Does PPC Work For All Businesses?

Matt Umbro started an interesting discussion last week with his post titled Why SMBs Should Not Run AdWords Accounts. He defines SMBs as advertisers with a budget of $500 per month or less, and says that’s not enough budget to compete and be successful.

Mark Kennedy wrote a detailed counterpoint on the topic called Paid Search Can Work for SMBs – Even the Little Guys! Both Matt and Mark’s posts were well thought out and made good arguments.

Believe it or not, I’ve been mulling this topic for some time, after I saw this question on Quora: Does Google AdWords work for all businesses? The answers to the question range from the ridiculous to the sublime, but one poster sums it up well:

“(Adwords) also only really works if you know what the hell you’re doing… It’s so easy to burn through budgets very quickly and pay for clicks from people who never had any intention of becoming a lead or purchasing anything from you.

All the clients I’ve had have attempted some form of PPC themselves, realised they thought it was simple but they’ve spent a whole load of money on something they don’t understand. I’ve then gone into the account, showed them the type of keywords people have entered which they have paid for – this tends to shock them because they thought they were bidding on exact match keywords. They also tend to lack conversion tracking (if there is no measure of what is success, how can you be successful?).”

I’ve written before about why inexperienced people should not attempt to DIY PPC. It’s too expensive and there are too many pitfalls, as the Quora poster says above. No matter what your budget, if you haven’t outlined clear goals and set up conversion tracking, Adwords or any other PPC program will not work for you.

But what about the small business question? Should small businesses use Adwords?

I’ve run small PPC campaigns a few times in my career. Some were agency clients, and some were side jobs I took on. I have to be honest: I haven’t found $500/month clients to be very profitable, for me or for them. In his post, Mark Kennedy offers several examples of small clients who used geotargeting and other tactics to their advantage.

That’s great, and it makes sense – but I’ve found that Facebook works much better in most of these instances. Clicks on Facebook are significantly cheaper than clicks on Adwords or even Bing, so your money goes a lot further. Even direct ecommerce or lead generation is more efficient on Facebook at small budgets, in my opinion. Matt Umbro also mentioned Facebook as a good alternative for small advertisers.

Mark Kennedy also talks about how to charge for small clients. This is where the problem lies, in my opinion. Mark says he charges about $75 per month for $500 clients. Even if you only charge $75 per hour for your time (which is low for this industry), that only gives you an hour per month to work on that client’s account. In his post, Mark says “Phone calls that are just a quick question turn into hour-long conversations. An email with one question turns into a trail of follow-ups.”

That’s been my experience as well – small clients are less sophisticated, and need more hand-holding. They often don’t understand basic marketing principles, much less the nuances of Adwords. They frequently have issues on their website that need troubleshooting – and lack an in-house developer to fix them, leaving me to answer web dev questions (which, trust me, is not a good use of their time based on my limited dev knowledge!).

So if you spend an hour on the phone answering quick questions, you’re done for the month – or you start losing money on a client that’s already paying you at the low end of the rate scale. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Now if you’re running a small PPC campaign part time as an in-house marketer, and you have some PPC knowledge, a $500 budget might work. But in my opinion, there are better uses of your $500.

It’s been interesting to watch the conversation on PPCChat on this topic. What’s your take? Share in the comments!

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PPC: Anything But Routine

Robert Brady wrote a great post this week over at the Clix Marketing blog called How Valuable Are PPC Skills Anyway? I love the perspective he shared on PPC skills and commoditization – something that’s been talked about a lot in the search blogosphere of late.

Some people have wondered whether automation will eventually put PPC professionals out of a job. It’s a fair point. Look at the manufacturing industry, where many jobs have been taken over by machines and robots, and others have been shipped overseas, where labor is cheap. Could the same thing happen in PPC?

In his article, Robert postulates that routine PPC tasks can be done via automation. If you’re just doing routine tasks, your job may be in jeopardy. There are tools out there that can do bid management, budget management, keyword research, ad testing, and many other routine tasks.

