Must-Read Posts On PPC And Other Topics

I’ve been bookmarking great PPC posts like a madwoman the past few days, and some of the posts are too good not to share. Here are my must-read posts on PPC, and on a couple other topics that PPC managers will find useful.

Excellent Bidding in PPC by Lauryan Feijen. This long but worth-the-read post covers how to effectively bid on keywords for best results. If you’re looking to meet your PPC goals, check this one out.

Multi-Ad Group Testing by AdAlysis. This video is intended for users of Brad Geddes’s AdAlysis tool, but it’s worth a watch for anyone looking to streamline ad copy testing across large accounts. You could apply the principles outlined in the video to a pivot table and gain similar insights with a few calculations, although it would take significantly more time than it takes in AdAlysis.

Incidentally, I’m a huge fan of AdAlysis. If you manage multiple accounts or have a large account with multiple ad tests, this tool is a must for saving time on test analysis.

Google AdWords Remarketing Lists For Search Ads (RLSA): The Ultimate Guide by Lisa Raehsler. An oldie but a goodie, this Search Engine Watch post is a must-read primer for anyone looking to take advantage of the power of remarketing lists for search ads.

The next 2 posts are on giving great presentations. Even if you don’t speak at search conferences, you probably have to give presentations to clients, or to co-workers if you work in-house. I bookmarked these 2 posts because they’re loaded with tips that I can use right away to make my presentations better.

Making Great Presentations by Ian Lurie. A true lesson in the “less is more” philosophy, Ian’s Slideshare deck will have you fine-tuning your PowerPoint decks in no time.

Free Resources For Great Presentations by my friend Aaron Levy. Aaron gave this presentation at his alma mater, Villanova University – but the lessons in this post apply to far more than just college students. Everyone can benefit from the resources he offers up in this killer post. (Disclosure: Aaron credits me with providing ideas for his presentation, and I did send him a few tips – but this post has given me way more than I gave it!)

Give these great posts a read or view – you won’t be disappointed. Got any great PPC articles to share? Post in the comments!

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6 Milestones For Successful PPC Campaigns

When I train new PPC hires, one of the questions they often ask me is, “How long does it take to get a PPC campaign running well?” It’s a fair question, and the answer isn’t what you might think.

A good PPC campaign takes time to set up. It’s not immediate like Google Adwords would lead you to believe:

This is Google's idea of how quickly a campaign can go live. They're wrong.

This is Google’s idea of how quickly a campaign can go live. They’re wrong.

Here are 6 milestones that will take you on your way to a well-run campaign.

Research

Doing your homework is a must. Guessing at keywords and creating one ad that lands on the homepage is not the way to approach PPC. You’ll need to think about campaign goals first, and then do your keyword research.

Creating good ad copy is harder than ever with all the options out there today. Be sure to incorporate best practices.

Campaign structure is also vital for success. Plan for expansion, and create campaigns and ad groups that will make management and reporting easier.

Tracking

If you don’t measure results, how will you know if the campaign is running well? Tracking setup can be very simple, using only Google Analytics or the engine conversion tracking scripts, or it can be ridiculously complex, with content marketing and CMS integration, call tracking, social media, and other integration elements.

Set aside time to get the tracking right before you launch. Inaccurate tracking is worse than no tracking.

Approvals

Whether you’re in an agency dealing with clients, or in-house with a boss or CEO, someone will need to approve your campaign before it goes live. Chances are you’ll need someone else to set up the tracking on the website, too. Allow time for approvals – in my experience, a 2-day turnaround is lightning-fast, and it frequently takes a week or more for all approvals and tracking codes to be installed. Work that time into your launch plan.

And if you’re creating new landing pages, plan on at least a month to get them up and running. Even with marketing automation, I’ve found it takes several weeks to create new pages, QA them, and get them ready for traffic.

Relevant Data

One of the great things about PPC is its immediacy – you can start seeing data right away. But just because you can see data the first day doesn’t mean you should act on it.

Use the first days of a new campaign to trouble-shoot: ad disapprovals, broken links, and tracking issues are some of the roadblocks that can crop up in the early days of a new campaign. You should definitely look at the data to spot these challenges and fix them as soon as possible.

But don’t fall into the trap of viewing performance after a couple of days or weeks and making huge decisions on it. Most campaigns need at least a month to really get a feel for performance. The first couple weeks will have huge swings in key metrics – so it doesn’t make sense to decide the fate of keywords and ad copy while things are going back and forth. Give it time.

