8 Steps to Successful PPC Campaigns

Kristen Holden

This article is an excerpt from The SEO Business Guide, SitePoint’s latest release. The entire chapter from which the article is drawn, plus two extra chapters, is available as a free PDF download. If you like what you read here, be sure to check it out!

Succeeding in a single PPC campaign is quite an accomplishment, but delivering results time and time again is something else entirely. Being able to consistently produce campaigns that achieve results is the difference between an amateur and a professional search engine marketer.

In order to achieve consistent results, you need to follow a systematic process covering the same three core processes of research, implementation, and optimization.

Use the following checklist whenever launching a new campaign:

  • Research: Business Goals

  • Research: Target Audience

  • Research: Keyword Research

  • Implementation: Campaign Structure

  • Implementation: Ad Copy

  • Implementation: Landing Page Development

  • Implementation: Campaign Settings

  • Optimization: Statistical Analysis

  • Optimization: Refinement

  • Optimization: Bid Management

Research: Business Goals

Before you even worry about who your target audience is or what keywords you want to target, you need to understand what the business hopes to achieve through running a PPC campaign.

Without an underlying business goal to measure success against, a PPC campaign is useless. Some important questions you should ask yourself and the key stakeholders involved in the business are:

  • What goal should the PPC campaign fulfill?

  • What are the target actions users should take on the website?

  • How much is each action worth to the business?

Understanding a few standard business goals such as the ones above allows you to start developing a campaign that’s meaningful to the business and delivers measurable results.

Research: Target Audience

Defining your audience is an important first step in working out the underlying strategy behind your PPC campaign. Answering questions about your target audience will often reveal broader insights that can be used across the board, throughout your campaigns.

Before you dive into your keyword tool and start developing keyword lists, you should answer the following questions:

  • Who am I targeting with this campaign?

  • Where do my ideal users live?

  • Why does my target audience need this product or service?

  • What’s the frame of mind of my customers?

Answering some of these questions before you dig into more granular keyword research can help refine your communications with potential users, as well as target ads, landing pages, and other elements so that they directly target your audience.

Research: Keyword Research

Earlier in this guide, you learned how to use the Google Keyword Tool to identify keywords relating to specific phrases, and pick relevant terms to target. Using that same process and keeping your target audience in mind, you can now use the same tool to develop keyword lists.

Go inside the mindset of your users. Think about search terms you would type if you were wanting to purchase a product from the website you’re promoting. Group these keywords into logical bundles or ad groups, with each group having its own theme, topic, or product specific to the business’s offering and the users’ needs.

While conducting keyword research, it’s just as necessary to make a list of negative keywords to isolate, as well as block any irrelevant combinations of keywords. Having a thorough list of negative keywords quite often reduces wasted clicks, improves clickthrough rate, and helps to lower costs.

Implementation: Campaign Structure

Now that you have lists of keywords you’ve identified as relevant to your target audience, you need to structure your campaign logically around these themes. Using no more than five to ten keywords at a time, split your keyword list up into specific ad groups, and flesh out the campaign structure.

There’s no such thing as too many ad groups, so there’s no restriction to conform to a certain minimum or maximum number of ad groups. This will vary wildly depending on the complexity of your website, and the number of offerings and audiences your campaign is targeting.

Implementation: Ad Copy

You now have a campaign structure developed around your most logical themes and products, with relevant keywords contained within each ad group. Now it’s time to start developing ads that are relevant to those sets of keywords and to your landing pages.

Each theme or product will have its own unique value proposition—that is, a specific benefit that differentiates it from the competition—that you need to convey to potential users through your copywriting. For every ad group and target page on your website, write down a value proposition or unique selling point to target with your ad copy.

Go to google.com and conduct a search for each of your target keywords and look at the kind of ad copy that your competitors are using. This is a great starting point, and will help to give you ideas on wording your own ads. Your job is to convey the benefits of your product and service—better than your competitors—within those 100 characters of ad space.

As a starting point, write at least two ads for each ad group. Try to make these variants as distinct as possible; by doing so you’re testing different propositions, and the ways in which your users react to each message will help to determine refinements later on as you optimize your search campaigns.

We’ll look at some examples so that you can see the difference between a good and a bad ad. Taking the example from earlier—Bob’s Green Tea—let’s say you were writing an ad for the company’s organic tea product, aiming to target the “organic tea” keyword.

Example 1. A Bad Paid Search Ad

Bob’s Green Tea

Selling green tea since 1997

Come and see our full selection.

bobsgreentea.com


Example 2. A Good Paid Search Ad

Bob’s Great Organic Tea

High quality, refreshing organic

tea products on sale today only.

bobsgreentea.com/organic


Notice that the second ad uses the term “organic” throughout the copy, and also has a more compelling call to action. Of course, this is just one example, but you should see the idea: focus on your keywords to increase the ad’s relevance, and make sure you place a clear emphasis on the unique selling point of your client’s product or service.

Implementation: Landing Page Development

Ideally, you’ll be promoting a website with high-quality original content that’s well-structured and user friendly. This will allow the customers that you deliver via PPC campaigns to easily make a purchase or navigate through the website.

Unfortunately, you’re not always faced with the ideal situation, and sometimes you’ll need to tweak the landing page to deliver the most returns to your clients. Make sure that the main keywords you’re targeting for any given ad group are contained in the page title and within HTML heading tags.

