For a long time I’ve eschewed PPC advertising in favor of social advertising, but recently I’ve started wading back in. I’ve managed a lot of PPC campaigns over the years and have learned quite a bit. Here are some basic strategies that can help you get started or improve your campaign performance.
Divide & Conquer
You can’t just take a bunch of keywords, plug them in an ad group, point them at your website, and expect to get sales. Guaranteed failure.
I call the basic strategy for PPC “Divide and Conquer”. The idea is to increasingly divide your keywords into ever-finer ad groups, theoretically increasing both your click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate (CONV%). You have to create large number of ad groups so that you can tailor the ad copy to the keywords being used. More relevant ad copy leads to higher CTR’s.
This is the single biggest failure that I see when I review competitor ads. They use the same or nearly the same copy on every keyword. There’s little focus on tying the ad copy to the keyword. They are leaving money on the table every day.
Here’s an example…
Suppose you have a website selling televisions. You start out with a list of 500 keywords and put them in a new ad group. You’ll see over time that the CTR’s are pretty low and the CPC’s are higher than you expected. Eventually you decide to take each brand and move those keywords to a separate ad group, e.g. “Sony televisions”. That leaves you with a bunch of brand ad groups and a generic group for keywords that don’t fit, like “flat panel television”. After segmenting the keywords for a few month you might end up with 300 ad groups for your 5000 keywords (it’s likely grown from 500 to some number much larger). You ad groups are now much more specific, like “50 inch flat panel televisions” and “Sony LED tv’s”, each with a handful of keywords in them. This kind of segmentation will lead to higher CTR’s and lower CPC’s (and probably more conversions), just what you’re looking for.
Negative keywords are a fantastic way to broadly eliminate searches that are closely related, but not relevant to your site. For example, if your site sells used Mitsubishi cars then you probably don’t want to pay for searches related to parts. Setting up negative keywords around the term “parts” will help you pay only for relevant keyword clicks.
Negative keywords are easy to implement but widely underused in PPC campaigns. Just because you have a list of keywords that you’re advertising for doesn’t guarantee that those are the only keywords that your ads will show for.
Search Network vs Display Network
I admit freely that I only advertise with Google Adwords and Facebook (to a much lesser extent). I don’t know if this applies to Bing or any other search engine.
Adwords lets you specify which network(s) you want your ads to appear on. There is the standard Adwords “Search” network, which just shows your ads on Google search result pages. There’s also the “Search Partners” network, which are sites that offer Google search results on their sites.
Apart from the search network is the “Display” network. The Display network is different from Search in that your ad appears on sites that use Adsense to display Adwords ads. These are sites that are most likely related to your target keywords, but they won’t necessarily be shown to users who are looking for your services. The Display network definitely presents you with a different audience than does Search.
Try testing with the Display network both enabled and disabled to see which works better for your ads. Try again every few months to see if the results differ with the other changes made to your campaigns. Again, it’s probably best to segment your campaigns into Search and Display variants and keep optimizing. My personal experience is that the Display network traffic converts very poorly, so I typically keep it disabled.
A/B Testing Ad Copy
Ad copy determines whether or not a searcher clicks on your ad. Always be optimizing your ad copy to maximize CTR. There aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules for ad copy, it truly is a “test it and see” situation. Try moving items back and forth between your headline and line 1. Try using synonyms for words, such as “affordable” instead of “cheap”. See if listing a price converts better than not listing it.
All major PPC providers (as far as I know) offer some form of A/B testing. Adwords has allowed testing of ad versions for years. It simple to use and completely automated. You choose the changes and Adwords take care of the rest.
More To Come
I intended to keep going with this article but it’s getting a little long. I’ll have a part 2 up soon with more strategies.
What are some of your favorite PPC strategies? Do you have a basic workflow that you go through with each new campaign? Comments welcome.