Why Context Matters In PPC Case Studies

I read a great article today called 6 Surprising B2B Facebook Marketing Case Studies. It talked about Facebook ads, and how well they can work for B2B.

I totally agree – we’ve seen the same thing for our clients. Everyone thinks LinkedIn is the best place for B2B, but we’ve found that the audience there is small, and CPCs are high; plus the interface is clunky at best. LinkedIn does work, but Facebook works just as well if not better.

But this post isn’t about Facebook vs. LinkedIn. It’s about context in PPC case studies.

The “surprising” case studies in the article mentioned above leave a lot to be desired. They all lack context and statistical significance.

Now before someone starts throwing virtual darts at me, let me say a few things. I thought the point of the article was well-taken, and I agreed with it. I’m sure the goal was to write a brief, punchy article with “snackable” talking points (and don’t get me started on how much I hate the word “snackable”). But I’m not a fan of numbers being bandied about without context. Thus, this post.

OK. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at the case studies.

case 1

On the surface, this is a great example of why paid social (and paid search) is effective for attorneys. I used to have an attorney client, with similar success metrics. They only needed 1-2 cases per year to make PPC pay for itself.

But the attorney in the case study got one case, which does not a case study make. He could conceivably spend another $100,000 in a short time on Facebook and never get another case. The one case could totally have been luck. Or, his next case might be for $500 instead of $100,000. Does Facebook look so great in that instance?

The point is, one case isn’t statistically significant.

Now let’s look at cases 2, 4, 5, and 6.

case 3-6

The issue with all these examples is the same: there’s no context. Each case study mentions a cost per lead. If you’ve ever done lead generation, these CPL’s sound decent.

Decent compared to what?

We have no context for whether these numbers are good or bad for the clients in question. What’s the cost per lead for other channels? For case 6, what if paid search was driving leads and demos at $10 per signup? Facebook doesn’t look so hot in that case. Same thing goes for all the examples here.

For case 4, there’s enough data to back into some numbers. The industry event advertiser spent $21,758 to generate 305 registrations. That’s not a small investment for social PPC. The conversion rate was just over 1%, which isn’t bad for Facebook, but is pretty low compared with other channels (or is it? We don’t know since there’s no baseline included). CPC was $1.20, which is definitely lower than LinkedIn and probably lower than search, but what about display or remarketing? In my experience, $1.20 is high for both of those channels, even for B2B. And what’s the average cost per registration for this organization? Did the organization make money on a $71 cost per registration, or did they pay $71 for an event that cost $50 to register? I’m guessing registration cost more than $71, but again, we don’t know. So it’s hard to know whether Facebook was the right choice or not.

The cases aren’t all bad, though. Let’s look at #3.

case 3

This is actually valuable insight that a lot of advertisers and PPC pros don’t think about. Every PPC campaign is a test at the beginning – you’re taking a risk that it won’t perform. And every new business venture is certainly a risk. This business learned very cheaply that no one needed their product, by conducting market research on Facebook. Spending a few hundred dollars to save tens of thousands is pretty compelling. I’m actually thinking of recommending this tactic to clients who are thinking about launching new products or services – it’s a great way to test the waters.

Now, I’m sure there is more to the story for each of these case studies. I’d bet that the author has PowerPoint decks for each case with additional detail that he chose to leave out for the purpose of brevity.

Adding context wouldn’t have been difficult here, though; and it wouldn’t have taken away from the brevity of the article. Adding one sentence to Case 6 saying “The SaaS company’s average cost per demo was $150,” for instance, would stave off any questions or doubts in the reader’s mind.

I caution anyone who puts numbers out there to include context. It doesn’t take much space, and it makes your case even more powerful.

How do you present data in case studies when you’re talking to clients or prospects? Share in the comments!

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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on PPC Strategy

So often, PPC strategy seems to be an afterthought. In their haste to start looking for keywords and setting bids, advertisers overlook strategy development.

Don’t let this happen to you! Take the time to develop your PPC strategy before jumping into anything else.

In my experience, PPC strategy development falls into 4 categories:

•    Goals identification
•    Campaign setup
•    Conversion rate optimization
•    Content marketing

I include content marketing here, even though some may argue it’s a separate discipline. To me, content marketing is a crucial part of many PPC campaigns, and assembling the content into a PPC strategy isn’t trivial. So I’m including resources to help with that.

Goals Identification

I’ve said many times that identifying the goal of your PPC campaign is the first step. What business goal will your PPC campaign help you achieve? The answer will drive your entire strategy. Be sure to separate ideas from strategy, anticipate client questions, consider marketing basics, and determine conversion actions as part of your goal identification process.

Campaign Setup

It may seem like campaign setup isn’t really a strategy, but you must think strategically to properly set up your PPC campaigns. You’ll want to incorporate best practices, establish setup milestones, and establish a reporting cadence.  All of these activities will ensure that goals are being met, and they help make clients happy too.

