A Common Sense Approach to PPC
To become a rocket scientist you have to spend approximately half of your life going to school and earning PhD’s so that maybe, possibly, you could do what you really wanted to do as a boy. If you’re not scientifically inclined, but artistically inclined, things don’t get any easier. To be recognized as a master painter you have to put in a lot of work. You might have to draw the scene ten times, but slightly different each time to get the right effect. You may have to cut off an ear, or maybe even die to be recognized for what you do well! Yeah, it’s a lot of effort, and that shouldn’t be surprising.
The reason I bring this up is because lately I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about search engine marketing and pay-per-click marketing along with many, many theories about how to make these marketing avenues work for you with the least amount of effort. That phrase, “least amount of effort,” makes me more than a little uncomfortable. How do you justify advising a small business person to spend his/her hard earned money to make more money and tell him, Oh, and it’s effortless, everything you’ve worked hard for up until this point in your life was kind of a waste, you could have just been doing this and living the high life. What. The. Heck.
Like with anything, running a successful campaign DOES take effort. “Internet marketers,” this may burst your bubble, but it’s my duty to inform you that there really are no shortcuts. However, if you approach your campaigns armed with common sense and a dash of logic, running a successful campaign won’t feel nearly as daunting. Having a reasonable, step-by-step approach can be a huge help.
Start with Analysis
So let’s approach your campaigns from an analytical standpoint, because common sense says you can’t improve what you don’t measure. Take a look at your website’s traffic to determine and differentiate between campaigns that:
- Are already effective
- Have potential, but aren’t delivering results yet, and
- Just aren’t performing
This involves more than just looking at the report from your PPC platform of choice; you’re going to have to use a web analytics tool like Google Analytics (it’s free!) to segment your visitors according to which campaign they came from. Again, by tracking these campaigns and taking note of differences between campaigns, you can discern which campaigns are performing well, and which need to be improved.
Find Your Top Performing Campaigns
Start with homing in on your top performing campaigns. These campaigns are the easiest to spot. Just look for:
- Highest total revenue by campaign
- Highest conversion rate by campaign
- Return on ad spend
Return on ad spend is simply total revenue divided by total cost. Other good indicators for strong campaigns include those with the most pages viewed and longest time on the website on average per visitor.
Determine Your PPC Goals
Now it’s time to set goals for yourself – every advertiser’s definition of success is different. What does success look like for you? Let’s look at an actual campaign report. Below is a screenshot from one of 7Search’s advertiser accounts. This advertiser has set a threshold for himself in that he wants to spend no more than $100 per customer acquisition or conversion. Just at a glance of the right-hand column, this advertiser is on the right track but not QUITE there. He has four campaigns that are meeting his goal of not spending over $100 for a conversion. The red arrows in the right hand column are pointing out four campaigns that are over that threshold of a $100 and six campaigns where the advertiser has had no conversions whatsoever.
Now the three red circles are highlighting the cost of a campaign that has generated no conversions for our nameless advertiser – that is a red flag. You should not be spending significant amounts without having anything to show for it. You can bet that the advertiser these campaigns belong to is looking at the campaigns that are working successfully and applying the same properties that make them successful to the campaigns that aren’t quite there yet.
Tune Up and Tweak
Moving on, once you start analyzing your campaigns you’ll most likely be able to tell why the top performing campaigns are doing well. Take what you’ve learned about the top performing campaigns and apply those insights to the campaigns that are struggling. This will definitely improve your return on investment.
Top performing campaigns are usually successful because they do an excellent job of meeting visitors’ expectations. There are a good many ways of improving poorly performing campaigns. One of the most effective is by preventing visitors from having to search again. Think about it this way: your visitor has already indicated their interest in your product by searching for it using Google, Yahoo!, Bing or even 7Search.com. I’m readily going to infer that the visitor to your site does not want to search all over again once they finally make their way to your site.
