Can An Intern Do Your PPC?

Interns offer a lot to a business: in general, interns are eager to learn, hardworking, smart, and willing to work for little to no pay. Back in the day, I was a college intern in a local TV station sales department, getting my first taste of real-world marketing – for free.

A lot of SEM companies use interns to help with a variety of tasks. But can an intern run your PPC campaigns?

Of course, this is sort of a loaded question. It absolutely depends on the person. You might get lucky and find an intern who’s actually done some PPC. And of course an intern can help with a lot of PPC tasks. But run an entire campaign? Not so fast.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many companies hire an agency to set up and optimize their PPC campaigns – and then bring the whole thing in-house and give it to an intern. The logic goes something like this: “Well, the agency has this running really well, so we don’t need to pay them for this. We’ll just have an intern watch it for a few hours a week.”

This is a mistake. PPC is not a “set it and forget it” medium. It requires constant attention, monitoring, measuring, and testing. Far too many advertisers have assumed that PPC is really simple, and have ended up wasting thousands of dollars while they tried to figure out how to stop bleeding money. Handing off even a small PPC campaign to an inexperienced intern (or an inexperienced employee, for that matter) and leaving them to their own devices is a recipe for disaster.

What Interns Can Help With:

On the positive side, interns can be a great asset to a PPC team. At Fluency Media, we have used interns for a number of tasks that are invaluably helpful for our client’s PPC campaigns. Here are just a few great intern tasks:

Keyword research.

I personally love doing keyword research: it’s fun and informative, like finding buried treasure. However, it can also be hugely time consuming and tedious. I like to have interns do the initial keyword research and narrow down the list, and then I’ll review and refine further. It’s a great way for interns to learn the process, while still maintaining professional oversight of the final product.

Ad copy writing.

Let’s face it – at some point, even the most creative PPC manager will hit a type of writers block. I find this true especially for campaigns I’ve been managing for a long time – I flat-out run out of new copy ideas to test.

This is where your interns come in. Ask one or two of them to look at your client’s keywords and website, and have them come up with a few copy test ideas. The great thing about copy testing is that there are no wrong answers – as long as the ad is factual, meets editorial guidelines, and delivers on its promise on the landing page, almost anything goes. You can even turn this exercise into a friendly competition – test a couple interns’ ads against each other, or have them go up against you to see who “wins.” Unless your ego is huge, this can be a fun and creative way to breathe new life into a mature campaign.

Budget monitoring.

If you’re a PPC advertiser with a budget limit, someone is going to have to watch it daily to make sure you’re spending the right amount. We usually have one of our interns check our client budgets every day, and notify my which clients need attention. It’s a simple task, but it takes time – and it’s a great way for interns to learn how an individual advertiser’s campaign flows over time, putting them in a good position to take over an account once they have more experience.

Reporting.

I don’t recommend handing over client reporting entirely to an intern, but interns can contribute a lot in terms of pulling data, assembling charts, and acting as a second pair of eyes on your data. An astute intern will notice when trends don’t match up or when numbers don’t make sense – and this is really important for any busy PPC manager. Even if you’re really on top of your campaigns, things can sometimes slide through. Our interns have discovered issues with tracking codes and client-side slip-ups, and have saved me an uncomfortable conversation by pointing out these issues before a report ever leaves our office.

How have you used interns to help with your PPC campaigns?

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Why PPC and SEO Engagements Fail

Nobody likes to talk about failure. Most times, we’d probably like to pretend there is no such thing. Truth be told, though, you haven’t learned anything in life unless you’ve failed. I’m willing to bet that every PPC and SEO manager who’s been doing this for any length of time has had one campaign or client that they’d consider a failure. While failure is part of life, there are ways to minimize it when it comes to SEM.

The #1 Reason Why SEM Engagements Fail

In my 10 years of experience doing PPC and SEM, the overwhelming #1 reason why engagements fail is due to a lack of goal-setting at the beginning. Sometimes clients (or bosses, if you’re in-house) are so anxious to “start a PPC campaign” that they don’t take the time to figure out what their goals are.

If your client website doesn’t have conversion tracking enabled, lacks a call to action, and doesn’t make it clear what you want visitors to do when they get there; your campaign has no goals, and is doomed. If your client doesn’t have a unique selling proposition (USP), then you’re almost certainly doomed as well.

