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 Also pause posts that are old or outdated.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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Ideas Are Not Strategy

I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of advertisers, and even advertising professionals, don’t know what strategy is. So often “strategy” is defined as a list of tactics, like this:

•    Increase our Facebook followers
•    Start using PPC
•    Run ads with “X” creative message

Folks, these aren’t strategies. At best, they’re tactics. Lee Odden wrote a great essay on strategies vs. tactics. He says, “I think part of the problem is that a lot of marketers are spread thin because of chasing shiny objects. They’re distracted from core marketing.  They’re tourists in the digital and social world without taking the time to understand what the locals do and care about.”

So true. I’ve worked in marketing departments that loved to follow shiny objects: “PPC is the next best thing – let’s do it!” or “We’re going to focus on social media because everyone’s talking about it!”

As I tell my kids, just because “everyone’s doing it” doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to do. And it’s definitely not a strategy.

I work at a traditional agency, so we do a lot of creative work for clients. We PPC pros often don’t have much insight into the creative development process, so it’s been interesting to me to learn how it works. But the trap I’ve seen clients fall into is to become enamored with a particular creative theme, or even an individual print or video ad. All of a sudden, that becomes their “strategy.”

As marketers, it’s our job to remind clients (and bosses) that ideas aren’t strategy. Avis’s marketing strategy back in the ‘60s and ‘70s wasn’t “We try harder.” Avis’s strategy was to beat Hertz.

Nowhere is the folly behind turning creative ideas into strategy more apparent than in PPC. In PPC, we don’t have a full-page print ad to tell our story, nor do we have a 60-second radio or TV spot. We have 95 characters in which to get the searcher’s attention. And yet, so often I have clients who want to put their catchy tagline into a PPC ad.

Can you imagine putting this Coke tagline in a PPC ad?

iconic coke ad

It’d look like this:

coke ad

Not terrible, but not very convincing, is it? It looks like a crummy eBay ad.

Or what about this fine tagline?

iconic lucky ad

Translated to PPC, it’s:

lucky ad

You wouldn’t even be sure what Luckys were from this ad! I’d think it was some kind of diet food.

Now, I know these are vintage ads – you can’t really run cigarette ads in PPC as they’re against the TOS. (And cigarettes are not a great way to get slender, folks.) But they’re not just vintage ads – they’re iconic. These are brands that are well-known, and yet their taglines don’t make good PPC ad copy. And they’re certainly not a strategy. “Get people to buy cigarettes by telling them they’ll make them skinny” might have been a strategy, but the taglines themselves aren’t.

Ideas are not strategy. Taglines are not strategy. Creative concepts are not strategy. They’re all tools in the arsenal of a good marketing strategy, which might be “sell more Coca-Cola” or “drive leads via our website.” Don’t confuse the two – and don’t let your clients confuse them either.

Have you ever run into this kind of “creative wagging the strategy dog” scenario? What did you do to convince your client or boss that their creative ideas aren’t strategy? How do you explain PPC strategy vs. tactics to clients? Share in the comments!

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3 PPC Features That Aren’t Ready For Prime Time

There’s an old adage in the car-buying world that advises people never to buy a new model car in its first year. Why? The manufacturer hasn’t worked all of the bugs out yet, so you’re likely to encounter down time while the car is in the shop.

The same thing is true of technology: look at the iPhone 6 and all the gaffes it experienced early on. And Windows 8 is universally hated, to the point that Microsoft skipped Windows 9 and went right on to making Windows 10.

In PPC, we also come across new features that aren’t ready for prime time. Here are the top 3 PPC features that might have benefited from a bit more beta testing.

The New Adwords Editor

Last month, Adwords held yet another “announcement” event. One of the highlights, in addition to one of the speaker’s sweaters, was the rollout of a new Adwords Editor.

The current editor, while a must-have tool for PPC managers, has limitations. It doesn’t support shopping campaigns well. It doesn’t allow copying across accounts. It doesn’t have an “undo” button.

The new Adwords Editor v.11 has all of those features, and more. But it’s missing some key elements, too. And it’s buggy. Here are just some of the issues that PPC Chat users have reported:

•    Won’t load/ freezes
•    Error messages
•    Missing metrics
•    No callout extensions
•    Keyword planner is gone
•    No click data for sitelinks

I was all set to download the new Adwords Editor, and then I started seeing these reports. I decided to hold off. Perhaps Adwords is using the PPC community as one big beta test?