Optimization

Campaign optimization should be ongoing, of course, but it’s in the first month or two that the most learning happens. You’ll probably find a couple of keywords and ad variations that perform terribly. As long as you remove them quickly, usually there’s little to no harm done. Fail fast and learn fast should be your motto.

Reporting

Reporting is another way to get your campaign performing well. In a report, you must show results, highlight key wins, and point out issues and problems. Even though you’re looking at your PPC data on a regular basis, you’ll probably see something in the first report that you didn’t notice before. And that’s ok.

I always tell clients that their first report is going to be their worst report in terms of performance. It’s the baseline by which future performance is judged. And a good PPC report will facilitate a conversation between you and your client or boss that will help you get the campaign to perform better in the future.

Work toward these milestones as you set up your next PPC campaign. What milestones do you look for in a new campaign? Share in the comments!

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PPC and Content Marketing: Integration

Previously, I’ve talked about PPC and content marketing as it relates to the content audit, audience research, timing, and buyer journey. Now it’s time to think about integrating your content marketing efforts across channels.

It’s common for advertisers to integrate their search and social PPC channels. PPC can inform SEO and vice versa, and social PPC can inform search as well. Frequently, the same person is managing many or all of these channels, making it even easier to coordinate and integrate learnings.

But what about other kinds of media? Think about ad networks, traditional media, organic social, PR, email…. Are you talking to these folks about your content marketing?

Chances are, the answer is no. And it’s time to start.

Map channels to the buyer journey.

The best way to begin the mapping process is to go back and look at your buyer journey. Map each channel to the phases in the buyer journey that make the most sense. You’ll probably need to break things down even further and map campaigns within the channels to the buyer journey. PPC, for instance, can fit into multiple buyer journey phases, so you’ll need to map campaigns accordingly.

Once you’re done, you’ll have a good roadmap of which channels need to be working closest together.

Track content across channels.

Now it’s time to think about tracking your content across channels. It’s not always easy to do, but if you have a good content management system, usually you can assign a content ID to each asset. Then you’ll include the content ID as a URL parameter in each channel. This enables you to slice and dice the data and see how each content asset performs across channels and as a whole.

This is the secret sauce that will help you take your content marketing to the next level. If you know that a certain asset performs well in every channel you’ve used it, then you’ll want to lead with that asset when you enter a new channel for the first time.

If you don’t have a CMS that can track content performance for you, you could try using the utm_content parameter in Google Analytics for content ID. As long as it’s used the same way across channels, you could get asset performance this way.

Track content types.

It’s also important to learn what types of content perform best. Are white papers your top lead generators, or do videos perform best? Track performance by asset type, either by including it in the content ID parameter, or by tracking it manually. One of our clients tracks link clicks on asset titles in their web analytics, using consistent link naming across all channels. The asset title always includes the asset type, so we can roll up the results fairly easily.

Establish a consistent naming convention.

I can’t stress enough how important the naming convention is to content marketing integration success. A naming convention is like a code or shorthand that maps back to your content. For instance, an Intro to PPC white paper might be coded like this: ppc_int_wp_01. All PPC content would contain “ppc,” all intro content would contain “int,” and all white papers would contain “wp.” “01” is the specific asset number. This convention enables you to track and report on all kinds of asset types.

Establish your naming convention before you begin, and you’ll be able to track content performance across channels.

Don’t forget to ensure that all marketing channels, including organic social, are using the content parameter in their destination URLs.  All the naming in the world is no good unless it’s used consistently!

Use the data to learn and improve.

If you find that white papers perform best across all channels, you now know that you need to start writing more white papers. You might find that certain types of content do better in PPC than in other channels, and vice versa.

Be sure to communicate learnings to all involved: your counterparts working in other channels, your client or boss, and so on. Set a monthly or quarterly content performance review meeting to go over your findings. This way you ensure that everyone is informed and can use the information to improve the marketing efforts in their area of expertise.

An integrated content marketing strategy can be highly effective. How have you integrated your PPC content marketing? Share in the comments!

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7 Things About PPC Strategy Your Clients Want to Know

So, you’ve landed a new client (or gotten approval to start an in-house PPC campaign) and you’re ready to open up a new Adwords account. You’ve read all the PPC blogs about campaign settings and setup; or maybe you’re an experienced PPC marketer and you’re itching to pull the trigger.

