Can Too Many Ads Ruin PPC Ad Copy Testing?

2 weeks ago, I wrote a post on PPC ad copy testing that ended up being my most popular post for April. One of the recommendations I made was to write a lot of ads, but only test 2 ads at a time, so you can get to statistical significance faster.

But Kirk Williams had another reason not to test multiple ad variations: profitability.

multiple ad variations

I’ll admit it had occurred to me that running too many ads could hurt profitability, but I’d never run the numbers. And Kirk’s numbers in the table above were made up. So I decided to dig through historical data to see if I had any actual figures to analyze.

We inherited a large account that had up to 12 ad variations running in some ad groups. It’s a high volume account, so that many ads made some sense – except for the fact that most of this client’s conversions come in over the phone, and phone calls can’t be tracked back to ad variations. So looking at just online form fills, each variation often had only 1-2 conversions, and some had none.

I decided to use the actual data to create hypothetical scenarios, where we assume that only the best 2 ads in the ad group ran at the same time.

Scenario 1, Actual Data

scenario 1 actual

In this scenario, there are 6 ads with wildly varying statistics. I should note here that the previous agency also used “optimize for clicks” in some campaigns, but not others. Anyway, there’s one version, Version 4, with a high conversion rate, but each variation had less than 10 conversions each.

Scenario 1, Hypothetical

scenario 1 hypo

Here I took the total number of impressions for the ad group and split them evenly, and then calculated the rest of the metrics based on actual CTR and conversion rate. It’s pretty clear which ad is the winner here – and it’s also clear, based on the actual statistics, that about $1,600 was wasted on ads that weren’t converting as well as the top 2.

But was this ad group a fluke? I looked at a second example to be sure.

Scenario 2, Actual

scenario 2 actual

Here we had 5 different ads. Version 1 had the most conversions, but also the lowest conversion rate. The ad that converted the best didn’t have many impressions. There’s no clear winner here either.

Scenario 2, Hypothetical:

scenario 2 hyp

The winning ad wins by a landslide here. Cost for the 2 ads was similar, but the winner converted at more than twice the rate of the 2nd-best ad.

The caveat with Scenario 2 is that, in the actual scenario, the winning ad had so few impressions that I hesitate to extrapolate its performance over more impressions and clicks. Often I see ads have “beginner’s luck” where they do very well initially, and then settle in to a more average performance. But even if the winner didn’t convert quite as well, it likely would have beat the contenders in this instance. And in this case, about 80% of the budget was spent on losing ads. I’d hate to have to tell that to the client.

Conclusion

Based on these examples, it’s pretty clear that, at least hypothetically, running 5-6 ads wastes more money than running 2 ads. I’m willing to hear examples to the contrary, though. I know at least a few of my readers know a lot more about statistical theory than I do – what say you? Is this a legit analysis, or are there holes? Share in the comments!

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PPC Ad Copy Creation: Where To Start?

Last week’s post on ad copy testing prompted some thought-provoking discussion in the comments. My friend Jerry Nordstrom asked:

When you are creating ad variations what is your primary driver of each iteration?
Keyword intent? Keyword volume? Overall ad intent? Dynamic or Mobile only ads?

This was such a good question that I thought it deserved its own post. Here’s how I approach PPC ad copy creation.

Make sure your ad groups are tightly themed.

This may sound like it has nothing to do with ad copy, but it actually has everything to do with it. If your ad groups contain large groups of diverse keywords, writing relevant ad copy is going to be darn near impossible. With small, tightly themed ad groups, the ad copy nearly writes itself.

Let the overall intent drive your call to action.

Even now in 2015, I see a lot of ads that lack a strong call to action. They’re either full of semi-boring facts and features, or they’re trying to be funny and creative – yet they forgot the most important part, which is to tell the searcher what you want them to do! Go back to your campaign goals, review your landing page, and then tell people what you want them to do in the ad copy.

Incorporate the keyword into the copy whenever possible.

I’ve seen this done well, and done poorly. Keywords for the sake of keywords, or excessive use of dynamic keyword insertion, puts ad copy into eBay territory. But I do recommend getting the keyword into the ad if you can. It may sound old-school, but getting that bolded copy you get when the keyword shows up in the ad is still valuable.