Bing Ads Universal Event Tracking (UET)

I was excited to get started with this much-ballyhooed tracking tool from Bing Ads. It’s called “universal” because it was supposed to be one tracking code for all accounts across an agency: “In Bing Ads, tags are defined at the customer level. This means that you can use the same tag to define and track goals across all your accounts and campaigns. This flexibility allows you to instrument your site just once (when you create your first goal) and keep defining new goals to measure without ever needing to add another tag to your site.”

In reality, while that is technically true, in practice it’s not that simple. First of all, you’ll find the tracking code in different places, depending on whether your client’s account is a “built in” account or a “linked” account.

I’m not even sure what that means, except it means I can’t see the UET code for all my clients when logged in to our agency Bing Ads account. Apparently, for some accounts, I have to log in to the child account. Which I didn’t even know existed for Bing Ads. And I certainly don’t have logins for any of these child accounts.

To make it even more interesting, Bing is retiring the old conversion tracking scripts effective in April. So we’ve all got less than 3 months to figure this out. I’m a little scared.

LinkedIn Ads

I wrote about LinkedIn back in November 2013 and the fact that they didn’t want my money. Merry Morud wrote about their terrible interface back in July 2013.

Here we are 18 months later, and the only thing that’s changed is their timeout – it takes a little longer than 5 minutes now to time out, and it doesn’t log you out when you’re actively working in the interface.

Every other complaint that Merry made about their interface still exists. It’s crazy that LinkedIn, with its $8-10 CPCs, hasn’t done a single thing in a year and a half to improve their UI. Twitter and Facebook have made huge leaps ahead, while LinkedIn sits and languishes with its awful UI and expensive clicks.

One thing that really bugs me about LinkedIn Ads is that there is no way to keep sponsored posts from displaying to people who already follow you, nor from your own employees. We’ve had clients who’ve ended up paying (at $8-10 a crack) for their own employees to “like” their sponsored posts. Crazy. The LinkedIn Ads UI is definitely not ready for prime time.

Found any other PPC features that aren’t ready for prime time? Share in the comments!

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3 Sneaky Ways To Bid On Competitor Keywords

In the advertising world, most businesses have to deal with competitors. In traditional media, many publishers offer competitive separation, where your ads will be separated by physical space (in print) or time (in broadcast) from your competition.

In search, though, your ads appear alongside your competitors. A search for books will yield ads from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and possibly local retailers. They’re all competing with one another, on the same web page, for the click.

Many PPC advertisers are interested in bidding on their competitor’s brand names. Why not try to take visitors away from the other guys? It seems easy to do – but quality score creates a challenge.

Anyone who’s ever tried to bid on competitor brands has probably gotten hit with poor quality scores. It makes sense – after all, if I searched for “Target stores,” why would I want to see ads from Walmart? The search engines know this, so they slap anyone who’s not Target with a quality score of 1 or 2.

Still, there may be good reasons to bid on your competitor’s brands. Maybe you’re new to the market and need awareness. Maybe there’s confusion between your brand and a competitor, and you’re hoping to capitalize on that. Whatever the reason, it is possible to bid on competitor brands and get decent quality scores and traffic. Her are 3 sneaky ways to bid on competitor keywords.

Bid on misspellings.

Does your competitor have a hard-to-spell or easily misspelled brand? Gather up all the possible misspellings and bid on them. Misspellings, to the search engines, are vague – do you mean the brand, or do you mean something else? When it’s not clear, your ad has a better chance of appearing.

Here’s an example:

misspellings
I meant to search for “esurance” – the auto insurance company. But I typed “ensurance” instead. Esurance still showed up as the top ad.

But look at the second ad. It reads awkwardly – they’re probably using dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) – but the query I typed is in the ad twice, and therefore it’s bolded and stands out. They also have 6 sitelinks showing – more than the other advertisers in the top ads. And they’re promoting “Low Rates.” I had to read the ad carefully to realize it wasn’t for the company I meant to search for. Most users wouldn’t read carefully – they’d just click.

Clever use of DKI, along with features like sitelinks, can help your ad stand out on misspellings of your competitor’s brands.

Bid on “cancel” keywords.

I saw this tip on Twitter, and it’s revolutionized my competitor keyword campaigns:

tweet for cancel
What better way to reach disgruntled customers of competitors and woo them your way than by bidding on keywords used by those who want to cancel?

