January 7, 2009:
Now that I have five years of Search Engine Advertising management under my belt, I put together this list of 20 beginner and intermediate tips and tactics that should be employed in most Pay Per Click Marketing campaigns. I invite you to go down the list and see how many of these strategies you employ in your own Pay Per Click account.
Several of these strategies can be implemented in an hour or less, so hopefully you will discover some useful tips to improving the performance of your Pay Per Click campaigns over the following year.
Keywords & Bids:
- You Bid for Broad, Phrase, and Exact Match Type Wherever Possible.
There are three reasons for this. First – you will increase the number of search impressions your ad generates by being represented by all of the match types. We can all agree that a broad term like “forklift truck” will generate many search impressions, but by including the phrase match option you will be eligible for many hundreds of variations, such as (manufacturer) forklift truck, or (state) forklift truck.
Second, one of the sometimes overlooked benefits of PPC is the incredible amount of data it can generate in relatively short period of time. Assuming we are running our campaigns 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, we can quickly accumulate data on how many times keywords are searched for across different search platforms. Depending on our structure and targeting, we may be able to break this data down even further by nation, region, or state. By including multiple match types we can deliver much more granular data.
Finally, you can direct traffic more appropriately to the correct ad or landing page.
- You Have Included Singular and Plural Versions of Your Keywords.
This can be amended to include abbreviations, shortened versions, hyphenated versions, state and city additions, or any other tail prefix or suffixes for the keyword in question.
Continuing from our forklift trucks example, we would want to be sure we had the following additional keywords:
(PLURAL) forklift trucks, fork lift trucks, lift trucks,
(SINGULAR) forklift truck, fork lift truck, lift truck
Then, depending on our Campaign and Ad Group structure, we might get very specific such as:
(PLURAL – LOCATION) forklift trucks MA, fork lift trucks MA, lift trucks Boston, Worcester Fork Lifts
(SINGULAR – LOCATION) forklift truck MA, fork lift truck MA, lift trucks Boston, Worcester Fork Lift
When you factor in different matching types and all the possible variations, your keyword lists tend to get very large very quickly. Which makes the following point even more important.
- You Filter Your Traffic With General Negative Keywords on the Campaign Level, but with More Precision on the Ad Group Level.
Without utilizing negative keywords your PPC results will undoubtedly suffer. KoMarketing has an article “200+ Negative Keywords To Consider For B2B PPC” and it lists hundreds of prospective negative keywords by type and category. This is a great place to start with overarching campaign type negative keywords.
On the Ad Group level, you may want to get very specific with negative keywords. You may want to omit certain variations, match types, or keywords that you want to trigger different ads.
For instance, you have an Ad Group specifically for forklift attachments and want to bring searchers to a specific landing page and show them specific ad copy for this topic. You would add the negative keyword “attachment(s)” in your forklift truck campaign, so these searchers would not see an ad aimed at people looking for trucks.
- You Tier Bids by Match Type, so That Exact Match, Then Phrase Match Receive the Highest Bids.
This continues the line of thought from our first tip. You want to align the ad served with the user’s search query as best as possible. When you have the luxury of knowing what someone is searching for (via exact match) you can serve the perfect landing page for them, and funnel them to whatever the desired goal is.
- You Make Use of the Search Query Report or Visitor Data.
Most of your traffic will come in from broad matches and phrase match terms. The goal is to be able to make modifications to your Campaigns so that as many of these searches as possible trigger exact matches. By combing visitor data (via an analytics package) or the search query report (via basic reporting) you can get an idea of what people are actually searching for.
For instance, if you notice that a significant portion of your searchers are triggering your “forklift truck” phrase match via the search query “forklift truck attachments” – you can then decide whether or not this term requires its own ad group, or if it should be omitted via a negative keyword.
Campaign & Ad Group Structure:
- You Have Separate Campaigns for Content and Search.
This is definitely a best practice and should be adhered to. One thing you will notice is that the Click Through Rate (CTR%) on a Content Campaign is drastically lower than something you will see with pure search. There are also many types of keywords you might want to add in a Content Campaign that has no place in search (like complementary products) and the reverse is true too. You would probably never want to include brands or competitor names in a Content Campaign.
Ultimately, these are effective but very different types of advertising, and need to be managed separately.
- You Have Additional Campaigns for any “Other” Types of Non-Traditional PPC Advertising.
Display Ads, Placements, Print or Digital, Rich-Media. These are all legitimate advertising channels and should be utilized, but the results should not be commingled with pure search data.
- The 5 to 10 Keywords That are Responsible for the Majority of Your Traffic Have Their own Ad Group(s).
