A Beginner’s Guide to Paid Search

paid-search-awareness-research-comparison-buyingAs a beginner in the paid search realm, learning the ins and outs of the digital marketing industry takes some time. However, sitting in on A Beginner’s Guide to Paid Search, a presentation by Lisa Raehsler, Big Click Co. founder, at SES New York helped aspiring paid search marketers guidance on how to get up to speed in the most succinct manner possible.

Kick-Starting a Successful Paid Search Advertising Program

Paid search advertising offers the chance to pay (by the click) for visibility on major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo when people search for terms related to the product or service that website is selling. These ads, typically known as pay-per-click (PPC) ads, can appear above, to the right of, or beneath the organic (also known as natural or algorithmic) search results.

Before diving headfirst into a strategy, marketers must identify main goals for the account. Is the sale/purchase the most important aspect of the site? Is it persuading a lead? Would you include a link that would allow visitors to subscribe? And also, are you going to track your page views?

The account structure is organized into campaigns, which are then separated into ad groups that combine ads with their respective keywords. It is best practice to have your account campaign structures mirror the website itself in order to budget and report effectively. These campaigns should revolve around a funnel structure that illustrates how searches are general in the beginning, but gradually getting more defined as visitors are moving closer to making a purchase.

Disparate ad groups and keywords in one campaign under one budget can cause your account to perform poorly. Raehsler’s presentation is coherently divided into best practices and optimization strategies for keywords, budgets/bids, ads, targeting, retargeting, and tracking.


Best Practices

It is best practice to test keywords in various match types and to make sure you always have a well-developed negative keyword list. You can generate keyword ideas from the keyword tool in Google AdWords, or the Google Insights tool for suggestions and related searches. Reviewing query reports and web analytics is a must when you are trying to maintain accuracy.

There are various keyword match types that must be taken into consideration when inputting – broad matches, broad match modifiers (using plus signs), phrase matches (using parenthesis), exact matches (using brackets), and negative matches are some of the various types out there. You must also go back and review the aforementioned funnel to strategize some general and/or specific keyword match types that makes the most sense depending on the level in the funnel you are at.


To devise the most optimal set of keywords, they must be scrutinized on a regular basis depending on the size of your campaign.

Are the keywords too general? Constantly review click-through rates (CTR) and conversion rates, and remove anything that is too general with lots of impressions and low CTR (or less than 1 percent) and/or a poor conversion rate.

Do you have low quality score? Sort and filter through by low quality score and no conversions. Check out the keywords, ads, and the corresponding landing page to see if they correlate. Create various filters for specific keyword conditions and work on the CTR by making your ad copy as directly related to the keyword as possible.

Again, you must always review all aspects of your campaign.


Best Practices

Budgets and bids control costs and directly relate to profit. Budgets are only set at a campaign level; bids are set at ad group and keyword level.

Take your total monthly PPC budget divide it by the number of campaigns you have and then by 30 days which will give you your starting campaigns starting budget. You should allocate an equal amount of money from the get go (keeping in mind some campaigns from beginning will perform better such as your branded terms) and then later adjust and reallocate for performance and click traffic.

There are different types of budgets and bidding options – CPC (for search or display), cost/thousand (CPM) (only for display), enhanced CPC (automatically adjusts your maximum budget), automatic bidding, conversion optimizer (you bid using a maximum CPA).

Optimizing Your Bids

Automated rules can help manage your keyword bids. The estimated first page bids metric approximates the CPC needed for your ad to reach the first page of Google search results when a search query exactly matches your keyword.

Similar to this is the estimated top of page bids – which, according to Google, is the estimated CPC needed for your ad to appear above the first page of Google search results, when a query matches your keyword exactly. The estimate is based on quality score and current advertiser competition for that keyword.


Best Practices

Ad texts should be compelling and the message should be consistent with the offline campaign as well. Keywords should be in the ads to create more relevancies – in terms of paid search.

There should be unique features, benefits, offers, and call-to-actions. Use dynamic keyword insertions, custom URLs, and remember to read the guidelines on what Google will/won’t accept.


Are your ads not showing up correctly? Always check for an alert – make sure they are approved. Make sure that isn’t an ad-related problem, it might be the budget, or individual bids. If this is the case, you can also utilize the Google Ads Diagnostic Tool.

Are you also getting low CTR? Is your ad rank below 3? Check to make sure that there is a very close connection between your keywords and your ads. You can also add ad extensions (extra information you might want to add about your business).


Best Practices

Geography (location and country in which your ad will appear) is an important aspect in your campaign. The language in which the ad is set is also crucial, as well as the device with which the site is compatible plays a key role in how the ad will be reached. Constantly use analytics to see where your visitors are coming in from, and then go on from there.

Mobile Targeting Best Practices

Targeting mobile devices should always been done in their own campaigns. It’s important to exclude mobile targeting from your main campaigns that target desktops/laptops and/or tablets as the experience on these devices are quite different. Create a keyword list with shorter terms, and always have a separate landing page for your mobile campaigns.

Ad Placements

Depending on where you’d like your ads to show, you might want to consider the different types of ad formats you’d like to impose for your campaign (i.e., texts for search engines, images for mobile display network, and videos for YouTube, etc.).

Retargeting Best Practices

Reconnect with consumers that have been to your site. Always try to redirect your prospects back – these multiple touches may remind someone to return to your site. Cookies are used to tag the user.

Optimizing Retargeting

By optimizing your retargeting strategies, you can reach a full prospect list. Compare your reaches vs. your impressions and then formulate a plan according to those numbers.

You can also optimize by extending the number of days of membership duration (i.e., number of days the cookie stays in the browser). There is no need to have a geographic restriction on this, and you can also increase bids in the Display Network more frequently. Observe the click conversion (actually bought the item) vs. view through (viewed did not click, but later converted) conversion, to see how you can better strategize your campaigns.

Tracking Best Practices

You can take advantage of a multitude of tools when tracking your ad campaigns. Google AdWords tracking automatically tracks impressions, clicks, average position, and cost. In order to take your campaigns to the next level it is important to implement Google AdWords conversion tracking (which allows for tracking of the action you wish for the user to take.

Also, Google Analytics tracking will give you additional insight into how your campaigns are performing from a conversion standpoint as well as additional analytic statistics such as bounce rate, time on site, pages visited, etc.

Key Takeaways

The key takeaways from Raehsler’s presentation:

  • The basics of PPC will help you build a strong account.
  • Managing your PPC accounts daily will improve optimization.
  • Small optimizations such as those outlined above can make a big difference.
  • Always set up conversion tracking for your accounts to determine if you’re reaching your campaign goals.
  • Experiment with new features and analyze the results across all available platforms.

This should give you a solid foundation in building your ad campaigns.

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