This month our intrepid reporter is publicly humiliated by Karate champion, and achieves his highest-ever return on training investment.

Whatever your property strategy, you need to find people to do business with.  You might need tenants for your houses, investors for your deals, or members of the public looking to sell their homes.  You can rely to an extent on networking, press releases and other such freebies to bring in the customers, but this will normally only get you part of the trade you need.  Most businesses need to advertise at some point.  Even if you’re using agents to find your deals, you are still ultimately paying for the advertising and shop front they use.  You can’t escape the facts: money makes the World go round, and advertising makes money go round.

In the olden days it was all so simple.  If you wanted to advertise, you stuck up posters or put an ad in the paper.  People spent most of the day looking at peasants and cabbages, so any adverts they came across created shock and awe. Even the world’s worst products could be sold very easily, so people made fortunes selling Radium sweets and the like.   Then Mr. Baird invented television, and before long a bright spark decided that putting ads on TV would be a jolly good idea.  So the world continued being a simple orderly place.  Everyone watched the same TV shows, as there was virtually no choice.  Everyone also watched the same adverts and bought the same products.  Nice, clean and simple.  But then, disaster struck.  People started equipping their TVs with keyboards and did clever-clogs things like playing space invaders.  Not content with this tomfoolery, they then connected them all together on the ‘interweb’ and civilisation as we know it started to crumble.  The populace stopped reading papers and watching telly, and they now spend all their time mucking about on the net.

This has thrown advertising into crisis.  If your audience has gone, what do you do?  Simple: you go and find them again and you put your adverts there.  And right now, they’re sitting in front of their PCs.  Most experienced property investors and entrepreneurs will be using a website of some kind to bring customers to their business, but how do you go about advertising it?  Sticking posters to the nation’s computers is time-consuming and hard to organise, so on-screen ads are the way forward.  Although people look at millions of different websites, there is one place where everyone needs to go: search engines.  It’s the internet advertising equivalent of the commercial break in the World Cup final.  These search engine sites, such as Google and Yahoo, find the other websites that people might want to visit.  When you type something into a search engine, you get two types of results: adverts and ‘natural’ listings (natural listings are the ones the search engine finds based on the site’s content and references).  For example, if you type in ‘Property Auction News’ into Google, you’ll get the magazine’s website in the natural listings on the left hand side with a white background.  Google computers calculate that people searching under the term ‘property auction news’ are likely to be looking for the magazine’s website.  The other results on the page are paid-for adverts.  These appear on the right hand side or on the top with a blue background.  The advertisers have paid to appear when people type in that search phrase.  The adverts are listed mainly according to how much advertisers pay, not the relevance of the site they’re advertising. In this example, the advertisers might have paid to appear under searches such as ‘property’, ‘auction news’, ‘property news’, ‘property auction’ or ‘property auction news’.  The advertisers only pay when someone clicks on their advert.  If you want to access these advertising opportunities on Google, you set up an ‘Adwords’ account.  Other search engines have their own brands and systems (e.g. Overture for Yahoo).  Advertising on search results pages is how the search engine companies make the bulk of their money, and it’s this income that they use to justify their ludicrous share prices.  Whilst it’s all very new-fangled, in one important way it’s just like advertising used to be in the good old days – done well, it’s a licence to print money; done badly, it’s a one way ticket to the debtor’s prison.

‘So what?’  You might ask.  ‘I’m halfway through my cornflakes already, and I’ve learned nothing at all about how you, the so-called expert, makes money.’  Patience, dear reader!  My property business has spent up to two grand a month advertising on search engines.  If you use Google to search for ‘letting agents’, ‘invest in Turkey’ or any other property-related phrase, you’ll see that search engine advertising is driving the industry forward.  You absolutely have to understand it if you’re going to operate your business on the net.  And as I always say, the best way to understand something is to get some decent training from someone that knows what they’re talking about.  I’ve been paying big commissions for idiots to manage my ad campaigns for far too long, and I wanted to learn to do it myself – the proper way.  So I hauled myself out of my big comfy bed and went to see Geoff from GWA Marketing.  And that day’s training has changed my business for ever.

