Pay-Per-Click Campaigns

In this section we look much more closely at paid advertising through search engines. This is where your ads are displayed either at the top or down the right hand side based on the keywords that the prospect is searching for. This is a huge multi-billion business in both the US and UK. There are a number of different engines, but again the dominant one is Google. Most search engines allow both advertising on the engine itself, and also on a network of associated sites. You can choose whether to include or exclude these from your advertising.

Unlike search engine optimization (SEO), paid marketing produces faster results and is more under your control. We’ve seen thousands of web businesses start up and many become highly successful. A good chunk of these achieved their outstanding results through pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns used both aggressively and effectively. However, it costs money and producing the best results takes a lot of effort.

The way that search advertising generally works is that you select keywords along with a maximum amount you are prepared to pay for someone to click through to your site. When those keywords are entered in the search box by the person searching, the search engine decides which ads to display in which order based on the bids and some other rules. You get charged if a searcher clicks on your ad – hence the term “pay per click”.

The tips here will concentrate on Google, however, practically all of them also apply to the other search engines with slight differences.

72 - Learn Before You Spend

Nobody would fancy their chances in a martial arts contest if they had never fought before, or in a high stakes poker game if they had never played. With search engine advertising it’s similar. At least learn the basics before you spend more than experimental pin money. It’s easy to waste a lot of money and damage your ratings in Google’s eyes if you don’t know what you are doing. Help is available at the adwords blog http://adwords.blogspot.com/ and http://adwords.google.com/support/ where you can search on Adwords help. You can also get involved in forums where PPC is discussed. Although we can provide many pointers here, the field is always evolving and sometimes new insights emerge.

73 - Consider the structure of Ad groups, Ad Pages and Keywords

Google allows you to create campaigns, groups of adverts, define your keywords and create individual advertisements (Ads). A campaign consists of one or more ad groups and an ad group consists of one or more keywords and one or more ads. Each ad points to a single page on your site. Bids (bid, max amount per month etc) can be set at campaign or ad group level. Matching rules, which are explained below, can be set for each set of keywords. It’s best to base each Ad Group around a common theme but have less than 15-20 keywords per ad group. Developing many more focused Ad Groups will give better results but is more work. Don’t use the same keywords in different Ad Groups as they compete against each other and it makes the results difficult to understand. Think about whether you wish to advertise on words like compare, low cost, cheap, discount, discounted or whether you wish to exclude searches including them. All of this will all become much clearer as you try some actual PPC campaigns.

74 - Understand The Ad Rules

Creating good Ads is hard. You have just 25 characters for the headline, 35 each for the two description lines and 25 for the display URL. Microsoft are the same, Yahoo and Miva have longer ads. You are not allowed exclamation marks in the headline and not too much capitalisation or punctuation. Style guides can be found on the relevant ad network’s site.

75 - Make Ads Effective

Your Ads appear with the competition, so they have to stand out. But you don’t just want clicks, you want clicks from people who will buy. You should take time in crafting and experimenting with Ads. Ask who is the ad targeted at; who are the competition; how can you motivate people to click; what tone do you wish to adopt; what are your benefits; should you include your brand in the headline; what provocative question can you ask; how can you establish credibility. Try to look like you provide better value or a broader offering than the competition.

76 - Try Out Different Ideas

Here are some ideas to help: include the search terms in your ad copy by using dynamic keyword insertion as follows {KeyWord:}; emphasize what can you offer for “Free?, e.g. free shipping, free insurance, free guide; demonstrate your credibility and points of difference as a supplier; achieve impact through visual tricks like first-letter capitalization, ampersands and use of quotation marks; consider including price or price range. Try using verbs implying action like Find, Win, Act Now, Buy, Get, See, Save. State benefits followed by a call to action.

77 - Vary The Display Url

The URL displayed at the end of the Ad must broadly indicate where the click will go but does not have to reflect the exact URL that will be followed when the ad is clicked. So use this capability. In the display URL consider capitalizing the brand name, remove www, add a product name or a call to action on the end or put in the country e.g. Sellerdeck.co.uk or Sellerdeck.co.uk/Special-Deals.html. There are documented cases of doubling the click through rate simply by changing this URL description.

78 - Understand The Google Quality Score And Maximize It

Google and other search engines calculate a “quality score” for your adverts and this (along with the amount that you bid) determines the order in which adverts appear. In other words, a good quality score can enable you to achieve the same results with less money. Google does not divulge its precise calculation, but does take the following factors into account to calculate the score: the extent to which the search terms match your advert; the same with the URL and the content of the landing page the searcher will click through to; the percentage of people who click on your advert after seeing it (the click through rate or CTR). The CTR is the most important of these and Google takes into account the ad position as higher positions naturally get higher CTRs.