But if you’re actually working on strategy, and overseeing the work that the tools do, then your job should be secure. Check out this graph that Robert referenced in his post:

graph
Back in 1983, when I graduated high school, the same number of people were employed in routine cognitive and non-routine cognitive jobs. Over the past 30 years, the number of routine cognitive jobs hasn’t grown – the line is nearly flat. But non-routine cognitive jobs have grown – and at a faster rate than the other 3 job types.

Strategic PPC is non-routine cognitive work. I can’t tell you the last time I did the same thing 2 days in a row. It doesn’t happen. Are there routine tasks I perform? Sure. Do I do the exact same thing every day for every account? Absolutely not!

There is a place for routine work in every job out there. But if you’re spending every day doing routine tasks, your job may be taken over by automation someday soon.

It’s my hope that all PPC professionals end up doing non-routine cognitive work. It’s what makes this industry so much fun. It’s also my hope that search marketing conferences start focusing less on how-to tactics and more on strategy. It’s in PPC strategy that our value lies.

Do yourself a favor and check out Robert’s post if you haven’t already. And if you’re practicing or teaching assembly line PPC, you might want to start thinking about PPC strategy a little more. Check out the “pay per click strategy” section on this blog. Read blogs by others. Focus on objectives. Ask “why” every day. In short, make sure you’re doing non-routine cognitive work.

Did you read Robert’s article? How do you balance routine PPC tasks with non-routine PPC strategy? Share in the comments!

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Let’s Not Kill B2B Whitepapers Just Yet

A couple weeks ago, my friend Kirk Williams wrote a thought-provoking post on the Wordstream blog called Can We Please Kill the Whitepaper in B2B PPC?. When I saw the title, my hackles went up. I started to think: “Kirk, how could you?”, because Kirk is one of my favorite people in PPC.

As I read the post, I found myself agreeing with him. What he’s really saying is we need to kill bad whitepapers in PPC. Bad whitepapers, according to Kirk, are “all too often nothing more than repurposed sales material.”

I agree.

The whole reason for using B2B whitepapers in PPC is to generate awareness and consideration for your product or service. B2B whitepapers are often used in the early stages of the buying cycle, when users are in research mode. No one wants to be sold to when they’re trying to do research. We all know how annoying it is when we’re trying to browse for a new appliance, car, or other considered purchase and some salesperson pounces on us with a hard sell. We don’t like it. Neither do B2B prospects. Repurposed sales material posing as a whitepaper is not helpful and should definitely die.

But good B2B whitepapers are a great fit for PPC. Our clients have created whitepapers offering opinions on news in their industry, checklists for businesses to consider when making a purchase, overviews of how to use their product, and many other valuable topics. The key is to create whitepapers that answer questions the prospect may have as they’re doing research.

Let’s look at an example. Say you’re doing in-house PPC, and your campaigns have grown to the point that you’re thinking about bid management software. This is not an inexpensive purchase, and there are many technical aspects to consider. You probably have 100 questions about what bid management software does and how it can work for your business.

Do you want to read sales brochures at this point? Of course not. You want to read case studies and information on how bid management software has helped businesses like yours.

That’s where the whitepaper comes in. A good whitepaper on bid management will explain what it is, what it can and cannot do, and how businesses can benefit. It will not be a sales brochure.

In his article, Kirk listed several alternatives to the whitepaper. They’re all great. We’ve found, though, that in situations where the user is early in the research process, free trials and discounts are too far from where the buyer is in his or her journey. Buyers at the early stages need something informative that doesn’t feel like a big commitment. Good whitepapers are just the thing.

Should bad B2B whitepapers die? Absolutely. Should all B2B whitepapers die? Of course not! Whitepapers are useful tools that belong in every B2B marketer’s arsenal. And I think that’s exactly what Kirk was saying in his article.

