PPC and Content Marketing: The 4-Step Content Audit

In an earlier post, I talked about content marketing and its rise to popularity. PPC can be a highly effective way to amplify your content marketing efforts. But first, you need to identify what content is available. Here are 4 steps to a successful content audit.

Step 1: Identify your content marketing goals

Long-time readers of this blog know that I always start with goals. If you don’t know what you want to do, how will you go about doing it? And “performing a content audit” isn’t a goal. Neither is “get started with content marketing.” Those are both tactics used to achieve a strategy, not the strategy itself.

The most common goals for content marketing are lead generation and awareness creation. Do you have a new product that needs awareness? Trying to establish thought leadership in your field? Need to drive your lead generation machine? Identifying your primary goal for content marketing drives the entire process, from what content you’ll use to the channels you’ll use to distribute content.

Step 2: Create a list of all available content.

It’s always easier to repurpose existing content than it is to create it from scratch. Create a list of all online assets, including white papers, press releases, online demos, articles on other platforms, and even photos and videos. Every piece of content your organization has created is fair game.

If possible, also look at how the content has performed, and the audience it has reached. This will help you determine what PPC channel to use, and how to craft ad copy and PPC audiences. Also, why not put your best foot forward and launch with the best content?

Step 3: Note whether the content is evergreen or time-sensitive.

Some content, such as overview videos, product brochures, and how-to blog posts never get old. This is content you can promote again and again. Other content is time-sensitive: promotions, licenses, and other factors can affect how long your content can stay in market. Note these limitations in your content list. Nothing is worse than paying to send traffic to your site to read an outdated brochure or view a promotion that’s expired.

Step 4: Include the format in your content list.

Content format is more important than you may think, for a couple of reasons. The first is obvious: it determines where the content can be advertised in PPC. If you want to use Google for keyword search, you won’t be able to use a video as your ad (although of course you can drive traffic from text ads to a landing page that includes your video).

Maybe more importantly, noting the content type will help you learn which types of content perform best on each channel. For instance, you may determine that videos perform best in Facebook promoted posts, but white papers perform best in Google Adwords.  Performance by content type is a key measurement for PPC and content marketing.

By following these 4 steps, your content audit is now a marketing tool that use can use to craft your content marketing campaigns.

What about you? What techniques have you used for a content audit? Share in the comments!

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The Importance Of The PPC Brain

On Sunday, February 23, I was in the midst of a mundane task: putting away laundry. A loose piece of blanket binding on the bed had gotten looped around my leg without my realizing it. As I started to walk toward my dresser, the loop basically pulled the rug out from under me. I took a header into the dresser.

My first thought was, “That’s the hardest I’ve ever hit my head.” And then the pain kicked in.

To make a long story short, my husband took me to the ER, where I was diagnosed with a concussion. In a lifetime of playing sports, including risky ones like skiing, I get a concussion in my own bedroom.

The doctor ordered a week of complete brain rest. I was not to watch TV, check email, play video games, or do anything but rest, really. I was dismayed at this news.

As it turned out, though, I really couldn’t do these things anyway. Even forming a complete sentence was challenging those first few days. If someone was talking to me, I had to literally shut my eyes to be able to process what they were saying – any visual stimulus made it impossible to focus on the spoken words.

As the days progressed, things got easier. I was able to read by Friday – thank goodness, as I’d gotten bored with sleeping all the time! By Monday, I was cleared to return to work.

I thought I was in good shape mentally. And yet, I found that doing simple, routine tasks like preparing a report or reviewing Adwords or Google Analytics data was painstakingly slow and difficult. I made a few silly mistakes, too – I caught them before it was too late, but they were mistakes I normally wouldn’t have made.

In short, my brain wasn’t 100%. While I was fine with physical activities like showering and making dinner, I struggled with mental tasks like focusing on PPC.

