Pay per click campaigns are very powerful tools for customer acquisition. Love it or hate it, if you don’t do it right you are bound to lose a lot of money. Over the past week I had the amazing opportunity to connect with leaders in the marketing industry who have a lot of experience with Pay Per Click. I’m going to share their tips with you today to help you out. You know how they say “A wise man learns from the mistakes of others, a fool by his own.”
CEO and owner of SEO Book
The biggest thing to look out for is all the bogus default settings that Google uses. Almost all of them are designed to maximize their revenues at the expense of the advertiser. For example, by default your desktop bids are also your mobile bids unless you change them. The default keyword match type is broad match, which in many cases can be exceptionally broad. The key to tracking direct marketing performance is to be able to isolate things as granularly as possible while still having meaningful data sets. Yes enhanced campaigns allow a company to use a single campaign for desktop and mobile distribution, but by using separate campaigns for each you get more granular data. The same is true with campaigns by country and so on. A couple years ago we created a tool for broadly estimating the inefficiency of a particular AdWords account.
You can follow Aaron on Twitter.
Account Director at 3QDigital
This is a tough question! I’ve learned so much in the past 10 years! Definitely clarity of communication has been a huge lesson. PPC managers have to remember that if they are reporting to bosses/clients that aren’t in accounts each day, their communication needs to be frequent, thorough, and detailed. Also, I think prioritization has been a huge area of learning. Over time, PPC managers need to learn how to prioritize tactics and strategies that will have the most significant impact on accounts. For example, if you want to hit a specific goal within any given month, then you can’t wait to launch new initiatives/big changes until the third week of the month and expect them to move the needle significantly toward your goal. Also, there are ALWAYS need features and options launching within the pay-per-click realm, and this is awesome! The industry is always changing and this why I love it! However, PPC managers need to have a clear strategic vision for the direction of their campaigns – and as new options/tools become available these should be incorporated into a testing plan to see what works for you. But don’t chase the shinny new objects and hope they will work miracles. Keep the focus on your goals.
You can follow Joseph on Twitter.
Online Marketing Specialist at Moz
First, break out you keywords by match type, either at the campaign or ad group level. This will make it significantly easier for you to funnel traffic to the specific match type you want, by leveraging negatives, and thus help lower your CPC’s. Speaking of negatives; Make sure to run routine search query reports and see whats matching to your keywords. Negative keywords are very important in helping reduce your unwanted impressions which in turn will help CTR and lower your CPC’s. Additionally you will also find keywords to add to your account. Finally; always make sure to test new ideas you may have or new features that may be released. If Google releases a new feature that you think might be beneficial to your business or client, or even if you don’t think it will, test it out. Even if the test fails you will be able to leverage that data and knowledge in future situations where it could prove very helpful.
You can follow Kyle on Twitter.
Head of ECommerce Marketing at Hubspot
The most important lesson I have is to make sure that you have a reasonable closed-loop attribution model in place. If I just looked at last-touch (which lots of PPC marketers do), I’d assume that bidding on “HubSpot” was driving a lot of business because that’s the last thing they searched right before they bought, when in reality “business blogging” was the term that brought them into my funnel to begin with and my other marketing activities (dynamic content, email, social, AND PPC, etc.) led to the eventual sale.
You can follow Sam on Twitter.
Search Marketing Manager at Demac Media
As the Search Marketing Manager at Demac Media, I work directly with our Agile Merchant Partners on building out their Search Marketing programs. Many of our clients have either never run a PPC program, or are just beginning when we partner with them, and it is within my best interest to help them grow their online presence and success. The biggest lesson I have learned in my career is that you cannot expect instant results overnight. With that being said, you cannot see poor campaign results as a failure. PPC marketing requires the same amount of testing and campaign optimization as any of your marketing channels within your overall online strategy. What works for one client may not necessarily work the same for another. The tactics may be the same, but the strategic implementation can make a huge difference. In my time as a Search Marketing professional, I have learned that in order to be successful at PPC marketing, you have to build a program. This can be a combination of Text, Display, Remarketing, Video, Dynamic, Social, Branded and Non-Branded campaigns.
You can follow Brendan on Twitter.
