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!

Related Posts:

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.

Related Posts:

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!

Related Posts:

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!

Related Posts:

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.

Related Posts:

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!

Related Posts:

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!

Related Posts:

PPC and Content Marketing: Timing

In earlier posts, I talked about the 4-step content audit and audience research. In this post, we’ll talk about the timing of content marketing PPC.

In many ways, timing is important for all types of PPC. Maybe you’re running a sale for a limited time, or doing a promotion around a holiday. You might have a marketing calendar that helps you determine when promotions should run.

PPC for content marketing is no different, although it’s critical to pay attention to timing. Ideally, you’ll have an editorial calendar that tells you when new content will be published. The editorial calendar is your roadmap for planning PPC for content marketing.

But what if you don’t have an editorial calendar? You can still be successful – you’ll just have to work a little harder.

The first step in planning when to promote content is to review your content audit and audience research data. Hopefully, you’ve organized the information in your content audit into a matrix by content type. If not, you can do that now. There are several different ways to organize the content to figure out when to promote it. One I like is the Periodic Table of Content Marketing by Econsultancy.

Then, organize the content by audience. Think about the seasonality of your product or service, and that of your audience as well. For instance, if you’re marketing to landscapers, summer is going to be their busiest season. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t market to them in the summer – especially if you have articles or tools that will help them be more efficient during the busy season. But be aware that because they’re busy, they may not use every PPC channel. They might stick to search, to find answers to pressing problems, and save social media for times when they’re not as busy.

If your industry isn’t very seasonal, or if your content is more evergreen, you might want to organize it by type or theme, like the Periodic Table illustrates. Then, set a schedule to push out different kinds of content.

It’s likely you’ll have some content that’s time-sensitive, like a promotion, limited time offer, or holiday-related piece. Make sure to slot that in during the appropriate time.

By now you probably have a good grip on when you’ll launch each piece of content in PPC. There’s one more step in the timing process, and it’s frequently overlooked: when to stop promoting each piece of content! Sometimes it will be obvious; but what about assets that might get outdated over time? If you’re a software provider, for instance, you’ll want to expire any content referring to old releases.

And most content, even evergreen content, gets stale over time. Be sure to track the performance by asset so you can spot any attrition in your content marketing PPC campaigns.

Make sure to do a periodic check to make sure old content isn’t still running. Remember, you’re paying for the engagement, so you don’t want to pay for people to click on old content!

Don’t forget to include testing in your timing plan. While testing is easier in some PPC channels than others, you should always be testing – whether it’s pitting 2 pieces of content against each other, testing audience segments, or even images in Facebook ads. You should also test what type of content performs best: white papers vs. videos, for example. Build all of this into your timing plan.

Finally, lay out all of the timing into your Periodic Table or editorial calendar. Not only will this keep you on track, it’ll help you plan your campaign setup. It might make sense to have campaigns based on promotion dates, especially in search where you don’t have to worry about audiences. Mapping out the timing will help guide your campaign setup process.

The key here is to think everything through ahead of time! So many advertisers just jump in to a Facebook or Twitter Ads campaign without thinking about timing. We’ve all seen the “Save on Mother’s Day Gifts” ads that are still running. With advance planning, the timing of your content marketing PPC will be easy.

Got any tips for timing your content marketing PPC? Share in the comments!

Related Posts:

26 Free Must-Have Tools for PPC Success

Nearly every craft uses tools to get the job done. Carpenters have hammers and saws. Doctors have expensive medical devices like MRI machines and tests. Writers have a computer (or a typewriter, or pen and paper).

PPC is no different. While it’s certainly possible to manage PPC using only the AdWords and Bing Ads online interfaces, doing so will be less than optimal.

I asked 20 PPC experts to share their must-have PPC tools. They responded with gusto. Here are their top recommendations for 26 free, must-have tools for PPC success.

When it comes to free tools, Google is king. One-third of the tools on the list are from Google!