At that point I realized how dependent we are on brain power in PPC. I knew that my brain was one of my most reliable tools for PPC, and yet I took it for granted.

I know many of you agree. When I polled my Twitter friends about their must-have PPC tools, several of you said “my brain.” (That post is coming, I promise! I’ll update this post with a link when it goes live.) We rely on our ability to think, analyze, reason, and create successful PPC campaigns. And we don’t realize how powerful that brain power is until it’s lost.

Thankfully, after just one day things got better. On Tuesday, my brain worked faster, and I made fewer mistakes. I didn’t get as tired. My brain “muscle” was getting stronger. It came back fast once I was ready. Today, I feel like myself again.

The moral of the story here is that we all need to take a moment and be thankful for our brains. In this profession, they’re our most crucial tool. We don’t use hammers, saws, stethoscopes, or chemistry labs. We rely on our brains. Respect the PPC brain, my friends.

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6 Ways To Spot Bad PPC Advice

This has been the week for bad PPC advice around the web. First came yet another New York Times article filled with small business owners whining that Adwords doesn’t work. We’ve been down this road before with NYT, so I won’t go into it here. You can read my rant about their last article to see how I feel about that.

On the heels of that foolishness came this gem from WhiteShark Media. I got skeptical when 3 paragraphs in, it starts talking about a 40% conversion rate. If you’re getting a 40% conversion rate from PPC, you shouldn’t be writing blog posts – you should be figuring out how to spend as much as you can on PPC.

But I digress. This article was full of so much bad that I can only conclude it was written as linkbait. Let’s rebut each piece of bad advice.

It tells you to spend more money.

You know it’s a wrong-headed article when the first “tip” for improving PPC results is “increase your bids and budget.” Was this article guest-written by Google? That’s always Google’s first “optimization” recommendation, and it’s not a good one.

Now, if you indeed are getting a 40% conversion rate (ha ha), and you’re making a profit on those conversions, then you should absolutely spend more money. But if you’re not, then a safer approach is wiser. Spend what you can afford, and work to optimize every aspect of your campaign: keywords, ad copy, landing pages, etc.

It tells you to geotarget the world.

The advice to “target more geographies” is mind-boggling, frankly. Unless you started using PPC in only a small area to test the waters, you should never expand to other areas without a clear expansion strategy.

For example, if you are a small local business, you should only advertise in the areas near you. Running ads in California if you’re a small clothing store in Michigan makes no sense whatsoever. Same thing goes for national advertisers. Unless you’re equipped to sell to other countries, don’t do it!

Bottom line, you should only invest in the areas that fit your business strategy.

It recommends using broad match.

I have seen countless small businesses who say that Adwords doesn’t work. When I dig deeper, I find that they’re bidding on the broadest possible terms: broad-matched “women’s clothing” and the like. I don’t recommend that strategy for my largest, deepest-pocketed advertisers, much less most PPC clients. It just doesn’t make sense. Instead, you should use exact and phrase match terms, and modified broad match if you need to cast a wider net.

Now, if your search volume is very low, you may want to add a few more broad terms. But this needs to be done carefully and measured closely.

It suggests adding high-volume keywords.

The article advises finding keywords with high search volume. While I don’t think every advertiser should avoid high-volume terms, advertisers need to proceed with extreme caution. Have a plan in place when you add a high-volume term. Put it in its own ad group, or even its own campaign. Be sure to have realistic budget caps in place. And watch it like a hawk. It might work for you – but it might not. I’ve seen a single keyword spend 4 or 5 figures in a single day. Can you afford that kind of risk?

It says to focus on short-tail keywords.

Using short-tail terms, as the article advises, is usually not a good idea unless your budget is very large and you have an awareness strategy in place. Short-tail terms rarely convert well, and often have very competitive bids. You’ll be duking it out with everyone else who sells “women’s clothing” – and unless you’re a major national retailer, you probably can’t compete.