What do you think? Are whitepapers helpful to you as a B2B marketer or B2B buyer? Or should they be killed off? Share in the comments!

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PPC Professionals: The Mechanics of Digital

Earlier this week, I took my car to the shop for an oil change and tire rotation. 30 minutes and $30 later, it was done. Easy.

When I was a kid, it was common for people to change their own oil. Cars were simpler then. My first car was a 1972 Ford Gran Torino. Yes, I’m dating myself. But I loved that car. It looked just like this one except it was powder blue. It was awesome. I wish I still had it.

Anyway, back then cars were simple. You could easily change the oil, the filter, the air filter (which I did myself many times, it was a 5 minute job), the spark plugs (which I also changed), and many other parts to keep it running. The mechanics of it were simple.

Fast forward to cars now. I now drive a 2011 GMC Acadia Denali. I love this car too. It’s big and bossy and has lots of fun toys, including satellite radio, OnStar, and a fancy nav display.

I can’t fix a single thing in this car.

The engine is crammed into a third of the space of the engine in my Gran Torino. Everything’s hooked up to computers. I’m afraid to even open the hood, much less try to tinker with anything under there.

Keeping PPC running well is a lot like keeping a car running well. When I started doing PPC in 2002, it was simple: keywords and ad copy. No Google Display network. No remarketing. No social PPC. No multi-device fancy stuff. Just keywords and ad copy. PPC was easy for a novice to do, and do well. I fell into it as a special project, and we made money the first day, even though I didn’t know what I was doing. I was, in essence, changing my own oil.

Nowadays, PPC is complicated, just like my Acadia. It’s easy to mess up royally and cost yourself thousands of dollars. There’s way more competition than there was in 2002, so CPCs are higher. There’s Bing and Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram…. the head spins just thinking about it.

PPC is not DIY. It hasn’t been for a long time. I know that if I try to mess around with anything under the hood of my Acadia, I’ll screw it up and it’ll be an expensive mistake. The same thing goes for amateur PPC managers. It’s cheaper and better in the long run to hire PPC professionals.

What do you think? Can PPC still be done DIY? Or do you need a pro to succeed? Share in the comments!

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Assembly-Line PPC Is Not PPC Strategy

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Salt Lake City Search Engine Marketer’s conference (SLCSEM). I talked about the 7 Things Your Clients Want To Know About PPC Strategy. And then we had a fun “live PPCChat” with myself and Susan Wenograd, with Bryant Garvin moderating. For a recap of the event, check out the writeup on the SLCSEM blog.

We covered a ton of different topics in the live discussion, including our thoughts on Bing Ads (they had a rep on our panel, which was super cool), remarketing, and of course, PPC strategy.

Long-time readers of my blog know that this is a hot topic for me. Blog posts on PPC tactics abound – if you want to read about keyword research, setting up social PPC audiences, and campaign structure, you’ll have no trouble finding articles on all of these topics. I’ve written a post or two on them myself.

We all need to know these tools of the trade. But we also need to know the right time to use the tools. That’s where PPC strategy comes in.

I’ve found a surprising number of PPC practitioners who practice what I dubbed at SLCSEM to be “assembly-line PPC.” They have a list of PPC tactics – keyword research, ad copy writing, search query mining, bid adjustments, etc. – and they work their way through these as though they were boxes on a to-do list to be checked off. They’re doing the equivalent of “turning the screwdriver” on an assembly line – performing the same task for every client, no matter what, without really thinking about the final product or the goal it’s supposed to achieve.

Now, there’s no doubt that all of these things need to be done. A PPC manager who never looks at search query reports or writes new ad copy isn’t doing his or her job. But none of these tasks are a PPC strategy. If a client (or your boss) comes to you and says “I want to be the first ad on Google,” you should have a serious conversation with them about WHY they want to be there and what they hope to accomplish with that. “Being first on Google” is not a strategy.

“It’s about the experience, not the Adwords.”