79 - Build Good Landing Pages

It’s worth creating specific landing pages for different ads both to maximize sales and because the relevance of the landing page impacts the quality score. Google re-evaluates landing pages once per month. For landing page to be relevant (so impacting the quality score) they should be fast, have a relevant title, and have keywords in the text (but these should be less than 5%). If there are text hyperlinks containing keywords that helps too. If visitors arriving at your page immediately follow this by another Google search, you will be marked down as you obviously weren’t relevant. Remember to communicate positively and ideally have a call to action on the page e.g. “buy” or have a prominent phone number if your objective is to get them to call.

You can choose whether to have landing pages specifically for incoming traffic from PPC or use your existing standard pages. Either way, you mustn’t use doorway pages with no links from the rest of the site. If you had a theme of advertising based on value, then you might have a landing page emphasizing how you deliver this proposition e.g. free shipping. You can find your quality score from within your Google Adwords account.

80 - Understand The Matching Rules

Each search engine has its own rules on which ad will be triggered by searches on which keywords. You control matches by specifying your own key words and how these should be matched to what’s being searched. On Google, a “phrase match” uses quotes (“ ”) around your keywords and an “exact match” uses square brackets ([ ]), otherwise it’s a “broad match” . You need to understand how the matching rules work. For instance, beware on insisting on an exact match as you may exclude plurals but also beware of broad matches which may unexpectedly lead to higher spend and irrelevant traffic.

You should also use negative matching which is where keywords will not match if a particular negative word is also being searched for. Using negatives can increase click through rates and reduce costs from irrelevant clicks and can be applied at campaign level. When quotes are used which signifies phrase matching (Google and Bing) then this will match with searchers who use the particular keywords along with additional words before or after. An exact match [square brackets] matches only when those exact keywords in the exact order with no additional words are searched for. Because it’s difficult, you may be able to out-perform the competition by detailed understanding and hard work.

81 - Plan Your Matching Carefully

In general, you should define keywords with three or more words as a broad match and keywords with one or two words as a phrase match. Beware that the lower click through rate (CTR) arising from broad matches will lower your quality score. There is a trade-off between impression volume and the relevance of your ad since your creative may be less relevant for keywords which are not so closely associated. For example a recruitment agency might advertise for “Ruby Programming Jobs? with a broad match. The ad will be displayed when the searcher searches on other types of jobs such as “Java Programming Jobs? and “PHP Programming Jobs? and this may not be at all what the advertiser expected. As a result, a minimum of three word keywords should be used for a broad match.

Try to report on keywords searched upon that never got a click and get rid of non-performing ads. If you combine match types then the search engine selects the most relevant one in the order of exact, phrase and broad match. Remember to put in a negative for things in your field that you don’t sell.

82 - Target Your Position

In general, the higher position that your ad appears on the search results page, the more clicks you will get. The biggest determiner of the position you appear is the amount you bid. The less important factor is the quality score and other tips explain how to improve this. There is an optimum amount to bid which will balance the cost you pay per click with the amount of traffic you receive. One twist is that not all lower positions are equal. If there are three “sponsored results” above the organic listings, then the fourth position will be at the top right, which is likely to be advantageous. You can set a position preference in Google – this may well be worth doing, particularly to get position 4 in the situation described above.

Specifying position can sharply reduce how often your ad is shown, as bids will be lowered but not raised to achieve the target. Having said that you could bid very high along with setting the position. Remember that conversion rates can be higher for lower positions if you have a more relevant ad than the hi2gher ranked competition. Traffic drops by around 10% for each lower position and by more at the top – typically 30% from first to second and 20% from second to third.

83 - Set Your Budget And Bidding Rules

Once everything above has been understood, you are able to produce a plan which should consist of your budget, how you will bid, and maximum amounts for the day and week or month. Look at what competitors are doing, you may be able to run your PPC campaign at the end of the day, week or month when competitor’s budgets have expired and you can bid much lower for a good position.

84 - Regularly Assess Profitability

Work out the profitability of PPC advertising as it’s equally easy to spend too much, too little or suffer from competitors who are behaving very smartly or very stupidly.

85 - Understand How Ads Are Rotated

You can have more than one Ad linked together and they will be rotated evenly at first but slowly the one with higher CTR will be displayed more frequently. Look at the percentage served in the “Ad variations” table to see which is best. This is a simple form of testing Ads against each other and it suggests that new Ads should be continuously tried and less successful ones dropped. Remember that if you change an Ad you will lose your quality score so adding new Ads is probably a better way of testing. Bidding on your own brand will improve CTR performance.