Founder and CEO of imFORZA
Pay per click is still one of the quickest and most effective ways to drive revenue for a business. Even with this being the case, it continues to get pushed aside as it is thought of as “expensive” or “short-term only”. Although these stereotypes can be true they typically are only so for those that don’t put in the necessary time to use PPC correctly. Over the past 14 years or so managing PPC campaigns, one thing I have learned that continues to hold true is this: There is always room to improve. I’ve some seen very sophisticated PPC campaign setups, but I am yet to come across one that was perfect. Whether it was a slight tweak to some ad copy, pausing an ineffective key phrase, bidding to stay OUT of the #1 position or optimizing a landing page, there was always something we were able to test, refine and get better results from. As long as a PPC manager maintains this mindset and clearly communicates it to the stakeholders involved, then PPC will continue to be one of the higher ROI producing marketing strategies for most businesses – especially eCommerce businesses.
You can follow Vinny on Twitter.
COO at Pushfire
Take any advice you get from Google with a grain of salt. It’s like taking advice from the IRS on how to prepare your taxes. Let them introduce you to new features, but don’t take their word (without testing) or let them run your account for you, it’s a major conflict of interest. Don’t rely on Adwords conversion data only, rely on actual conversions. It doesn’t matter if Google says your account was profitable, you need to make sure it’s profitable. Look at real sales dollars and actual leads generated, not just numbers in your Adwords account. Google will always give themselves the benefit of the doubt in taking credit for a conversion. Keep your eyes and ears open. Find a few blogs and subscribe via RSS so you can keep up to date on what’s happening. A couple of my resources include Brad Geddes from Certified Knowledge, and PPC Hero.
You can follow Sean on Twitter.
Founder of Online Marketing Coach
Marketers sometimes overlook the basics like making sure auto-tagging is selected when creating an account in the first place. Mastering negative keyword matching is essential to avoid wasting the media spend on useless keywords through paid search. B2B and B2C businesses routinely make the mistake of sending paid search traffic to existing pages without at least considering custom pages with quality content. At the very least, they should run A/B tests to see which pages perform better. With paid search, business executives are easily dismayed by how many people click and don’t take an action. The reality is that the page – an existing or new page – may not resonate with the visitor. It’s OK. I’ve learned that what really matters is a healthy ROI over the long haul – not the first week or the second week. If you invest in paid search, set realistic ROI goals and make adjustments to meet or exceed the goals (look at bid management, ad copy, landing pages, etc.). Many people don’t drill down to the value of a repeat customer. Who cares if you spend $100 to get a customer who buys something for $95 the first time. If you know your margins and customer busying habits (and upsells), you can estimate the real value of that first sale because of the long-term revenue you can generate.
You can follow Mike on Twitter.
PPC Campaign Delivery Manager at Vertical Leap
Never stop testing: The biggest mistake you can make in PPC is to assume you have optimised your campaigns as much as you possibly can. There is no such thing as a bad test or a test that produces negative results. Regardless of the outcome you will have learned something that can be put to use in another situation.
Data doesn’t lie: It’s very easy to become attached to your landing pages (especially when you’ve played a huge part in designing them) and your ad copy. You can put a lot of time and effort into working out what you think will be the perfect messaging, what colour your CTA buttons should be and which questions to include on your form, but then your changes go live and it just doesn’t work. It can be very tempting in this situation to want to wait it out and see if your fortunes change, you drew on all of your years of experience to create this test and everything pointed to this being the break through you were looking for. But the bottom line is the data doesn’t lie, the most damaging thing you can do to an account is continue with a test just because you think it might work. Trust the data and use it to your advantage so that your next test brings you the results you are looking for.
Revisit your campaign settings: This is especially important if this is your first time running paid search ads. Before you have any data available you have to provide Adwords with a lot of information on how, when and where you would like your ads to be shown. A couple of months into your campaign you can be pulling you hair out trying to manage your bids effectively and increase your CTR with no success. Now is a good time to go back to the settings you first entered and see If they are actually helping you to run your campaigns or holding you back.
Key points to check:
· Networks – Are you running on the search partners network? Does this work for your campaigns or is it a waste of budget?
· Ad delivery method – You could be missing out on visitors later in the day by using your budget too early. Make sure you give you ads a chance to show at all the relevant hours of the day so you can work out the best times for conversions.
· Keyword matching types – make sure you include plurals and misspellings to expand your reach of relevant traffic as much as possible.
You can follow Coralie on Twitter.
SEM Account Manager at Screaming Frog
One thing I’ve learnt from my time in this industry is that people will never fail to surprise you with their search queries. Use the search query reports in AdWords & Bing to identify keywords that you need to add to your campaigns as well as finding new negative keywords to help refine and qualify your visitors further.
