AdWords Tips

AdWords Experts Share the Secrets of Their PPC Success, Part 11

By Elisa Gabbert December 13, 2011 Posted In: AdWords Tips Comments: 0

This is the latest in a series of interviews we're conducting with AdWords advertisers who got unusually high scores using our AdWords Performance Grader. We're reaching out to high scorers to find out what strategies contribute to their strong AdWords performance. For more in this series, see:

This week’s interview is with Caroline Hwang, the search engine marketing manager for Blinds.com.

Caroline HwangTell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been using AdWords? Are you an Agency or an Advertiser? What is your primary goal for AdWords marketing?

I have been using AdWords since 2007. I started out on the agency side and have since moved to the advertiser side, ultimately ending up at Blinds.com. At the end of the day, the primary goal of PPC here is definitely profitability. We acquired Blinds.com around 2007. Unlike newer websites, we have a well established customer base and natural search presence. That being said, revenue and visits are still important goals for PPC. In a nutshell, we want to drive as much traffic and make as much revenue as we can while remaining profitable.

I also want to point out that our definition of profitability is not the traditional Revenue/Spend ROAS model. Having tools for analytics allows us to make decisions based on Profit/Spend, which I feel is a better indicator of PPC performance.

There are tons of metrics in AdWords – What are your top 3 key performance metrics in AdWords and why?

The top three metrics in AdWords are Cost, Clicks and Profit. A close 4th would be Impressions. Those three metrics alone are sufficient for me to assess whether the campaigns are hitting top-level goals: Profitability, Revenue and Visits. With Impression data you can calculate CTR, which gives insight to the quality of your ads and ad groups. CTR is an important metric when it comes to optimizing the campaign.

Can you describe your AdWords management strategy? How do you set your campaign objectives, and how do you know what’s realistic or not?

Here’s our process:

  1. Determine overall Return on Margin targets.
  2. Determine Return on Margin targets for specific groups or campaigns (generally based on the profit margin for a product or category).
  3. Determine Stop Loss – at Blinds.com we don’t set budgets for campaigns that are performing profitably. We will spend as much as we can if it is generally an acceptable return; however, not everything will be successful. Determining the budget point we can afford to adequately test something new summarizes this step.
  4. Generate keyword list based on:
  1. Internal site analytics (site search, search engine terms, etc.)
  2. Language used on our site
  3. Language used on competitors' sites
  4. Google Keyword Tool
  5. Individual/group brainstorming
  6. Estimate advertising cost based on search volume and average CPC using Google’s Traffic Estimator – this tool is great for reality checks. The estimated spend influences keyword composition (broad, phrase, exact, broad match modifier, lots of keywords vs. 2 keywords)
  7. Competitive assessment – Who’s advertising on a specific term? What are they advertising?
  8. Natural listings (what natural listings show up for a specific term)
  9. Historic performance – I check historic performance of a particular term within an all-time search query report when applicable.
  1. Generate a negative keyword list based on:
  1. Google Keyword Tool results
  2. SERP results give insight into whether a keyword is a good match
  3. Individual/group brainstorming
  4. Historic performance
  5. Your business
  1. Group keywords into ad groups based on available landing pages.
  2. Create ads based on landing pages, keywords and competitive landscape (competitors’ PPC ads, differentiation, value-added benefits, promotions, etc.)
  3. Analyze and evaluate:
  1. Adjust bids
  2. Search Query Report – add more negatives as needed, add new keywords as needed
  3. Create more targeted landing pages or ad groups
  4. Ad testing

Describe your AdWords management workflow. When you’re doing your account optimization work, how do you decide what to do next in your account? How do you prioritize your work?

As far as deciding what to do next and prioritization of work, we use a mixed approach. Our departmental goals help us determine our editorial, testing, promo, product and SEO calendars. Our PPC calendar is generally created at the beginning of the year. New campaigns and ad tests mirror all our marketing plans for the year (sales, new product lines, etc.). This calendar gets reevaluated every ~3 months or so.

In addition to that calendar, I evaluate groups of keywords (all-time performance, quality score, ad performance, CTRs) in a set rotation. We monitor top-level PPC performance daily. Any abnormalities on key PPC metrics (cost, clicks, impressions, conversions, revenue, profit, CTR, conversion rate) get first priority. We use a third-party bid management tool to manage our bids based on rules we created. We use this tool to create alerts on our top-level metrics as well. Bid rules are reevaluated once every two weeks or as company strategy changes.

Any advice or tips for AdWords marketers that didn’t score as well as you?

Here are my tips:

  • The Search Query Report is your friend.
  • Mind your time ranges. Remember to look at short-term, monthly, yearly, as well as long-term trends.
  • Remember to look at groups of keywords as well as keywords in aggregate.
  • Develop a process around determining what keywords get analyzed in a search query report, what keywords get added, what keywords get dumped, how negatives are added, etc. in regards to available time.
  • Campaign structure is extremely important, and should be evaluated at least once a year.
  • Keep track of keyword ad dates, promos, site changes, etc. as they can help you explain abnormalities in your campaign performance.
  • Make time for experimenting and testing.

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