Paid search remains the most effective online strategy in generating instant ROI. Your prospect’s interest is clearly stated in the search terms, and when that’s aligned with a relevant response, it can often produce predictable results. Paid search contains elements of marketing science, combined with common sense. Based on my company’s experience with many clients, here are the top ten steps to take for deploying a successful paid search strategy.
1) Start with the Keyword
Allocate plenty of time to research target keywords and actively refine the results. Your PPC manager should be an expert in using the Google keyword tool, as this is the most important aid for search term research. The Google tool will help identify ads groupings, budgeting issues, and even conversion potential. Investing the time in complete and thorough research will reduce wasted spending at the initial launch of your PPC campaign. It will also help you begin a process of disciplined thinking that will help you identify top-performing search terms. The Google Trends tool is also useful, as it charts the rise or decline of interest in a search term over the past four years as well as new terms. Understanding how people use search is an ongoing learning process.
2) Geo-Target for Specific Markets
Google AdWords gives advertisers the ability to target ads based on specific geographic markets, from country down to state or city. This geo-targeting means you can create ads to be displayed at a prospect’s home location. If you are challenged by a tight budget, geo-targeting may help you control costs because you can run ads only in profitable regions, or even ignore entire areas of the target country. Consider implementing geo-targeting as a way to create a more localized business persona that feels easily accessible to your target audience in a particular location. We have seen literally thousands of dollars spent wastefully on clicks outside of a company’s target market because the PPC manager did not realize a non-relevant country was targeted inadvertently.
3) Organize Your Campaign
Establishing the right campaign ad structure gives you the foundation for building flexible and adaptable ad groupings. Put some thought into your campaign organization so the ad groupings reflect your business lines or company structure. Avoid creating a single campaign with all of your product lines under it, as it will be harder to adjust budgets or react to seasonal impacts. Over time, you should create or identify the top-performing campaigns that represent your highest-ROI ads and even specific search terms.
4) Think Cost Per Action
In measuring the return on investment of PPC, think in terms of cost per action (CPA), not just how much you spend. Before establishing a budget, review your current CPA costs and set new targets. If a budget is too limited, then daily PPC spending limits will occur, and your ads will be randomly stopped by Google. It’s always ideal to keep ads running at your target times. Avoid budget planning that only focuses on spending amounts, and take a balanced approach by targeting a lower CPA as another project metric.
5) Link Conversion Optimization to PPC
Integrate conversion optimization with your PPC management. Since you can’t avoid CPC fees in paid advertising, maximizing every website visit is the best way to reduce the costs. An ideal conversion rate is one that is constantly going up! Focus your attention on how to turn every visit from paid search into a sale or lead.
6) Ensure Website Analytics Is Working
Running a PPC campaign without any analytics is simply wasting an opportunity to save money. Google Analytics is free to website owners, is easy to install, and provides great insights into how people are interacting with your website. There is even a special Google AdWords-to-Analytics integration that provides detailed information for refining your bidding strategies. The only drawback is that Google also has access to this data, but we have not seen any cases where Google is using this information to the detriment of the advertiser. If you are uncomfortable with Google’s access to your business sales information, your alternative is to pay for third-party analytics.
7) Remain Active in PPC Optimization
Avoid the set-it-and-forget-it PPC management mindset. Google AdWords is designed to be a self-service platform that makes ad management easy for advertisers. Don’t think that once campaigns are set up they can operate on autopilot. Do you really want to let Google spend your ad money without any of your attention? Schedule daily or weekly tasks related to managing your PPC campaigns. Activities could include: finding new keywords, identifying keywords not to allow automatic bids on (called negative keywords; an example would be “free” jigsaw puzzles), creating new ad groupings, changing bids to test new positions, testing ad rotation, and creating performance reports.
8) Learn Search Insights
PPC offers you the ability to understand search marketing firsthand. Gather insights over time as you refine and optimize your PPC campaigns in terms of how searches are aligning with the products or services you offer. Search engines have become an integral part of the daily lives of individuals looking for products, services, or answers to a range of questions. People rely on search to find information, and the interaction they have with your PPC ads will help you gather insights into consumer trends. You can estimate the popularity of your main competitors’ terms or emerging topics by tracking trends in the impression count. From broad searches to very detailed phrases, you can uncover the actual vocabulary people use to find your business and even the type of devices they are using to access your website.
It’s also an opportunity to understand if your value proposition is resonating with visitors. Here’s a simple but effective campaign that every business should have. Create a brand ad where you use your own company name as the search term to trigger the ads. Rotate a couple of different ads that focus on your key value proposition. Over time, when the sample size is sufficient, this should begin to indicate which message is more popular with your customer base. This is just one example of how PPC can add new business insights.
9) Create a Testing Mentality
Create a testing discipline with your PPC efforts. One of the most effective ways to create a unique competitive advantage is to use PPC as a testing tool for both your marketing messages and conversion optimization efforts. Since you have total control over the search terms used to trigger the ads, it’s the ideal input for testing, and setting up fast mini-experiments. Using tools such as Google’s website optimizer (now called Content Experiments in Google Analytics) along with Google Analytics, you can create a testing platform to benchmark results. Testing is a missing marketing discipline in too many online marketing programs, and yet can produce highly competitive results.
10) Understand Search Relevancy
Search technology is constantly being advanced to align searches to relevant websites. Always review your efforts as they relate to web visitors and question your relevancy factor in the landing experience. Pay attention to reporting metrics such as Google’s Quality Score, remembering that your “bounce” rate and conversion rate are good indicators of your website’s relevancy. Google will reward advertisers that take this extra step to improve the total experience with the best CPC rates, while you will also benefit with a higher conversion rate.