86 - Understand The Numbers

Hitwise provides “Share of search”, “Gap analysis” etc. Instructions on using the Report Centre to show Impression Share are here: https://adwords.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=52760. Where possible, measure results dividing the cost of a click by the average sales achieved providing a cost per pound or dollar of sales. Google Analytics, integrated with your E-Commerce package, should be able to help here. If this isn’t possible, then cost per acquisition (CPA) i.e. cost to make each sale, or worse cost per click (CPC) can be used. Try to get the best figures by including an estimate of telephone sales influenced by the web site and if possible also take into account lifetime customer value and customer returns. All of this helps you to understand which of your activities are profitable.

87 - Have A Structured Approach To Adjust And Test Things In The Light Of The Numbers

The overall performance of your PPC campaign will be determined by the number of times your ads are displayed for which keywords and against which competition. Also making an impact is the position on the page the ad appears; the percentage of times that customers click on your ad and your success at converting those clicks to sales. The key to improvement is to try alternatives around each factor, testing one variable at a time. You should assess the variation in conversion rates for different keywords and seek to understand the reason for this variation – is it due to the level of intent of the keywords, the design of the landing page or the product price and details? You should then focus your search engine marketing on keywords which attract visitors that actually convert to sales. Review high volume keywords more frequently.

Let the competition make themselves poor and Google rich. Consider not bidding on the most competitive keywords, as this may well increase your profitability, but beware if this gives competitors economies of scale that you then can’t achieve. Pay per click advertising can acquire customers, but as your name will be put in front of many browsers who don’t click through, it could also improve your branding. If this is important, take it into account when assessing the cost versus benefit. You might prioritize some more of SEO if PPC is too competitive and expensive. Prioritize keywords for SEO. If we are already high, then you can bid lower. Using the information that has been covered up until this point, you need to be highly pro-active in running your campaign. Delete keywords with poor or zero clickthrough to avoid dragging down overall CTRs.

88 - Watch Out For Click Fraud

Around 10% of clicks can be fraudulent. These are clicks on your ads with no intention to buy. Also running searches with competitor’s ads and NOT clicking on them, while perpetrators’ ads are disabled, thus reducing your quality score due to lower CTR. Get complaint s in within 60 days. You can get a report from Google on what they have filtered as invalid. You can choose to exclude chosen IP addresses so you can stop competitors clicking on your ads. You can set up benchmark data and if this starts getting exceeded, then present this to the search engines for investigation. Google says that they investigate all cases of fraud.

89 - Spend Aggressively When It’S Working

Once you can see that your pay per click strategy is working, then make hay while the sun shines. If you have found a winning formula, others will be along shortly to learn from your success. So grow rapidly while you can and make sure that you get the most advantage.

90 - Respond To Competition

Because of the nature of PPC advertising, where cost is largely dependent on competitor activity, it’s important to monitor the competition. Relative to them, you may have less advantageous terms if you are smaller due to the relative cost of management of campaigns, lower lifetime values and lack of agency kick-backs. One approach is to look at both PPC and SEO campaigns together to maximize the results that you wish to get. For instance, you might focus your SEO efforts solely on high traffic key words where the cost of PPC bidding is very high, then focus PPC efforts on less popular terms where there is a better return on investment.

91 - Protect Your Own Brand

If people search on your brand, you need to protect it by advertising yourself on it or by other means. You might also choose to advertise on competitor’s brands. Keep up to date to ensure you are using the latest methods to protect your brand.

92 - Consider Content Networks

In addition to advertising on search pages, you can advertise on the “Content network” so that ads show up on third party sites affiliated with the search provider. As an example, see “Ads by Google? scattered around the site: www.davechaffey.com. It’s well worth distinguishing between content and search advertising as they have different characteristics. Note that Google will display your ads on their content network unless you explicitly opt out. You should generally bid lower and display different ads for Content networks, probably being more provocative as people aren’t explicitly searching when your ads are displayed. You should possibly promote your brand. e.g. “Sel1for E-Commerce” as if they don’t get clicked, you may still get some benefits.

Always use site exclusions to avoid wasted ads. For content networks, ads are normally displayed next to content relevant to your keywords. Google is the dominant player and people rightly consider advertising on Google first. However, sometimes you can get great results by focusing on a smaller part of the market, accessed through one of Google’s competitors such as Yahoo or Bing (Microsoft).The advertising network Miva displays ads on The Sun and Dennis publishing web sites which is pretty significant for some sectors.

93 - Consider All The Search Engines

Details of all of the programs are at Google (http://adwords.google.com), Yahoo! (http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com) and Microsoft (http://adcenter.microsoft.com) and for Ask (www.ask.com). Help can be found at http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/rc/srch/mt_hiw.php