Precise keyword marketing

How to Optimize PPC Campaigns

Before we dive in, let’s look at how Google defines a couple of key terms on

Campaign: A set of ad groups (ads, keywords, and bids) that share a budget, location targeting, and other settings. Your AdWords account can have one or many ad campaigns running.

Ad group: A set of keywords, ads, and bids that is a key part of how your account is organized. Each ad campaign is made up of one or more ad groups.

Start with Keyword Alignment

Precise keyword marketing

Make sure you’re honing in on the right keywords.

One of the most common and basic mistakes in setting up PPC ads is the organization of the campaigns and ad groups that don’t focus on an actual advertising intent. Sometimes hundreds and even thousands of keywords are used for the same ad and lack any logical groupings. This is a big mistake, as Google discourages this and will increase your click costs by assigning you a lower Quality Score (more about this later). Aside from the extra cost, when you don’t group the keywords by an association, it becomes more difficult to identify the steps of the sales funnel and to bid strategically for the ideal ad position.

Every business has a sales funnel, and it’s rare that a majority of your prospects would purchase a product or service without any prior exposure to your selling process. One of the core purposes of marketing is to reduce objections during the early selling stages. Ads that speak directly to their prospects’ interests and land on a page that addresses their concerns right from the start can help reduce the length of the sales cycle. Be sure to provide a call to action that is appropriate to the prospect’s interest. Here’s an example:

In doing your keyword research on search terms, you may have noticed that a number of long tail searches are being done. Look for the informational type of searches such as “best widget” or “benefits of using xyz.” Prospects using these search terms are looking for educational materials, and trying to close the sale too soon will just turn them away. Respond instead with an ad and a landing page that highlights your solution’s benefits and has a call to action that focuses on case studies, “how to” guides, or an ebook with tips. The tone throughout should be about providing helpful advice, not trying to sell.

The keyword research you did for the PPC campaigns should have identified some of these associated groups. Google’s own keyword tool even helps out by automatically creating the groups for you. This is a great starting point, but no one knows your business better than you, so spend the time to refine these logical groups. A strategic advantage will develop when you continually improve ad groupings that align to searcher intent, as this increases your insights into what prospects are looking for.

Maintaining Scent for the Searcher

Don't lose the scent

Don’t lose the scent!

Another important principle in optimizing your PPC campaigns has to do with maintaining the user scent. Much like a dog tracking the scent of another animal, when prospects start shopping by clicking on your PPC ad, an expectation is established. They anticipate that after clicking on your ad, they will find a web page with wording and images that match their initial search. They expect this “scent” will continue all the way to the “thank you” page for a completed sale or a lead request. When there is a disruption in the scent trail, their attention can be diverted and off they go in another direction, clicking over to a competitor’s site and away from yours. Reviewing website performance metrics such as bounce rate and the number of page views will help provide insights into whether (and how much) your website is losing their interest.

Review your entire sales process from the ad to the landing page and to the thank you page so that you ensure you are maintaining scent all the way through. Let’s say you are advertising for “puzzles,” which is the keyword at the top of the sales funnel, because prospects haven’t indicated whether they are looking for a crossword, jigsaw, or online puzzle. Their real intention is still unclear to you at this point, so pre-qualifying your prospect at the ad stage will be beneficial. Your ad copy should contain “jigsaw puzzle” if this is one of your key offerings, because it shapes the expectation for the next step in the sales funnel. If someone searches for the term “puzzles” and your landing page does not highlight this as a central concept, then you create enough user confusion to reduce your conversion potential. Not paying close attention to how you maintain scent reduces your creditability and increases visitor frustration. Even simple mistakes such as bidding on the plural version of “puzzles” over “puzzle,” and only showing one puzzle instead of many choices with your graphics, could be creating a negative impression. The more exactly you match the landing page to what the searcher is expecting to see, the better.

Understanding Quality Score

How important is managing scent and associating keywords to specific ad groups? Google believes this is a top priority for optimizing campaigns and has developed a reporting tool called Quality Score to help focus advertiser attention. Google is continually changing its organic search algorithm to create a better search experience by improving search relevancy and extends this same goal to PPC advertising. The more relevant the ads that align to searches in PPC, the higher those ads will rank, even at a lower cost. Quality Score is sometimes a mystery for many advertisers, but Google is providing metrics to help improve the overall ad quality. Here’s a quick summary of how Quality Score works and what matters to you.

Google claims there are over 100 factors that go into determining a Quality Score, which is reported on a scale of 1 to 10. An ad’s click-through rate and how well your ads performed in the past are two of the main factors, but many other behind-the-scenes factors, such as landing page relevancy, are combined for the scoring. The rating scale they share with advertisers is a summary of how well their ads are doing. Values of 7 to 10 indicate a positive score and you should be enjoying the best cost-per-click (CPC) rate possible. Values of 4 to 5 represent an average rating, an indication that making changes may or may not improve your Quality Score. Finally, values in the range of 1 to 3 mean your ad groups and landing pages will need serious attention. Also, ads with a 1 or 2 rating may not be displayed by Google and could require you to bid up and pay much more to have them displayed.

The most important action to take with Google’s Quality Score information is to review it. Google provides this reporting mechanism so advertisers can understand how to make their ads more relevant. You can export quality score reports for analysis via a spreadsheet. Develop an action plan for improving top targeted or top-performing terms to reap the most immediate benefits. An improved quality score should reduce your CPC spending and help increase the number of sales or leads.

Photo credit: IntelGuy / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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