Conversion Rate Optimization

A poorly-optimized website will render all the great PPC strategy in the world useless. Build in conversion rate optimization (CRO) activities to ensure your strategy will actually achieve the goal. Assign primary responsibility for CRO to make sure it actually gets done and someone is accountable for it. Periodically review landing page optimization best practices to ensure your CRO efforts will be successful.

Content Marketing

This is such a complex process that I wrote an entire series on content marketing and PPC. Knowing how content fits into your marketing mix, and taking the time to craft your PPC content marketing campaign, will help ensure that you meet your goals.

The Cheat Sheet

I’ve summarized the strategy elements into the ultimate cheat sheet for PPC strategy. Bookmark this post, and refer to it when you’re setting up a new campaign! Get the Ultimate Cheat Sheet for PPC Strategy.

Strategy Ultimate Cheat Sheet

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Bid Management: Is It Even Still A Thing?

When Google launched Adwords Select back in 2002, the self-serve pay per click model was new. Although GoTo existed before Adwords, it wasn’t as widely adopted. People flocked to this great new way of advertising that allowed them to pay only when someone clicked, rather than when impressions were served. It was a paradigm shift that changed online advertising forever.

One element of early PPC programs that managers quickly had to master was bid management. Bidding for the top of the page, which was actually possible in GoTo/Overture back then, didn’t make much sense to savvy advertisers. Instead, we wanted to pay only what the click was actually worth to us. High-converting terms, we reasoned, should have higher bids than low-converting terms.

I remember spending all day on bid management back in 2002-2003. I was doing in-house ecommerce, and we had hundreds of products, all with different profit margins. I had a fancy spreadsheet that calculated exactly what each click was worth, based on our profit margin and PPC conversion rates. Looking back, it was crazy – but it worked. PPC quickly became our biggest acquisition channel, and we made money on every sale.

Fast forward to today. Few PPC managers are manually managing bids, at least on any kind of scale. It’s time-consuming. It’s complicated. Done properly, it requires math and thinking. Lately I’ve been wondering, is manual bid management even a thing anymore?

I’m not sure it should be a thing, given today’s technology. Even back in the day, I used GoToast (which later became Atlas bid management and then eventually went away) to manage bids. I soon realized that we couldn’t come close to putting our entire product catalog online and still be able to manually keep up with the bidding wars that were happening in the old Overture system at that time. Now, we have both free and paid options for automating bids.

Adwords Scripts

Adwords Scripts launched in 2012 and revolutionized the way PPC is managed. Scripts can automate countless tasks, and one of them is bid management. And they’re free! If you know a little programming, you can even create a custom script that will manage bids exactly the way you want. If Scripts had been around in 2002, I wouldn’t have needed that complicated spreadsheet to calculate my bids – I would have just created a script.

Automated Bidding

Automated bidding was one of the features that actually launched following the much-vaunted April 22, 2014 announcement call. Automated bidding, like most things Google, is also free. Automated bidding is even easier to use than Scripts, and really leaves no excuse for doing manual bid management.

Just this week, Bing Ads matched Google by launching automated bidding. I expect this might actually get more people to start using Bing Ads, now that they won’t have to manually manage bids.

Bid Management Software

And then there’s the granddaddy of them all: bid management software. Providers such as Acquisio, Kenshoo, Marin, and many others have been around for several years now. Most bid management platforms have an algorithm that will manage bids for you. All you need to do is set a budget, and the software takes it from there.

Acquisio, which we use at gyro, has their Bid and Budget Management tool, which optimizes bids in near-real time. Marin just launched Budget Optimizer, which tells advertisers what their monthly budgets should be.

Wow. Technology is amazing – albeit bid management software comes at a price – and yet, I can’t help but marvel at how far we’ve come. My days of manually calculating bids in a spreadsheet seem far away. If you’re not automating bids in some way, you’re losing ground to competitors who are.

Do we even need to train new PPC managers on bid management, what with all this fancy software and automation?

I think the answer is yes. In order to properly use technology, you need to understand how it works. Letting a software package or, heaven forbid, Google, tell you what to bid is a scary proposition.

Now, I already admitted that we use bid management software. It saves me untold hours of manual work. But I still monitor bids and ROI on a daily basis. If you don’t understand the bid landscape, how can you make corrections or spot issues? Software and scripts can only go so far – the PPC manager still needs to pay attention to what’s happening.

What do you think? Is active bid management a thing of the past, or is it still a key skill for PPC managers? Share in the comments!

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The Many Layers of LinkedIn PPC

Note from Melissa: Robert Brady of Clix Marketing is here with another guest post on LinkedIn PPC!

Since LinkedIn launched in May of 2003 it has grown to become the de facto virtual resume for professionals. Want someone to know your job history and accomplishments with each position? Put it on LinkedIn. Want someone to know your education, skills, recommendations, awards and many other professional bullet points? Put it on LinkedIn.

This detailed information, provided by the users themselves, makes LinkedIn a gold mine for any marketer that can define their target customer (often called a persona) in work-related detail. For many B2B marketers this is easy.

