8 Reasons Why PPC Campaigns Fail

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re a PPC pro – someone who does PPC for a living. At a minimum, you have some kind of interest in PPC: if you’re not doing it for a living, maybe you’re trying to learn, or maybe you do SEO or some other kind of internet marketing and want to understand PPC as part of the marketing mix.

Every PPC professional has had at least one campaign that failed in some way. It didn’t meet the expectations of your client or boss. In the agency world, it’s common nowadays to inherit existing PPC accounts that were poorly managed in one way or another and failed to meet client expectations.

So what are the reasons why PPC campaigns fail? Is it just incompetence on the part of the PPC manager.

Not always.

Sure, there’s some incompetence out there, as there is in any field. We’ve all seen accounts with a single campaign that’s full of broad match keywords driving to the homepage. But that’s not common. Here are some of the common reasons I’ve seen PPC campaigns fail.

Lack of goals.

As the old adage goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Setting goals is a basic tenet of any marketing plan, and yet it’s common to see advertisers whose stated goal is “we need to get ads on Google.” Sorry, but “getting ads on Google” is not a marketing strategy or goal.

Lack of conversion tracking.

What good is setting a destination if you don’t know when you’ve arrived there? Without proper conversion tracking, you’re flying blind. You’ll never know if you achieved your goal or not. It always surprises me when we see accounts with no conversion tracking whatsoever. It shocks me when clients resist putting tracking codes on their website – and yet it happens more often than I’d like to admit.

Refusing to put conversion tracking on your website is like refusing to use a cash register at your store checkout. Sure, you could just have employees stuff all the cash in a drawer – but at the end of the day, how would you know how many units you sold? How can you tell if employees are skimming from the till? Without a tracking system, you won’t. Same thing goes for PPC.

Poor campaign structure.

I alluded to this earlier – the horror story of a single campaign full of broad match. But PPC campaign structure problems go beyond the obvious. We inherited an account that looked great on the surface: its campaigns were set up by geo location and by brand or non-brand keywords. Problem was, the brand campaigns had non-brand keywords in them, and vice versa.

Campaign structure is only as good as the person managing it. You must follow it.

Poor landing pages.

So many PPC advertisers have great campaigns, with great structure, keywords, and ad copy – and then they fall down on landing pages. Having poor landing pages while spending money on PPC ads is the equivalent of buying a Super Bowl ad for a dirty, disorganized store with mean sales clerks. It doesn’t make sense.

Use landing page best practices to ensure that your online store is clean, well-organized, and ready to convert.

Bad ad copy.

Good campaign structure and landing pages are critical to success, but so is good ad copy. In just a few characters, your ad copy must convey what it is you’re offering, what you want users to do, and why they should do it. It’s a tough challenge, and many advertisers fail.

Ensure your ad copy is as good as it can be by using this cheat sheet.

Campaigns aren’t managed actively, or aren’t managed well.

PPC is not a “set it and forget it” medium. Setting up good campaigns is only the beginning. Successful PPC managers spend most of their time optimizing keywords, ad copy, bids, and many other elements of PPC.

A lot of businesses wrongly assume that a junior-level marketing staffer can manage their PPC campaigns on a part-time basis. Unless that person has PPC experience, this is almost always a failing proposition. Hiring an experienced PPC manager, whether to work in house or in an agency, is the best option for most advertisers.

You’ve done all this, and the campaign is still failing.

What now? Sometimes, despite our best efforts, campaigns continue to underperform. What can be done? Check out this post on how to solve the biggest problems in PPC.

PPC isn’t for every business.

It’s rare, but every once in a while there is a business or campaign that just doesn’t work. At this point, you may have to face the reality that PPC isn’t right for this business. Just make sure you’ve tried all options before conceding defeat.

What are some of the reasons you’ve seen PPC campaigns fail? Share in the comments!

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PPC Book Review: PPC SEM An Hour A Day

ppc an hour a dayOne of my favorite books for new PPC pros is Pay Per Click Search Engine Marketing An Hour a Day by two of my favorite PPC people, David Szetela and Joe Kerschbaum. The format of the book literally takes the reader on a 9-month journey to learn all the ins and outs of PPC – in just one hour per day.

Published in 2010, you may think the book is totally outdated by now. And if you look at it on the surface, it is. But I still recommend PPC An Hour A Day to novice PPC’ers, because the fundamentals haven’t changed in the 14 years I’ve been doing PPC. Keyword research is still keyword research. Good ad copy is still good ad copy. Good landing pages are still good landing pages. Sure, the screen shots may not look like what you’re seeing, but if you look past that, you’ll learn how to do PPC the right way by reading this book.