In a conversation with my boss this week, he said, “It’s about the experience, not the Adwords.” I guess he used this in a client pitch, but it’s right-on when it comes to ongoing PPC strategy too. Some clients don’t belong on Adwords. We have more than one client using strictly social PPC, because it achieves their goals way better than Adwords or any search engine could. Other clients spend more on Bing than Adwords, because it reaches their audience better (and usually at a much lower cost).

The point is, PPC campaigns and the optimization performed on them should be based on achieving client goals, not checking a box. PPC isn’t a series of tasks. It’s a means to an end. It’s much closer to practicing medicine (looking at symptoms to solve a problem) than it is building a machine on an assembly line.

And yet, posts on PPC strategy are hard to find. When I uploaded my SLCSEM presentation to Slideshare, I was saddened to realize that the tag suggestions when I typed in “ppc” showed “ppc tactics” but not “ppc strategy.” So I added it.

slideshare tags

Speaking of the Slideshare, here is my deck. Let me know what you think!

 

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On Hiring A PPC Professional

There are times you can do things yourself, and there are times you need to call in a pro. If you scrape your knee, you can probably bandage it up yourself and care for the wound at home. But if you break your leg, it’s time to call in a pro.

Back in early August, I started having hip pain. I didn’t injure myself that I was aware of – it just started hurting. Thinking I pulled a muscle at the gym, I backed off the intensity and waited for it to heal.

It didn’t. After a couple of weeks, I could barely walk due to the pain. I started searching Dr. Google for an explanation of, and solution to, the problem. According to Google, potential causes could be anything from a minor muscle strain to a serious injury like a torn labrum.

Dr. Google returned all kinds of exercise and therapy regimens. I tried a few. At best, they did nothing; a few made the pain worse. I finally decided to see a doctor.

The doctor said I had bursitis, and referred me to physical therapy. I’ve been going to therapy for a month now. It’s made a world of difference.

Am I completely healed? No. Do I know what I need to do to heal? I do now.

The PT is pretty sure the whole issue stemmed from an earlier injury. In late June, I went for what I thought was a short bike ride – just 6 miles. I hadn’t ridden in a long time and wanted to get back into it over the summer.

Halfway through the ride, my tailbone started hurting. And I was 3 miles from home. I had to tough it out and ride back. By the time I got home, it was killing me.

That tailbone still hurts, 4 months later. I bruised the bone. And in compensating for the pain, I threw off the whole mechanism in my body for sitting and walking. Using muscles for purposes other than what they were intended is what caused the hip pain. I would never have figured this out on my own, nor realized that the two were connected.

What’s the point of my physical tale of woe, and what does it have to do with PPC? The point is this: People hire professionals for difficult problems they can’t solve on their own, due to lack of knowledge or expertise. I had no idea why my hip was hurting. I knew my tailbone hurt, and there was nothing I could do about it. I never connected the two, nor did I know how to fix the problem.

Think about small business owners trying to do DIY PPC. Things might go well for a time, and then suddenly performance falls off. They’re spending money and they don’t understand why the results aren’t there. They start tinkering around and make things worse. Finally, they give up in economic pain and frustration and call a professional PPC manager.

Or at least we hope they do. Like the muscles and joints of our body, PPC is complicated. One issue, such as a bad landing page or irrelevant keyword, can throw your whole account into a tailspin. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll never be able to fix it. Like me trying to find the answer to my hip pain by Googling it, you’re lost as to how to fix your PPC account.

Don’t let this happen to you. Hire a professional PPC manager to rehabilitate your account. Your proverbial hip muscles will thank you.

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The Ideal Number Of Keywords Per Ad Group

A while back, one of our new hires asked a great question over IM about the number of keywords in an ad group. Here’s a paraphrased version of how the conversation went down:

New Hire: I’ve been told an ideal number of keywords in an ad group is around 15. If you have much more than 15, what are the chances all the words are relevant? Are smaller ad groups better, like in the 5 word range? Does it just make it more tedious to manage having a lot of small ad groups?

