How to Optimise Your Google Adwords Marketing Campaign

I recently put in place Google Adwords for my colleagues at the MySQL Consultancy, Shattered Silicon, and there are a few things that I think anyone using Google Adwords for advertising products and services should know in order to avoid wasting any of their marketing budget. All of these things are pretty obvious in hindsight, but if you dive in with no experience, you will likely find yourself wasting a lot of your marketing budget on advertising to an audience that isn’t looking to buy.

Location, Location, Location!

Advertise only in places where the companies can plausibly afford to engage your services. In broad terms, this means that if you are based in and doing business from an OECD country, unless you operate in a niche that bucks this rule, there is a good chance that clients who aren’t in another OECD country – can’t afford you. So make sure you set your advertising campaign to specifically target the countries that are of interest to you and specifically exclude the countries that are not. Of course this is not a hard rule – there could be benefit to including additional countries, e.g. if you have staff who speak the language.

There is another aspect of this – in countries where the economy isn’t doing great, there are more likely to be people looking for work in the industry you operate in who will click your advert on the off chance that you may be hiring. So unless you are struggling to hire remote workers, this is another reason to focus on locations where those expensive clicks are likely to be bringing you visits from prospective clients, rather than prospective employees or competitors.

Which brings us onto the next point.

Exclude Job-Seeker Terms

Unless you are looking to hire, exclude commonly used job-seeking terms, such as “hire”, “junior”, “senior”, “internship”, “training”, “position”, “opening” and any others you can think of. This significantly reduced the number of impressions and clicks which were never going to turn into sales.

Avoid Ambiguous Terms

It is worth investing some time into researching whether there there is a tool with a similar name to the service you are offering. For example, if you are advertising services of a MySQL administrator, you may find that most of the clicks you get are from people looking for the deprecated tool of the same name. Similarly, either avoid your advertising of MySQL performance tuning services or disambiguate it from the MySQL tuning tool.

Ideally, try to avoid such term completely or at the very least use specific rather than broad matching and add exclusions for the words used in things other than what you are trying to market.

No Freebies

Presumably, if you are spending your hard earned money on marketing to grow your business, you are running a commercial operation rather than a charity. So you should probably exclude terms like “free”, “trial”, “download” and other terms typically used in searches for things that people don’t expect to pay for.

Audience Age

Another very obvious optimisation, when you think about it, is optimising by age range. If you are selling a highly technical service aimed at business owners and CTOs, it is unlikely they will be younger than mid-20s or older than the retirement age. So exclude those age ranges from your advert targeting spec.

Use the Price Extension on your Advert

You may think that showing prices of 2-3 of your most popular products puts people off from clicking on your ad, but this is a good thing. If a price tag puts somebody off from your advert, there is a good chance they aren’t looking to buy anyway – so they might as well not cost you for the clicks.

Effect on Impressions, CPC and CTR

If you are doing it right, you will find that your total conversion cost will go down, but at first look counter-intuitively, your CPC will go up and your impression count will go down – because your competitors have already probably already gone through a similar exercise, and you are homing in on the actually valuable impressions that they are also competing for. The CPC in the case I have been working on almost doubled overnight once I applied all of the above optimisations. But the cost per conversion went down overall.

Hopefully, these thoughts will get your marketing efforts off to a smoother and cheaper start than it would have otherwise been.

HP G7 MicroServer ILO SSH Connectivity

I recently pressed a G7 MicroServer back into service, and disccovered that I couldn’t connect to it over SSH. This seemed odd given that I am quite certain I remember doing so before. A quick nmap scan showed that the ssh port was definitely open on the ILO:

Starting Nmap 6.40 ( ) at 2020-06-07 23:06 BST
Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.0086s latency).
Not shown: 992 closed ports
22/tcp open ssh
80/tcp open http
111/tcp open rpcbind
427/tcp open svrloc
443/tcp open https
2068/tcp open advocentkvm
5988/tcp open wbem-http
5989/tcp open wbem-https

Increasing verbosity on ssh connection (ssh -v), yielded some interesting insight, specifically:

debug1: match: OpenSSH_5.2 pat OpenSSH_5* compat 0x0c000000

So it could in fact be that more modern ssh tries to connect with ciphers and protocol options that the now relatively ancient OpenSSH 5.2 doesn’t quite understand. So I quickly grabbed OpenSSH 5.2 portable, built it and tried with that, and – success! Doing it again with verbosity turned up showed what ciphers and MACs were used. I added the following to my ~/.ssh/config:

Ciphers aes128-ctr
MACs hmac-md5

And lo and behold, ssh-ing to the ILO from recent ssh on EL8 now works!

Hopefully this will save somebody some time in the future, or prevent them from throwing away what is still a perfectly usable microserver.

Windows 10 – the horror of upgrade to 1903+ releases

I had the misfortune the other day that one of my machines updated beyond 1809 release. There are three changes that immediately infuriated me.

1. Colour scheme change and removal of availability of black colour menus

The colour scheme changes upon upgrade. Not only is it a rather bright one going back to the ’90s style and contrary to dark themes that are easier on the eyes, laptop batteries and screen burn, but there is no way to full revert back. In order to get anywhere near black it is now necessary to disable the transparency effects, and even then it is still not black but dark grey.

Visually, this is a huge downgrade that cannot be fully mitigated or undone. And a bit of googling will show that I am far from the only one infuriated by this change.

2. File explorer grouping by default instead of continuing with previous default

As soon as you open your file folders after the upgrade, the files are now grouped by default. I can understand that this might be a new default setting, but on an upgrade, old behaviour should be preserved. If somebody chose not to view their files grouped, they should not be overriden by the upgrade and made to waste their time putting things back the way they were. Worse, this seems to revert the the new annoying default randomly.

Microsoft needs to understand that the ONLY reason why anyone uses Windows instead of a different operating system is long term inertia of familiarity. Chipping away at that familiarity will just push more users away from Windows and toward other operating systems. This is user alienation by a million paper cuts.

3. Start menu auto-expand

This one is incredibly annoying for a change so minor. There is supposedly a way to disable this using the mach2 tool, but it doesn’t seem to have worked for me – no matter what I do, I couldn’t get it to turn off and stay off.


So what did I do? Well, this is a VM – I refuse to run Windows on bare metal since over a decade ago, because it is too prone to getting itself into a state where various things break in a way that all the googlable solutions just don’t work and the only solution is to format and reinstall (windows update getting broken is a common show stopper). Being a VM, it doesn’t run on a real disk but a virtual one. I run my VMs on ZFS zvols, which are regularly snapshotted. So I powered off the VM, performed a zfs rollback to a pre-upgrade snapshot, and as if by magic, all of the damage done by releases after 1809 have been undone and things are back in a state where at least the new annoyances are gone. Best of all, zfs rollback took a few milliseconds instead of the lengthy rollback using Windows restore that probably wouldn’t have put things back quite to exactly the same state the machine was in before.

The upgrade will no doubt be forced on me at some point, in a way that I can’t avoid it any more. The feature upgrades can only be postponed by 365 days and disabled for another 30. But at least – today is not that day.

Plea to Microsoft

Please, for the love of God, stop changing things in ways that nobody asked for, nobody wanted, and nobody likes. Make your designers and developers learn from the fiasco of the ribbon interface.