The first three chapters of the book cover PPC fundamentals: the art and science of PPC, how PPC works, and core PPC skills and objectives. These chapters are a sort of “required reading” prerequisite for the meat of the book, which is the “hour a day part.” Readers will need to devote the time to read about 50 pages before they jump into any real PPC work. And that’s a good thing – PPC is so complex these days that it’s risky to just start running campaigns without any background knowledge.

Once you finish the first 3 chapters, then the “hour a day” work begins. I love the progression of the book: it starts with keywords, ad copy, and landing pages, which are the building blocks of a successful PPC campaign. From there, it moves into optimization, Microsoft, and Adwords Editor.

The book is Adwords-first, meaning it teaches you the concepts in Adwords, and then moves to other engines. This approach makes sense, since Adwords is the standard-bearer for the PPC industry. It’s often easier to launch campaigns in Adwords, and then import them to Bing Ads.

Probably the only section of the book that’s truly outdated is the chapter on Microsoft’s Bing Ads. It wasn’t even called Bing Ads when the book was written – it was still Microsoft adCenter. Most of the differences between the old adCenter and Adwords mentioned in the book have been brought to parity by the Bing Ads engineering team, so you’ll have fewer gyrations to go through when importing your campaigns.

The book also covers YSM, which doesn’t exist anymore. Sure, there is Yahoo Gemini, but it’s quite different from the old YSM, and not as widely used. I still recommend reviewing these chapters, as there is a lot you can get out of the Microsoft chapter in particular.

All in all, PPC SEM An Hour a Day is a book that stands up over time. The fundamentals are there, broken out into digestible chunks that anyone can master. And if you’re working through the book and have questions, remember there’s always PPCChat on Twitter. ! Come ask us about anything you read that’s confusing – we’re here to help!

You can find PPC SEM An Hour a Day on Amazon. Check it out and let me know what you think!

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Yes, The Google Display Network Can Drive PPC Conversions!

I remember when Google launched the Google Display Network. It was called the Content Network back then, and it was part of search campaigns. In the beginning, not only were you stuck with the same bids for search as for display, but you couldn’t opt out of the content network at all!

Thankfully, Google saw the light and fixed things pretty quickly: first, allowing an opt-out, and second, allowing separate bids. Then, finally, Google gave us the ability to create distinct GDN campaigns.

I often hear people say to avoid the GDN like the plague, claiming poor conversion rates and low-quality traffic. And that’s what you’ll find if you merely copy your search campaigns to display (or worse, run display in combination with search). But a carefully crafted GDN campaign can drive conversions at a low cost.

In fact, I’ve written about how to profit from the Google Display Network. Let’s revisit some of those tactics, and talk about some new ones as well.

Generate awareness.

OK, awareness doesn’t always lead to conversions. But if you have a new product that people aren’t searching for, or if you’re targeting a niche audience, the GDN is a great way to reach people who may not be aware of your product. Impressions are usually high in the GDN, meaning lots of exposure for your ads. With a carefully crafted campaign and strategy, you can generate not only awareness, but conversions for a product that people may not be searching for.

Also, if you’re using rich media image ads, you can drive a lot of awareness without anyone even clicking on your ad! Remember, you don’t pay for impressions in the GDN, so engaging or interesting ads can capture attention without costing a lot in clicks.

Create remarketing lists.

Sure, you can do remarketing on the GDN, but you can also use GDN traffic to create remarketing or RLSA lists. This works especially well for new or niche products as mentioned in the example above. With the right targeting, you can drive people to your website from the GDN at a low cost, and then use RLSA or remarketing to get them to convert.

Launch in a new region.

A geotargeted GDN campaign can be a great way to create awareness of your company in a new geographic region. Let’s say you’re well-established in the US, and just recently launched in Canada. Or, you opened a new location in a new city within the US. Create a geotargeted GDN campaign to generate awareness of your business – again, at a lower CPC than you’d find with search. (Hat tip to Timothy Jensen for this idea!)

Get your ads on YouTube and other high-traffic sites.

Yes, YouTube is part of the GDN, as are other high-profile sites that you may not be able to afford otherwise. We frequently see our clients’ GDN ads on YouTube, even as in-stream ads showing over videos. This is great exposure for clients who may not otherwise have the assets (such as videos) to run on YouTube.

In my 2014 article, I talked about getting on to LinkedIn via the GDN. I’m not sure that’s still possible. That said, Microsoft’s recent purchase of LinkedIn could lead to an entirely new way to serve ads on LinkedIn – albeit not through the GDN.

