Paid search or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can yield substantial returns on investment, but also needs careful control to keep budgets in check.
To make sure you maximize your ROI but minimize your risk, consider the following.
Here are a few things to bear in mind from the outset - and to make sure your campaign is built on a firm base.
1. Know Your Sector
If this is a client, make sure you understand their business as much as possible. Maybe even suggest going through a company training or induction program to quickly get you up to speed.
Check what your competitors, partners, suppliers and customers are doing, and adjust your bids accordingly. Keep a watchful eye on competitors bidding on your brand name and avoid losing potential customers.
2. Start Small, Scale Up
Identify a number of target keyword areas and bid across these. But don’t spread you budget too thin, start off slowly with a restricted campaign and then scale it up.
This helps to test the water across a variety of brand names, descriptive terms and competitive keywords to see which perform best.
3. Measure, Measure, Measure
It’s amazing how many campaigns I’ve seen which have failed to setup basic conversion tracking.
Make sure you put effort into getting this correct from the start. That way you can have a long-term approach, where you can learn average conversion rates and revenues, allowing you to estimate the performance of future keyword bids.
4. Include Plurals
Your PPC platform of choice may automatically account for differing singular and plural forms of keywords, but double-check this.
If not, test which performs better - singulars or plurals - and adjust your bids and ad copy accordingly.
5. Be Logical
The more logical you are in your approach to your campaign, the easier it will be to see what's working.
Give your bids time to come good, as early poor performance may average out over time - but don't send good money after bad. Make sure you use a logical campaign naming structure and organization too, that way it makes it easier if someone else has to help out with managing the campaign.
Managing Your Bids
Keep your campaign in close check and you can make sure it is up to date and giving you the ROI you need.
6. Know Your Target CPA
Depending on your PPC platform, budgets may be set as maximums, averages or some other target figure.
Know how to set yours at a level that suits your overall budget, and make sure you are achieving your target ROI. If you know your average customer value and target CPA’s you can then find the optimum budget to maximize revenue and profit from your campaign.
7. Be Pragmatic
It is easy to expect a massive ROI when you appear up top on a competitive search term, but be realistic.
Not everyone will click your ad, and not everyone who does will make a purchase. As long as your ROI remains positive, that's the main thing. Just make sure you learn from your mistakes and keep things improving.
8. Use Google’s Tools
Google’s tools have improved greatly over the last couple of years. And bidding tools such as Conversion Optimiser can be a great way of ensuring you maximize the performance of a campaign by focusing on bidding for high-quality, converting clicks – as opposed to traffic volume.
9. Use the Search Query Report
Most PPC platforms will offer in-built data reporting, but be sure you can segment paid search traffic in your website's analytics to show the exact keywords which are sending you traffic.
You can then measure keyword performance and by using the AdWords search query report you can find converting long-tail keyword variations to add to your campaign – and likewise, non-converting keywords to add as negative matches.
10. Learn to Adapt and Keep Testing
There are countless other PPC marketers out there with their own campaigns.
If somebody starts fiercely bidding on your preferred keywords to the point that it’s not profitable, refocus your attention and avoid a bidding war. And with all campaigns, keep testing. Small increases to CTR, quality scores and conversion rates can have a huge impact to a campaigns overall performance.
Optimize Your Ad Copy
Keep your message clear and compelling, and your ad revenues should rise accordingly. PPC ads are brief, so avoid confusion as much as possible.
11. Tweak Your Titles
Just like on-page headlines, the titles of your ads are the most eye-catching elements.
Marketers will tell you to "make them pop", so be concise but highlight your unique selling point or special offer.
12. Your Body is a Temple
Ensure your body text is concise, relevant to the terms you are bidding on, and highlights your USP or special offer.
Avoid clichéd advertising phrases and focus on clear descriptions - words are at a premium, so make them count.
13. Be the Strongest Link
Links matter. The URL of your ad is likely to appear in the results, so avoid meaningless numerical page addresses and get those keywords highlighted in bold.
A keyword-optimized URL helps to demonstrate relevancy and could secure more traffic as a result.
14. Identify Your MVPs
The five or ten best performing keywords or ads in your campaign are your most valuable players.
Keep them at the center of your plan of attack, and arrange your broader paid search activities around them. The 80/20 rule is often very true in search campaigns, so find out where your converting traffic comes and ensure you get everything you can out of those keywords and ad variations.
15. Discover the Niches
In the most crowded of PPC markets, there are effective key terms that have been overlooked.
Be original in your bids and you may manage to stumble upon one of these neglected goldmines.
Target Your Ads
Targeting ads is different from optimizing the ad copy itself. Optimization is about driving click-through rates whatever your audience; targeting is about knowing who your customers are, and writing with them in mind.
16. Write for an Age Group
Age and gender are classics of demographic targeting, and are as relevant as ever.
Write for your chosen target demographic and you raise the perceived relevance of your product for those individuals.
17. Judge Your Prestige Level
In advertising copywriting, there's a world of difference between 'value for money' and 'cheap'.
Know which description suits the prestige level of your product, and stick to it for on-message ad copy.
18. Mind Your Surroundings
Knowing your local customer base is important even on the World Wide Web.
Tweak your ad copy for geographical markets, and target those regions in your campaign settings.
19. Vary Your Calls to Action
Just as you target different key phrases, be sure to vary your ad copy accordingly.
A selection of different ad texts gives you the opportunity to see what works for a given bid term.
20. Research the PPC Markets
Targeting does not have to take place within a single campaign.
Different PPC platforms may reach different or specialized audiences; place ads on the most appropriate ad network.
The Next Level
Once you've mastered the basics, it's time to get serious. Here are five of the things that professional paid search campaign managers deal with on a daily basis.
21. Improve Your Landing Page Tests
Learn how to conduct detailed A/B and MANOVA tests, allowing you to tweak two or more variables in your landing pages ad copy.
Quantifiable results will help you to make more informed decisions about campaign changes, so use Website Optimiser and measure every small change to improve performance. Make sure you produce relevant landing pages to support your ads. This way, you can define funnels that guide individuals from being searchers, to prospects, to converting customers.
22. Find Negative Keywords Via Social Media Monitoring
Set up a social media monitoring service, Google Alerts is fine, and track which keywords are listed alongside your top keywords and brand terms.
This way, you can make sure that anything irrelevant, which you may not have thought of previously, can be blocked using negative matches.
23. Go Global
Target the same keywords in your PPC campaigns as in your on-page optimization and inbound link-building efforts.
This builds on the tip above to help demonstrate to your prospects that the page is tailored to their needs.
24. Schedule Your Campaigns
Schedule new ads for specific dates to make the most of seasonal opportunities and consider budget changes to reflect an increase in search demand and buying intent.
This can also help to keep your campaigns moving when you are out of the office yourself.
25. Keep Things Moving
However well your campaign is performing, there are new audiences to reach and better keywords to bid on.
Be a leader, not a follower, and drive your campaign to the next level.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!