Not only is this tactic smart, it’s effective in counteracting the poor quality score usually seen on competitor terms. Here’s an example:

non cancel kws

Nearly every competitor brand name has a quality score of 2 and is rarely shown due to low quality score.

But look at the “cancel” keywords:

cancel QS

Quality score jumped from 2 to 4-5, and even 10 in one case! And the “cancel” keywords are getting click-through rates that are well above average. Better yet, they’re driving leads.

If you’re in a service or contractual business, adding “cancel” terms to your keyword list can dramatically improve results in your competitor campaigns.

Use all the weapons available to you.

It almost goes without saying that successful competitor campaigns need great ad copy. A killer offer and reasons to choose you usually perform well. I’ve seen competitors use exclusive, super-deal offers for competitor campaigns that aren’t promoted anywhere else, just to grab those conquest clicks.

Getting creative in your ad copy doesn’t hurt either. Look at the Olive Garden ad on the search for Applebee’s:

better ad copy

Not only is the Olive Garden ad clever, it’s also earned ad annotations from Bing Ads, showing they have 205,900 followers on Twitter and have been visited by 100K users in the past month.

While advertisers can’t control ad annotations, they can control ad extensions. Use them to make your ad stand out on the page. You’ll need to earn a spot on the top of the page for most extensions to show, but ad extensions can be a real differentiator.

Consider this search result for, ironically, search competitor intelligence tools:

competitor serp
Adgooroo isn’t bidding on their brand, and SpyFu is taking advantage. They’re using callout extensions and Google+ extensions to make their ad stand out on the page. I’ve also seen call extensions and location extensions used successfully on competitor ads – imagine if you discover that the business you were searching for is further away than a competitor offering the same thing!

Give the searcher every possible reason to contact you instead of the competition, and your competitor campaigns can be a good source of quality traffic and sales or leads.

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared at Search Engine Watch on December 16, 2014.

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PPC for Content Marketing: Channels and Measurement

In earlier articles about content marketing, I talked about the content audit, audience research, timing, and the buyer journey. In the final post in this series, we’ll discuss how to match content to channels and measure success.

As a PPC professional, you might be thinking that all content should be used in PPC. After all, if it’s worth creating, it’s worth advertising, right?

To a degree, that’s true. We have so many weapons in our arsenal that we can promote nearly any type of content in PPC. Some assets are going to be home runs, and others will strike out. It’s our job to make good decisions about channel placement, measure results, and optimize accordingly.

The first step is to decide which content should go where. Go back to your buyer journey map. It’ll tell you whether your content falls into the awareness, consideration, or decision phase of the journey. While PPC spans all 3 phases, some types of content work better than others in each stage.

For example, decision content rarely performs well in display or social PPC. That’s not to say you can’t use it there, but it should supplement your awareness content, rather than stand alone. I like to use awareness content in display and social, and decision content in remarketing. That way your users see something different, and it helps pull them into the funnel.

Content format is another consideration. You can’t run a video ad in Google search. You can put the video on your landing page, but you can’t use it in your actual ad. But you can do a YouTube Ads campaign using the video.

Think carefully about where your content is hosted. It’s easy to put presentations on SlideShare, or videos on YouTube – but do you want to drive PPC or media traffic there? Probably not. You’ll need to create landing pages and embed this content on the pages.

Social PPC is a whole different animal. If your goal is engagement or audience building, you probably won’t mind promoting tweets with YouTube videos, SlideShare decks, or even photos and infographics – content you’d never promote in search.

Lay all this out in a channel matrix so you know what’s being promoted where.

Once you have your content mapped to channels, you need to figure out how to track it. It’s ideal to know not only which individual assets perform best, but what types of assets. I mentioned this briefly in the buyer journey discussion, but it’s important to repeat it here.

There are several ways to track content performance. You can create individual landing pages for each asset, and then track performance by page. Or, you can create a content ID system that parses out the asset title, buyer journey stage, and content type – and then roll up that data via your analytics platform.

This is a critical step: you must think about how you’re going to track content performance across channels. While some assets will do well in certain channels and poorly in others, some assets will rise to the top as high-performers across all channels. That’s the content you want to promote heavily – and try to replicate.

For instance, if a particular report or white paper does well across the board, you might want to create an updated version of it, or write a similar report about another product or service you offer.