As with any PPC campaign, driving conversions through the GDN requires attention and optimization. You’ll need to monitor your placement reports and remove any poor-performing sites. Test ad copy and ad variations like crazy. Try different targeting options: placement, keyword, interest, and combinations of these. Just be careful not to restrict your audience to the point that you don’t get any traffic.

With careful planning and monitoring, you can generate conversions from the GDN!

What are your favorite ways to use the GDN? Share in the comments!

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SMX Advanced 2016: My Presentation

Yesterday, I presented at SMX Advanced on Conversion Rates and the Laws of Diminishing Astonishment. It was a great panel, and I’m excited to share my deck with my readers. Enjoy!

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5 Challenges for PPC Lead Generation In 2016

In 2015, I wrote a post detailing 5 challenges for PPC lead generation. Lead generation in PPC, especially in Google, continues to be a struggle for many B2B advertisers. Here’s why the reasons outlined in my 2015 post are still true this year.

Nothing is sold.

Google loves to talk about all the great ways to sell products via AdWords. You can set up a shopping feed, which has been enhanced recently; you can use mobile ads to direct shoppers to your local store, and you can even track store visits to measure foot traffic from PPC ads.

All of this is great for ecommerce advertisers – and useless for most B2B advertisers who use PPC. Lead generation advertisers don’t sell products through a shopping cart or a brick-and-mortar storefront. These advertisers are national or even international companies who, at best, have a local sales force that calls on businesses. No one is going to buy a $1,000,000 enterprise software package through an online shopping cart with a credit card. So none of these lovely features apply to B2B.

Lead generation advertisers can’t use Shopping feeds.

As mentioned above, Shopping is a non-event for B2B. And in February, Google removed all the ads in the right rail, relegating them to the top and bottom of the SERPs. The only thing that appears in the right rail now is shopping ads. Lead generation advertisers can’t use shopping. So we’re locked out of that prime real estate.

Landing pages can be a challenge.

Yes, even in the 2016 world of PPC, lead generation landing pages can be a challenge. Testing landing pages is an even bigger challenge.

Lately, Google has been pushing dynamic features like dynamic search ads and dynamic sitelinks. These features are a big timesaver for ecommerce advertisers who are selling hundreds of products – I wish we’d had them when I was doing in-house ecommerce PPC!

But for lead generation advertisers, dynamic ads and extensions are a nightmare. Frequently, we have a few specific pages we want to send search visitors to, and they’re often built on a CMS like Marketo or Eloqua. The main client site usually isn’t optimized for lead gen, so we don’t want to send people there. We don’t want Google crawling the site and creating dynamic stuff out of it. So we don’t use dynamic search ads, and we opt out of dynamic sitelinks.

Only initial responses are visible in the PPC accounts.

This is generally still true and is still a problem. It’s very difficult to mash together CRM data and initial conversion data and optimize based on it. Even phone call conversion data, if you’re using 3rd party call tracking, is hard to match up with PPC data, unless you’re using a bid management platform like Acquisio.

That said, there are a few companies out there who’ve created CRM integration with AdWords. And AdWords just launched a Salesforce import of AdWords data – one of the first innovations strictly for PPC lead generation that I can remember.

PPC tools and features are often at odds with lead generation.

A while ago, I wrote a post titled 3 Signs That Google Hates B2B Advertisers. It’s still true, and Julie Friedman Bacchini did a good job of outlining how Google ignored B2B in their recent set of announcements.

I’m thrilled with the fact that we will be able to bid separately for tablets again. Tablets perform universally badly for lead generation. And expanded text ads will be a boon to lead generation advertisers. Just this week, I struggled with describing B2B services, many of which use long words, in only 70 characters.

All that said, I’m particularly frustrated by the focus on local and mobile. I get that mobile is huge and can’t be ignored. Even our B2B clients see a lot of mobile traffic. But voice search continues to pose problems. And none of our clients have physical locations that customers can visit. People aren’t searching for “enterprise software sellers near me.” All the focus on “near me” is, frankly, annoying.

I still hold out hope that Google will finally show some love to PPC lead generation advertisers. But I’m not holding my breath.

What do you think? Will Google ever consider lead gen? Or will they continue to focus on pizza parlors? Share in the comments!

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Voice Search and PPC Relevance: A Match Made in Hell

Voice search has come on strong in the past year or so. Bing Ads has been ahead of the pack on voice search, predicting a year ago that it would be big. Purna Virji of Bing Ads talked a lot about voice search in her recent Reddit AMA, as well.

I’ve definitely noticed more obvious voice queries in our clients’ search query reports lately. The much-ballyhooed “near me” searches are showing up in droves in several client accounts. We’re also seeing really long search queries, with 15-20 words not uncommon. Queries that start with “give me the number for” or “can I get the name of” or “what’s the company on First and Main” are prevalent, as well.

Voice search is obviously cool and efficient for the user. It’s so easy to say “OK Google” and start asking a question in natural language. Cars nowadays are equipped with Bluetooth connectivity to mobile phones, giving drivers the opportunity to perform voice searches without taking their eyes off the road. My teenagers almost never type a search query into their phones – they either use OK Google or Siri. It’s the stuff of Star Trek: “Computer! Identify that flying object!”

As search marketers, though, voice search is wreaking a bit of havoc. The search engines, despite their outward support of voice search, seem to have trouble handling lengthy voice queries. Our clients’ ads have shown on some highly irrelevant queries that are obviously voice searches.

The challenge is multiplied if you’re using call-only ads. Call-only ads are great in that they display a nice big “Call” button:

Call Extensions Mobile

But when call-only ads show on irrelevant voice searches, they tend to generate unqualified phone calls – wasting client call center resources on top of wasted click costs.

Another issue is that the engine’s negative keyword functionality hasn’t kept up with voice search. Negative keywords don’t work when the negative term appears more than 10 words into a search query. So if you have “free” as a negative keyword, and someone voice-searches “what’s the name of the company on fifth and main that offers free haircuts to kids,” your ad will still show – even if you’re not offering free haircuts. This is becoming a bigger and bigger problem for our clients.

Another huge issue is close variants. Close variants have always been a problem, but with voice search, we’re seeing even bigger challenges.

Take the example of “company” vs. “companies.” In theory, search queries with either word should perform the same. A search for “business phone company” should perform the same as “business phone companies.”

The problem is, with voice search, the two are very different. Let’s look at an example.

Consider these two queries:

what’s the name of the business phone company on 5th avenue
business phone companies that can help my small business

The first query is clearly someone who is looking for a specific business. They just can’t remember its name. If you’re that business, you’re in luck. If you’re not, you’re going to get a lot of clicks and/or phone calls from people looking for a competitor! Not cool.

The second query is clearly from a user who is looking for a business phone company. If you’re that advertiser, this is exactly the prospect you want. It’s an obvious lead-generation question that should convert well.

And yet, if you’re bidding on “business phone companies,” your ad will serve for both queries, because of close variants.

I’ve become increasingly frustrated with this as time goes on. There’s no way to keep your ad from showing on irrelevant searches, and the irrelevant searches are becoming more frequent due to voice search – leading to worsening ROI from paid search.

We can only hope that the engines will reconsider their stand on close variants and give us the option to choose to include them once again. Otherwise, I can envision paid search quickly becoming too expensive with too low an ROI for many advertisers.

What do you think? Is voice search helping your PPC performance, or hurting it? Share in the comments!

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3 Ways We Failed at Digital Advertising

In many ways, advertising makes the world go round. We help businesses sell products. We make users aware of new things that they may need or want. And we try to keep it fun and relevant while we’re doing it.

The digital age has brought a revolution of sorts to the advertising world. With digital advertising, the high costs, long lead times, and lack of results that were common in traditional media became a thing of the past. Instead of local businesses cutting expensive TV spots or buying newspaper ads, they’re now using search and display to promote their products and services.

Digital is less expensive than traditional media. It offers a nimbleness and immediacy that’s unmatched in the advertising world. It’s measurable down to minute details.

And yet, we’ve found ways to fail at digital advertising.

Like anything else, there is a right way and a wrong way to advertise. Here are 3 ways we’ve failed at digital advertising.

Poor landing pages.

Landing pages aren’t advertising per se. You can have the best landing page in the world, but like the tree falling in the woods, a great landing page makes no sound if no one is there to hear (or see) it. Advertising is needed to drive visitors to your landing pages. And poor landing pages, sadly, are still common, even in 2016.

Sure, it takes more effort up front to create great landing pages. But it’s worth it in the end. You wouldn’t spend a bunch of money creating and buying TV ads, only to have people show up at your dirty, cluttered store – and you shouldn’t spend money on digital advertising until your “virtual” store is in shape.

Use landing page best practices to avoid this common digital advertising failure.

Failing to understand the mobile mindset.

There’s no doubt that mobile devices have changed our lives. What was once the stuff of Star Trek writers’ imaginations is now in the palm of each and every one of our hands. I’m sure few of us can imagine life without our mobile devices now.

Each of the past 5 years has been declared “the year of mobile,” and yet it’s taken digital advertisers far too long to catch up. I still see websites that aren’t mobile optimized, forcing PPC advertisers to shut off mobile altogether – thereby missing out on a huge chunk of potential traffic and conversions.