Melissa Mackey: Yeah, there comes a point of diminishing returns when you go below 10-15 keywords. That said, I’ve had 1-keyword ad groups for a very high volume term. It just depends – like a lot of things in PPC.

NH: Ok, so you look at diminishing returns and term popularity.

MM: Right, as a rule that works. Also, you might want to isolate smaller groups of keywords to improve quality score. So for example, if you have a few keywords with decent volume and poor quality score, you’d move them to try to improve it.

NH: What if you have a small ad group where one term gets impressions/clicks and the other one is extremely light?

MM: That’s usually ok as long as quality score is relatively similar.

Was I right about that? I’ll get to that in a second.

The “right” number of keywords in an ad group is a subject of much debate. I found a Quora thread that had as many different “right answers” as there were commenters in the thread.

Brad Geddes weighed in on the magic number of keywords in an ad group on the Certified Knowledge blog. Short answer? There is no magic number of keywords – it depends.

A poster on the Adwords Community forum does a good job of illustrating the concept, but then says 5-15 keywords is the right number.

I agree with him, to a point. I usually strive for no more than 15 keywords per ad group. But I also have ad groups with 50 keywords or more, and that’s fine too. It just depends.

The difference comes in whether the ad group is large because there is a large number of related terms out there, or whether the ad group is large simply due to laziness or lack of time. I recently did some keyword research around healthcare marketing, and there are a LOT of variations of “healthcare marketing” that are all closely related.

So how do you decide if you should split up a large ad group into smaller ones?

Look for similarities.

The first thing I do is look for similarities: in keyword theme, performance, or quality score. In fact, while I often say you shouldn’t optimize based on quality score alone, you can use it as a guide here in ad group development. Often the quality score will tell you what Google thinks is similar about the terms.

Quality score also helps you think about ad copy and landing page needs. If you have a bunch of relevant keywords with a low quality score and you’re not in an industry with traditionally low quality scores, then maybe your landing page isn’t relevant. Or maybe your ad copy needs to be tightened up. Creating new ad groups can be a way to deal with both issues.

Consider grouping by match type.

Sometimes it makes sense to group keywords by match type, to aid in keyword research and control cost per click by match type. I’ve found this especially effective for smaller accounts in niche markets where it’s hard to mine for new keywords simply by using search query reports. In larger accounts, grouping by match type just makes for unnecessary management time.

In fact, too many ad groups often become cumbersome to manage. Even a couple hundred ad groups can be super time consuming – I speak from experience on this. Single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) do make sense, but your entire account shouldn’t be full of them. You don’t want to end up in a situation like this:

twitter convo

This example is less about too many ad groups and more about an unreal number of negatives, but you get the point.

To me, the ideal number of keywords in an ad group is…. It depends. Surprise!

What’s your rule of thumb on number of keywords per ad group? Do you have a rule of thumb, or do you decide on the fly? Share in the comments!

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The Importance of Focus for Your PPC Strategy

Note From Melissa: I’m thrilled to have Julie Friedman Bacchini of Neptune Moon as my guest blogger today, covering a topic near and dear to my heart: PPC strategy.

Anyone who works in marketing has certainly heard the advice to “know your audience.” It is such a well-known adage, that honestly it seems like it is often taken for granted when it comes to a lot of marketing strategy. This can be particularly true when it comes to PPC.

Does this scenario sound at all familiar to you?

PPC Pro to Client: Who is the target audience you are trying to reach with this campaign?

Client: We don’t really have a target audience. Anyone could be our client/customer.

PPC Pro: Well, for the sake of this strategy, if you had to narrow your focus to your ideal customer/client, who would that be?

Client: It’s really hard to say, since anyone could be our customer/client.

And around and around it goes…

After suppressing your eye roll, what do you do next?