It’s important to recognise that Geoff is no ordinary trainer.  He’s a karate champion for a start, so he’d probably beat most other trainers in a fight, although the ju-jitsu skills of Glenn Armstrong from Repossession Angels would make him a contender if the fight went to the floor.  More usefully, Geoff’s also qualified in Google Adwords.  You may think this is rather bizarre, but there is actually a formal qualification available.  If you’re going to get trained, it might as well be by someone that knows what they’re talking about.  Most people who’ve trained me in property don’t have formal qualifications.  This is mainly because there aren’t any relevant badges to get.  Geoff’s course is therefore a refreshing change from the usual mixture of anecdote, speculation and witchcraft that make up most training courses.

What is there to learn about Adwords?  Lots!  Search engine advertising has all the complexity and subtlety of conventional steam-powered marketing.  You can choose who you’re marketing to, what your message is and how much you’re willing to pay for the privilege.  What you need to learn depends on your current level of knowledge.  This is an intermediate level course, and the delegates were probably the most clued-up I’ve ever come across.  As far as I could tell, all but one of them was running an Adwords campaign, which helped keep the session operating at a really productive level.  If you’re a beginner that shouldn’t put you off coming, but I’d just recommend you do some basic research beforehand.  The one beginner on the course seemed to be a bit lost and confused.  The best way to get you knowledge up to a basic level is to either set up an Adwords account or at have a play with someone else’s.  There’s also a great training website run by Google that will help you get started.   A basic level of understanding will help you get the most out of any course such as this. .  I’m not going to attempt to introduce the subject of Adwords campaign management here, as it’s far too complex to cover in this review.

The course was split into two basic sections.  In the morning – or what was left of it after traffic-hell made almost everyone late – we focussed on the basics of Adwords.  This made sure that everyone understood the basics of campaigns, keywords, adgroups and the like.  This was all a bit dry, but very necessary.  You needed a reasonable level of understanding before the campaign-optimisation sessions later in the day.

In the afternoon we did live edits on delegate’s accounts, which was fantastic.  The group was very small, with only about five paying attendees.  This means that a high proportion of the class was able to have their accounts improved before their very eyes.  All the students and Geoff offered ideas, tweaks and comments.  All this help could be implemented right there and then, giving real marketing improvements to the businesses involved.  Having been on a million worthy training courses that never get implemented by half the delegates, this was a breath of fresh air.  If people are running an Adwords campaign, it’s virtually impossible to imagine how they wouldn’t get value for money out of this course.  When my own campaign was edited, I felt a complete idiot, because I realised how much money I’d been wasting!  With just a few tiny tweaks I’ve saved myself thousands and thousands of pounds.  And that’s well worth the half an hour of feeling a bit of a numpty that it cost me.

Since I’ve taken the course, Geoff has run it several more times.  He’s used the experience to build extra detail in to the course content.  Now, there’s much more depth on some of the more advanced areas covered by the course.  For example, Geoff will help you understand how to use Google Analytics to optimise your advertising and marketing.  He will also help you optimise your website to ensure you get the best possible conversion rate from the visitors to your site.  As a result of this, the whole process of improving your internet marketing will be much improved.  I would also expect that Geoff will be a more confident trainer now he has had experience of running the course a few times.

The training venue has changed now, but when I went, the course was held in a computer training suite in Enfield.  This was located in an office block in a builder’s yard (of all places).  As I pulled into the scrappy-looking drive I was half expecting the cast of the Sweeny to appear out of the bushes and drag me kicking and swearing out of the car into custody.  With the possible exception of a windowless basement, it’s the most unlikely-looking placed I’ve ever been trained in.  However, Geoff now holds the course in a more conventional office building very near Twickenham Station.  I haven’t visited this new site, but it looks a lot more normal than where I went for my course!

What did I think of this course?  Doubtless, there were improvements that could be made, but nitpicking wouldn’t do it justice. If I was forced to pick fault, I’d agree with the feedback sheets that the day needed more structure, and that Geoff needs to put more passion and energy into his presentation.  But forget all that – the proof of the pudding is in the eating.  As a result of this course, I made more money, more quickly than I have ever done on any course before.  The day costs £297 and I reckon it will have saved me somewhere around a grand a month on my advertising.  Or looking at it another way, I reckon I’ll double my trade, and hence my profit, from the Pay-per-Click advertising I’m running.  And you can’t say fairer than that for £297 quid.  If you’re running an Adwords campaign, this course is a must-see.  If you’re not using Adwords, it’s probably time you started.

Check out www.googleadwordsmastery.com or call Geoff Alexander on 07956 987 513