Take keyword volume into account.

This isn’t a primary driver for me, but I do usually focus on the highest-volume keyword in the ad group when writing PPC ad copy. It’s efficient, for one thing; and it tends to perform best.

Take device and user actions on said device into account.

You probably know by now that the clients I work on are primarily B2B lead generation advertisers. Many of our clients get most of their leads over the phone. So when I’m writing mobile ad copy, I make sure to use something like “Call Us!” as a call to action. For desktop ads, I’ll say “Learn More” or “Get The Free Report” or something along those lines.

Some advertisers will find that mobile users are looking for something totally different from desktop users. Take “dominos pizza,” for example. Desktop searchers might be looking for a menu, a location nearby, or even information on the company headquarters. But mobile searchers probably are starving and want to order a pizza right now. Craft your device-specific PPC ad copy carefully.

All of the above are just starting points, mind you. Always test and refine – what works for me, or even one campaign in an account, may not work in another. Test, test, test!

How do you craft PPC ad copy? What’s your #1 go-to tip? Share in the comments!

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PPC Ad Copy Testing: 2015 Edition

I love PPC ad copy testing. It’s one of my favorite aspects of PPC. Where else can you systematically test different elements of ad text and learn what works the best – all in a relatively short period of time?

Like with many things in PPC, ad copy testing has evolved over the years. I’ve written about it a few times, and every time I look back at those articles, I realize how much has changed – and how much I’ve learned since then.

Here’s my 2015 approach to PPC ad copy testing.

Mind your campaign settings.

Google continues to insist that “optimize for clicks” and “optimize for conversions” are the “ideal settings” for ad rotation:

ad rotation

They’re still wrong. I always recommend “rotate indefinitely” unless your goal is site traffic (which it shouldn’t be).

Create a bunch of ads for each ad group.

I used to create 2 ads, run with those, and then scramble to think of new copy to test. I started my PPC career in an in-house setting, so winging it with ad testing is usually fine. When I started working in an agency, with enterprise-level clients, I realized that winging it wouldn’t cut it. Clients need to review and approve ad copy before it runs.

Now, I create as many variations as I can think of: at least 5 per ad group and 10 or more if I can. Think of everything you might want to test. Here are some ideas:

Testing Matrix
Send the whole shebang to your client or boss for approval. It’s much more efficient this way.

Test only 2 ads at once.

At this point, you may be thinking “wait a minute – why did I create 10 ads if I’m only going to run 2?” Simple: You now have new ads at the ready to swap in when a winning ad emerges.

By testing only 2 ads at once, you’ll reach statistical significance much sooner than you would if you test 5-10 ads all at the same time. You’ll also learn what’s working: did DKI perform better? Did one call to action work better than another? Then you can use this knowledge in your upcoming tests. The result? Higher conversion rates, faster.

Create an ad testing matrix.

I illustrated how to do this in an article for Search Engine Watch, so I won’t repeat it here. Suffice it to say that systematic, rather than random, ad testing is best.

Review results regularly.

How regularly depends on how much traffic you get. For high-volume ad groups, you might want to review ad test data weekly or even daily (although weekly is usually best to get a full view of performance over days of the week, especially weekends). For lower-volume ad groups, monthly may be too frequent. Find the cadence that works for you.

As for how to review results, my process has evolved dramatically over the 13 years I’ve been doing PPC. I used to use spreadsheets and manual summing, and then I’d pick the ad with the highest conversion rate. That’s problematic for a number of reasons, the biggest being the lack of statistical significance.

Then I started using statistical significance calculators, some of which have come and gone (anyone besides me still lamenting the demise of SuperSplitTester?). My current favorite manual calculator is the one from Visual Website Optimizer. Download it and use it!

My very favorite ad testing tool, though, has to be AdAlysis. It’s a paid tool, but you’ll recoup its modest cost many times over in the hours you’ll save in calculating significance. Check out this geeky goodness:

(click to see the whole thing)

At a glance, you can see which of your ads has reached significance on several metrics: CTR, conversion rate, conversions per impression, cost per converted click, conversion value/cost, and conversion value/impression. Whew! It also shows the impact on campaign performance if you pause the losing ad. Projections: done.

