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!

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PPC and Content Marketing: Audience Research

In an earlier post, I talked about the 4-step content audit, which helps marketers identify what content they have. Once you’ve finished your audit, it’s time to do some audience research.

Audience research in content marketing is as important as keyword research in search PPC. Audience segments will form the basis for your content marketing PPC campaigns.

The first step in researching your audience is to talk to your client, or your sales team if you’re in-house. Ask them about their ideal prospect: what job level they hold, what they like to do, what they’re passionate about, what need they are trying to fulfill.

If you want to get really granular, create marketing personas for your audience. It sounds hokey, but naming each segment of your customer base helps visualize your customer’s needs.

Once you have a good idea of who you’ll be marketing to, it’s time to jump into the engines. It’s easiest to do audience research in the social PPC platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Facebook is probably the first engine that comes to mind when thinking about audiences as opposed to keywords. Facebook targeting focuses primarily around interests and interest groups. A typical Facebook audience for a construction company might look like this:

facebook segment

If you’re a B2B advertiser, or are looking to target individuals associated with companies or job types, LinkedIn is ideal:

linkedin targeting

And with Twitter, you can target individual Twitter handles. It’s a little tougher to find users on Twitter, but if you know the companies or type of individuals you want to target, it’s not too bad.

While you’re doing your content marketing audience research, think outside the box. What do your users like to do? If you’re selling organic food, for instance, you might target those who are interested in environmental issues like recycling and green energy. They might be interested in your competitors – consider creating a segment targeting the competition’s fans! For B2B, targeting fans of industry conferences or trade shows is a good bet. Get creative!

Don’t forget about PPC keywords. Frequently, you’ll want to have a search campaign in addition to social campaigns. Remember, users may see you on a social channel, and then turn to a search engine for more information. Try to use keywords from the content itself, especially if you use product names, buzzwords, or themes in your content. Definitely include branded terms in your research as well. You might even consider keywords like “Company X Facebook” to reach those who saw your ads there.

Once you’ve identified your audience, think about how you want to segment them. This is where your content audit comes into play. Sometimes the segmentation will be obvious: if you have some content for architects and some for builders, separate your audiences that way.

Other times, though, it may not be so simple. In those cases, I often start with a larger audience initially. Then, I watch performance and segment based on that, rather than on audience attributes. Play around with your audience segments and test, test, test!

Audience research can be much more time-consuming than keyword research. But make sure to invest the time. Your content marketing PPC campaigns will be more successful with good audience research.

For some great tips on audience research and getting super-creative, I highly recommend Marty Weintraub’s book, Killer Facebook Ads. It’s a fun read and has some incredible tips on finding prospects with creative audience segments.

Got any killer audience research tips? Share in the comments!

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PPC and Content Marketing: The 4-Step Content Audit

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

Step 1: Identify your content marketing goals

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

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

Step 2: Create a list of all available content.

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

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

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

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

Step 4: Include the format in your content list.

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

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

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

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

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The Dumbing Down of PPC

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

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

commodore pet

Anybody else remember these?

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

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

And that’s what’s happened with PPC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Social PPC: A Guide To Getting Started

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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3 Ways To Profit From The Google Display Network

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

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

Promote a new product.

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

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

Enter the GDN.

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

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

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

Get on prime web properties through the back door.

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

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

Enter the GDN.

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

Build killer remarketing lists.

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

Enter the GDN.

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

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

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

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

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PPC and Content Marketing – Thought Starters

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

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

So how does PPC fit into the mix?

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

But PPC for content marketing is less clear-cut.

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

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

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

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

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7 Questions To Expect From Your New PPC Manager

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

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

What are Your Goals for PPC?

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

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

What are Your Key Products and Services?

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

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

Who is Your Primary Target Audience?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Your Desired Cost per Conversion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Top 3 PPC Blog Posts of 2013

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

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

#3: What’s Up With Bing Ads?

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

#2: 8 Killer Landing Page Optimization Tips for PPC

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

#1: My Top 10 PPC Blogs

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

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

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Reader Poll: PPC Topics for 2014

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

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

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

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

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