While it may take a few days or even weeks to establish campaign goals, this is the one step that cannot be skipped when embarking on an SEM engagement. After all, if you have no goal or destination, how do you know when you’ve gotten there?

Other Common Reasons for SEM Failure

The next most common issue I’ve run into that dooms an SEM engagement, especially SEO, is lack of client uptake. While there are a lot of things an SEM can do on their own without any client involvement, implementation of code changes, SEO recommendations, and other technical aspects are often not on that list. SEO simply will not make any impact whatsoever if it’s not implemented.

This can be a tough challenge to overcome – in fact, if it’s not addressed during the sales process, it can be extremely difficult to get the client on board. Setting expectations up front by letting the client know that there will be some effort involved on their part during the engagement will help ensure that projects move forward without frustration on either the part of the SEO or the client.

Tracking code installation falls into the technical bucket too. Even if SEO isn’t part of your service offering, a PPC campaign needs at least one tracking system (and preferably more than one) in order to optimize the campaigns. We strongly prefer to use the free conversion tracking provided by Adwords and adCenter in addition to the client’s web analytics software. While no 2 systems will match exactly, differences of more than 5% to 10% in data usually indicate a problem with one or both systems. And it goes without saying that being able to log in to your PPC account and see conversion data down to the campaign, ad group, keyword, and placement level makes campaign management go much more quickly.

But if you have a client that cannot get conversion tracking installed, be wary of taking on the engagement. Otherwise, you’ll only be able to optimize for click-through rate – and as most of us know, CTR does not necessarily correlate with conversion rate.

Some Campaigns are Just Doomed

Sometimes, despite an SEM’s best efforts, even a well-thought-out and well-executed campaign will fail. Some businesses are just not suited to SEM – for instance, inexpensive, commodity products in a competitive industry will have a hard time making money on PPC – often, more is spent getting a click than the advertiser earns for each sale. And some websites will never rank well organically, due to crawlability issues, technical problems, or other reasons.

Some engagements, especially complicated, expensive B to B lead gen processes, will also have a hard time showing ROI. While some clients understand and accept the amount of time and expense needed to generate that one sale per month, other clients are just not going to be happy with a cost per conversion of $1,000 or more.

When faced with this type of engagement, think long and hard about whether you want to take it on. Sometimes, even the best-laid plans end up, well, failing.

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How Not To Use Your Agency’s PPC Reports

People hire PPC agencies for a number of reasons:they want to use PPC, but don’t know how; or they’ve tried it but found it too complicated and time consuming.I’ve worked on both sides of the desk, in-house and agency, so I definitely see the advantages of each approach – and there are times where it just makes sense to hire an agency rather than try to do PPC yourself.

Any PPC agency worth its salt will provide some type of reporting on a regular basis.Some reports are more useful than others, but that’s a topic for another post.No matter what type of report you’re getting, there are ways to make use of the information, and ways not to.Here are some ways you should NOT use your agency reports.

Nitpicking over small details.

Ideally, your agency reports will include not only detailed data, but high-level insight and analysis.Even if the analysis is lacking, though, don’t obsess over minutiae.Focusing on one keyword’s stats, or one day’s data, is not a good use of your time – nor of your agency’s time responding to the inevitable questions you’ll have.You’re paying your agency to obsess over these details, precisely so you don’t have to.Don’t waste your time worrying about minor details that really don’t factor in to the big picture.

Ignoring the reports entirely.

Believe it or not, this is more common than you may think.A surprising number of clients receive their weekly or monthly report email and file it away without even opening it.On the one hand, maybe these clients trust their agency so completely that they aren’t worried about their account’s performance at all – sort of like the thousands of people who file away their 401K statements without ever looking at them.But just like a 401K, PPC performance can vary – and a good client will want to be aware of these variations.

Furthermore, a good report will contain not only data, but recommendations for future improvements such as landing page or website changes, shopping cart suggestions, and other information.(If only our 401K statements came with this info!)A good PPC manager can do a lot of great things without client involvement, but website changes often not are on that list.As the client, this is the stuff you’ll need to do – so ignore it at your own peril.