You can also do multi-ad group testing with AdAlysis. So if you have multiple ads with the same headline or call to action across ad groups, you can lump them together to gauge the overall impact of each element. I’ve done account-wide call-to-action testing with AdAlysis, for instance.

Its only downfall is that it only works for Adwords at the moment. So you’ll still need to analyze Bing and social ads manually.

(I’m not paid for this endorsement, by the way – I just love the product!)

Rinse and repeat.

This is my final tip in all the PPC ad copy testing articles I’ve written, and even in 2015 it needs to be said. So many ad tests are set up and never analyzed. Don’t let that happen to you! You’re better off not testing – at least you won’t see how much money you wasted on an underperforming ad.

Always review your test results and, at a minimum, pause the losers.

What are your favorite PPC ad copy testing techniques? Share in the comments!

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Facebook PPC: Not Just For Teenagers

I often hear people say, “I don’t want to use Facebook ads because I don’t want to reach teenagers or college students. I want to reach 25-65 year old decision makers.”

5-10 years ago, teenagers were the primary audience on Facebook. Today, though, it’s a much different story – nearly everyone, even grandparents, has a Facebook account.

And Facebook Ads aren’t what they used to be either. I remember trying to guess what B2B decision makers’ interests were so I could try to target them on Facebook. Ads were designed to drive clicks or “likes” and that was it – not good for most business objectives.

Fast forward to 2015. As of this writing, Facebook has 10 different objectives you can use for your ads.

facebook targeting

These objectives cover nearly every goal you might have for your Facebook PPC campaign. Recently, I decided to put some of the objectives to the test. Here’s what I found.

Background

I do social media on a volunteer basis for a local community band I’m in. We’ve used Facebook ads for a few years now to promote our big concert events. In the past, I’d just do a “boost post” or post engagement type of campaign. We got decent results, but this year I decided to try 3 different objectives: Event Responses, Post Engagement, and Website Clicks.

I created an event for the upcoming concert, and also wrote a Facebook post about it. We had a landing page with details about the concert on our band website, so I used that page for the website clicks campaign. The campaigns were geotargeted to Michigan, and I layered on interest targeting for those interested in community bands to fine-tune the audience.

I also decided to try letting Facebook set CPCs based on the objectives, rather than managing them manually. This was a big step for me – normally, I’m not a fan of letting the PPC engines control my bids, but I wanted to see what would happen.

We ran the ads for about 3 weeks prior to the event, and split our budget evenly across the 3 campaigns.

Results

First, let’s look at the basics: impressions and clicks.

impressions & clicks

This is exciting on its own: nearly 32,000 people saw our ads, we got nearly 600 clicks, and a 1.80% CTR. For social PPC, that’s huge – I consider anything over 1% to be very good.

Remember, though, that a click in social PPC is usually a click on anything in the ad that can be clicked. For Facebook, that includes post likes, shares, comments, and link clicks. And we didn’t just want people to “like” the post – we wanted them to plan to come to the event!

Let’s look at some metrics that give a better indication of intent. Did each campaign achieve its objective?

engagements
I’d say the answer is yes. The event response campaign had 63 engagements, most of which were event responses. If all of those people came to the concert, the entire campaign would have been a success based on that alone.

The post engagement campaign had a whopping 178 engagements, and also generated 21 website clicks and 15 page likes. So it drove people to the website, even though that wasn’t the objective, and we also found more people who like the page and will see announcements for future concerts. Plus, hopefully some of the 178 who engaged with the post came to the concert too.

The website clicks campaign also did what it was supposed to. It drove 108 clicks to the site. If only a fraction of those people came to the concert, we’d be happy.

Put them all together and it adds up to a successful campaign in terms of user actions.

But how much did all this cost?

Cost

Now, you really can’t beat that. Less than $150 for 129 clicks to the site, 19 new likes and 50 event responses? What a deal! $0.26 per click is a bargain, too – it’s been a while since I’ve seen $0.26 CPCs in search.

The huge eye-opener here is that these were bids managed by the Facebook algorithm, not by my bid management prowess. I’m not sure I could have done any better, and I might have done worse. I was amazed to find that we got such great CPCs by letting Facebook do their thing. It took a lot less time to manage, and was highly successful.

