rent. Previous apartment had a site for getting notifications about packages. We never used that feature and both websites are pretty dull. I think your site looks much prettier than those! Best of luck!

0,21% CTR , max of U$ 2.56 per click, 2953 clicks

Those are terrible, terrible metrics. The first question I'd be asking myself if, "With these numbers, why did we let the test keep going so long (3000 clicks)?" It seems like it would've been clear about 1000 impressions that your CTR was awful. That's a huge indicator that something is amiss.

These are the kind of numbers that imply that "the keywords that your ad was actually shown for" were not in line with "the keywords you thought your ad would get shown for".

Have you looked at the keywords that actually triggered your ad?

I'm learning about AdWords myself (I just started reading Brad Geddes' book Advanced Google Adwords). Is part of the problem that his max bid per click too high? If you can suggest a site/resources to learn more on what constitute good/bad Adword metrics, that would be most helpful to me (and hopefully the parent poster as well).

"Is part of the problem that his max bid per click too high?"

That's not my guess. My thinking is that he's using broad match keywords and they are getting auto-expanded by google into search terms that he doesn't realize he's bidding on.

Let's say, for example, that you bid $5 per click on "condos new york" as a broad match. Google might show your ad for "apartments manhattan" because they are, in Google's algorithm, "close enough". That will lead to two things:

1) A super low CTR (of course people who are searching for apartments in Manhattan aren't clicking ads for New York Condos)

2) The yahoos that do actually click the ad are just more of the "Hmmm... let me tire kick" variety.

Bid the minimum and work your way up until AdWords starts showing your ad, and work from there.

'Condo' and 'Condominium management' were the two keywords that triggered pretty much all displays

What would be an average CTR?

Well, most important at this stage isn't just the CTR by itself; it's more along the lines of "What were the keywords that actually triggered my ad, and of those keywords, what percentage actually clicked my ad?" My guess is you're wildly off the mark in terms of your keyword selection/filter4545454545454545454545454545454545454545454545454545454545 1 (cat attack!).

Adwords expands broad match keywords to the point of unprofitability IME. You have to find out what people are actually searching for that trigger your ad.

I have lived in several condos in the past and albeit this is just me and I'm not representative of the larger demographic out there, I can honestly say the idea is completely useless to me. I don't care for this kind of stuff. That's probably why no leads converted.

"without reaching to them individually?"

Thank about this. How many people are really searching for "social networking for condo". Why is that so important for someone to google etc? People usually search for fun items or pain points. Social network for condo does not seem to be either one of them (to me at least).

I think you are undermining the importance of reaching out to prospective customers directly/individually. Web app or not, if you can talk to sample customers (may be start with your own condo community), you will get a decent idea.

Adwords might get you a few sign-ups if you are lucky especially in the beginning of your startup but honestly, just talk directly to your potential customers if you can.

Try targeting a specific city (or neighborhood, if possible) where your target demographic (wealthy, tech-savvy) lives.

For example, Silicon Valley. Though you might be better off targeting a place with high population density (more condos), like NYC or Tokyo. Restrict the language to English if you don't plan to translate everything. And you'll get a trickle of traffic that will rarely convert, because this is a very tiny niche of people who are used to connecting with others in their condo face-to-face and won't see the point.

That $2000 could have been spent recruiting business owners in wealthy sections of large cities to put brochures on their counters.

What does the site actually do? That's my biggest question! Nobody likes signing up for a service without knowing what they will get and how much it will cost. I would add two more pages: 1 that shows screenshots and describes the benefits to potential users, and another with pricing charts. I would also replace the video with some descriptors. I, personally can't watch video at work and if this is the main source of information, your cutting anyone without sound out of your potential user base.

I think this would be extremely useful for managers of apartment buildings, as well as strata managers in the case of condos. These two groups are the real target market, because they would be the primary beneficiaries of the product, they enforce use, and they pay for it. I would guess that none of them saw the site.

I like the idea, but I don't see how it is a "social network", it seems more like a planning tool or combination forum and scheduling tool. A combination of outlook and reddit.

I think the keywords you used needed to be cut down. You don't want to get just any clicks. Every click you pay for needs to be from people searching for exactly what you're offering.

If you want me to take a look through your keyword list drop me an e-mail. You should be able to get 1-5 sign ups in your first 100 clicks. If you don't - it's time to pause the campaign, re-work your landing page & try again until conversions get better & better.

Why not reach them individually. You need feedback from them anyway. You probably shouldn't write a line of code without 5-10 users. Interview them offer them $25 gift cards whatever it takes to get inside there mind. What's there biggest pain? what software do they use now? what's wrong with it? what do they wish was automated? how do they spend most of their day?

You say you get people physically before, why are you not taking that approach for your first customers now? I highly recommend checking some of Steve Blank's online courses as well as the Startup Owner's manual. These discus the need to do customer development and to literally "get out of the building" and talk to you first potential customers.

Can you post a URL? It's hard speculate without some background on what you're doing and how you're doing it.

Brand credibility can be hurt by simple things like grammar: "With Condoly it's easy to manager your condominium..."

I hired wordly.com to do all the copy. I made the mistake of not checking their work afterwards.

Thanks a lot

I think you're spending too much money (just base on this and the adwords campaign) and less on being scrappy and getting as much done yourself as possible.

What does "useful social network for your condo" mean ? I honestly do not understand. Are you saying that this tool helps you to connect and share things with people in your condo community ? something like that?

Thanks! That should imply that is a private social network that offers useful functionality needed by most condos. I also think that sentence is awkward.

"useful functionality needed by most condos"

Try to make your tagline more specific by talking about this useful functionality. I understand that there could be many functionalities but the tagline should get me the visitor on your page interested if I own/rent/live in a condo. So what could do say to get my interest ?

I agree. Define "useful functionality needed by most condos". From what I could glean from the site I don't see an added value over and above a condo-specific Facebook or G+ page. I assume there must be some great condo-specific functionality, but what is it? Otherwise, as a visitor, I'd rather just use what I already have and not create yet another username/password to keep track of.

On what sites did the Google Ads appear? In my limited testing, I found that unless you explicitly limit exposure to selected venues, the majority of the click throughs will be accidental or fraudulent. Given the very small niche you are aiming for, it wouldn't surprise me if none of those who clicked were legitimate leads.

As others have said, you got lots of useful data: paying per click for ads on the internet is probably not a good way to spend your advertising dollars. Don't repeat the test at this scale until you have a theory on how you have fixed this.

Do you live in a condo? Have you tried getting your neighbors to sign up? Isn't this something you can try to build up by going condo to condo locally and get feedback to improve the product?

I do live in a condo, we cannot launch in my country before we get the LLC fully operational. (Still waiting a permit)

Once you were a few hundred dollars in without getting any sign ups, why did you keep going?

Have you gone out and talked to building owners/managers? Do you know who your customer is?

I can imagine a campaign that's too broad and pays too much for clicks hitting $2000 before AdWords gets around to updating the numbers.

Seems unlikely unless the $2000 was spent in minutes.

Agreed. Customer development is step one.

Also, this was kind of a impulse buy. My initial idea was to use facebook for ads but the ad is still 'pending review' (for 2 days) so I just went to adwords.

I bet there are a lot of cases like mine, where people just give up waiting on facebook to review their ads.

With stocks at 22 dollars I don't think FB can afford loosing any customer at all.

Also, maybe you need to target your adwords keywords. remove the password. Offer something just to get their email.

Kill the project, people hate any social network that isn't a major one like facebook or twitter.

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