LinkedIn Targeting 101

Many advertisers start with very rudimentary targeting. Here are the most popular options, which LinkedIn shows by default as someone creates a new campaign:

•    Location
•    Company Name
•    Company Size
•    Industry
•    Job Title
•    Job Function
•    Seniority

LinkedIn Targeting 101

By itself, this would be a powerful set of options to choose from. For example, let’s imagine that we’re putting on an education conference for California teachers.  Here are some ideas of how we could reach those people:

Location: California – 13.3 million LinkedIn users

Industry: Primary/Secondary Education – 58K LinkedIn users in California

Companies:
•    California Department of Education – 1015 LinkedIn users in California
•    Los Angeles Unified School District – 29K LinkedIn users in California

Job Title: Teacher – 149K LinkedIn users in California

Job Function: Education – 623K LinkedIn users in California

Any of those would be a great place to start, but you could run into a couple problems. First, you might not get enough traffic. Second, you may want to be a little more specific with some of these. Let’s talk about how we can solve each problem.

Targeting For More Volume

To start off you’re going to want to click that blue “More targeting options” link you see in the image above. That will open a lot of new options for us to explore. It will look like this:

LinkedIn Targeting Volume

Now let’s look at some other ideas for this education conference:

Skills:
•    Teaching – 347K LinkedIn users in California
•    Educational Technology – 42K LinkedIn users in California

Groups
•    National Education Association – 1091 LinkedIn users in California
•    Teacher’s Lounge – 9K LinkedIn users in California
•    Elementary group for teachers – 3K LinkedIn users in California

Degree
•    Bachelor of Education – 3K LinkedIn users in California
•    Master of Education – 18K LinkedIn users in California

As you can see, this allows you to target in even more ways to reach your potential audience because now you’re looking at them beyond just their job title and industry. Now you’re looking at groups they’ve identified with. You’re looking at skills that other people have endorsed them for. You’re looking at their actual degree (because LinkedIn is a digital resume, people put this information as well).

Targeting For Highly Qualified Traffic

Disclaimer: While “highly qualified traffic” sounds perfect you need to keep in mind that this is effectively display advertising. The placements are a little 3-pack of ads on the right side or a sponsored update that gets slipped into a user’s feed. These people didn’t go looking for you so the click-through rate (CTR) will be low and you need fairly large audiences. LinkedIn won’t let you advertise to an audience unless it has at least 1,000 people, but you’ll find that any audience under about 5K will struggle for clicks.

That said, how do you get this awesomely qualified traffic? Layering & exclusions.

•    Layering – This is quite simply combining 2 or more of the above targeting ideas. For example, “teaching” as a skill seems a little broad. Layer on top of that an Education job function and you’ve got someone with teaching skills that works in education. Much more qualified.
•    Exclusions – You’ll notice below each targeting option you can add targeting to exclude. Looking at our teaching skill target, you might use it but exclude “Biblical teaching” (it’s really in there). If the conference is for K-12 then you might exclude “College teaching” and “University teaching” as well.

Conclusion

As you can see LinkedIn offers a variety of ways to target your potential audience. You can stick to the basic location, company & job title areas, but I would recommend you also get into the additional “hidden” targeting options as well. Layer them together, exclude poor targets and you’ll find that you can reach highly qualified prospects with your advertising.

Robert Brady is Senior Manager: Software, SMB, Strategy for Clix Marketing. He has worked on PPC accounts of all sizes across many industries and has a soft spot for helping small businesses succeed with paid search. Robert  loves to share his expertise with others by blogging regularly on PPC topics on the Clix Marketing blog, Search Engine People & his personal blog, Righteous Marketing. You’ll also find his posts on SmallBizTrends.com, PPC Hero, FBPPC.com and the Trafficado blog among others. He is also an active participant in #PPCchat on Twitter.

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Can Too Many Ads Ruin PPC Ad Copy Testing?

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

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

multiple ad variations

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

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

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

Scenario 1, Actual Data

scenario 1 actual

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

Scenario 1, Hypothetical

scenario 1 hypo

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

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

Scenario 2, Actual

scenario 2 actual

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

Scenario 2, Hypothetical:

scenario 2 hyp

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

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

Conclusion

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

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Fail Fast, Learn Fast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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4 Unconventional Ways To Do PPC Keyword Research

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

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

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

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

Competitor Tools

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

Here’s an example from SEMrush for Verizon:

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

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

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

Google News and Google Alerts

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

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

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

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

Assist Keywords

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

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

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

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

Use PPC engine opportunities as negative keywords.

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

Bonus resources!

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

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

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Supercharge Your PPC Workflow

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

Daily:

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

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

Weekly:

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

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

Monthly:

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

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

Quarterly

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

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

Yearly

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

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

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5 Challenges for PPC Lead Generation

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

Nothing is sold.

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

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

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

Lead generation advertisers can’t use Shopping feeds.

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

Landing pages can be a challenge.

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

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

Only initial responses are visible in the PPC accounts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Social PPC For B2B: Who Does It Best?

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

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

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

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

social PPC performance

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

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

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

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

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

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