Conclusion

The campaign was a rousing success – not only in the number of responses we got, but also what I learned from it. Part of the reason I tried the 3 different campaigns was to test how well they each worked. Sure, I’ve used Facebook PPC frequently for “official” client business, but usually with a defined objective – for example, the client wants to drive website clicks, so we choose that objective. I never tested multiple objectives side by side to see how they’d perform. I have to say, I’m really impressed.

Have you seen similar results from objective-based Facebook Ads campaigns? Did they deliver what they were supposed to at a great cost? Share in the comments!

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Fail Fast, Learn Fast

Last week, I read a fascinating article on MediaPost about Google’s “planned failures.” The great gift of the internet and digital world, according to the Googlers quoted in the article, is the ability to fail fast. “The price of failing slow is high,” it says.

Google has had tons of failures. Some, like Froogle, morphed into something else over time. Some, like Google Reader, became outdated. Some, like Knol, just died. Many would say that other projects should die, such as self-driving cars or Google+.

Probably Google’s biggest, or at least most well-known, recent failure is Glass. I wrote about why it failed in MediaPost a while back.

Coming up with crazy projects is in Google’s DNA. Some of them work, some don’t – but most failed quickly. Fail fast, learn fast is their motto.

I like to apply the same principle to PPC. Not that I plan to fail, but we all know that not everything we try in PPC is going to work. Some keywords will drive hundreds of clicks without a single conversion. An ad copy variation isn’t going to convert. Some landing pages are less than ideal. Or you forgot to exclude mobile apps in a display campaign (don’t ask).

With even the most egregious PPC failures, though, we should always learn something – just like Google does. Google learned that people aren’t ready to wear weird glasses to take pictures and search for stuff. But you can bet they’ll take the best aspects of that technology and roll out with something else.

That’s what you need to do in PPC. Find the losers and pause them – but then study them to figure out why they were losers.

Found an ad that performed terribly? Why? Was the headline weak? Did it include ambiguous phrases? Was there an unfortunate instance of DKI in there somewhere? Did it lead to the wrong landing page? Use these learnings to fix what’s broken.

I always tell new PPC hires that almost nothing is permanent in PPC. That bad ad, keyword, or display placement can almost always be spotted very quickly – within a day or two if you’re doing your job well – and paused with (usually) minimal ill effects.

I’ll even report on bad stuff – clients need to know why things didn’t work. I don’t generally call attention to outright mistakes, but I do point out keywords that didn’t work or ad copy that didn’t resonate. One such conversation with a client recently led to the decision to create a new landing page that’s more relevant for a subset of client keywords. That’s a good thing! We failed fast and learned fast.

It’s also good to start strong to learn fast. We’ve all had clients who launch in the middle of the month, even though they may have assigned a full month’s budget. I almost never pro-rate the spend. For instance, if the budget is $10,000 and we launch on the 15th, I don’t aim to spend $5,000. I aim to spend $10,000. Fail fast, learn fast. That way, month 2 hits the ground with a fine-tuned campaign, instead of waiting 2 more weeks to learn stuff.

What about you? Do you fail fast and learn fast? Or are you more conservative? Share in the comments!

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4 Unconventional Ways To Do PPC Keyword Research

Ah, keyword research. It’s probably the most fundamental element of PPC, and one of the first things we all learned how to do. When I started doing PPC in 2002, keyword research tools were few and far between. I’m not sure Google even had a tool – or if they did, it was very rudimentary. I remember the GoTo/Overture keyword tool being more robust than Google’s, which is hard to believe now. We used paid tools like Wordtracker for PPC keyword research back in those days.

But enough of the walk down memory lane. Nowadays, PPC keyword research seems straightforward – just go to the Google or Bing keyword tool and take it from there. Or if you want to get really crazy, you might use Bing Ads Intelligence. These are great starting points, and I usually begin here as well. But there are a few drawbacks to using those tools:

•    Suggestions are intended to maximize the engine’s revenue, not yours
•    Your competitors are likely using the same tools and ending up with the same keywords
•    Sometimes, the suggestions are flat-out terrible

So what’s a good PPC manager to do? Here are 4 unconventional ways to do PPC keyword research.

