Developing a sense of the ins-and-outs of Google and managing PPC can be an exceedingly stimulating aspect of marketing. In such a position, you’re manning the fire hose of traffic to your company’s website and influencing one of the primary channels for controlling the number of leads your sales team receives. Through PPC, Google has leveled the playing field by allowing the little guy to get their ad impressions ranking among the large corporations, which creates a breeding ground for start-ups and corporations to spend lots of cash.
This brings me to my main bullet point of this post, which is painfully obvious. Google is a business, they like YOUR money and they are damn good at getting. They get paid whether your ads are delivering for you or not. Our job in managing PPC is to decipher what is actually useful data and what is self serving for Google.
Having more than three years of PPC management under my belt, I’ve learned some invaluable lessons that can only be learned by trying… and failing… then trying again. Hopefully these insights can curb some of your failures and quickly transform you from a PPC Padawan into a PPC Jedi.
1. Google’s “Hints,” “Tips” and “Warnings” Should ALL be Taken with a Grain of Salt.
Yes, Google is trying to improve your ads, because if you’re not satisfied you’ll stop spending. But their ultimate end game it to squeeze every last red cent out of your precious marketing budget. Think about some of the “hints” they supply:
Increase traffic by adding 3,500 more keywords to use, add them all now.
Your campaign is “Limited by Budget”
Rotate your ads to optimize for conversions (recommended)
Allow me translate all of those for you:
- “We want your ads to get thousands more impressions, which mean more clicks, which mean more money in our pockets.” And they put that “add all keywords” nice and easy to find at the bottom of their new keywords. (So devilishly clever, to a rookie)
A robot creates these keyword suggestions, though, so beware. Some may be useable, but most probably aren’t a good fit. What you can do is comb through these suggestions and find the legitimate keyword ideas or variations that you aren’t already targeting and add JUST those. Important though, this “add keywords” function in the “Opportunities tab” can’t see between campaigns or match types – meaning it will try to get you to add keywords that you may already have in other campaigns. Be sure that if you add any of their suggestions to immediately use Google Adwords Editor’s “Find Duplicate Keywords” feature and make sure you don’t already have them.
Reminder: bidding on duplicate keywords can hurt your Quality Score.
“Increase that pesky daily budget of yours and you’ll get more clicks.” – Seems to make sense, right? WRONG!
- If Google was really trying to help your company, where’s the hint telling you that you’re spending too much on these campaigns? Don’t increase your budget just because they tell you to. There are more strategic measures you can take to get the most out of the budget you’ve already set. (More on this in insight #2.)
“Only display your ads that get the most clicks.” – AKA, you’ll blow through your budget faster!
- In theory, you should only have multiple ads showing if you are performing and tracking an A/B test. Otherwise what’s the point of having multiple ads? You’re inevitably going to have ads that perform worse than others, so once you see that certain ads are struggling, why even keep them in rotation? I like to rotate my ads evenly, to give the most useable data to determine which ads to more forward with, and then pause the losing ads.
Now, don’t get me wrong, some of Google’s hints are useful. The important lesson here is that you need consider their help with the scrutiny of a trail-wise, 6-shooter-toting cowboy drifter, rather than a Hawaiian shirt wearing, map wielding pack of tourists. Be aware of the man behind the curtain.
2. Hitting your Daily Budget Means you’ve Spent Too Much
Let that sink in for a few seconds….
This just another way of looking at bidding and your daily budget, your cost-per-click (CPC), and any paid ad placements in general. When you hit your daily budget, your ads stop generating. This is not what you want. So, in a sense, you don’t want to hit your daily budget, right?
So how do you NOT hit your daily budget? Simple, keep your daily budget where it is and lower those CPCs!
Every morning I check to see which of my campaigns hit their daily budget. When I see that one did, I start lowering CPCs. Then, the next morning, I check again and repeat the same process. The ideal situation that I’m shooting for is to hit my daily budget on every campaign at the stroke of midnight, everyday. Each day that I lower my bids and still hit budget I know I’m squeezing more and more clicks out of Google that I wouldn’t have gotten as cheap had I just raised my daily budget. This way I would know that my ads got the most amount of impressions around the clock (or however you’ve determined to set your ad schedule).
This method isn’t foolproof. You have to pick and choose how much to lower your bids based on the “Avg Position” data in your SEO reports. If your ads are ranking at #3 or above and you’re hitting budget, you know you can safely lower them since the competition is less for those keywords. If your Avg Position is ranking around #5 or #6, you might want to lower them at a slower rate ($.10 at a time or so) to make sure you stay on the front page. You could argue that a lead who clicks an ad in the fifth or sixth position in Google is a more qualified lead anyway. It means they are actually reading all the ad choices and deciding which solution is most suited to their problem, rather than blindly clicking on the #1 positioned ad.