And the ads we’re showing on mobile are terrible. The user experience is beyond painful.

Case in point: an eConsultancy article this week that asks, Has CNN created the worst ever mobile ad experience?

It may not be the worst ever, but CNN has definitely failed at mobile digital advertising – as have a lot of other advertisers. In our greed to capture as many leads, subscriptions, and dollars as possible, we’ve forgotten that there is an actual user on the other side of the mobile phone who just wants to read your content without having to tap a tiny “X” in the top of the screen to get your crappy ads to go away.

Stop the madness.

Bombarding users with untargeted remarketing.

I still remember when I first heard about remarketing, at an SES conference about 10 years ago. I was blown away by the fact that we could actually target previous visitors of our website with specific ads that were different for each user. What a game-changer!

Remarketing has definitely changed the game for digital advertising. It’s enabled us to have the frequency advertisers enjoyed with the repetition found in traditional media like TV and radio – and the added bonus of targeting that the traditional media lack.

And yet, so many advertisers fail at remarketing by doing it wrong.

Remarketing isn’t stalking. If you’re aware that ads are following you around the web, the advertiser has failed at digital advertising.

If you’re using remarketing – and you should be – I implore you to put some effort into targeting your audiences and ads. I’m going to be speaking about remarketing at SMX Advanced in a few weeks, so if you’re coming to that great conference, I hope you’ll attend my session. Come introduce yourself!

Digital advertising is great. It’s provided me with a wonderful and fulfilling career. I hope we can stop failing at it.

What are some ways you’ve seen advertisers fail at digital advertising? Share in the comments!

Editor’s Note: eConsultancy posted a follow-up article to the CNN post on June 15, 2016. It’s an interesting read.

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How To Pick The Best PPC Ad

In a recent thread on Reddit, a user asked how to pick the best PPC ad from an ad copy test. The user mentioned two ads, one that had 6 conversions and another that had 4. They asked which ad they should roll out with.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, I hope your answer would be “none of them.” Ads with single-digit conversions usually do not have enough data to determine a true winner.

Most of the commenters pointed this out, but there were enough responses suggesting that the user guess at a winner that I decided I need to write yet another post on ad copy testing. Here’s a guide for how to pick the best PPC ad.

Ad Testing Overview

About a year ago, I wrote a comprehensive post on ad copy testing. This should be your starting point for setting up and evaluating PPC ad copy tests.

Give It Enough Time

Tempting as it may be to decide on a winning ad early on, it’s a mistake. Even very high volume accounts should accumulate at least a week’s worth of data before deciding on a winner. And definitely don’t declare a winner because one ad had 6 conversions and the other had 4. While PPC provides a lot of immediate data, ad testing is too important to let a few days determine your results.

Test Smart

There are so many things you can test in PPC: titles, descriptions, calls to action, display URLs, landing pages….. it’s tempting to test a whole bunch of them at once. Resist the temptation. Just because you can test something doesn’t mean you should.

Don’t Run Too Many Ads at Once

I see this with nearly every account we inherit: ad groups with as many as 10-12 ad variations running at the same time. Rarely does that make sense, even in large, high volume accounts. It just takes too long to determine a winner – and meanwhile, you’re spending money on losing ads. Too many ads can definitely ruin ad copy testing.

Use My Ultimate Cheat Sheet

My Ultimate Cheat Sheet on PPC Ad Copy is a handy reference when setting up PPC ad copy tests. Use it to make sure you’re setting up quality tests.

Read The AdAlysis Blog

I’ve made no secret of my love for the AdAlysis tool. It’s saved me countless hours in evaluating ad copy tests. The AdAlysis blog is a treasure trove of articles on smart ad copy testing. Give it a read and subscribe today.

What are your favorite tips for choosing winning ads? Share in the comments!

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10 Years of Beyond The Paid

10 years ago this month, I tried a little experiment. Blogging about search was becoming all the rage. Industry movers and shakers were all starting up their own blogs. So I decided to set one up for myself as an experiment.

Back then, there was no WordPress. There were a few paid blog platforms (Movable Type, anyone?), but really the only free game out there was Blogger. So that’s where I started.

I came up with Beyond the Paid as a play on Jim Gaffigan’s Beyond the Pale comedy album, which had just come out. He’s hilarious, by the way – go check him out if you’ve never heard his standup. Anyway, I thought it’d be a fun name for a PPC blog. Little did I know that a few years later, I’d end up creating an LLC for myself with the same name!

I took a look back over the last 10 years’ worth of posts. Here are some momentous occasions from the past 10 years in search, or at least in my life in search.