Competitor Tools

Using a tool like SEMrush, Spyfu or Adgooroo, you can learn what keywords your competitors are bidding on. While the competition may have started their keyword research process with a Google or Bing tool, chances are that if they’ve been using PPC for a while, they’ve added new terms to their list that the tools didn’t uncover. Piggy-back off their efforts by using a competitor research tool to find your competitors’ keyword lists.

Here’s an example from SEMrush for Verizon:

semrush
Sure, a lot of the keywords on the list are branded terms – no surprise there. But as you dig down, you’ll see other terms that might work for you. Note the misspelling of “Verison” – that’s a gold mine in and of itself. If you’re up for bidding on competitor terms, misspellings can perform quite well.

While most competitor tools require a monthly subscription, they usually offer some type of free trial or free limited use. Here’s a snapshot from Spyfu’s free option:

spyfu
The traffic info alone is valuable, and you can use the short list of keywords as a jumping-off point for further research.

Google News and Google Alerts

This one takes a little more work, but can pay off big. Set up Google Alerts for your brand, and read everything that comes through on it for a week or so. Set them up for competitors too. The idea is to learn how others talk about your brand and the products and services you offer. You might refer to your products as one thing, while your customers search for another.

The other great thing about Google Alerts is that it captures up-to-the-minute info on how people talk about you. This will help surface new keywords or phrases that are just coming into vogue.

Take some time to comb through Google News on your brand, and on key products as well. This is important not only for positive keywords, but for negatives as well. If a crime takes place at one of your places of business, for instance, you don’t want your ad showing up for searches for info on the crime investigation. Same thing goes for any key employees of your company that might be in the news, good or bad. Searches for these types of things generally do not lead to conversions, so add the phrases or names as negatives.

An added side bonus of watching Alerts and News is that you might find gems about your company that would be good to share in social media, and maybe even paid social.

Assist Keywords

This technique is a bit riskier, but can pay off with big rewards. If you’re using multi-channel funnels in Google Analytics, you can run a report that shows which keywords “assisted” a conversion – that is, keywords that people use on their way to completing a conversion.

People might search on broader keywords before eventually converting. Drill down in your multi-channel funnel report by filtering for organic search traffic only, and then find the keywords that generated assists:

mcf
In this list, you can see that most of the keywords come up (not provided). That’s a frustrating matter for another post. But there are still several gems here: actual search terms that generated assists, but few to no last-click conversions. These are the terms you want to add to your keyword list.

You usually won’t find many keywords this way, but some of these might be valuable terms that you wouldn’t find using other keyword tools.

Use PPC engine opportunities as negative keywords.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago, so I won’t go into the detailed how-to here. Suffice it to say that what the engines think are “opportunities” for keywords might not be ideal for your account, and many may not even be relevant. Instead of just rejecting the ideas, use them for negative keywords! I’ve found this to be a quick way to add lots of negatives without combing through search query reports.

Bonus resources!

If you’re looking for more keyword research tools, check out this post from Portent and this one from PPC Hero.

What’s your go-to keyword research hack? Share in the comments!

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Supercharge Your PPC Workflow

There are a never-ending number of tasks needed for successful PPC workflow. Sometimes it feels like there is too much to do and too little time to do it. Establishing a routine for PPC optimization helps calm the chaos. Supercharge your PPC workflow with these daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks.

Daily:

Daily tasks should be done even on your busiest days. If you have meetings most of the day, do these items first.

    • Check performance on all accounts, first thing, and put out fires. Don’t let anomalies go by more than a day without investigating them.
    • Budget pacing. We’ve all heard stories about a monthly budget being blown in a day. Don’t let this happen to you. And be sure to check for any budget-limited campaigns where you might be able to increase your budget, if possible, for more conversions.
    • Social PPC performance check. Update promoted posts, and pause underperforming posts or ads. Also pause posts that are old or outdated. A current social PPC campaign is a successful one.

Weekly:

Set aside time each week for digging into deeper optimization tactics. If you’re managing high-volume campaigns, you may need to do some of these tasks 2-3 times per week or even daily.