1. AdWords Editor

A few of us old-timers remember life before AdWords Editor. It wasn’t fun. I was doing in-house PPC at the time, and we actually hired an intern to update ad copy for us, it was that arduous to do manually. With Adwords Editor and its many bulk editing features, those days disappeared. Several experts mentioned Editor, most with a comment like “Duh! It’s essential.”

2. Google Analytics

The AdWords and Bing interfaces only go so far. They don’t tell you what happens after the ad click. Use Google Analytics to gauge bounce rate, pages visited, and many other analytical gems that will help optimize your marketing efforts.

3. AdWords Scripts

We’ve recently started using AdWords Scripts, and it’s become obvious they’re a must-have. Use them for exception reporting, daily stats, and client reporting – amongst other things.

4. Google Plugin for Eclipse

Use this plugin to help develop AdWords Scripts. (Recommended by Leo Sussan.)

5. Google Documents

I love creating shared Google Docs for internal and external use. It’s even possible to have multiple users editing them at once – something you can’t do with Microsoft Office. (Suggested by Larry Kim of Wordstream.)

6. Google Drive

Google Drive is great for storing Google Docs and other files. (Suggested by my coworker Ben Nusekabel)

7. FTP for Google Merchant accounts

Who wants to update thousands of product listing ads manually? Use FTP to send your merchant feed to Google automatically. (Recommended by Matt Vaillancourt.)

8. Google Suggest

Google Suggest is a fun and enlightening way to do keyword research. (Recommended by Aaron Levy of SEER Interactive.)

9. Bing Ads Editor

Not to be outdone, Bing Ads has some great free tools of its own. While Bing Ads Editor isn’t as robust as AdWords Editor, it’s still a must-have PPC tool for those using Bing Ads.

10. Bing Ads Intelligence

I love this Excel plugin for keyword research. It’ll show search volume, create ad groups, and provide demographic data – all in Excel.

11. Facebook Power Editor

If you’re running more than one simple Facebook Ads campaign, you need to be using Power Editor. It’s like AdWords Editor for Facebook. Use it to create audiences, play around with targeting, and create an image bank for your campaigns.

12. Excel

OK, it’s free if your computer has Microsoft Office, which 90 percent or so of us do. Excel is necessary to analyze and manipulate PPC data. Many of the experts named it a must-have.

13. Excellent Analytics Plugin for Excel

Use this plugin to pull Google Analytics data into Excel and make reporting easier. I’m definitely going to check this one out. (Recommended by Arianne Donoghue.)

14. Statistical Significance Spreadsheet

This is a simple, yet often overlooked, way to streamline tracking of ad copy and landing page tests. (Recommended by Andrew Bethel.)

15. Analysis ToolPak for Excel

Use the free Excel plugin Analysis ToolPak to add advanced hypothesis testing to Excel at no cost. (Another recommendation from Sussan.)

16. Uber Suggest

Use Uber Suggest for keyword research. I’ve even used Uber Suggest for blog topic idea generation. (Another great recommendation from Levy.)

17. Keyword Wrapper

Use this easy-to-use tool to quickly create keyword sets in all match types. Build out your keyword list in minutes with this tool. (Recommended by Mark Kennedy of SEOM.)

18. Phrase Builder

Enter a few words, and Phrase Builder will mash them up into keywords. (Another tool recommended by Kennedy.)

19. Soovle

Soovle serves up common searches on a multitude of sites, including YouTube, Answers.com, and Amazon, in addition to the usual search engine subjects. (Yet another keyword tool from Levy.)

20. Convertable

Convertable is a free lead generation tracking service (in beta). If you aren’t ready to give Salesforce a try, check out Convertable.

21. SplitTester

SplitTester is my favorite free online statistical significance tester. Just plug in clicks and CTR (or conversion rate) for 2 ad variations to see which one is the winner, and at what level of significance.

A Few More PPC Tools

Several experts suggested tools that are fixtures in any office, and yet are essential for PPC. Microsoft Outlook and Spotify were two that Lisa Sanner from PointIt finds necessary. I have to agree.