Any marketer knows, at a bare minimum, there needs to be a target audience that is smaller than “everyone on earth” for any marketing effort. For companies without the resources of a huge brand, proper focus on reaching people who might actually buy what they are selling is even more important. Reaching people who are reasonably likely to buy what they are selling is even better!

When I have a client who is particularly resistant to letting go of the “but everyone is our audience” mentality, I will try asking them a simple question – how much are you willing to spend on clicks that have a zero to very slim chance of converting? $10? $100? $1,000? $10,000? Most clients will answer that question by saying they don’t want to spend any money on this type of click.  They want to pay for clicks for people who will actually buy stuff from them.

OK! We are almost there when it comes to really helping them realize the wisdom in not viewing PPC as a shotgun approach type of marketing. Obviously every click does not result in a sale, but with proper focus on targeting we will greatly increase the likelihood of clicks resulting in the desired conversion action.

Here is an example of a situation where a client moved from “everyone” to “targeted” in their approach to PPC:

WHO: A regional company who serves states east of the Mississippi

ORIGINAL PARAMETERS: Wanted to run their PPC nationally.

WHY DID THEY WANT THIS: Well, someone might be searching outside of the actual states that we serve but want our product in a state where we do sell it.

MY RESPONSE: OK, I get what you’re saying. But, are you willing to spend thousands of dollars in PPC advertising reaching people who you literally cannot sell to just to be sure you don’t maybe, possibly miss a tiny sliver of people who don’t fit what we’ve defined as your target audience for PPC?

END RESULT: Only running campaigns in their actual geographic region.

But let’s say that your client does have an idea of the types of people that make up their target audience. Is that entire set the right match for their PPC initiatives? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Here is an example of a client who further refined their keyword focus for PPC versus their SEO efforts:

WHO: A local home services company

ORIGINAL PARAMETERS: Wanted to target every possible type of term that related to their service, regardless of user intent for their paid search.

WHY DID THEY WANT THIS: All of these keywords are relevant to what we do.

MY RESPONSE: Yes, all of these keywords are relevant to your business. But, your industry is highly competitive and CPCs are high. Do you really want to spend upwards of $40 per click for people who are looking for information about how to do the repair work themselves or do you want to spend that money on someone who wants to have a service provider come to their house right now?

END RESULT: Campaigns focus on terms indicating immediate or emergency needs.

It all comes down to this when defining a target audience for your PPC efforts – who, exactly, are you willing to pay for this directly? I’m not saying that a larger pool of potential audience should be completely ignored, at all. But, reaching those who are not nearly as likely to convert is probably better executed through marketing channels other than PPC. For example, SEO or branding ads through display can be a much better method to try to capture some of the potential customers that don’t completely match your PPC target audience.

So, next time you’re meeting with a client and starting to talk about the target audience for a PPC campaign, remember that the answer can be different from the general “who is your target audience” question, and is for most clients.

Julie Friedman Bacchini is an expert in search marketing with over 15 years of experience in the digital space. She brings a strategic marketing perspective to all her projects, helping her clients boost their revenue and gain coveted market share. You can find her speaking at search and trade group conferences, blogging at www.neptunemoon.net, and on Twitter @NeptuneMoon.

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What’s In a Good PPC Report?

Whether you’re an in-house or agency PPC professional, chances are you’ll need to provide regular reports on campaign performance.

There is usually a lot of talk on SEM news sites and forums about the type of data available from the PPC engines; the metrics seem nearly endless. Stats are available on CTR, CPC, conversion rate, conversion rate by position, data by network (display vs. search vs. retargeting vs. social PPC, etc.), Google Analytics or other web analytics data… The list goes on.

But few people seem to discuss how and what data should be presented.