  • Search query reports and keyword research. Keeping your keywords, both positive and negative, up to date is crucial for optimum performance. Also take a look at your match types to make sure they make sense.
  • Ad test review (for high volume accounts or campaigns). Look at the ads in any campaigns with thousands of clicks and hundreds of conversions per week. Pause losers and start new tests.
  • Quality score review. Take a hard look at keywords with quality scores of 3 or worse. If they’re not generating conversions at a good cost, pause them. If the keywords are performing ok, look for ways to improve your quality score.
  • Week over week performance comparison. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds of PPC. Come up to a higher level by reviewing overall week-over-week performance. Set up an automated report in either your bid management platform, or from the search engines, to see how things are trending.
  • Display network placement review. If you’re running display network ads, chances are you have new and low-performing placements serving your ads. Exclude them. (For high-volume display campaigns, you may need to do this daily.)
  • Device performance review. Segment your results by device to see if any bid modifiers need to be adjusted.
  • Read PPC blogs and/or listen to PPC podcasts. Search is an ever-changing field. Step away for even a month or two and you’re already behind the curve. Reading blogs and news sites will help you stay up to date on the latest news. I also like to listen to PPC podcasts such as PPC Rockstars and Marketing Nirvana to hear tips and thought leadership from industry experts.

Monthly:

Agency PPC managers are no doubt familiar with creating monthly reports for clients. But reporting isn’t the only task you should be doing on a monthly basis. Each month, do a deep dive on key PPC metrics.

  • Strategy and goals check. We include a statement of goals & strategy in every monthly report we provide to clients. This not only reminds the client of campaign goals, but helps refocus the PPC manager on what’s important.
  • Overall performance review. This sounds like a monthly report, and in many ways, it is. Step back and review account and campaign performance, comparing it with previous months. This will give you a roadmap for optimization in the upcoming months.
  • Ad test analysis. Review ad copy tests, pause losers and start new tests. Take note of tests that don’t have enough data for statistical significance, so you can look at them next month.
  • Remarketing audience performance review. Are your remarketing audiences performing the way you expected? Do you need to create new audiences or refine existing audiences?
  • Social PPC audience performance review. How are your social PPC audiences performing? Do you need to refine them based on results?
  • Check ad extensions. Do you have outdated sitelinks running, or campaigns without sitelinks that should have them? What about call extensions, location extensions, review extensions, callout extensions?
  • Geotargeting review. Are all your geographic bid modifiers and settings correct? Are there geographies you should bid up or exclude based on performance?
  • Dayparting review. If you’re using dayparting, review the settings to ensure you’re meeting goals. If you’re not using dayparting, review performance by day of week and by hour to see if dayparting can boost your performance.

Quarterly

Every quarter, set aside time to look at long-term goals and analysis for your PPC campaigns.

  • Overall business review. Are your PPC efforts meeting overall goals? Has anything changed in your (or your client’s) business that warrants a shift in PPC strategy? Are there new initiatives, such as remarketing, RLSAs, or social PPC you’d like to test? Look at what’s coming up over the next several months and plan for it.
  • Projections. Some clients want projections weekly or monthly; others don’t need them at all. Even if no one is asking for projections, it’s a good idea to do this exercise quarterly to help establish performance goals.
  • Ad test deep dive. Take a look at your ad tests in detail. Are there headlines or elements that seem to be performing best? Are there low-traffic ad groups that may reach critical mass if you look at a quarter’s worth of data? Any new concepts you want to test?
  • Landing page review & creation. Make sure all of your landing pages are still applicable (and still work!). Navigate through the pages, including testing any conversion forms or actions to make sure the flow works properly. Does it make sense to create new landing pages based on PPC results? Anything new you’d like to test? For very high traffic accounts, you may need to do this monthly rather than quarterly.

Yearly

Every year, take time to review your personal goals as a PPC manager. What new skills do you want to learn? What did you do well this year? What search conferences do you want to attend in the upcoming year? Spending time thinking about individual goals will not only prepare you for your annual performance review, but also help you become a better PPC manager.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Search Engine Watch on November 18, 2014.

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5 Challenges for PPC Lead Generation

One of the great things about PPC is it can be used for nearly every business: those selling products online via ecommerce, and those trying to drive leads. Each type of marketing has its own challenges. Here are 5 challenges for lead generation PPC.

Nothing is sold.