2006

It’s amazing to think that in 2006, I’d already been doing PPC for 4 years. Looking back on my posts from that year, you’d hardly recognize we’re talking about the same job. Topics included MSN, which exists now as Bing; click fraud, which still happens, but isn’t the big to-do it was back in 2006; and Danny Sullivan leaving Search Engine Watch. How many PPC pros today even know that Danny started SEW? This was HUGE news at the time, with everyone wondering what would happen to SES and the SEW site.

2007

The pay per click version of Adwords had been around for 5 years in 2007, and nefarious advertisers figured out that they could make a lot of money gaming the system. Garbitrage, the practice of creating crappy Adsense domains and then running Adwords to send traffic to them and make money, was rampant. I wrote about garbitrage in May of 2007. Note in that post that I also mention the beta of Google’s placement report. It’s hard to imagine search without that now, but it was new and exciting in 2007.

2007 was a momentous year for me personally, too. My twins turned 10, I won a trip to the very first SMX Advanced, and in October, I left the in-house world to work for an agency. 9 years later, I still miss my MagazineLine colleagues (many of whom are still there), but I’ve been thankful for the opportunities the agency world has given me.

2008

The huge news of 2008 was the Microsoft-Yahoo deal. Prior to 2008, PPC pros had 3 major search engines to deal with: Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Adwords was then, as it is today, the market leader; Yahoo was second, and Microsoft was a distant third. But Yahoo’s search platform, Panama, was awful. It lacked an offline editor, was slow, and just painful to use. MSN adCenter, as it was called at the time, wasn’t much better, but Microsoft was actively innovating, much like they still are today.

I was happy when the deal was announced. I found it interesting in 2014 when Yahoo decided to re-enter the fray with Gemini – but not interesting enough to actually try it.

2009

The search engine Bing officially launched in 2009. It was announced at Microsoft’s Search Summit, a sort of predecessor to Bing Ads Next. I was lucky to be in attendance, and the Bing hype was real.

Not to be outdone, Adwords continued its frenetic pace of change. In 2009, they updated their policy to no longer permit multiple display URLs in a single ad group. This wasn’t something I’d done on a large scale, so it didn’t affect me, but I know plenty of advertisers had a lot of restructuring to do.

2009 also marked my very first speaking engagement, at SES Chicago. I’d been attending SES since 2003, and blogging since 2006, and yet somehow had it in my head that no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I owe a debt of gratitude to Kevin Newman, then my editor at Search Engine Watch, for pushing me to pitch to speak. Speaking at search conferences is one of the best parts of my job – I love sharing and teaching others about PPC.

2010

2010 marked the official demise of Yahoo Search Marketing, which had been brewing since 2008. While there were aspects of YSM I missed, it made it easier to deal with only 2 PPC engines rather than 3.

Modified broad match made its debut in 2010 – can you believe it’s been 6 years? Finally, we had our “old” broad match back – MBM works the way broad match used to in the early days of Adwords, before close variants ever became a thing. It’s hard to imagine life without MBM now.

Adwords also launched Segments in 2010. Data that used to require running a report, or data that wasn’t available at all, became visible right in the UI. Segments is a feature I use regularly to diagnose trends and issues in accounts.

2011

I only have one milestone for 2011, and it’s a huge one: Google’s SSL change, aka the beginning of Not Provided. While this change didn’t have a big impact on PPC, it changed the whole game for SEO. I’m still not a fan.

2012

In January 2012, I started at my current company, gyro. I can’t believe I’ve been here 4 years! I’m eternally grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had in my career.

I also finally moved my blog to WordPress in September of 2012. After 6 years on Blogger and being frustrated with its lack of flexibility, I took the plunge and have never looked back. If you’re thinking about starting a blog, WordPress is the way to go.

Finally, in 2012 I wrote one of the most popular posts on the blog, about Adwords DIY. The post was in response to a New York Times article about a guy who was trying to run PPC on his own for his business, and failing at it. The post generated a lot of discussion, with the conclusion being that PPC had really gotten too complicated for most small business owners. Funny to think that I started in PPC as a sort of DIY side project!

2013

2013 was all about Google. The biggest news of the year by far was Enhanced Campaigns. We’ve all gotten used to Enhanced Campaigns by now, but there are still little things that frustrate me to this day. Maybe the upcoming Adwords redesign will solve some of the issues. I’m not holding my breath.

I also noticed a big decline in service levels from Google around 2013. Long gone were the days of the Google Fridge and lava lamps, but we’d still had a semi-regular Adwords rep – until 2013 when they moved to the quarterly model. I’m still bitter about the poor Adwords support, by the way.