By sticking to longer-tail terms, you’ll moderate traffic and have a much better chance of driving conversions.

It says to include appealing promotions.

OK, the last bit of advice I actually agree with. Ad copy should contain language that compels qualified users to click. If you have a strong promotion running, use that. Focus on the unique benefits of your product or service. Include a sense of urgency (“Limited Time!”) and a strong call to action (“Buy Now!). Test different elements of your ad copy to see what works best.

A word of caution about promotions: Think long and hard before making promotions a part of your marketing strategy. While promotions can and do drive sales and profits, some businesses end up relying on deeper and deeper discounts to acquire customers. This becomes a race to the bottom and can hurt sales in the long run.

Remember, any time you see an article that equates “grow your business” with “spend more money,” be afraid. Be very afraid.

Did you read the NYT and/or the WhiteShark posts? What do you think? Share in the comments!

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The Dumbing Down of PPC

Have you ever noticed that when a product or technology has been around for a while, it gets dumbed down?

Take the personal computer. My first experience with computers was in 8th grade – we got an 8K Commodore PET. It ran in BASIC and had a cassette drive to run programs. For my 8th grade science fair project, I wrote a Hangman program in BASIC – and got an A+. It was the most popular project at the fair.

commodore pet

Anybody else remember these?

Nowadays, who writes their own programs? Computers have grown more complex, and yet easier for the masses to use. Want to run a program? Just double click or tap the icon! A 5 year old can use today’s computers, which wasn’t the case with those early models.

As technology becomes widely adopted, it gets dumbed down. That’s great for the masses, but not for professionals who want to dig deeper.

And that’s what’s happened with PPC.

As PPC has grown and been adopted by more and more people, it’s now geared to the lowest common denominator. Just yesterday, I lamented Facebook’s ad approval process on Twitter. Instead of immediately disapproving ads and letting us appeal the disapproval, they let the ads run for a short time, and then disapprove them. It ends up taking more time in the end. I’d rather be disapproved right away, and then figure it out or contact Facebook to fix it, rather than being approved and finding out later the ad was disapproved. But I suspect that inexperienced advertisers like it the way it is.

Just look at any social PPC interface and you’ll see what I mean. They’re not designed for power users. They’re designed for the local business or social club to be able to use them. Twitter is particularly horrible. Have multiple campaigns in Twitter Ads and want to navigate between them? Sorry, you’ll have to return to the Home screen to do that. Want to run a custom report with all the data you need? Sorry, there’s one report and that’s it. Want to download recommended targets or by-tweet reports for promoted tweets? Can’t. It’s horrible. Inexperienced advertisers probably don’t do these things, but some of us want to!

LinkedIn is just as bad. Terrible reporting, terrible navigation, terrible campaign editing – the list goes on.

Facebook at least has Power Editor, but even that is glitchy. It’s frustrating.

And what about Enhanced Campaigns? I believe Enhanced Campaigns were rolled out to reduce complexity in Adwords. Why else would Google have focused so heavily on pizza places in all the Enhanced Campaigns webinars and documentation?

For those of us who wanted complex campaign structure, along with device control, we’re now out of luck. While there are many positive things about Enhanced Campaigns, there are also many negatives. Unfortunately, the negatives probably only affect professional campaign managers, not inexperienced advertisers.

I still hold out hope that the social PPC platforms will improve, and that Google will give us a tablet bid modifier. Do you think I’m dreaming, or is there a chance things will get better? How have you experienced the dumbing down of PPC? Share in the comments!

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Social PPC: A Guide To Getting Started

Thinking about dipping your toes into social PPC, but aren’t sure how to get started? You’re not alone. Social PPC is very different from keyword search. With keyword search, people tell you what they want by typing keywords into a search engine. With social PPC, the focus is on the audience rather than the keyword. It can be tough to get your head around.

Fortunately, there are a lot of online resources to help you out. Of course, you can and should read the Help files for each of the major social PPC platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. But it’s not unusual for help files to be, well, less than helpful.

Here are a few posts that will really help you get started in each platform, step by step. Disclaimer: I wrote a few of these. I wanted to make sure that all of my blog readers have a chance to take advantage of the power of social PPC, so I’ve pulled them all together in one post for you.

A Step by Step Guide to Getting Started with Facebook Advertising to Grow Your Community by Michelle Carville. Michelle provides an overview to launching Facebook PPC, complete with screen shots and explanations.

Getting Started with LinkedIn Ads by yours truly. This is a step by step guide, too. LinkedIn Ads are particularly useful for reaching business influencers.

Getting Started with Twitter Ads. Another of my posts on Web Marketing Today with an overview of the types of ads available on Twitter, and how to take advantage of them. We’ve had good success with Twitter ads, both for growing followers and driving leads.

YouTube Video Ads: Getting Started. Some people don’t think of YouTube ads as social, partly because they’re part of Google Adwords. But video ads are nothing like search ads, really. Learn how to harness the power of video and the reach of YouTube in this post.

Are you using social PPC? Have you had good results, or has it been less than successful? Got any good tips or resources? Share in the comments!

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3 Ways To Profit From The Google Display Network

Earlier this week, there was an interesting conversation on Twitter about the Google Display Network. IntelligentPPC made the bold statement that one should avoid the GDN like the plague. Many members of PPCchat disagreed, myself included. Check this link for an example of the debate that ensued.

If you’re running search and display campaigns together, then you certainly will lose money. The two are not the same and optimization tactics are totally different. But if you’re running distinct campaigns in display, then you absolutely can profit from it. Here are 3 ways to profit from the Google Display Network.

Promote a new product.

One of the rare times that keyword search falls down is in new product launches. Let’s say you’ve developed a great new product that’s totally revolutionary. So revolutionary that no one is searching for it. If no one is searching for it, keyword search won’t be much help to you. I’ve seen this time and again – low search volume for new products.

The problem is lack of awareness. If people don’t know about it, they won’t search for it.

Enter the GDN.

By running carefully crafted display ads targeting the right audience, the GDN will help increase awareness of your new product amongst your target audience. From there, people will buy – either directly from the display ads, or from searches performed later on.

We recently did this with one of our clients. They developed a product that was unique. No one was searching for it. We created image display ads with pictures showing the product in use. The ads led users to a video demonstration on the client site.

Not only did we increase traffic and ultimately search volume for the product, we also saw direct and profitable sales from display.

Get on prime web properties through the back door.

Let’s face it – targeting B2B customers with keyword search can be challenging. Right now I have a client who’s trying to reach B2B decision makers to get them to use their product. Problem is, their product is also something consumers search for. They don’t want to reach consumers, so we’ve used negative keywords to eliminate most of those searches – and now the client’s search volume is very low.

Immediately I started thinking “LinkedIn Ads.” But CPCs on LinkedIn are high – the audience for this client has a minimum CPC of $4.50, and you’ll need to bid much higher to get a good position.

Enter the GDN.

Yes, LinkedIn is part of the GDN. And you can craft a GDN campaign to show ads on LinkedIn for a lower cost than going through LinkedIn directly. You can even get image display ads onto LinkedIn this way – something that costs 5 figures when working directly with LinkedIn.

Build killer remarketing lists.

Awareness is a key component of any marketing strategy. If you’re only using keyword search, you’re missing those who don’t know about your product. Sure, you might hook some of them with broad, generic terms – but at what cost? I’ve seen broad keywords in the $30-$50 per click range. With conversion rates of 1% or lower, that’s usually not very profitable.

Enter the GDN.

Use the GDN to create awareness of your brand and your product. Then, create a remarketing list comprised of those who came to your site from the GDN but didn’t convert. Then remarket to them with a compelling offer.

By using the 2-step GDN/remarketing process, instead of paying $30 for a visitor with a 1% conversion rate, you can now pay $2 or $3 per click. That’s 10 visits from the GDN for one from search – and now they’re familiar with you because of the remarketing component. That means they’re more likely to buy. At a lower cost than from keyword search.

So should you avoid the GDN like the plague? Go for it – I’ll be happy to take the customers you’re leaving on the table.

How have you used the GDN to make a profit? Share in the comments?

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PPC and Content Marketing – Thought Starters

Back in December I ran a reader poll to see what my beloved readers want to hear about in 2014. While several topics got a lot of votes, the top vote-getter was PPC and Content Marketing.

Content marketing seems to be the shiny object for 2014. Everyone is trying to figure out how to create content and share it with the world. Content is being shared in a myriad of ways that didn’t exist even a year ago. Witness the rise of visual platforms like Vine, Pinterest, and Snapchat and you’ll see what I mean.

So how does PPC fit into the mix?

It’s not as simple as, say, PPC for ecommerce. In that case, you start bidding on keywords and sending visitors to product pages. Audiences may not even matter, if people are buying.

But PPC for content marketing is less clear-cut.

I’ll explore this in depth in future posts. And I want your opinions too – what have you tried? Here are a few thought starters that I consider.

  • Content audit. What content is available?
  • Audience research. Like keyword research in search, audience research is crucial.
  • Timing. In ecommerce or other traditional PPC, timing may not even matter. People might buy your product year-round. But content burns out fast.
  • Channels. Content can be promoted in many places besides Google. Google may not even be the best place for promotion.
  • Buyer journey. Is this content best suited to awareness, demand generation, or something else?
  • Integration. Who else is promoting this content? PR, media, sales, etc.?

Those are just a few considerations for a successful PPC content marketing campaign. We’ll explore them all in depth.

What do you consider when embarking on a content marketing play? Share in the comments!

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7 Questions To Expect From Your New PPC Manager

So, you’ve taken the plunge and hired a new PPC manager. Maybe you’ve decided to hire a PPC agency, or maybe you’re keeping PPC in-house but want someone to manage your program full time. Either way, congratulations on the new hire!

You’ll no doubt expect your new PPC manager to do keyword research, set up ad copy tests, manage bids, and track conversions. But PPC management goes way beyond keywords & ad copy. Here are seven questions to expect from your new PPC manager.

What are Your Goals for PPC?

The first thing your PPC manager should do, before he or she even logs into AdWords, is talk to you about your goals. A PPC campaign without goals is like traveling to a new city without a map. How will you find your way if you don’t know where you’re going?

Expect your new manager to ask specific questions about sales goals, cost per conversion targets, and overall business goals.

What are Your Key Products and Services?

If you’ve hired someone from within, they probably already know the answer to this question. Everyone else needs to ask it.

Even if your goal is just to use PPC to increase overall sales, it’s invaluable to know which products or services are your “must-haves.” This info is critical for prioritization, especially if you run low on budget and your PPC manager has to dial back your spend.

Who is Your Primary Target Audience?

Even your from-within hire should ask this question. Not only is it important for overall marketing strategy, it can also drive PPC tactics such as engine placement, geotargeting, and ad messaging.

For example, if your goal is to generate awareness of a new product targeted to women age 35-54, you might want to focus on Facebook ads. You’ll get zillions of impressions, and they’ll all be delivered to your target audience. If your goal is to reach business decision makers, you should try Bing – it works very well for B2B at a fraction of the cost of Google.

Are There any Specific Offers You’d Like to Promote?

Not all PPC is offer/promotion-based. But it’s still good to know what promotions and offers are out there so you can test them in PPC.

PPC is a great way to vet marketing messaging and get immediate response data without spending a lot of money on creative and traditional media.

You can use PPC to test offers and concepts before rolling it out to display and print. It’s an efficient way to see what resonates with the audience and avoid sinking money into messaging that doesn’t get attention.

What is Your Desired Cost per Conversion?

While this question is related to the goals question, it needs to be asked on its own. I’ve lost count of how many clients I’ve worked with over the years who have no idea how much they’re willing to pay to acquire a customer.

Sure, it’s possible to run PPC campaigns without a target CPA in mind – we’ll just try to get the lowest possible cost per conversion. But if you have even a ballpark number in mind, share it with your PPC manager!

I once had a client in a competitive vertical with CPCs upwards of $5/click. We were getting CPAs of around $15, and I was pretty happy with that. Turns out the client didn’t want to pay more than $5 per lead! We would have had to convert every visitor in that situation.

Get these thoughts out in the open before your campaign launches – you’ll both sleep better at night.

What Conversions are you Measuring, and How are You Measuring Them?

This is another question that a surprising number of advertisers answer with “I don’t know” and “we’re not.” If those are your responses, that’s OK. Your PPC manager can help you. But identifying key website conversion actions and setting up a way to track them will be their first order of business, before they even log in to AdWords.

If you’re tracking conversions, that’s great! If you have more than one conversion you’re tracking, take things one step further and make sure your PPC manager knows the priority of each conversion.

If you’re in ecommerce, online sales will probably be your number one conversion; but you might also be interested in email signups, contact form submissions, phone calls, and other actions. Knowing the importance of each conversion will help your PPC manager optimize campaigns accordingly.

What’s a Good Time to Hold a Recurring Meeting?

Nobody wants more meetings. But regular communication with your PPC manager is crucial, whether the manager is in-house or at an agency.

Meetings don’t have to be in-person; I have 30-minute monthly calls with several of my clients, and we rarely cancel. That’s because the clients know that we’ll discuss progress toward their business goals, how well we’re reaching their target audience, promotional offer results, cost per conversion, and conversions by type.

Sound familiar? It should! We discuss all the questions I’ve outlined here. And we talk about other things too; but the primary agenda is usually the first six questions in this post.

Even if your PPC manager isn’t new, it’s a good idea to revisit these questions with them. You’ll be glad you did.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on December 18, 2012.

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My Top 3 PPC Blog Posts of 2013

Here we are in the waning days of 2013, and the web is abuzz with “year in review” and “predict next year” posts. I actually find these posts to be fun – it’s interesting to look back and see if our predictions came true, and it’s good to have the “best of the best” in one post.

In true New Years fashion, let’s count down to the top 3 posts on my blog from 2013, as determined by page views. Enjoy!

#3: What’s Up With Bing Ads?

This post was written in September 2012, and yet it was the 3rd most popular post this year. As my longtime readers know, over the years I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Bing Ads. This post covers both good and bad at that time – some of the issues I ranted about have since been fixed.

#2: 8 Killer Landing Page Optimization Tips for PPC

In April, I asked the experts at PPC Chat to give me their best landing page optimization tip for PPC. They came through with flying colors in this popular post – and readers offered additional tips in the comments. This one is worth a bookmark.

#1: My Top 10 PPC Blogs

Here, I list my go-to sources of great PPC news and information. If you’re not reading these blogs, what are you waiting for? Again, readers shared additional resources in the comments.

I hope you enjoy these posts, whether as a review or in case you missed them the first time around. Happy New Year, everyone!

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Reader Poll: PPC Topics for 2014

Thanksgiving was last week, and people are still thinking about what they’re thankful for. I’m thankful for a lot of things: my family, my awesome job, my Michigan State Spartans, and much more.

I’m also very thankful for you, my blog readers. Without you, I’d be, well, talking to myself. Many of you I’ve never met; many others I have met in real life and we’ve become friends. Whichever camp you fall into, thank you.

Now is your chance to tell me what PPC topics you’d like to hear more about in 2014. Answer the poll below and let me know!

Got something special you’re thankful for? Share in the comments!

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