So, unless your campaign’s goal is to provide information about your company or simply improve your brand’s visibility, don’t send them to your home page. Instead, and I know you’ve been told this before, create a custom landing page for each campaign that will meet visitors’ expectations based on what keywords each campaign is targeting. So if you’re campaigning to sell bowling balls through your bowling supplies website, make sure the visitors are directed to a page where bowling balls are clearly for sale, not a page where there are bowling balls, bowling gloves, and cleaning kits for sale.
Another great way to improve PPC campaign success is descriptive campaign content. Be sure to use the keyword in the headline combined with an action or emotion type of word. You have to keep in mind that we are trying to elicit a response from whoever is looking at our ad. If your products have a unique feature, be sure to include those descriptive words. If you’re trying to unload French cuffed dress shirts you’re overstocked on, please, PLEASE include those descriptive words “French” and “cuffed” rather than using a broad term like “dress shirts.” Your ad could read something like: “Look great and impress with your new French Cuffed Dress shirts from XYZ.”
Create a Schedule
Now that you’ve singled out your top performing campaigns and your so-so campaigns, create a schedule! I cannot stress enough how important this is. The key is to regularly and consistently make those small changes so that you are keeping up with your campaigns. PPC campaigns require constant measurement and tweaking in order to see improvement. You’ll want to revisit your campaigns on a regular basis to react to changes in your ad placements, changes in your industry, and even things your competitors may be doing differently. What has worked before will not necessarily continue to be successful.
Depending on the nature of your site, you’ll want to analyze the effectiveness of your campaigns at least monthly, or possibly even weekly. If you have high-volume, high traffic e-commerce sites, you might want to analyze even more often than that.
We’re still not done yet, so bear with me, aspiring internet marketers, I wasn’t kidding when I said you can’t do this without putting in some effort.
Reanalyze Your Campaigns
So now that we’ve created a schedule it’s time to RE-analyze our campaigns. You’ve gone in and actually made some changes, you sat back and let your campaigns run for a couple of days or a couple of weeks. Take a look, find out if your changes had the positive effects you expected. Again, use your web analytics tool of choice to see what is actually working and take appropriate action and make the relevant tweaks so that your campaigns are optimized and performing well.
Weed Out Your Under-Performing Campaigns
Once you’ve done all that, take another look at your underperforming campaigns and this time around cut your losses. You will find that no matter what you try, some campaigns just were not effective. Go ahead and turn those campaigns off. Alternatively, there are campaigns that are doing just okay. In this situation we have to look a bit deeper. For a keyword that hasn’t had a historically high conversion rate, you may just want to remove it. If it’s a keyword that has typically performed will in the past, edit the ad and lower your bid.
Keep an Eye on the Web
In addition to all this it’s a great idea to keep a steady eye on the web. Take special note of what kind of campaigns and web pages your competitors are using. If their business is at all successful, then they are probably analyzing campaigns and making changes to see what works best – just like you. So learn from what they’ve found to be successful and from their mistakes as well. Don’t assume you are limited to what others in your industry are doing only – you might find successful online marketing ideas in areas/industries completely different from your own.
A great example of this is last year’s Old Spice ads. I’m sure many of you are familiar with this campaign, it’s completely wacky, but it brought great brand awareness to Old Spice. Just last month I was watching TV like I do and I came across a commercial by Skittles and it had the same thematic qualities that the Old Spice Guy commercials had. They’re two completely different industries, but Skittles was able to pull it off and make it work for them.
PPC advertising isn’t rocket science, but it is an art and a science of its own. By adopting a common sense approach, you should be well on your way to realizing PPC campaign success – for the campaigns you’re running now, and those you plan on running in the future.
And that is that! As promised we tried to stay away from all the jargon and “marketer speak.” What you’ve just finished reading is a pure, practical approach to Search Engine Marketing. Good luck keeping your campaigns running like a well oiled machine!
About the Author
Abdul Umer is the Marketing Communications Specialist for http://www.7search.com, a Pay-Per-Click Search Network that has been providing quality leads to online advertisers since 1999. Abdul covers everything from social networking, newsletters and blog management to tradeshow marketing, presentations and print and online advertising content for 7search. Follow Abdul and 7Search on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.