2014

I got lucky in 2014, writing 2 of the most popular posts on this blog. The first was 26 Free Tools for PPC, which also ran on Search Engine Watch. This was a crowdsourced post from PPCChat, and I’m ever grateful for my friends there who are always a source of ideas and inspiration.

I also wrote a post on how not to do remarketing – which ended up being the most-commented post ever on my blog. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of different opinions on how to properly remarket to people.

2015

Ah, 2015. The year of the infamous Call Only Ads. A year later, we’re still getting terrible performance from call only ads. I hate when Google takes a good thing and turns it into a bad thing.

Google created yet more fun with the launch of the new Adwords Editor. I’ve gotten used to it, but I still don’t love it. Alas, Bing Ads is working on a new Editor that mirrors Google’s, so I guess I’m stuck with it.

On a personal note, my twins graduated high school in 2015. They were starting kindergarten when I started doing Adwords. It’s crazy how fast time has flown by, especially when I’m doing a job I love. Now if time could slow down with the kids just a bit…

2016

We’re not even halfway through the year, and I can’t even imagine what’s in store these next few months in PPC. Already we’ve lost right hand side ads and have seen “wider” search results. We know Google is revamping Adwords. Bing continues to innovate and is rolling out with Bing Ads Editor for Mac later this year. It’ll be fun to see what happens next!

So, here’s to the next 10 years on this blog. If they’re anything like the first 10, I’m in for a wild ride.

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Lead Generation On Steroids: Using Audience Targeting For Max Impact

Pay per click advertising (PPC) is known for being highly targetable and trackable. And yet, with click costs continuing to rise, reaching the right audience in paid search and paid social is more important than ever – posing a challenge for many advertisers. For B2B advertisers using PPC for lead generation, it’s more important than ever to understand how to reach a B2B audience and meet lead generation goals at an acceptable cost.

PPC for B2B lead generation poses different challenges from B2C ecommerce. In lead generation, nothing is sold online. Instead, advertisers are using PPC to drive leads, which will then be nurtured and ultimately passed on to salespeople for follow up. The time from lead to sale varies by industry, but can take as long as 6 months to a year.

Reaching the right audience can also be a challenge. Searchers don’t self-identify as business decision makers looking for solutions. Many search queries are ambiguous, and could come from either a business or a consumer. For example, a search for “Windows software” could come from an individual looking to purchase Windows for their home PC, or from a business with 1,000 laptops needing the software.

In addition, B2B keywords are often much more competitive and expensive than B2C keywords. CPCs of $20-30 are common, with $50-$100 not unheard of.

Businesses, therefore, need to be laser-focused with PPC targeting. That’s why audience targeting is so important for lead generation.

Why Audience Targeting?

Audience targeting really started with paid social. In the early days of paid social, ads on social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn were targeted by audience. The challenge with social PPC in the early days was that it lacked intent. We knew we were targeting the right people, but we didn’t know if they were in the market for our product.

Search PPC, on the other hand, offered clear intent – but no idea who was doing the searching.

Google began to change the game in 2010 when they launched remarketing: a way to target people via the Google Display Network who’d previously visited your site. While remarketing is more targeted than regular Google Display ads, it still lacks the intent of search.

Then, two years ago, Google changed the game with the launch of Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). RLSA combines the power of audience targeting with the power of search intent. Advertisers can serve one search ad to users who’ve never visited their website and another to users who have.

We’ll go into more detail on RLSA later in the post.

How Paid Search Works Well

Paid search has been so successful for a reason. Search is a deliberate activity. People don’t hang out on search engines all day – they go there with a specific task or question in mind. They’re telling us what they need, and as advertisers it’s our job to answer. With search, unlike social, the users tell us what they are looking for.

Many searches are highly commercial in nature. Consider this Google Suggest example:

sample google search
If a user searches for “where can I buy,” they’re ready to purchase. If you’re Cards Against Humanity, the post office, a dry ice vendor, or a drone seller, wouldn’t you want a targeted ad for your product to appear on these searches?

This is the sweet spot for paid search: the ability to use keywords to serve ads at the precise moment a user raises their hand. It’s why so many advertisers love paid search.

Gaps In Paid Search

Ecommerce PPC is fairly straightforward – the advertiser’s job is simply to answer the “where can I buy” question. But for lead generation, many search queries aren’t clear.

Consider the “Windows software” example from earlier. Here’s what the search engine results page looks like for that query:

ambiguous query
The search engine result has everything but the kitchen sink. There are ads for programmers: Microsoft Azure and Nektra. There are shopping results that are clearly geared toward consumers buying one instance of Windows. And there are ads from Softmart and Office Depot that clearly are geared to B2B.