While you’re thinking about ad group structure, campaign settings, and ad copy, your client or boss has questions about PPC strategy. Here are 7 things about PPC strategy that your clients want to know.

1 – Campaign goals.

Ideally, you’ll have discussed goals before you kick off the campaign, and structured your campaigns accordingly. Every conversation you have with the client should center on goals: why the questions you’re asking pertain to their main pain points and needs, and how you plan to achieve their goals.

Sometimes strategies need to shift or change, and if you’re the one driving that change, the client wants to know that too. For instance, if you decide to test the Google Display Network, the client will want to know how that fits with their overall strategy. It’s easy to get excited about testing something and forget to get client or decision-maker buy-in. Keep the lines of communication open for best results.

2 – How you’re going to get more leads for less cost.

This is what it comes down to, right? Sales or leads are foremost on most clients’ minds. All your PPC reports should include optimization recommendations that illustrate how you’ll increase leads and improve cost per lead. Clients care less about the keywords you’re bidding on, and more about making their cash register ring.

3 – How they compare against competitors.

It’s rare for a client not to care about their competition. Market positioning vis-à-vis the competition was probably part of your pitch process – but it needs to be reviewed frequently. Clients are often obsessed with their competitors’ every move. Proactively watching the competition helps the PPC manager to be prepared for threats and opportunities, too.

Use a tool like SEMrush or Spyfu to easily keep tabs on your clients’ competitors. I can guarantee your clients want to know what they’re doing.

4 – Why you picked the keywords you did.

I said earlier that clients care less about keywords and leads, and that’s true. But it doesn’t mean they don’t care about keywords at all. They do need to know what you’re bidding on and why. It’s a good idea to periodically send your clients a list of keywords that are driving traffic, whether it’s the top 10 or 100 or 1,000 terms. Have a conversation with them about why you chose the keywords you did. I often find that clients don’t understand how keywords work, and will ask why you’re not bidding on product attributes or ingredients (I once had a deli restaurant client who wanted to bid on “poblano peppers”), slogans, and other phrases that, to a PPC manager, aren’t even keywords. Take the time to explain why you chose the terms you did.

5 – Why you need a new or improved landing page.

Ah, landing pages. They’re so often the bane of my existence. It’s common for clients or bosses to ask why you need to create new landing pages, or why you need to edit your existing pages. It’s crucial to walk them through the reasons why you need a killer landing page. Nothing is more frustrating for both the PPC manager and the client than settling for a subpar landing page (or, heaven forbid, the home page) and then wondering why results are terrible.

6 – When you will see results.

Ah, PPC reporting. Another potential bane of the PPC manager’s existence. While we may despise reporting, it’s not negotiable – clients and bosses need reports.

New clients will be very anxious about when they’ll see results on their new PPC campaign. Lay out a reporting schedule early on, and agree on what will be reported. Don’t forget to set expectations: I tell new clients that the first month is always going to be the worst month in terms of performance. Frequently, there are tracking issues, keywords you shouldn’t have been bidding on, and landing page issues that don’t get resolved in the first month. Figure out how long the benchmark period will last and set the expectation with the client.

We tell new clients that the first 4-8 weeks are the time that we do a lot of learning and tuning. While we make every effort to set campaigns up for success, not everything we try will work. That’s the point of testing – to fail fast and learn fast. Clients just want to know when they can see the cash register ring, so set the expectations up front.

7 – How do we know if we’ve succeeded?

The answer to this question goes beyond “well, your sales/leads went up.” What is the desired cost per lead? How many leads or sales are you expecting from the program? How does PPC affect other channels? What KPIs will tell us that we’ve gotten what we wanted out of PPC? Be prepared to answer all these questions, or work with your client to answer them. And when you do succeed, shout it from the rooftops!

Are there PPC strategy questions your clients ask that I haven’t covered? Share in the comments!

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Top Tips for Social PPC Success From the Experts

Social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are here to stay – and they all have PPC ad platforms. More and more advertisers are including social PPC in their search marketing mix.

While there are many similarities between social PPC and search PPC, there are some key differences. In many ways, social PPC acts more like display than search – but it doesn’t really act like display, either. Social PPC has its own set of best practices for success.