Look at asset types to see what your audience responds to. Do they prefer videos, or do they like to download white papers to read and share? Thinking about this at the outset will enable you to develop a tracking system that gives you the data you need to make decisions.

Use your tracking data not only to optimize what’s in market, but to guide future content development. Test different assets against each other and gauge results. Socialize your learnings internally (or with your client if you’re an agency).

To the uninitiated, content marketing sounds like an insurmountable task. By following the steps outlined in this series, you can develop a successful content marketing machine and fuel your PPC efforts at the same time.

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Dynamic Sitelinks Gone Wrong

Back in July, Google launched dynamic sitelinks, which are sitelinks that Google automatically appends to ads.

Google touts dynamic sitelinks as a “(tool) adding value to your ads while saving time and simplifying campaign management.” But for many advertisers, it’s yet another example of the dumbing down of PPC. And for B2B advertisers, dynamic sitelinks often spell disaster.

In B2B, it’s common not to use sitelinks, because there’s one specific landing page you want to drive traffic to. In fact, many times sitelinks are a worst practice for B2B.

With dynamic sitelinks, Google, in their infinite wisdom, is choosing random pages to display as dynamic sitelinks. In fact, even if you are using sitelinks, they may be overridden if “Google thinks it’s best.”

This is disastrous for many B2B advertisers who deliberately aren’t using sitelinks. Often, there is only one relevant landing page for PPC – one that’s been optimized for conversion. Other pages on the website likely are informational in nature and have no way to generate a conversion. So, we deliberately decide not to use sitelinks for these advertisers.

Here’s an example:

dynamic sitelink 1

The destination URL for this ad is a page specifically optimized for conversion. The dynamic sitelink extension goes to neither an e-commerce nor a lead gen page.

Here are a couple more examples:

dynamic sitelink 2

dynamic sitelink 3

The first one is showing the About page. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen many About pages that are designed to drive conversions. The home page would be a better choice in this instance.

The second example is for one product with one relevant page. Google has chosen a page featuring a totally different product – freezers instead of milk coolers. While Google may think that’s relevant, it’s not – this client has asked us to focus on milk coolers only, not freezers.

If you’ve ever worked with B2B clients, you’ll know that for many of them, it’s like pulling teeth to get even one optimized landing page created. Now, your hard work is potentially going to waste by Google deciding to pick random pages to show alongside your carefully crafted landing page.

Granted, we all know that few people click on the sitelink itself – most clicks happen on the actual ad, which goes to the landing page. But the problem I have with these random dynamic sitelinks is that they make the ads look weird. Instead of adding to the experience, dynamic sitelinks potentially detract from it – risking CTR and other key metrics for advertisers.

And what about advertisers who’ve tested sitelinks and found they hurt performance? Yes, it does happen – and now those advertisers are stuck with a “feature” that they know doesn’t work for them.

Google does offer an opt out form for those who don’t want dynamic sitelinks added to their campaigns. You’ll have to fill it out for every single advertiser.

And even then, it may not help.

We filled out the form for the advertisers in the examples above. We heard nothing from Google for nearly 2 weeks. When we finally did hear back, Google’s response was to “just wait.” Not “we’re opting these accounts out,” but “wait.”

That’s unacceptable. Guess what, Google? We paused all these campaigns until we can get the situation sorted out. You’re not getting another dime until we know we can serve relevant, high-performing ads for our clients.

I know that for many advertisers, dynamic sitelinks are a great thing. For ecommerce advertisers, they’re undoubtedly a huge timesaver. But they’re not for everyone. All Google needs to do is give us the explicit choice: let us opt in or opt out at the campaign level. Then everyone would be happy.

What’s your take on dynamic sitelinks? Boon or bust? Share in the comments!

Special thanks to my coworkers, Jessi Link and Mark Herman, for providing the background and screen shots for this post.

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Beyond The Paid 2014 Reader Poll

Well, it’s December. Time for holiday cheer and ecommerce madness; time for 2015 predictions and 2014 year-in-review posts.

I’m not going to do any of those. Instead, I want to hear from all of you. What do you want me to blog about? What topics are on your mind? What were your favorite posts this year?

I set up last year’s poll as an experiment, and the responses were eye-opening. You all inspired me to write about things I hadn’t really thought of.

So let’s do it again! Here is the second annual Beyond The Paid reader poll. It’s 2 questions, so please answer both! I can’t wait to hear from you!

 

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