If you're new to PPC, it may seem easy: just pick a few keywords, write an ad, enter your credit card, and watch the sales roll in.
In the early days, back in 2002, this wasn't far from the truth. There weren't many competitors, $0.05 clicks were commonplace, and AdWords was a lot simpler (and MSN adCenter didn't even exist).
Nowadays, though, PPC has become a complex science. It's become a robust program full of useful features for advertisers to maximize ROI and achieve business objectives. It's certainly more complicated than picking keywords and entering a credit card.
So as a PPC beginner, here are some tips to get the best results from your PPC campaigns right away.
1. Maximize Quality Score
In the early days of PPC, there was no Quality Score, and it was common for advertisers to lump hundreds of keywords into a single ad group. This often led to less-than-relevant ad copy, as well as management headaches for PPC managers.
With the advent of Quality Score, 100-keyword ad groups are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, it's best to launch your PPC campaign with many ad groups, ideally with no more than 10-15 keywords per ad group.
Write your ad copy so it includes as many of the keywords as possible (while still getting your message across). You'll have a much better chance of establishing good Quality Scores, which is important to the success of your campaign.
2. Bid on Your Brand Terms
A common PPC misconception is to assume that you don't need to spend money bidding on your brand name, because chances are you already rank number one for your brand organically. Don't make this mistake.
Even if it's true that you rank number one, not everyone clicks on organic listings. But more importantly, the new trademark policies won't prevent your competitors from bidding on your brand name. I've often seen competitive PPC ads on brand terms featuring an exclusive, bargain deal -- likely designed to steal the brand's customers!
While you can't prevent your competitors from bidding on your brand, you can make sure your ad is there to take up a spot on the search engine results page. Also, you'll almost always get a great quality score for brand terms (it should be 10 out of 10), and your competitors won't -- so you'll probably rank ahead of them anyway.
3. Test Ad Copy
I'm continually surprised by how many PPC advertisers don't test ad copy at all. This is one of the most useful features of PPC advertising: the ability to test ad copy messaging and see what resonates best with your audience (and better yet, gets the most conversions!).
Take advantage of it. I like to write one ad that I think will perform the best, and one ad that I think is just a little crazy.
Remember, PPC generates results fast, so if the crazy ad doesn't work, you can just pause it. But you might be surprised! And you won't know unless you test it.
4. Track Conversions
This is another thing that continually surprises me: the number of advertisers who spend a significant amount of money, yet have no idea which keywords, ads, or ad groups are driving sales or leads.
Both Google and adCenter offer free conversion tracking: it's a simple script that goes on the "thank you" or other page that indicates a visitor has taken a desired action. Many great third-party web analytics programs do this too. Use them! Use more than one, even!
The reason PPC is so great for generating ROI is because everything can be tracked down to the keyword level -- but only if you set up conversion tracking! If you're running a PPC campaign and aren't tracking conversions, put this article away and go talk to your web development team to get tracking enabled. You'll be amazed at what you can learn.
5. Walk Before You Run: Get Comfortable With the Basics First
We've come a long way since the early days of PPC. The engines have added a myriad of valuable features like interest-based ads, Conversion Optimizer, Ad Scheduling, Campaign Experiments, and much more. These features sound great (and they are), and sometimes novice advertisers are tempted to give them a try right away.
You absolutely should try them -- but not before you establish a baseline. Use the first four tips in this article to set up a well-designed basic campaign. Measure results like crazy for a good 2-3 months and make sure you have a good handle on your click-through and conversion rate.
Don't make too many changes in a short period of time. Get comfortable with the basics before trying any advanced features. Make sure you have an accurate yardstick before you try to measure the effect of advanced features.
By working through these tips, you'll be on your way to getting the best results you can from your PPC campaign.
Upcoming Webinar: PPC Pause and Reflections for 2013
Thursday, December 12 - 2013 was a major turning point in search advertising. With Google's Enhanced Campaigns and Bing's innovative Smart Search capabilities in Windows 8.1, now is a great time to pause, reflect, and plan for the new year. Webinar attendance is free. Sign up today!