If you’re like a lot of PPC pros, you’re probably struggling to get your head around the whole social PPC universe. So, I asked some of the top experts in social PPC to share their top tips for social PPC success.

Facebook Audience Tips

The power of social PPC is its targeting abilities. With search, you’re targeting keywords; with social, you’re creating personas. Accurate targeting is a great feature of social PPC, so it’s crucial to get it right.

“Create and manage audiences in Facebook Power Editor to run and test ads with specific messaging for specific demographic groups,” said James Svoboda of Web Ranking. “This will help control ad spend on new campaigns and helps speed up creation of new ads by having established audiences.”

If you aren’t using Facebook’s Power Editor, bookmark this article to read later and go get started. It only works on Chrome and acts a lot like AdWords Editor for Facebook.

One of the great features is audience creation. You can create an audience in Power Editor and apply the audience to any or all of your ads. You can also create new ads and apply the saved audience to them.

Reaching your target audience in Facebook can be challenging, especially for B2B advertisers. My coworker Jessi Link recommends that advertisers “get creative with targeting. Since most of our clients are B2B, and job title targeting can be lacking on Facebook in particular, I’ve found it helpful to reach these audiences by targeting fans of industry publications, conferences, and companies that serve that audience exclusively.”

Targeting competitors is another popular tactic.

“Targeting people who like/follow your competitors is one of my favorites,” said Julie Bacchini of Neptune Moon.

Joe Drury of WebTrends agreed, saying users of all social PPC platforms should target competitors.

Drury also recommends using Facebook custom audiences. Custom audiences let advertisers target Facebook users by email addresses, phone numbers, Facebook user IDs, or app user IDs.

LinkedIn Audience Tips

Many of the Facebook audience tips are great for LinkedIn as well. Of course, LinkedIn has its own unique opportunities for audience targeting.

Drury said that “on Linkedin, groups are king.” Using and targeting groups, as well as job titles and interests, is highly effective.

Robert Brady of Righteous Marketing recommends that LinkedIn advertisers “overlay targeting for increased relevance. Industry + Seniority + Job Function is a good one to try.” I’ve had success using this method myself.

Bonus Audience Tips

I love the tip I got from social PPC guru John Lee of Clix Marketing. He suggested that advertisers “use the ‘back door’ – target LinkedIn and Facebook with the Google Display Network, layered with contextual keywords.” Both LinkedIn and Facebook use the GDN to backfill their display inventory, so if you want to dip your toe in the water using a platform you’re more familiar with, here’s your chance.

Here’s another tip from yours truly. If possible, prioritize your audience and create campaigns by priority.

For example, you may have a “hot prospects” list and a “cooler prospects” list. Create separate LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter campaigns for each audience. This allows you to use different messaging, bids, and budgets for each audience much more easily than if you lump them all into one.

Social PPC Ad Optimization

Ad burnout in high-impression social PPC networks is a real problem. It’s imperative to keep ads fresh while still generating a good CTR. Ian Mackie of PointIt offers this simple, yet profound tip: “Use dark/old posts in Facebook to quickly A/B test images, headlines, and creative.” Why reinvent the wheel?

Images in social PPC ads create a whole new level of complexity for advertisers used to dealing with 95 characters of text. Finding effective images is a perpetual challenge for advertisers trying to combat ad fatigue.

Getting attention in Facebook ads, in particular, can be tricky.

“Images of pretty, smiling women get clicks,” said Justin Freid of CMI Media. “They may not be the right clicks, but you get clicks.”

Jesse Semchuck adds that it “also helps if the woman is looking at your call to action button/copy.”

While these ideas may sound frivolous, they’re legitimate. People are drawn to people – it’s instinctive. Our eyes follow another person’s eyes. And pretty or suggestive images get attention.

Even in the more businesslike LinkedIn environment, images can make or break an ad. Choose them carefully, and test them relentlessly.

Images may have other editorial challenges, as well. Facebook limits text in an image to no more than 20 percent of the image. But there is a workaround.

“If you’re getting hit with the 20 percent text rule and have to use a particular image, target your ads just to right hand side,” said Timothy Jensen of Overit.

Twitter Ads pose a different optimization challenge, because most of their promotion options focus on promoting tweets, hashtags, or handles. Carefully crafted tweets work well, but there isn’t a good way to split-test them in the ad environment.

That’s where Twitter Lead Generation Cards come in. Lead gen cards are sort of an “ad within a tweet.” You’ll set up a lead gen card, and then send promoted tweets to it. Lead gen cards are effective for driving email signups, white paper downloads, and other common lead gen activities.

As Drury put it: “Lead gen cards rock for B2B!”

Social PPC Campaign Optimization

Most social PPC channels offer both CPC and CPM bidding options. On Twitter, you pay per engagement: click, retweet, or reply. Facebook and LinkedIn both offer CPC and CPM.

Facebook also offers Optimized CPM. oCPM is an advanced bidding option for users of the Facebook API. It allows advertisers to set a value for actions, reach, clicks, or social impressions. Once the values are set, Facebook optimizes ad serving against them.

Several social PPC experts recommended oCPM. Terry Whalen‏ of CPC Search suggested “using custom objectives with oCPM for Facebook bidding” as a way to improve performance.

Mackie is also a fan of oCPM. He said he always starts with CPC bidding and then moves to oCPM to optimize for whatever the goal is.

I owe a big thanks to Mackie for my final two campaign optimization tips:

  • Facebook’s attribution window is set to “1 day after viewing an ad or 28 days after clicking.” Depending on your sales cycle, you can adjust this for reporting purposes to be whatever combination of 1, 7 & 28 (days) makes sense.
  • Qwaya is by far the most inexpensive Facebook Ads tool on the market today.

I’ll be honest – I wasn’t aware of either of these, and I’m now seriously checking them out.

A huge thank you to all of the experts who contributed tips – I know I’ll be using all of them in my social PPC campaigns!

Got a tip of your own? Share in the comments!

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Search Engine Watch on November 12, 2013.

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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On Social PPC

Looking to dip your toes into the social PPC waters, but aren’t sure how to get started? You’re not alone. Social PPC is similar to keyword PPC, and yet different enough to confuse those who are new to the game.

Luckily, you can follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before you.

Elizabeth Marsten wrote a great post for ClickZ called The Definitive Guide to Social PPC. Check it out.

For tips from top PPC experts on social PPC, check out this post over at Search Engine Watch.

I recently spoke at SES Atlanta about social PPC, and I wrote an article on it for Search Engine Watch. In the article, you’ll find detailed tips to succeed with social PPC.

To boil it all down, I created the ultimate cheat sheet for social PPC. Too many advertisers just decide they “need a presence in Facebook Ads” or another social platform, without thinking through any strategy or keys to success. Use this cheat sheet when you’re creating the strategy for your next social PPC campaign. Thinking about these factors prior to launch will set you up for a profitable campaign, instead of a money drain.

social ppc cheat sheet

You can download the sheet in Excel, too.

What are your favorite paid social tips? Share in the comments!

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6 Must-Bookmark PPC Resources

Way back in 2012, I published a post with my favorite PPC bookmarks. Well, 2 years is an eternity in PPC, so I thought I’d update the list. Here are my 6 favorite PPC resources that you need to bookmark in 2014.

3 of the links from 2012 are still on my list this year. If you’re not using these PPC resources, what are you waiting for?

Modified Broad Match Tool from Acquisio. This tool enables you to paste a list of keywords, tell it which ones you want to add the broad match modifier, and spits them out with a keystroke. It’s a huge timesaver and I use it at least weekly.

Ion Interactive’s Landing Page Checklist. While the original link from 2012 no longer exists, use this helpful post on their blog to ensure your PPC landing pages are designed for conversion.

Google Analytics URL Builder. A good way to make sure your custom URLs for Google Analytics are formatted properly.

Here are 3 great PPC resources I’ve found over the past couple years that I refer to again and again.

Visual Website Optimizer statistical significance tool. This downloadable spreadsheet will help you test ad copy efficiently.

How to Exclude Mobile Apps on the Google Display Network. This post by Bryant Garvin at the Get Found First blog is a must-bookmark for anyone using the Google Display Network.

Optmyzr Free Adwords Scripts. Started by former Googler Frederick Vallaeys, Optmyzr is an Adwords Scripts company. They offer some time-saving free scripts on their site.

Happy bookmarking! What are your favorite PPC resources? Share in the comments!

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PPC for Content Marketing: Buyer Journey

In earlier articles about content marketing, I talked about the content audit, audience research,  and timing. In this installment, we’ll cover the buyer journey, and how content works with PPC along the way.

So what is the buyer journey anyway? At gyro, we define the buyer journey as the stages a potential buyer goes through on their way to making a purchase decision. In general, the buyer journey starts with awareness, and moves through consideration, decision, and demand generation.

You’ve probably heard about the buyer journey stages before, and how content fits into them. But how does PPC work with each stage?

Let’s step back for a minute and think about keywords. Keywords also follow the buyer journey. Think about someone who is buying a house, for example. Someone who is at the beginning of the journey may just search for “houses for sale in Chicago,” for example. They may not even include the location in the query and just search for “houses for sale.” As they move through their decision process, searches will get more long-tail: “3 bedroom 2 story in Lincoln Park,” for example.

At a high level, when structuring your PPC campaigns, you’ll need to match the landing page content with the search query. So for the “houses for sale” query, you’ll show them a broad page with general info about houses for sale in Chicago, from which they can narrow their search. Or maybe you’ll serve up a brochure or white paper about buying your first home.

On the more specific queries, you can show them individual houses that match their search queries: a page of 3 bedroom, 2 story homes, or if you don’t have any, the option to sign up for email notifications for when a new listing comes on the market.

The point is to think about matching your content to the buyer journey. Early-stage searchers will want to see content that informs and educates: white papers about your product or service, informational videos, etc. Mid-stage searchers may be interested in buyer’s guides and e-newsletters. And those near a decision will want to see product reviews, demos, and free trials.

Use your content audit to map content to your PPC campaigns, ad groups, and keywords. I like to create a spreadsheet with campaigns, ad groups, and relevant content. The spreadsheet will guide your landing page creation.

To Gate or Not To Gate

Whether or not to gate assets behind a registration wall is usually a lively discussion between clients and PPC & content experts. There are pros and cons to every approach. My general feeling is that if your goal is lead generation, you should gate most, if not all, of your content. Some are in favor of leaving awareness content ungated, and then gating consideration and decision content. I’m ok with that approach if you include remarketing as part of your strategy. If you need to drive leads, and you paid for visitors to come to your page via PPC, it usually doesn’t make sense to let them “get away” without collecting their lead information. Tagging them for remarketing later on is a good way to do this without forcing a form fill on them.

As with all things PPC, test it! Create multiple versions of your landing pages, and test the impact of gating vs. not gating. Make sure to track your visitors all the way through your sales pipeline, not just the initial lead. You might find that your first-time lead conversion rate is lower with gated content, but you get more qualified leads that ultimately filter through the funnel.

Test The Content

It’s also important to test different types of content to see what performs best at each stage. What makes sense for one advertiser may not be effective for another.  We’ve found that informational content like white papers work best for awareness, but that’s not true for every advertiser. Test and track each content type very carefully.

And, as I mentioned earlier, try to track your leads all the way through the buying cycle. Use a CRM system to help you close the loop – there are several good ones out there at different price points. Following leads all the way through to close will tell you not only what drove leads, but what drove sales – all the way back to the keyword.

Finally, make sure your keywords, ad copy, and landing pages align, as mentioned earlier. By thinking about your potential customers and how they search throughout the buyer journey, you can create a PPC campaign that ultimately drives a good volume of leads.

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Why Sitelinks Are A PPC Worst Practice

A few months ago, one of my coworkers asked me a thought-provoking question that I’ve been ruminating on ever since. She asked, “Does Google’s increased push on the use of sitelinks contradict their best practice to make ad groups as specific as possible and to drive users to the most relevant page? Say I’m advertising blue widgets. Long-standing best practices would be to have a very specific ad group pertaining only blue widgets and using my blue widgets page as the destination URL. Now instead of just being able to send them to my blue widgets page, I’m being pushed to include less relevant pages to keep my ad at the top of the page – Widgets, Widget History, Widget FAQs, etc. If your campaigns and ad groups are properly organized, sitelinks are only useful in limited circumstances.”

I thought this was an interesting perspective – one that I agree with. With our B2B clients, I usually don’t use sitelinks, for this very reason. The client has specific goals for each product or service, and we structure our campaigns and ad groups accordingly. The client doesn’t want us sending traffic to other pages within their website – these pages may not be optimized for conversion, or they distract the visitor from taking the action that the client really wants them to take.

Also, there are times when 6-10 or even 1-2 relevant links besides the landing page just don’t exist. Again, the client has a specific product or service they want us to promote. Maybe they even have a budget dedicated to that product or service. They not only don’t have other pages for us to send traffic to, but they don’t want us using their budget for that traffic!

This problem is more common for B2B advertisers, to be sure. I discussed it with Jeremy Brown in a post back in 2012.

This isn’t the first time I’ve covered the pitfalls of sitelinks. Back in 2011, I wrote a post for Search Engine Watch about the not-so-great aspects of sitelinks. While 3 years is an eternity in search, and Google has fixed most of the issues mentioned in that post, there are still shortfalls. Conversion tracking is still a challenge.

And Google doesn’t make it easy to see how individual sitelinks are performing. Take a look at this example:

sitelink data

At first glance, it looks as though the Contact Us sitelink has driven 8 conversions. Not so fast:

this vs other

In reality, no one is clicking on “Contact Us” – they’re all clicking on the ad itself.

This isn’t unusual, but to new PPC manager, or to clients looking at their own data, it’s misleading and confusing to say the least.

But I digress. I’m not the only one who thinks sitelinks might just be a worst practice. Andrew Goodman, in his famous rant “Why I Hate Sitelinks,” lists 11 reasons why he believes sitelinks are problematic. #1 on the list really resonates with me: “Where is the testing? Where are the key performance indicators (KPIs)? It’s impractical and/or irrelevant to test them; you can’t get actionable feedback.” Indeed.

I’m not totally anti-sitelinks. Sitelinks, and ad extensions in general, are a great way to take up more screen real estate. For advertisers with a robust catalog of related products and pages, sitelinks make a lot of sense. But they’re not for everyone, especially those with tightly-themed ad groups or those with only 1-2 relevant landing pages.

What do you think? Are sitelinks the love of your PPC life, or are they a worst practice? Share in the comments!

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PPC Experience: Necessary or Not?

In many careers, the longer you’re at it, the better you get. Think about teaching or coaching, for example. First-year teachers can be downright scary to parents, because they lack experience and may not know how to handle tough classroom situations. The same thing goes for customer service. I worked in customer service for 4 years, and I definitely got better at it the longer I did it.

But what about in PPC? After all, the only constant in the PPC world is change. Knowledge you had yesterday can be obsolete tomorrow – just look at what Enhanced Campaigns did to device-specific campaigns. So does experience matter?

Jeremyah Grigery posted that very question on PPC Chat this week:

Grigery
A flurry of fascinating conversation followed, with most contending that experience counts in many ways. Although performing actual PPC tasks may not require years of experience, knowing what tasks to perform does.

I believe that experience counts for a lot in PPC. Knowing the history of PPC helps veteran PPC’ers come up with workarounds in situations like Enhanced Campaigns – because in the early days, we had to use a LOT of workarounds! I like how Julie Bacchini put it:

Bacchini
A lot of people also talked about having general business savvy, which is something else that comes with time. We often find that junior staff (and this goes beyond PPC to all areas of the agency) are not experienced in dealing with clients, so they struggle with it. Let’s face it – client communication is a learned skill. When I first came to the agency world in 2007, I had a lot to learn, despite working in customer service for much of my career and in PPC for 5 years. So if you’re dealing with clients at all, experience definitely matters.

In fact, life experience helps – and that’s true of any job. Susan Wenograd said it best:

Wenograd
In fact, experience dealing with change is super important in PPC, as Tamsin Mehew points out:

Mehew
I’ve worked with people over the years who were very resistant to change. Any time a new process was put in place, they complained and resisted it. I’ve even dealt with a few people like this in the time I’ve done PPC, although they’re usually not fellow PPC’ers, but rather people in support roles. Nonetheless, learning to adapt to change makes a difference, so if you’ve had experience with it before, it’ll likely be easier to swallow.

So if you’re new to PPC or only have a year or two of experience, does that mean you’re doomed? Absolutely not! Willingness to learn, combined with a curious and positive attitude, is a good recipe for success in PPC. Some skills can be learned faster than others. I’ve found that daily PPC management tasks are easier to grasp, while dealing with clients and giving presentations are harder and take longer to master. But that’s a generalization: I’ve known people who were great with clients but shaky on the day-to-day. As with all things PPC, it depends!

Did you see the discussion about PPC experience on PPC Chat? What do you think? Does experience matter? Share in the comments!

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