Each landing page needs to:

  • effectively communicate the product or service with which you’re trying to engage users

  • make it easy to take the required action or business goal with as few clicks as possible

  • contain original content relating to the product or service

  • load fast—remember, pageload time is a factor in determining quality score and ad rank

In short, the landing page should communicate what your offer is and why it’s relevant to the visitor. A good test is to ask yourself, “Can a visitor understand the key benefits of this product or service in under ten seconds?” If the answer is yes, chances are your landing page is on the right track.

Implementation: Campaign Settings

Now that you have a strong plan, good copy, and a well-designed landing page—you’re almost ready to launch your campaign. When you do so, Google will ask you for a number of specific settings that affect how your campaign will run. As you’ve gone through the previous research and implementation steps, you’ll already have answered most of the questions relating to your campaign settings; now it’s time to apply them.

If you’ve yet to do so already, create your campaign by clicking Create your first campaign from the Campaigns tab in your AdWords dashboard.

Your target audience information will determine the geographic location and language of each campaign you launch. Go ahead and set the country or region and language preferences specific to your campaign, as shown in Figure 1, “Locations and languages”.

Figure 1. Locations and languages

Locations and languages


Your keyword bids, as a general rule, should be set based on your keyword research and other market factors, so there’s no one universal answer here. A good, practical approach is to start low and work your way up. This will save you money on wasted clicks at the beginning of a campaign. Raise your bids as you determine the ads’ performances and return on investment, specific to each landing page, keyword, and website.

You also need to determine a budget for your campaign. We’d highly recommend setting a daily budget that’s small to begin with; you can ramp it up once you’ve further optimized each campaign. This will reduce the amount of money spent on frivolous clicks.

As mentioned earlier, for your first few campaigns it’s a good idea to limit yourself to just showing your ads on Google search and the search partners network, avoiding the display network. The relevant settings are shown in Figure 2, “Networks and devices”.

Figure 2. Networks and devices

Networks and devices


Next, in the Advanced settings section, select Rotate: Show ads more evenly, as shown in Figure 3, “Customizing ad delivery”. This will ensure that each of the ads you upload will be shown an even number of times. Selecting this option allows you to truly determine the performance of each ad within each ad group, an important part of the learning process when optimizing a campaign. The default (Optimize) option bases ad delivery on clickthrough rate—ads with more clicks will be displayed more often. While this might be an appealing option down the track, for now it’s better for you to understand what makes ad copy perform. You’ll also be able to track the conversions delivered by different ad copy, so it’s best to stick with Rotate.

Figure 3. Customizing ad delivery

Customizing ad delivery


Optimization: Statistical Analysis

Putting together a campaign is relatively easy compared to understanding why a campaign does or doesn’t achieve its goals. Fortunately, AdWords has a whole range of reports that help you to determine which parts of your campaign are bringing you the most value.

Initially, the most important pieces of information to any campaign are going to revolve around the key factors of: quality score, conversion rate, and cost per click. All these elements can easily be determined using the main AdWords interface. Navigating through ad groups and campaigns one at a time will highlight each key element.

Remember to monitor the performance of individual ads: quite often one ad will outperform other similar ads within a group. If this is the case, you can pause—that is, temporarily turn off—the underperforming ads and write new variations based on the key message and benefits mentioned in the best performing ad. Then, repeat the test with the new copy versus the previous champion.

Similar optimizations can be performed at the keyword level. Better performing keywords can have their bids increased, while underperforming keywords may be paused or have their bids decreased. You can also single out the best keywords to form the basis of new ad groups; these groups will then benefit from a lower CPC.

Optimization: Refinement

Successful PPC campaigns are built over time, based on market data and performance. This information is founded on real-world interactions with the ad copy, landing pages, and keywords that you’ve chosen.

Every single campaign will have successful and unsuccessful elements and keywords that need to be optimized. There are third-party programs and many different schools of thought around how to conduct ongoing PPC optimization, but the basic principle is straightforward: test, test, test. Even if your first campaign performs way above your expectations—conversion rate is fantastic, costs are low, and you instantly gain a positive ROI—you can still benefit from testing alternatives. Iterations of ad copy, keywords, and landing pages can make enormous differences to your bottom line. If you fail to test these various elements, you’ll never have a truly optimized campaign.

Quality scores can always be improved and ads made more relevant. Never stop testing new ideas!

Optimization: Bid Management

The science of bid management determines how much you should pay for each click you receive via PPC. To determine how much your website can afford to pay for each click, you need to first understand how much profit you earn when a visitor takes the target action you seek.

If you earn $100 per sale, and each click costs you $2, you’d then need to convert one out of every 50 visitors to break even on your marketing efforts. That’s a 2% conversion rate. If your campaign was converting at 4%, and clicks were still costing you $2, you would be paying $50 for each conversion action—leading to $50 of profit. So you could effectively still be bidding up to $4 per click and retain a positive ROI, although the less you pay per click, the better, obviously.

There’s nothing complicated being used to calculate this; the amount you can afford to pay per click is directly tied to your site and ad performance for each specific keyword in your campaign. There’s no one rule you should use here; common sense will guide you in determining how much you can pay for clicks for each keyword.

This article is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of our latest release, The SEO Business Guide. The whole chapter, entitled Paid Search, is available as a free PDF download along with a further two other chapters. If this piece appeals to you, be sure to check out our offer!

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