When people talk about PPC, they often talk about shopping carts, shopping feeds, revenue per sale, and other aspects of ecommerce PPC. These facets are crucial for ecommerce PPC advertisers to understand – and none of them apply to lead generation.

When you’re driving leads, there is no shopping cart. Sure, there are lead forms, but it’s a one-step process. Cart abandons just don’t happen. (You can have form abandons, but that’s not the same thing.) Revenue per sale doesn’t exist either, because you’re not driving sales online.

Of course, lead generation PPC advertisers can and should still focus on metrics like conversion rate and cost per conversion, and back-end metrics like lead-to-close (more on that in a minute). But sometimes it feels as though we’re speaking a different language than that of ecommerce.

Lead generation advertisers can’t use Shopping feeds.

When you’re not selling anything online, you can’t use Google Shopping and all the cool features it offers, like shopping ads, seller ratings, dynamic search ads, and countdowns in ad copy. There are a lot of features, especially in Google, that lead gen advertisers just can’t use. (More on that in a minute too.)

Landing pages can be a challenge.

Successful online stores have tons of landing pages that are already optimized for conversion. When an ecommerce site is ready to start PPC, they usually have many pages that can be used, as is, as landing pages.

Not so for lead generation PPC. Sure, some sites have well-designed landing pages and contact forms, but a surprising number do not. Often, a lead generation PPC launch is delayed while the advertiser creates a landing page that can actually generate a lead. And that’s just one page. Creating multiple landing pages can be a mammoth undertaking for lead gen advertisers.

Only initial responses are visible in the PPC accounts.

Most sophisticated lead generation advertisers have a good back-end system that tracks leads all the way through to the sale. Systems like Salesforce and Bizible help immensely with this. (Salesforce has a great lead-gen optimized landing page, by the way!)

But even the most complex lead tracking system won’t display data in your Adwords or Bing Ads account. You’ll only see the initial form fills (and possibly calls) in your account. You might have a PPC campaign that’s generating lots of initial leads, but few sales – in which case, you should de-prioritize it, not bid it higher as you’d be tempted to do by looking at the initial lead data.

That means that tools like Conversion Optimizer and other bid algorithms are potentially optimizing for the wrong thing. Even if you do get data from your client or boss on what keywords or campaigns ultimately drove sales, it’s usually a manual process to tie that back to the original data and calculate your lead-to-close percentage and cost. It’s not impossible – and it’s important to do – but it’s a challenge for nearly every PPC lead generation advertiser.

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

Recently, I wrote a post titled 3 Signs That Google Hates B2B Advertisers. The gist of the post is that, as I alluded to earlier, many of Google’s features are geared toward ecommerce rather than lead generation. The same is true for Bing, and even Facebook and Twitter, although the social engines have quite a few features for lead generation.

So how do you overcome these challenges? Certainly it doesn’t make sense to abandon PPC, as it can be the largest source of qualified leads for advertisers. Really, you just need to understand all the features and functions, and use them appropriately. There are some features you won’t be able to take advantage of, but that’s ok.

All the best practices of PPC still apply: understand your goals, test, test, and test again; create good campaign structure, and understand your buyer journey. Try to get data from your client on how leads are progressing through the cycle. Optimize your landing pages. And ignore the new stuff that Google introduces for ecommerce advertisers.

I actually enjoy the challenge of generating leads in PPC. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing a client’s lead volume increase so much that they tell you to pause PPC while they catch up!

What about you? Have you run into challenges with lead generation PPC? How have you overcome them? Share in the comments!

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Social PPC For B2B: Who Does It Best?

Earlier this week, I read a thought-provoking article over at FBPPC, written by Robert Brady. In a nutshell, he says that while everyone thinks of LinkedIn as the place to run social PPC for B2B, it doesn’t perform as well as Facebook – which is traditionally thought of as the place for teens to hang out and for college kids to post drunk photos, not to reach B2B decision makers.

Robert ran an analysis of platform features, and found that Facebook’s targeting was as good as LinkedIn’s for most categories, and better than LinkedIn for age and gender targeting.

Additionally, anyone who’s tried to use LinkedIn’s PPC interface has no doubt been frustrated by its lack of sophistication and usability. It still shocks me that LinkedIn’s interface is so terrible. For the CPCs they charge, you’d think they could fix their ads UI.