Finally, no list would be complete without the tools that each and every PPC expert uses every day:

  •     Experience (Sanner)
  •     People (e.g., sales teams, live chats) (Sanner)
  •     My brain (Michael Madew) and Matt Vaillancourt)

Special thanks to Aaron Levy, Andrew Bethel, Arianne Donoghue, Ben Nusekabel, David Szetela, Larry Kim, Leo Sussan, Lisa Sanner, Mark Kennedy, Martin Roettgerding, Matt Umbro, Matt Vaillancourt, and Michael Madew for contributing your suggestions.

In addition to these free tools, here are 18 Must-Have Paid Tools for PPC Success.

Hopefully you’ve learned of a few new helpful free PPC tools from this list! What are your must-have PPC tools?

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on March 11, 2014. It was so popular there that I had to share it with my readers! Enjoy!

Related Posts:

When Bad PPC Advice Is Good Advice

A couple months ago, I wrote a post called 6 Ways to Spot Bad PPC Advice, on the heels of a couple of PPC posts that I felt were misguided.

I stand by what I said, but have come to realize that I might have been a bit harsh in my delivery. As with all things PPC, what works for one advertiser (or campaign, even) may not work for another. In fact, what works one week might not work the next in the same campaign!

Sometimes, what is generally considered to be bad PPC advice might be good advice, in the right situation. Here are 6 instances where bad PPC advice might turn out to be good advice.

Sometimes you should spend more on PPC.

I railed against the suggestion to spend more on PPC because it’s usually Google’s first “optimization” suggestion, and all it optimizes is Google’s bottom line. But there are times when it makes a lot of sense to spend more on PPC. Have you ever had a campaign that was converting like crazy, but the client (or your boss) wouldn’t increase the budget? Frustrating, isn’t it?

While increasing the budget isn’t the first thing you should do to optimize a campaign, spending more is good advice for high-performing campaigns that are budget-limited.

Sometimes you should expand your geotargeting.

We had a client whose product appealed mainly to government organizations. They wanted to limit targeting to Washington, DC to reach federal employees. So we tried it for a while.

We found that volume, and conversions, were very low with this approach. When we expanded the campaign to other locations that also had high concentrations of federal workers, performance (and conversions) increased dramatically.

While I stand by my recommendation against targeting the whole world, getting too granular with geotargeting isn’t always the best choice. Sometimes expanding geotargeting is the right thing to do.

Sometimes broad match is necessary.

Ever tried running PPC for an esoteric brand that’s not well-known? Ever tried bidding on keywords that are relevant but low-volume? Ever gotten too long-tail and had that “Low search volume” warning in Google?

In these instances, broad match is a good idea. I’m still a fan of starting out with phrase or exact match and expanding from there, but if you run your entire keyword list through a keyword tool and the volume for every term is 0, you’ll want to try broad match.

Of course, you’ll want to carefully monitor your search query reports and aggressively add negatives. And modified broad match is a safer strategy than expanded broad match. But sometimes broad match is necessary.

Sometimes high-volume keywords will boost conversions.

I actually laid out how to go about adding high-volume terms in my post. It can and often should be done. Using my previous example of “low search volume” keywords, sometimes you have to go a few steps up the funnel to higher-volume terms. With careful monitoring, bidding, and budgeting, along with extensive negative keywords, high-volume terms can boost conversions. We’ve even seen instances where a single-word keyword, usually a no-no in PPC, converts like crazy at a good cost. It’s possible.

Sometimes you need short-tail keywords.

See above. It actually seems as though Google is discouraging very long-tail keywords with the “low search volume” penalty, in fact. I’ve had highly relevant, 5 and 6 word phrases not only get slapped with “low search volume,” but get hit with low quality scores as well. We could debate whether Google is right or wrong here, but the fact is that at this point, it’s their sandbox and we have to play in it or leave.

You should definitely test including appealing promotions.

I actually acknowledged this as a good tactic in my original post, with a caution: Don’t rely too heavily on deep discounts and “all promotions, all the time.” But if you have a deal or special, it’s definitely good advice to promote it via PPC.

What do you think? Are there times when you need to turn PPC best practices on their head and do things you wouldn’t normally do? Do you ever use any of the tactics in this post? Share in the comments!

Related Posts: