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Mastering the PPC Challenge: A Beginner’s Guide [#CZLSF]

Jennifer Johnstone
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john-gagnon-and-diane-pease-at-czlsf

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend the fabulous ClickZ Live conference in downtown San Francisco. In between live tweeting from the event, posting pics, and overusing the infamous hashtag (#CZLSF), I was able to attend some great sessions from a variety of talented speakers.

In the afternoon, I attended a search session called "Mastering the PPC Challenge: Enhanced Campaigns, AdWords, PLAs, & More" presented by Diane Pease, inbound marketing manager for Cisco, and John Gagnon, Bing Evangelist for Microsoft.

Both speakers had different takeaways for the audience, but the overall message was clear: "To be number one in your advertising space, you need to be more strategic than ever." To get there, they helped marketers along with some of the basics for running PPC campaigns.

Pease kicked us off with an overview of AdWords and some best practices every PPC professional should be using, including automating everyday tasks, utilizing ad extensions, leveraging remarketing, creating a mobile strategy, and investing in both product listing ads (PLAs) and the Google Display Network (GDN).

Gagnon went more in-depth focusing on how to improve conversion rates, including testing landing pages and structuring your accounts by geography to be more relevant. He also delved into incremental bidding, the break-even CPC, unified targeting, bid adjustments, and share of voice (impression share) reports that can help with budgeting.

Making Your Life Easier

To help with your everyday tasks, you should be using a number of features in the AdWords user interface (UI). First, Pease suggested setting up multi-level saved filters so that you can run them on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Here’s a breakdown of the filters she suggested:

Keyword Filters

  • Low quality score
  • Below first page bid
  • Impression share less than 80 percent (for search campaigns)
  • Max CPC greater than or less than top of page
  • Average position greater than 5

Ad Filters

  • Ads with low click-through rates (CTRs)
  • Ads under review or disapproved

Campaign Filters

  • Separate campaign view by Search & Display

Once you get the hang of actively using the filters to review your data and adjust as needed, you should also look at the different ways you can "Segment" your data in AdWords. For example, you can segment by days of the week, and then adjust bids accordingly to compete during your best performing days and vice versa. While you’re working on refining campaigns using bid adjustments, Pease also suggested setting up automated search query reports to find keyword expansion opportunities that secure relevant traffic and negative keyword opportunities that block out irrelevant queries.

Taking Up More Real Estate

One way Pease mentioned staying ahead of competitors is by using all the available Ad Extensions that are a fit for your business. By doing so, you can take up more real estate on the search engine results page (SERPs) and set yourself apart from competing businesses. Currently, these include Sitelinks, Location Extensions, Review Extensions, Call Extensions, App Extensions, and Callout Extensions.

One takeaway Pease noted is that Google recently launched "Dynamic Sitelinks" worldwide. At no cost, these extensions are said to have increased headline clicks by 10 percent in recent tests. If you don’t have Sitelinks in place, Google will automatically generate the Dynamic Sitelinks, but there is an option to opt out. Instead of taking advantage of this feature, Pease suggested advertisers create their own Sitelinks to give themselves more control of their message.

Driving Users Down the Funnel

For those of you familiar with the topics I cover, I am big on remarketing. Pease, like every marketer, seemed to be, too. She gave a brief overview on how remarketing helps advertisers reach and reconnect with people who have already visited their site. She also gave some pointers on different ways remarketing can be used, including cross-product remarketing and even dynamic remarketing. The main point here was DO IT.

Knowing Your Audience

Both Gagnon and Pease stressed the importance of knowing your audience – and knowing when and where you can be number one to that audience. They stated, whether you are a beginner or an advanced PPC professional, it’s time to think about the evolution of your accounts. Aside from keywords, ad copy, and having a great landing page – how can you be more relevant?

It starts with considering all the different segments of data you have access to – hour of day, day of the week, geography, device, etc. All of these segments can have their bids adjusted (with the exception of tablets in AdWords), which allows advertisers to get their message out at the most opportune time and place. For example, consider an emergency locksmith. He might consider bidding up his key terms after most other locksmiths have already closed for the day. How about someone who sells custom umbrellas? She might decrease her bids to people living in Phoenix and San Diego, since those areas don’t get as much rain, therefore conserving her budget for areas like Seattle.

Thinking Mobile

With the evolution of enhanced campaigns, we can no longer have mobile-only campaigns. In fact, our only options are to either opt out by decreasing our bids by 100 percent or go for it by embracing the mobile space! According to Pease, mobile growth is exploding and in a study she quoted by Marin, mobile will drive 50 percent of PPC clicks by the end of 2015. If you’re going to go mobile, here are some takeaways:

  • Create a bidding strategy specific to mobile that makes sense for your business model
  • Ensure a good user experience on mobile
  • Ad copy should be aligned for "people on the go"
  • Site design should be responsive, or mobile-ready
  • Your landing page shouldn’t contain too much text, but have a strong call to action

Showcasing Your Products

For e-commerce brands, Pease encouraged the use of PLAs, or as they are now called – "Google Shopping Campaigns". These are a hybrid of image and text ads that show prominently on Google SERPs and Google Shopping pages. To create these, you’ll need to have your AdWords account connected to your Google Merchant Center and have your product feed uploaded. As a reminder, there are new specifications that will require updates to all Google Merchant Center product feeds by September 30, 2014.

Conclusion

As evident from the presentation, paid search is ever-changing and though marketers need to be proactive in evolving their campaigns, they must start with the basic best practices. Reviewing all that was covered during this session, you should have a firm foundation to expand and refine existing accounts to take them to the next level.


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