Numbers Need Context

Unfortunately, too many PPC reports just regurgitate a bunch of numbers from AdWords, adCenter, and web analytics. Clients and upper managers receive spreadsheet upon spreadsheet with impressions, clicks, CTR, conversions, conversion rate, and cost per conversion – and no context whatsoever. They look kind of like this:

report example
While PPC pros know what those numbers represent, even a seasoned professional will have a hard time deciding whether the numbers are “good” or “bad” without context – so imagine how your client, or chief marketing officer, feels when he or she gets this spreadsheet in their inbox. They’re probably full of more questions than answers:

•    What happened before this time frame?
•    What’s typical for this time of year?
•    What is the goal of this PPC campaign?
•    Are the numbers up, down, or sideways?
•    Why are the numbers up, down, or sideways?
•    What the heck does this mean, anyway?

A good PPC report relies less on the numbers themselves, and more on why the numbers are meaningful. One way to remember this is to ask yourself the question “So what?” when looking at data:

•    What insight can be drawn from this data?
•    Are key metrics following normal seasonal trends, or is something off the mark?
•    If something’s off the mark, why?
•    Did you run a particularly successful ad copy test?
•    Was there something in the news that spiked click-throughs, but didn’t drive conversions?
•    What’s going on, and what does it mean to the advertiser?

In fact, at gyro, all of our reports and most of our presentations include a What, So What, Now What section. This format helps us to focus on what’s important to the client, rather than charts and graphs.

If you must include charts with total impressions, clicks, and conversions, put them in an appendix at the end of the report. Some clients and bosses really do like to pore through raw data, so let them – but only after you’ve told the key story.

Or, show the data in a meaningful way, like this:
sample summary slideThis one slide in a report often tells business decision makers everything they need to know about their PPC campaign, in one easy-to-grasp view.

The new report function in Adwords is another way to quickly create meaningful charts and graphs.

Numbers Should Align with Goals

A surprising number of PPC campaigns are launched every day before campaign goals are defined. When I see a campaign with a mish-mash of keywords, the home page as the landing page, and no conversion tracking, I can be pretty confident the campaign has no goal.

A PPC campaign without goals is like grocery shopping without a list. You may come home with a cart full of groceries, and you may have gotten some deals – but did you buy what you really needed? Smart grocery shoppers never set foot in a store without a list, and smart PPC advertisers never log in to AdWords without a goal in mind.

To that end, a good PPC report should include a statement defining the campaign goals, and whether they were achieved.

•    Is there a target cost per conversion you’re trying to reach?
•    Are there certain products on which you were trying to increase sales this month?
•    Did you launch a campaign with new and different goals?

Every chart, graph, and narrative should be created with the following in mind: how does this information illustrate whether the goals were achieved?

PPC generates so much data that it’s easy to get lost in the weeds looking at “interesting” statistics. But just because something’s interesting doesn’t mean that it’s important. If it doesn’t relate to goals, leave it out!

Numbers Should Point to Recommendations

In many ways, PPC reports are kind of like looking in the rear-view mirror, reviewing what’s already happened. But that doesn’t mean the report should only reflect history.

A good PPC report should include recommendations and plans forward, so the client or boss knows what will happen next. In fact, the recommendations should form the basis of any conversations that come out of the report: the dialogue should be centered on next steps in the optimization process. This is the “Now What” portion of the report.

The next time you prepare a PPC report, keep these tips in mind. Your client, or your boss, will thank you.

What about you? What elements are must-haves in your PPC reports? Share in the comments!

Editor’s Note: Portions of this article appeared at Search Engine Watch on August 9, 2011.

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Using Bing Ads Intelligence To Improve Quality Score

PPC tools are an invaluable part of everyday life in the PPC world. One tool that serves multiple purposes is the Bing Ads Intelligence Excel plugin tool.

Not only can you use Bing Ads Intelligence for keyword research, but it’s also helpful in improving your quality scores.

You may be wondering how a keyword research tool can help you fix your quality scores. Let’s walk through the process for using Bing Ads Intelligence to improve quality score.

We’ll start with the keyword report shown below.

kw grid
Now, this report will be for Bing Ads data; if you’re like most advertisers, Bing probably only represents about 30% of your PPC traffic. You may be wondering, “Why bother with Bing when most of my traffic comes from Google?”

Well, while there are differences in the quality score algorithm between the two engines, it’s rare that a keyword with a poor quality score on Bing will have a high quality score on Google, and vice versa. For the remainder of this post, that’s our assumption.

Many advertisers have hundreds, if not thousands, of keywords, so prioritizing optimization efforts is a must.

Look at your average quality score and quality impact by campaign. While we know that averages lie, they are a good place to start prioritizing.

The easiest way to get average quality score by campaign is using pivot tables. The pivot table field list will look like this:

pivot field list
The table itself will look like this:

highlighted
The highlighted rows are the campaigns with the worst average quality scores, so these are the ones we’ll focus on. (Note: I removed all keywords with quality scores of 0.)

In looking at the highlighted campaigns, 2 things are clear. First, the campaigns with the lowest average quality score are also the campaigns with the highest average quality impact. No surprise there. Second, the average landing page relevance is lower than the average keyword relevance, not only on the targeted campaigns, but on all campaigns. Now we’re getting closer to the problem!

Let’s go back to our low-QS campaign keyword report again. This time, we’ll isolate the keywords that have poor quality scores. I’m using actual keywords this time to make it easier to follow.

kw list
It’s important to note here that only the overall Quality Score is measured on a scale from 1 to 10. Keyword relevance is assessed by either 1 (Poor), 2 (No Problem), or 3 (Good). Landing page relevance is either 1 (Poor) or 2 (No Problem). So, all of the keywords above have a poor landing page relevance score; the keyword relevance is either “No Problem” or “Good.”

At this point, it would be easy to jump right in with a landing page optimization project. Not so fast! While that is the logical next step, Bing Ads Intelligence can help direct your optimization project.

Bing Ads Intelligence has many useful features, and the first one we’ll use for landing page assessment is the Keywords Categories tool:

kw categories
As I mentioned earlier, the great thing about Bing Ads Intelligence is that it runs right in Excel. We already have our low-QS keywords in Excel, so all we need to do is select the keywords we want to analyze, and click Keyword Categories. (You’ll be asked to sign in with your Bing Ads credentials first.)  The tool will create a new tab called Keyword Categories, and the results look like this:

kw categories result

What does it all mean? Well, you’ll see that most keywords have more than one category listed, which simply means that a single keyword fits in multiple categories.

The “Score” column is an indication of relevance: the higher the score, the more relevant the keyword is to the category.

Since this is an Excel tool, all the cool Excel features apply. Bing has even put the filters in for us! Using Filters, drill down to the top-scoring keywords:

top scoring kws

Now the problem with the landing page is becoming clearer. The most common category for the top-scoring keywords is “Computers_&_Electronics/Internet/Domain_Registration_&_Hosting.” In this example, that doesn’t describe the client’s business or offer accurately (not to mention the fact that domain registration & hosting is a highly competitive vertical). So, one of the goals of landing page optimization should be to make it clear what category the offer (and the company) is in. In other words, improve landing page relevance.

Another feature of Bing Ads Intelligence that will help you optimize your landing page is the Webpage Keywords function.

webpage keywords

To use this feature, paste your landing page URL into Excel, and then click the Webpage Keywords option. As with the Keyword Categories function, the tool will create a new tab and provide keyword suggestions based on webpage elements.

In the case of our client, the webpage keyword suggestions were all over the place:

webpage kws result

Clearly, we need to tighten up the theme of the page.

Of course, we can’t neglect the fact that there is work to be done on the PPC keyword side. Adding negatives, splitting keywords into more tightly-themed ad groups, and eliminating ambiguous keywords should all be on the optimization agenda.

But the great thing about Bing Ads Intelligence is the insight it offers into landing page optimization. How have you used Bing Ads Intelligence? Share in the comments!

Editor’s Note: Portions of this post appeared on Search Engine Watch on January 8, 2013.

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