The PPC Guide for Beginners, Part 2: Setting Your PPC Goals


This is Part 2 in a 5-part series. Read the rest of the series here:

Okay. So, you are hopeful that a pay-per-click marketing campaign, correctly organized, could help jumpstart sales and bring in a sorely needed boost in revenue. You’ve heard about others who have succeeded with PPC, now you want to know whether the expenditures necessary to get your project on board would provide sufficient return on investment (ROI).

Let’s talk about that – starting from the beginning.

What are the right goals for a PPC marketing campaign?

Everyone needs a goal – a destination. Sure, it can be fun to simply hop in the car and start driving … not knowing or caring where you end up or when you get there. Our busy lives don’t allow that luxury often, though. Most of the time, our journeys require a good deal of planning.

Road Trip

via Patxi Izkue

That is especially true in business. Those who know the results they seek, and have a system in place to measure progress, are way ahead of any less-prepared competition.

Take a few minutes to think about what you hope to see happen in a PPC campaign. The bottom line, for most businesses, is sales – so how many ways can you think of that a concerted effort at PPC could help move your products or services?

  • Do you utilize an online shopping cart for taking orders? Would it be helpful if more people found out about your company and visited your site? It’s tough to beat a sales method that offers 24/7 access, is always smiling, and can have orders waiting for you when you get to the office in the morning (maybe even already shipped and on the way to your happy customers). Pay-per-click can help you realize that dream. The right strategy can bring you more business fast. But it all begins with goals.
  • Are you trying to get better known, hoping to tie your name to your business focus? There was a time when anyone who wanted a soft drink needed a “coke” – even if the real desire was for a root beer. Coca-Cola became so entrenched in the minds of consumers that the name became ubiquitous. What if every potential buyer of automobiles in Dallas, Texas (for instance) thought of your business first when it was time for a new car or truck? Pay-per-click can help build your brand by consistently keeping your message in front of targeted consumers.
  • Does your business work from leads? Do you have a sales force hungry for names and numbers of people interested in the things they are commissioned to sell? By focusing on lead generation, you can boost the number of inquiries entering your sales/marketing funnel and rapidly build your list of qualified prospects.

These are examples of strategic goals. The nuts and bolts of your PPC marketing campaign will consist of tactics – specific actions taken to improve your  click-through rate (CTR), grow your list of targeted keywords, and reduce your cost per conversion – but your goals must be clearly defined and understood by everyone on your PPC team before tactics can be effectively implemented.

Richard Farr, CEO of ConversionMax, says that someone just starting out with online PPC advertising should determine which goals “act as good leading indicators before the big ones will probably happen.” Does your sales path require potential customers to watch a video, for instance, before requesting a quote? Then one of your first goals should be to get the right people to watch that video.

You see, it all begins with goals.

Now, let’s have some fun.

What does NASA have to do with pay-per-click advertising?

When I was a business college undergraduate, I had the good fortune of sitting in on a series of classes given by a professor who had worked with the Apollo program at NASA. He was in the mission control center when astronaut Jim Lovell announced that the Apollo 13 crew “had a problem.”

During one of our sessions, the professor turned to the class and asked, “How does NASA know when they have a problem?”

That’s a good question – and, for that matter, how do you and I know when we have a problem? The answer is both simple and profound. Don’t miss the significance: NASA defines a “problem” as a “deviation from a standard” – a gap between the expected situation and the current situation. Before you can have a problem, you must have expectations.

No goals. No problems.

Before you get going down the wrong road with that, though, let’s consider how it plays out in the world of business.

Let’s say you have determined it is essential for your company to realize gross sales of at least $50,000 this week (way too high for some, way too low for others … but let’s say). You tally up the results on Friday and determine sales topped out at $10,000 for the week.

Do you have a problem?

One must, of course, set an acceptable deviation from the standard – but an 80% drop from sales expectations would likely qualify as a problem in anyone’s book.

Let’s take our thinking one step further: Once you realize you have a problem, what can you do about it?

How does NASA solve a problem?

The next part of the professor’s story is so simple it can easily be set aside. Don’t do that. There is a nugget here that can make all the difference in your business (or personal) life.

Here’s the kicker:  Every problem contains its own solution.

When NASA detects a problem – a deviation from a standard – they determine the gap. For them, perhaps a certain pump is reading 20 psi, but it should be showing 35 psi. The gap, then, is 15 psi.

Your PPC marketing goal is different, but the concept is the same. You must describe the current situation ($10,000 in sales this week) and compare it to the expected or desired situation ($50,000 in sales this week). You then ask this critical question: How can we move from where we are to where we want to be?

In other words: “How can we close the gap?”

Setting PPC Goals

via Matthew Simantov

Rocket your PPC results by setting smart goals

Goals, standards, objectives – call them what you will, but they are essential to every successful journey. If you don’t know where you want to go, you can’t determine whether you are getting closer or further away. And once you have determined your goals, be sure to set acceptable deviations. That will give you a trigger point to tell you when some type of action is required.

The crew of Apollo 13 knew something had to be done. That set off a string of events that, first, determined the gap (a threat to the oxygen supply) and, then, a way to close it.

For most organizations, sales revenue is the oxygen supply. Without sufficient cash coming in, the business will, at some point, not be able to survive. Don’t worry about all the intricacies and tweaks and theories of PPC right now. Break your situation down into its simplest denominators and organize them by priority. Determine where you are and where you want to go. Take a look at the gap between those two positions and envision the events and processes that must occur for the gap to be closed.

