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Google Ads

Google Ads for the Marketing of Photonics and Laser Products

Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) is a well-known tool for online advertising, which you can also consider to use in the area of photonics and laser technology. In this article, I explain how it works and was aspects you should consider when deciding whether or how you use that tool.

You may also interested in my more general article on photonics marketing.

The Basic Idea
Is It Worth the Cost?

The Basic Idea

The basic idea behind Google Ads is that you define bids for certain keywords which are relevant for you. For example, if some Google user searches for “femtosecond laser”, you get a chance to have your corresponding advertisement displayed above the “organic” search results (but marked as “Ad” in a small box). (In former times, such ads appeared in the right column.) Only if a user clicks on your ad, you pay some amount, which is limited by your bid.

You are competing with other advertisers for such keywords; the highest display positions are given to those with the highest bids. For some keywords, that has driven up the prices quite substantially; you often have to bid and pay several dollars per click, while for other popular keywords you may bid well below 1 USD.

It is also important to find out how much search traffic there is for certain keywords. For example, Google estimated about 20,000 impressions for “femtosecond lasers” in October 2018, if you bid 2 USD; you could then expect roughly 700 clicks costing of the order of 700 USD. With a lower bid, you could reduce the average cost per click, but also get less traffic.

Is It Worth the Cost?

You can always very much influence the cost by adjusting the parameters of your campaign, but the essential question is, of course, whether it is effective and how the benefits related to the cost. And that depends very much on the circumstances.

Obviously, you should be prepared to pay more if you are selling expensive devices and see a reasonable probability to converting clicks into sales. The better your landing page (and of course your overall product offer) is, the higher can be the justifiable bid.

While the principle of that advertising system is not that difficult to understand, it takes substantial work to get sufficiently deeply into the details to use it properly and efficiently. Google offers some nice online tools to optimize things like your choice of keywords and bids, but obviously Google's interest are not perfectly aligned with yours, and you need to think carefully to arrive at good decisions. Therefore, many people actually use professional advice from specialized companies. That can be more efficient, if you have no one in your company who can regularly deal with the details of Google Ads. However, that can because a substantial additional cost, and of course, you should first assess which assisting companies are really competent and offer fair conditions.

Never Forget to Consider the Quality of Traffic!

Always keep in mind that the quality of web traffic is a critical factor if you compare the cost of different advertising options. Many people have been disappointed to find that a large percentage of visitors seem to do nothing beyond the original click, which caused cost for you. (That percentage can be called a bounce rate.) An important quality figure is the average number of page views per obtained visit to your website; that is something which you should extract from your web server statistics when you have to decide whether or how to continue your advertising campaign. A still more useful set of information would be the average number of page views caused by visitors from Google Ads within e.g. 15 minutes.

It is easy to understand why different online advertising tools can have a very different quality of the produced traffic. An essential aspect is what audience is reached, and in what mood. In the case of a general Internet search engine, you know very little about the users, and have no idea what they are up to at the moment. The other extreme is our photonics encyclopedia, which will hardly be used by people who do not have an interest in this subject area. Some of those will get to our buyer's guide and from there to supplier websites – and of course, just those who are in the mood to buy something. Clearly, you can expect to get much higher quality of traffic from such a specialized resource than from a general Internet search engine. Therefore, it would be silly just to decide based on the cost per click.

You may then be surprised to learn that the cost per click which you effectively get with paid entries in the RP Photonics Buyer's Guide is usually not that much higher than with Google Ads, while other buyer's guides may charge you far more. Of course, the typical cost model for a buyer's guide is not pay per click, but rather a sum which is fixed in at once, but you can, of course, calculate the cost per click by dividing the cost by the number of registered website visits. Keep in mind, however, that with this simple calculation you entirely ignore the branding effect; so you effectively overestimate the cost per click of a good buyer's guide.

In conclusion, the cost per click – combined with the quality of traffic – gives you some idea how costly lead generation is. But you should never forget that branding is also part of the game, and I think you cannot expect much branding from things like Google Ads.


I would not generally say that you should or should not use Google Ads for your advertising in the area of photonics. It can absolutely make sense in some cases, but has its severe limitations. Some pieces of advice:

  • Don't think that you can generate results with a cheap campaign, which you can quickly set up. As with other tools, it takes some time to really understand the system and properly use it. You may even need professional advice, which of course drives up the cost quite substantially.
  • Study carefully which keywords are relevant for you, to which extent certain keywords might attract an audience which is useless for you, how strong the competition is for those keywords, what magnitude of bids gives you enough traffic at a reasonable cost, etc.
  • Carefully monitor your web server statistics to assess the quality of traffic, which is essential for decisions on whether or how to continue a campaign.
  • Also, do not forget the branding effect when comparing the cost with that of other advertising models.

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