And performance on LinkedIn PPC has been pretty sad lately, too. Here are actual figures for one of our B2B clients from last month:

social PPC performance

LinkedIn is at the bottom of every category: fewest clicks, fewest new followers, and highest cost per engagement. Not a resounding endorsement for the power of LinkedIn to reach the B2B audience.

And look at Facebook. Way more clicks, more new followers even than Twitter, where we ran a “grow followers” campaign. And a cost per engagement that’s well below both Twitter and LinkedIn. We’ve started putting more money toward Facebook in this case, since it’s kicking everyone else’s butt.

An article a few months ago on the Econsultancy blog agrees. Their analysis shows why Facebook is superior to LinkedIn in several categories, including reach, audiences, and mobile.

There was a time that I wouldn’t even consider using Facebook Ads for B2B. But they’ve really stepped up their game, leaving LinkedIn in the dust.

What do you think? Is Facebook the king of B2B social PPC, or is there hope for LinkedIn? Share in the comments!

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3 Signs That Google Hates B2B Advertisers

As you probably know, I work for an agency that deals strictly with B2B clients. B2B offers unique challenges for PPC, including lead tracking and pricey CPCs due to competition.

For years, Google Adwords has been our bread and butter. Their sheer market share makes them a must-use for B2B advertisers. But I’ve started to think that Google hates B2B advertisers. Here’s why.

Sitelinks Don’t Always Apply

I’ve written before about why sitelinks can be a worst practice, especially for B2B clients. In mid-2014, Google launched Dynamic Sitelinks – an even bigger nightmare for B2B advertisers than regular sitelinks. At least with regular sitelinks, we could just not add them. But now, it seems we’re stuck with them whether we want them or not.

Granted, Bing Ads also has dynamic sitelinks. I don’t like those any better than Google’s. But I wonder if Bing would have launched them if Google didn’t do it first.

Keyword Planner Suggestions Are B2C-Focused

I’ve long been frustrated with Google’s keyword planner and the crazy suggestions it offers. That’s the case whether you’re B2B or B2C. But what’s even more frustrating to me is that the keywords it suggests tend to be very consumer-focused. Even with something that’s obviously B2B like “business management systems,” it’ll come back with things like “what is a business management system” – not the type of queries an enterprise-level person researching a solution would use.

The Opportunities tab suggestions are even worse. Earlier this week I was reviewing Google’s “optimization” ideas for a client that offers a solution for businesses to sell gift cards to customers. Here are some of the “opportunities” Google wanted us to add to our campaign:

sell unwanted gift cards for cash
sell your gift card for cash
where can i cash gift cards
how to trade gift cards for cash
can i buy gift cards with a gift card
getting cash for gift cards
sell back giftcards for cash

These queries are clearly ones that would be used by consumers looking to offload unwanted gift cards – the exact opposite of what we’d want to bid on!

The only good part about this awful list is I used them for negative keywords instead. I’m sure that’s not what Google had in mind as an “opportunity,” but I took it nonetheless.

 Display Interest Targeting Is All B2C

Google has announced that starting next week, they’re retiring the Other Interests targeting option for Display campaigns. Doesn’t sound like a big deal – unless you’re a B2B advertiser.

Nearly all the B2B-focused targeting options are in the Other Interests category:

other interests
We’re left with affinity audiences, or in-market segments. Check out the fine selection of options in affinity audiences:

affinity audiences
See anything that looks remotely B2B-focused? Me neither.

In-market audiences are a little better, but not much. Here’s a view of the Business Services options:

in market audiences
Not awful – but we have clients who don’t fit into any of these categories. For those clients, we’ll be relegated to keyword or placement targeting, which doesn’t always perform as well. Clearly, Google has a bias toward B2C for display campaigns.

I’m sure there is a reason for this, probably because most of Google’s advertisers are B2C. But B2B advertisers have big bucks to spend. Many of their products and services are big-ticket items, and companies are willing to pay very high CPCs to advertise them. I rarely see CPCs below $20 in search for my clients. You’d think Google would want this money, but maybe not.

What do you think? Have your B2B clients struggled with Google’s B2C bias? Found any workarounds? Share in the comments!

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