It is often helpful to work backwards, saying “We need $50,000 in sales this week. For that to happen, we must make presentations to 100 qualified customers. For that to happen, we must generate 500 targeted leads …” you get the picture.

Then ask one question: How can a PPC campaign help me get from here to there?

In the next installment of this series, we will talk about what to do with a click once you have it. After all, PPC isn’t just one event. It is a series of events leading to the desired result. And it all begins, yes it does, with setting the right goals.

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Corey Neal
Aug 02, 2013

I absolutely love the part about how NASA works through problems. I have actually paid money for information on PPC advertising that wasn't as good as what's in this article! Very good write up.

Bill Marsh
Aug 02, 2013

Thank you, this is very useful information. I will be back to read more.

Aug 03, 2013

Great advice, I especially like the NASA analogy. It does make it easier to not stress out as much when you have clearly set of goals. My company cannot afford a PPC campaign currently so it's all about content marketing. But soon we will take your advice start our campaign and make sure we have a plan before we begin. Thanks for the advice; I think my readers would like this article as well so I posted it to my website.

Lisa Mason
Aug 03, 2013

And the biggest takeaway for me- setting smart goals. This is something I tell people about social media all the time so it just makes sense. Thanks for the great, detailed post!

Johnathan Dane
Aug 03, 2013

It happens way too often that people get ready to spend a good amount of money, "hoping", they'll get results. Setting goals, and then understanding the necessary tactics and strategies to achieve those goals, are paramount in PPC.Many people don't.Great post Don, excited for the next parts :)

Aug 05, 2013

Thank you, Johnathan. You've got it nailed.

Rick Watson
Aug 03, 2013

Great post Don. I love the NASA analogy. I need to do a better job of defining my goals.

Demian Farnworth
Aug 03, 2013

Hey Don, PPC campaigns can be daunting for beginners. Back in the early part of the last decade I ran a quarter million budget on a Google AdWords: our premise was simple: write text ads that drive traffic. We were pretty successful at it (otherwise we wouldn't have spent that much money every year) ... all we knew is we had to get them to our landing page and we could convert them. That's all changed these days. And which is why you now have companies managing PPC programs for people. I feel sorry for the beginner, because it is daunting, but I think this post and your first should be encouraging to them that it's not as hard as it looks. Get the goals in place and you will make money. Without the goals, you will waste your money. Keep up the good work, and looking forward to the others in the series.  *The blog editor was here to fix a few typos for this user :)

Aug 05, 2013

Much appreciated, Demian. You are one of my favorite writers and copywriters. If there is anywhere on the planet effective writing is needed today ... is is in PPC adverstising :)

Gord Holden
Aug 03, 2013

Indeed. Setting goals is crucial. Then determining what needs to be done to achieve them and not giving up on DOING this. 

Don Sturgill
Aug 05, 2013

Right on, Gord. Never, ever, never give up!

Jason Wagner
Aug 03, 2013

I've seen a great deal many people claiming to be experts on these whom have written posts, and none of them have produced anything so clear, concise and helpful as your post on the PPC...thanks, this truly is a guide for the beginners!

Mithu Hassan
Aug 03, 2013

Very interesting and useful post !! Deserves it to be shared.

Aug 03, 2013

When creating a PPC landing page, remember that the further down the funnel you are able to deliver the customer, the higher the conversion rate tends to be.

Don Sturgill
Aug 05, 2013

I hear you, TFH, though my own perspective is more about identifying where the potential customer is at entry ... then helping them on into and through "the funnel." It is possible to take them too far, too quickly and draw a quick retreat.

DJ Rawls
Aug 03, 2013

Great article with lots of great information.  I currently have a ppc campaign underway.  It's my first, and I wish I had discovered your blog earlier.  Thanks for all the great information.  It's very helpful.  I've subscribed to your rss feed.  I'm definitely going to check out part one, and subsequent posts.  Thanks!

Don Sturgill
Aug 05, 2013

Good for you, DJ. Wishing you all the best. WordStream is defiitely the place to find the info and tools you need. Check the archives. There is an incredible amount of usable information availble here.

John Stafford
Aug 03, 2013

Hello,It's John Stafford.I really liked your article, especially the part where you take your income goal and break it down tohow many presentations and thus how much you need to invest. Keep up the good work :) 

Spook SEO
Aug 04, 2013

Goal setting should never be taken lightly. I mean, without proper goal setting, you won't be able to gauge how successful your efforts are simply because you do not a have a specific direction. Not having a clear goal can cause you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Aug 04, 2013

Very nice posts! I'll keep reading!

Don Sturgill
Aug 05, 2013

Thank you, Alexandru, Spook, John, and all who have commented. Your encouraging remarks are much appreciated. 

Randall Magwood
Aug 12, 2013

Nice NASA analogy. My goal isn't exactly $50,000 this week, but a steady net income of $2,000 a week is good for me. Thanks for helping to lay out PPC goals.

Gary Chesnut
Aug 14, 2013

Setting goals are important in any business and in general life as well.You can't expect to reach a destination by "winging" it and hope everything turns out for the best.A clear consice path is essential! Setting goals for your PPC campaigns saves money and gives a baseline to know what campaigns are winning and what campaigns are losing.

Mike Carlson
Aug 15, 2013

Nice...each part draws me into the next one.

Don Sturgill
Aug 18, 2013

I appreciate your comments, Randall, Gary and Mike. You guys are well on the way. 

Nov 05, 2013

Thanks for this post, very rich and informative post..

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