It’s easy to see the challenge for both users and advertisers on an ambiguous query like “Windows software.” Users have to wade through ads that may not be intended for them. And advertisers have to compete with other advertisers who are targeting a totally different audience.

How Paid Social Works Well

Paid social is, in many ways, the opposite of paid search. We know exactly who the user is: their age, where they live and work, their job title, their interests, and so much more. We tell social channels everything about ourselves, and most of that info can be used to target ads. The audience picture is clear.

And people hang out on social media all day, even B2B buyers. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other social engines are online gathering places for friends and business associates. Search engines are like a gas station – a place you go for a specific task, and leave as soon as the task is complete. Social media is more like the bar Cheers, where all your friends hang out and everybody knows your name. You hang out for a long time and come back frequently.

There’s no audience ambiguity in paid social, so it’s easy to target a B2B audience. Let’s say you sell software, and want to target design engineers. Targeting on Facebook is easy:

FB Audience

LinkedIn targeting is easy too:

LI audience
It’s easy to see how specific advertisers can get with paid social targeting.

Gaps In Paid Social

The challenges with paid social are the opposite of paid search. It’s great to know exactly who the users are. But as an advertiser, you don’t know their intent, or if they’re even in the market for your product. The lack of intent can lead to frustration for advertisers who may get lots of traffic on their paid social ads, but few conversions.

So what’s an advertiser to do? Are we relegated to choosing between dealing with audience ambiguity in search, or lack of intent in social?

This is where custom audiences come in.

Audience-Based Marketing With Customer Match and Custom Audiences

Wouldn’t it be great to combine the power of audience targeting with the power of search? Wouldn’t it be great to narrow down a paid social audience to previous customers or people who’ve interacted with your website before?

Both of these tactics are possible, thanks to audience-based marketing.

Audience-based marketing is exactly what it sounds like: targeting a specific audience with your marketing. Layering audiences onto paid search and paid social helps target the right people and drive ROI.

About 3 years ago, Facebook launched Custom Audiences, a feature that allows advertisers to create a Facebook audience from phone numbers, email addresses, or Facebook user IDs. Custom audiences were a boon for B2B advertisers for whom Facebook’s traditional targeting options left them wanting. Instead of trying to guess about their audience’s interests, B2B advertisers could now upload a list of prospect emails or phone numbers, and use that as their audience.

Twitter soon followed suit with Tailored Audiences, which allows advertisers to create lists based on Twitter handles, email addresses, web visitors (via a website tag), or mobile app users. One of the best ways for B2B advertisers to find success on Twitter is to target users in their field. Many businesses and business influencers are heavy Twitter users, and advertisers can target these users and their followers.

Here’s an example of potential targets for an advertiser in the food manufacturing industry:

twitter audience
For expanded reach, advertisers can choose the “also target users like your followers” option.

What about search? In 2015, Google launched Custom Audiences, a feature that allows advertisers to upload a list of emails to use as an audience for remarketing or RLSA. Custom audiences solve the problem of ambiguous searches by only serving ads to a known audience: existing customers, for example, or a list of sales prospects who’ve signed up for your emails. Custom audiences will take B2B search marketing to the next level.

Which Option Is Right For My Business?

Your individual business goals will help you determine which tactics are right for you. Does your audience tend to hang out on social media like Facebook or Twitter? Or do they eschew social media and stick to search?

The size of your audience is also a factor. Most search and social engines require a minimum audience of 1,000 users, so if you don’t have that many email addresses on file, you won’t be able to take advantage of custom audiences or customer match. If that’s the case, you may want to try other tactics to start building your email list so you can use customer match in the future.

Cost is also a factor in determining what will be most effective. CPCs for B2B keywords on Google and Bing are often in the $20-30+ range. Can you afford to pay $30 for every click?

Social CPCs are much lower, but even within paid social, CPCs vary across engines. While LinkedIn is known for reaching a B2B audience, CPCs there are in the $7-8 range – and they’re even higher if you want to target C-level executives. Remember, conversion rates on paid social are often significantly lower than on paid search (unless you’re using custom audiences), so you may find worse ROI from LinkedIn than from paid search.

CPCs on Facebook and Twitter are lower, in the $1-2 range. Depending on your audience and your business goals, Facebook and Twitter can drive a high volume of qualified traffic.

As with all things paid search, testing and measuring is critical. Try various channels and tactics and measure like crazy to find the pockets that are working for your business.

In Summary

There are more targeting options for B2B lead generation advertisers than ever before. With careful planning and the use of tactics like custom audiences and customer match, B2B advertisers can find laser-focused lead generation from paid search and paid social.

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Acquisio Blog on April 5, 2016.

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