As the end of August approaches, thoughts turn to back-to-school. Many schools in the U.S. have already started, and those who haven't are in the throes of preparation.
Think back to your own school days for a minute. Remember all the review you did the first few weeks of school, catching up on everything you forgot over the summer? While it may not have been exciting, it was necessary to give your brain a kick-start and get it back into learning mode.
Sometimes the same thing is true for PPC managers. Perhaps you've been on vacation and are just getting back into work mode. Or maybe summer is your busiest time and you've just been trying to keep your head above water. Here are five steps to get you back on track and ready to hit the ground running before "school" starts.
1. Review Campaign Goals and Objectives
I talk about goals a lot, and for good reason. Sometimes we get so caught up in the metrics – click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, cost-per-click (CPC) – that we lose sight of the goal. This is especially easy to do with lead generation campaigns where PPC managers don't have good visibility into the sales funnel.
If you're tracking lead form fills as your conversion, you might be over-weighting low-quality leads. Take a hard look at your keywords to make sure they're not only converting well, but are focused on your goals.
It's also a good idea to have a goals conversation with your client or boss. Often, especially in the agency world, client priorities change and the agency doesn't get brought along. Put "campaign goals" on your next client meeting agenda – you'll be glad you did.
2. Audit Analytics and Conversion Tracking
I'm always surprised at how frequently tracking codes "break" on websites. It's almost never done consciously or maliciously, but yet it happens often.
Tracking codes can be lost during a site or page redesign, a server migration, or via a software or hardware malfunction. Usually, missing code is easy to spot, since you'll see conversions suddenly fall to 0.
But other tracking errors can be more difficult to discern: duplicate scripts running on the conversion page, for example; or conversion codes installed on pages other than the conversion page.
It's a good idea to periodically audit analytics and tracking codes to make sure they appear where they are supposed to appear, and don't appear where they shouldn't. This requires a basic understanding of page source HTML, but once you know what to look for, it usually isn't too hard.
Effective PPC optimization depends on accurate conversion tracking. It's unsettling to realize that you've made important decisions in your PPC account that were based on bad data. Regular audits can prevent these tracking headaches.
Not only will a tracking audit benefit you, but it will also help anyone who may have to fill in for you when you're out of the office. Trust me, it's no fun to try to optimize a colleague's PPC account when conversion data is either missing or wrong.
Tracking Bonus Tip
While you're at it, if you use Google Analytics, check to make sure that you are using the Google Analytics remarketing script. Remarketing lists in Google Analytics will make your job significantly easier.
3. Audit Your Campaigns
If you aren't auditing your PPC campaigns at least quarterly, it's time to start now. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget to look at your PPC account holistically. By doing regular audits, you'll be able to spot overall trends and get a feel for whether your account structure is optimal or not.
This article has a good step-by-step method to perform an account audit; and there are other equally-effective how-to's out there. An account audit will help guide future optimization efforts, just like a teacher's syllabus maps out the school year for students.
4. Study up on Enhanced Campaigns.
Enhanced campaigns have been talked to death over the past few months, but it's still in its early days, as many advertisers made the switch less than a month ago. PPC managers are still on a steep enhanced campaigns learning curve.
Now is a good time to look at your campaign performance before and after enhanced campaigns, just to see what's changed. While you may not be able to do anything about it (separate tablet bidding, for example, is a thing of the past), at least you'll have a baseline from which to optimize. Don't forget to take seasonality into account when looking at this data – holidays like July 4 could affect performance.
Enhanced campaigns have many positive aspects that you should be implementing, if you haven't already. Mobile preferred ads, enhanced sitelinks, advanced ad scheduling and many other features are worth exploring. Do your homework and pick one or two of them to try this month.
5. Review Quality Score in Light of Google's Recent Changes.
A couple of weeks ago, Google changed the way they report on keyword quality score. If you've been benchmarking and optimizing for quality score, your benchmarks just went out the window. You'll need to start over.
Many advertiser campaigns that had quality scores of 3 or 4 (not great, but passable in many cases) are now down to 1. There are fewer 10s out there, as well.
While quality score isn't the end-all, it's still a metric you should pay attention to, and now the score of the game has changed. Reset your expectations now.
These five steps will help you get your PPC accounts back on track in time for Labor Day. Here's to a great PPC school year!
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!