Given limitless time for any given Pay Per Click campaign, we would probably want each keyword and match type in its own Ad Group. That way we can make bid changes, landing page changes, and ad copy changes for specific search queries, and we are driving searchers to the perfect landing page.
Since many campaigns have tens of thousands of keywords this is certainly not possible. So instead, we are resigned to make sure we have this level of flexibility on our most important keywords.
- When Building Content Campaigns, You Use Substitute and Complementary Keywords.
We have to deviate from our forklift truck example here, but assume we are advertising for a florist. We may want to have keywords in our Content campaign for items like chocolates, perfume, and other romantic type gifts.
In contextual advertising rather than bid for individual keywords for build thematic content per Ad Group. By adding several of these terms we are building a romantic gifts type theme and would be served on appropriate sites.
Don’t forget to use the site exclusion tool frequently. This becomes even more crucial as contextual advertising becomes more prevalent in your Search Engine Marketing initiatives.
- You are Very Aware of Your Target Audience, and You Have Conducted Primary and Secondary Research to Understand How They Use Search.
To laymen “forklift truck” might be the perfect description, whereas our target audience in the manufacturing industry may have never heard of a “forklift truck”. They may use model names, call them “lifts”, or have internalized speech or references to different pieces of equipment.
Specifically what they call them is not important, however what is important is to note that there is plenty of “PPC work” that is done away from the Search engines. Polling the sales team, executives, or decision makers in your clients industry is important, so can you get a hold on their jargon, details, and behaviors that can help you write effective ad copy and advertise under effective key words.
- You Use a Broad Methodology for Testing Themes and Phrases That Resonate, but Switch to A/B Testing for Further Improvements.
Don’t sit on your ad copy! Even if it seems like it is successful continue to change elements of it piece by piece. Try different call to action phrases, punctuations, capitalizations, and word choice.
- Make Sure You “Rotate” Ads When Testing New Themes, & Disregard CTR.
When ads are optimized to show the “best” ad the only metric that is taken into account is the Click Through Rate. There are certainly ways to have a great CTR% and show an add that is not targeted to your prospective audience.
- You Opt in (or out) of Google Search Partners Appropriately.
We can’t interact directly in the Search Partner Network, but we can see data and statistics generated from it. Often times I get great results, but when I don’t I make sure I opt my Campaigns out.
- You Use Ad Scheduling and Ad Planner Effectively (or not at all).
Some Campaigns need to be active all day, night, and during the weekends, and some do not. These tools allow you to modify your budget and bids for specified times of the week.
Tracking Results & Conversions:
- You Collect Leads and Data into a CMS.
Leads collected into a CMS are traceable, sortable, and easy to qualify. It is probably something that is out of your hands as a PPC manager, but it is important to be able to align quality leads with certain keywords, ads, and landing pages. It is easiest to trace leads all the way up and down the sales cycle if it included in a CMS, and with this data you can make the best and most profitable business decisions for the Pay Per Click account.
- You Use Additional Analytics Tools Wherever Possible.
Free Analytics tools serve their purpose, but for the best results, data mining, trends, and analysis you will eventually want to upgrade to a more advanced platform.
- Stay Focused on ROI.
The first task of any PPC Campaign is to justify its own existence. Don’t be too squeamish to spend exorbitant per click rates for keywords that are bringing you in true business and quality leads. On the other hand, don’t be too proud to lower bids off of the first page for obvious or broad matching keywords that are not delivering business results.
It may seem odd for a manufacturer of “fork lift trucks” to not be prominently displayed for that search phrase, but if it doesn’t bring in quality leads, there is absolutely no point in vanity bidding.
- Keep an Eye on What Your Competitors are Doing.
Make it a weekly task to take screen shots of your top 5 or 10 keywords, and note which other advertisers are present, their ad variations, and any other significant data. Sometimes the addition or subtraction of another advertiser can cause major effects on your Campaigns. Also note to see if your ad copy is creating any copycats, and periodically see if anyone is advertising under your brand name.
- Keep on Track of Industry Buzz, New Betas, and What the Best of the Best are Doing.
The official AdWords blog is a good place to start. I personally keep an eye on 10 or 12 different PPC blogs that have some great authors and provide excellent insight for PPC managers.
- Be Proactive, not Reactive.
Once your Campaign is up and running for an extended period of time it could seem easy to rest on your laurels and get into the habit of monitoring results and making slight modifications. Instead, drill into visitor data; expand more important keywords into their own independent Ad Group, or work within the Content Network. The point is there is always something to improve in Paid Search.
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