Again, don’t just follow the Pied Piper and start raising your daily budget maximums until those ugly, red “Limited by daily budget” warnings go away. Lower your bids, which will also lower your cost per lead – it’s win, win.
3. Pick your Own Website Placements for Display Targeting
This requires a few extra cycles of work upfront, but in the long run will generate less headaches and more qualified leads. Google likes to make it nice and easy to get your display ads up and running. “We’ll do the heavy lifting” they say.
Sure, two of the 10 websites they pick will make sense, but the rest will be straight garbage. Not only will the sites be mismatched, but the tendency for spam leads to start appearing in your CRM will go way up – hence the mention of more headaches. The software company I work for sells QA testing software for software developers, among other things. When my ads started showing up on sites for teaching yourself Spanish, cooking lessons and sites for teachers to create their classroom tests, I said, “Thanks for the help Google, but I’ll take it from here.”
Find your proper placement sites by acting as a customer. Search terms your audience might Google and find the blogs, forums and app markets that they would spend time on. Only one in five, or so, will accept Google placement ads, but if you perform this “hunting” once a week in the early goings – you’ll slowly build out your display network. And this network will be of qualified sites that you shouldn’t have to re-visit later by adding them to your “negative placement” sites section.
Another little tactic I use to find relative sites is to put my home run keywords (aka, the highest volume keywords that are a match for our products) and competitors names into Google Alerts. I then get weekly emails of all the places they appear, and I visit those sites to see if they offer placement ads. So, essentially, I’m letting Google find the placements for me, but letting the good folks over at Google Alerts do the work, rather than those fat cats over at Adwords (they very well may be the same people, but for the purpose of this story they are totally different).
Lastly, if you have a PR and/or content team, look for placements on the sites that pick up your press releases or link to your blog posts. You can also normally find other similar/friendly qualified sites in those sites’ footers.
Building your own network will get more qualified clicks to your site and also keeps those ravenous sales reps from complaining about questionable leads. Or, yada, yada, yada….you look like a Jedi.
4. Launch New Campaigns with an Elevated CPC
There’s really not much too this one. The biggest contributor to your Quality Score is your click-through-rate (CTR). Basically, Google is saying “are you ads showing up for the right searchers and providing Google’s searchers with what they are looking for?” Google is all about providing a great user experience. If you’ve built your campaigns correctly (i.e. done your due diligence with your keyword research and display placement sites) you know your ads will already show up for the correct audience.
Knowing this, when you launch your new campaign, you can increase your bid by 100-150% for the first week. This is to ensure a strong CTR for the launch of the campaign and eventually leads to much lower cost-per-click. By elevating my CTR upon launch, I also elevated my Quality Score. As I’m sure you’ve heard from all the marketing content writers out there, a higher Quality Score means cheaper prices.
5. Be Weary of Broad Keyword Match
Broad keyword match is crap. Don’t use it. This is Google, again, trying to “help,” and if you haven’t noticed a bit of a trend yet, anytime I mention Google trying to “help” I really mean they are trying to milk you out of every last marketing dollar you have. Broad keyword match, takes your keyword lists and looks for similar keywords that the Google machine thinks you’d like to appear for as well. So in my case, when I was targeting “QA testing tools,” I was showing up when people Googled anything about “tools.” As in hardware tools.
Great, now I’m paying for the same searches that Home Depot is bidding on. Thanks a bundle for the help, Google.
Here’s what I do: use phrase match. That way you know that, at the very minimum, the actual keyword you target has to appear in the search phrase. I always upload all my keywords in phrase match mode. Then, I pick out those home run keywords I mentioned above and I duplicate those keywords and set their duplicate to “Exact” keyword match mode. (You CAN have duplicate keywords, as long as they are in different match types). I generally bid a few notches higher on these exact match home run keywords since you want to make sure you’re in the top positions for each of these words.
If, at this point, you still think you need more keyword coverage, use “Broad Match Modifyer.” This is where you add “+” before each word in your keyword that absolutely has to appear in the searched phrase.
For example: edit your phrase so that it looks something like, “+browser +testing”.
What this means is that I’m telling Google that both “browser” and “testing” (or close variations) must to appear in the search phrase for my ad to display (more on this here). I use this when I go after very, very broad terms, such as “test automation.” This keyword is so broad that simply using “broad match” would basically unlock Pandora’s box of crap impressions. In this case, I would start showing up in searches like “creating Spanish tests,” “testing autos,” “automatic car tests,” which, as a software company, really wasn’t helping anyone make money.
Use Phrase Match and you’ll rest assured that your ads are only showing for qualified searches.
In conclusion, Google Adwords is a powerful and useful service. Businesses truly rely on it for revenue. The trick, which hopefully I’ve illuminated in this post, is to use this power wisely and to customize it to your exact needs. You know your business better than Google, so take their help only where it makes sense to do so. Don’t take Google’s recommendations at their word.
Have your own PPC tactics that have produced results? Feel free to share them below!