Now that you’re targeting the right search queries you should also always make sure that your ads include a strong call to action. Sounds obvious, but over the years I’ve seen ads that although are well written, don’t actually say what they want you to do. Do you want people to Sign Up? Buy Now?, let them know!
Following on from this point, making sure your well written ads are being shown to the right people starts right back at your account structure. Accounts with only 1 campaign (invariably called Campaign #1) and a huge, long list of keywords all under one generic Ad Group are never going to perform. Make sure you’re account structure isn’t holding you back. If you’re not sure how to structure your account, look at your site, how is that set up? Mirror that, and you can’t go too far wrong.
Finally, now that the campaigns are rocking, ensure everything is tagged properly, there’s nothing worse than not being able to accurately report back your hard earned results. AdWords should be fairly easy with auto-tagging and GA integrations but make sure your other search campaigns are tagged correctly!
You can follow Matt on Twitter.
Paid Search Consultant at Distilled
I’m a little bit of a perfectionist…. maybe a lot of a perfectionist. My most significant lesson is that accounts will never be perfect. There is the potential to over work an account that doesn’t have enough data. There is patience and time involved in between the optimisation that must happen. You must spend money to spend less money later. We can get closer to costs you’re happy with as an advertiser and we can make CPA targets, but when the targets get too restrictive on the account – when the targets become perfect scenarios and don’t allow for wiggle room – is when PPC is more likely to be seen as problematic and a waste of money. Given the right strategy and tactical plan, we can work to build an account toward perfection but likely never obtain it.
However, that’s not actionable! You are likely asking yourself “But what is the best strategy for my account?!” Strategy with PPC is easily confused with tactical implementations because everything is reliant on data and we all feel pressured to not spend too much money as a higher CPA means we’re failing!
So instead, think about the long term. How do you want your year to look? Not “How many more transactions can I get?” but instead “Where, or how, can I find more users who want my product?” Changing the conversation to think about the people you are connecting with rather than the revenue that miraculously appears from your website will allow you to start thinking like your audience, what they need, and how they will search for that product. These tactical optimisations could start in several different places. This could mean bidding higher and increasing your impression share. It could mean branching out to new keywords. It could mean discovering your keyword path to conversion and stacking your bids during the initial, discovery phase then relying on your brand to rank organically for the end of the keyword funnel. It can even mean launching Remarketing, Bing, Social, YouTube, or exploring native advertising in other markets.
But you need to give yourself a timeline. Don’t try to accomplish everything all at once. Study your results from one smaller test and improve & grow on it over time. Make it meet your qualifications for what is an acceptable target cost. Once that is over, then start implementing the plan on the next area. Planning ahead is key to creating the best long term strategy to keep your paid search account growing and allowing that traffic to learn to love your brand.
You can follow Jasmine on Twitter.
PPC Associate at SEER interactive
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years is to test everything! In an industry like online marketing that is constantly changing its of utmost importance. What was relevant last year, or last week for that matter, might no longer be relevant today. One of the most recent examples that comes to mind is the recent Google Ad Rank Algorithm announcement where they stressed the importance of ad extensions moving forward. We started testing new sitelink extensions and eventually found that highly relevant sitelinks (such as one that focused on current holidays) actually improved performance and lowered CPCs for one client particular. Had we not started testing and stuck with traditional strategies we might not have discovered this!
We also have a great advantage in the PPC industry which is real time data! We’re able to see the impact of simple ad copy changes and landing page redesigns and bid changes, etc. almost immediately. This not only makes testing easy but it also help justify our recommendations and actions because you know that ABC performed better than XYZ best on the test data. You also use your finding to help other business divisions such as SEO or traditional media that are not as easily able to test.
You can follow Audrey on Twitter.
CEO at Web Ranking
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned running Pay Per Click campaigns is to take an active role in landing pages and the conversion process. I liken account management and optimization to enabling you to only put together half of the PPC puzzle. You can only make so many improvements managing a PPC campaign in the UI only. Whether they are creating and testing new ads, bid optimization, keyword research and exploration, match type adjustments, and similar, there is only so much lift you’ll induce here. But if you can get your hands dirty in optimizing landing pages, selecting photos, choosing buttons, influence format and layout, copy updates, A|B testing, and so on, then you can have more control over the visitor experience from start to finish. This is a more complete way of maximizing results.