Monday, July 2, 2012

PPC Optimization Strategies

It is not uncommon for search engine marketers to find difficulties in developing successful Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising campaigns. In essence, the reason for their failures in PPC advertising is primarily a lack of experience and understanding as to how to use Google AdWords effectively.

With some basic knowledge and AdWords awareness, one can optimize their Pay Per Click campaigns for greater performance. Knowing of the intricacies of the Google AdWords platform and how organize cohesive campaigns and ad groups can lead to a much higher return on ad spend (ROAS).

PPC optimization is imperative to sustain success using Google Adwords. Below we touch upon many strategies to optimize your campaigns for better profitability.

Understand Keyword Match Types

Although an elementary concept in Pay Per Click advertising, understanding keyword match types is essential to be successful. Google breaks down keyword match types in three primary ways: Broad, [Exact], and "Phrase" match.

In Google search, a broad match can often times be extremely broad. For example, for a keyword phrase like "Kids military uniforms," under the broad match setting, your ad may be triggered for searches like "childrens army suit" or "youth navy uniform." In essence, broad match is very broad, so be sure you know what you're getting into if you choose to leave your keywords as broad (without "quotes" for phrase match or [brackets] for exact match.)

Using exact keyword matching by surrounding the keyword phrase in brackets will ensure that your ads are only triggered when search engine users submit that exact phrase, and nothing else. By using exact phrase matching, you can better minimize wasted impressions from broad searches and reduce budget-sucking click-throughs.

Because exact phrase match might fail to display your ads for searchers that you actual do want to capture, a great alternative is using modified broad matching. Modified broad is simply placing a "+" symbol directly in front of each keyword (with no space) that you want specifically mentioned in a user's search query. The "+" symbol ensures that this word, and only very close variations (such as plural and singular variations) are what trigger your ads. So if we bid on the keyword "+kids +military +uniforms" our ad will still be displayed for search queries like "kid military uniform" or "kids military uniforms for sale," not "childrens navy uniform."

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Do Negative Keyword Research

Negative keyword research is the effort of pinpointing undesirable keyword variations that are resulting in unwanted ad impressions. For instance if we are an ecommerce store that selling NEW "kids military uniforms," we would want to implement negative keyword variation for "used," "how to make," or "free" kids military uniforms.

By using exact keyword matching, we have no need to worry about negative keyword research; however by using modified broad match, we will need to research those unwanted variations. For many marketers, this is a crucial step to the PPC optimization process.

One of the easiest ways to conduct negative keyword research is to open the "See search terms" feature. This is located under the "Keywords" tab of the ad group you are in. Here you can view a list of all of the search terms that have triggered your ads over a certain period of time. Taking a look at all of these search queries can be very eye-opening as well as enlightening to pinpoint negative keywords to implement into the ad group.

Once you have drilled down on the keywords that you want to add as negatives, just click the check box for the unwanted keyword and hit "Add keyword as negative," which is found above the list of search queries. This will automatically implement the full keyword phrase as an exact match to your negative keyword list for that particular ad group.

Create Tight Ad Groups (with Few Keywords)

A typical mistake that online advertisers make while developing PPC campaigns and ad groups is poor keyword grouping. In most cases, ad groups with too many keywords are destined for failure. Because only one ad can serve an entire ad group, only a few, very closely related keywords should be included.

By segmenting keywords into highly focused ad groups, marketers can write targeted ads with greater relevancy to the user. In addition to ad copy, keyword-tight ad groups allow advertisers to use better landing pages. Not only does creating more focal ad groups increase the precision of the ad and its landing page, but more narrowed ad groups can increase keyword quality scores and minimize CPC's (cost per clicks).

A solid first step to optimizing your ad groups is to analyze the nature and quality scores of each group. How many keywords are in your ad groups? What are the quality scores of your keywords? How much activity is each keyword receiving (impressions/clicks)? How closely related are the keywords in the ad group?

Hopefully the answers to these questions will enable you to pinpoint the keywords in your ad group that can be applied to a new ad group. In more extensive AdWords accounts with many campaigns, sometimes a keyword can be transferred to more relevant ad group that already exist. This is a common PPC optimization strategy referred to as the "Peel & Stick".

Split-Test Your Ad Copy & Landing Pages

AdWords allows you to run multiple ad variations for each ad group. So instead of creating just one ad for each ad group, try writing three to five ads with different ad copy. By default, AdWords will begin to display the ads that are performing the best, however, AdWords does not take into account the importance of statistical relevancy, or validity. That is, AdWords will start favoring one ad over the others only after a handful of impressions and clicks when often times more data is needed to make a valid decision on which ads are working better than others.

If you are split-testing a number of ad variations, be sure to choose the option to "Rotate to show ads evenly," which is in the settings tab for the particular campaign. This way you can let your ads run for awhile before gauging the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of the ad copy.

Equally important (if not more important) is split-testing your landing pages. This may not be an option if you are advertising an ecommerce store with specific product pages as the destination URL of the ad. However for other businesses and industries, testing various landing page designs and concepts is critical, especially for competitive keyword targets. Try testing various types of call-to-actions as well as using different landing page copy. Another great strategy is to make use of videos and images where relevant.

Users have a lot of expectations these days while browsing the Web, so be sure to optimize your Pay Per Click campaigns to their fullest potential.


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