Managing paid search campaigns without specific objectives or goals is like driving a car with no destination. If you don’t have a map and a target, you’ll end up in the middle of nowhere.
Establishing benchmarks and creating goals for your campaigns can help refine your strategy, align your PPC campaign with wider-scope business objectives, improve performance, and serve as a source of motivation.
Define Achievable & Challenging Goals
Any goal for your PPC campaign should be realistic and attainable. On the flip side, goals should also be challenging and make you reach just beyond your grasp.
If you make the goal too easy, then what’s the point? You don’t go to the gym to run slower or lift less weight than the day prior, right?
An appropriate goal should inspire you and your team because it is difficult – but with the right strategy and tactics (and a bit of tenacity), it’s totally achievable. The right goal will pull you out of your comfort zone but not completely.
Establish Short- & Long-Term Goals
You can set goals for any timeframe: weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. In fact, establishing goals for short-term and long-term timeframes can be a great idea. Short-term goals can create benchmarks for high-level account wide goals.
Make sure when working on a goal plan for your PPC campaign that you're looking at similar timeframes and making parallel comparisons. For example, make sure any timeframe you’re looking at contains the same number of weekdays and weekends as this can greatly effect performance.
Focus on Output, Not on Input
If you set a goal of, “Add 500 new keywords to my account,” you’re doing it wrong. Goals should focus on output of your efforts, not the input. Another way to say this is your goal should focus on results and not on the tactics to achieve these results.
Rather, your goal should state, “In November, we will increase sales by 4 percent over October and decrease our CPA by 2 percent. And we will increase sales 8 percent over November from last year.” Once you’ve established your goal, then it’s time to define the tactics that will get you there.
Determine Baseline & Stretch Goals
Another motivating tactic when managing paid search is to set goal tiers. A baseline goal can be your threshold for success. A stretch goal can serve as a marker for insane awesome domination.
The baseline goal should serve as enough challenge to feel like progress has been made, a job well-done. The stretch goal should feel like you won the lottery or the World Series or Hollywood Squares.
Review Previous Performance to Create Benchmarks
You may be thinking, this all sounds great – but where do I start? Do I pull these exceptional goals out of the air and just guess what my target should be? No, please don’t do that. Analyzing previous performance can you help set a goal plan for the future.
Improving your PPC campaign month-over-month is great and that’s usually the standard for goal plans. This is a good way to start building your objectives: continuous monthly improve of your account. Setting a goal of, “Increase conversions by 4 percent next month,” is a good – but you need to take into consideration some larger issues.
Not all timeframes are created equal. Certain periods can generate better performance than others. Time-of-year, quarter, month, week, day, or even hours can differ greatly depending on your audience.
For example, comparing Tuesday performance to Saturday isn’t fair because weekends tend to have lower volume in many campaigns. Comparing Q1 to Q2 for many ecommerce businesses isn’t a good comparison either.
Look at year-over-year data, and quarter-to-quarter data. If November is a huge month for your business due to the holidays, it shouldn’t be compared to October or September. You can set a goal to do better than last November. Or if Q4 as whole is strong for your campaign, set a goal to improve over Q4 of last year.
One note on annual goals or quarterly goals: take into consideration performance exceptions. These can be good and bad. Perhaps you ran a sale that boosted conversion rate and AOV, or perhaps a product was out-of-stock causing sales to dip, or perhaps there was a lingering issue with your lead form that caused conversions to slip.
Create a Goal Document
Write down your goals and make yourself accountable. Also, keep an ongoing goal document in order to track your progress.
Analyze Goal Performance
Creating a goal plan for your PPC campaign is only the beginning. The analysis of goal achievement is just as important. Refrain from simply asking, “Did we hit the goal?”
Also, you need to determine why you did or didn’t hit the goal. What tactics got you there and can this be repeated? What held you back and can these issues be resolved? This is one of the most important elements of the process: learning!
There are no specifics in this article on how much you should expand or optimize your PPC campaigns. Only you know what is a realistic goal for your campaign.
What I hope you take away is the importance of establishing the appropriate goal and a few ideas on how to do this. Especially with the new yea right around the corner, now is the time to create your goal plan for 2013.
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!