Taking the information and then trying to do things yourself.

I think some clients consciously try to use their agency as a training school, learning as much as they can so they can take everything in-house.Let me be clear – I’m not saying that no one should ever take things in-house.There are many instances where this makes a lot of sense:when the account has grown to the point that it warrants a full-time person managing it, for instance.

I’m also not saying that taking PPC training courses from qualified teachers such as Brad Geddes from Certified Knowledge is bad.Far from it!I’m a huge fan of continuous learning and training, and everyone, from agency managers to in-house PPC’ers, should take advantage of as much training as they can.

What I am saying is that it’s unfair to hire an agency under the guise of a vendor-client relationship, and use them to set up and optimize your account and make a bunch of recommendations – and then take the whole thing in-house in 3 months.

If you need help with initial start-up and optimization, that’s perfectly fine – but be honest about it!Tell the agency that you’re looking for a short-term commitment and you need help getting things off the ground.Some agencies will be fine with this, and some won’t – but in any agency-client relationship, a good fit is key to getting optimal results.Pretending you’re going to be a long-term partner, and then dumping the agency 3 months in, is not the best use of your money or the agency’s time.As the old adage goes, honesty is the best policy – and the best way to get what you really want out of the relationship.

If you’re thinking about hiring an agency, or if you’re already using one, I highly recommend my friend and fellow PPC Chatter Robert Brady’s post on agency reports, It’s Client Reporting, Not Training.It’s a great read, and it helped inspire this post. Thanks, Robert!

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PPC Ad Testing: “Can” vs. “Should”

I love PPC for a number of reasons. It’s fast and effective, it doesn’t require a ton of money to use, and there are few other marketing channels that make ad testing so easy and effective.

But as much as I love PPC ad testing, I feel the need for caution. Like a kid in a candy store, PPC managers often have trouble choosing what to test. Just because you CAN test 20 things at once doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

One of the best things about PPC is the fact that you can run an almost unlimited number of tests. You can test 10 different ad variations if you want to. If you’re using display, you can even test text ads vs. image ads. Within the image ads bucket, you can test rich media, animation, several different sizes….. You get the picture.

I’ve found that new PPC advertisers (and clients) see this buffet of choices and try to pile one of each on their small appetizer plate. They set up a multitude of ad tests right away, before they’ve launched a single campaign or gathered one iota of data. The thinking is, “we’re not sure what will work, so let’s try them all!”

To an extent, they’re right. With a brand new advertiser and a brand new campaign, you really don’t know what will work. Because PPC generates a lot of data so quickly, in some ways it’s logical to test every option so you can get that data as fast as you can.

But let’s think about this for a second. Way back in business school, we learned about a little thing called opportunity cost. Opportunity cost takes into account a few key factors.

Time.

The mere task of setting up 10 or more ad tests can be daunting, even to an experienced PPC manager. What copy will we use in each variation? What exactly are we testing? Even with a tool like Adwords Editor, it takes time to set up each variation – and it’s compounded by the number of ad groups you’re working with.

There’s also the issue of the amount of time it takes to get results. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say you need 100 clicks on each ad for statistical significance, and you estimate it’ll take a week to get that many clicks in each cell. If you’re running 2 ads, that’s 200 clicks – but if you’re running 10 ads, that’s 1,000 clicks. You’ve just turned a 1-week test into a 5-week test. And in the meantime, you may be running an ad that’s losing money – which you won’t find out for 5 weeks. Yikes.

Margin of error.

The more information you’re working with, whether it be text or data, the higher the chance of making a mistake. How many of us have copied and pasted the wrong ad copy into an ad group? How many of us have made a crucial typo in ad copy? (Side story: Years ago when I worked in newspaper classifieds, we ran a real estate display ad for an open house at a $300,000 home, complete with a lovely photo of the sprawling manse – and put $30,000 in the ad copy. Needless to say, the open house was mobbed with unqualified buyers. We got a pleasant call from the REALTOR the next morning that I can’t repeat here. And no, this wasn’t my error. But it sure was memorable.)

The margin for error is even greater when it comes to analyzing test data. Running statistical significance on all the permutations in a huge multivariate test is not a ton of fun – and a math mistake can cost thousands of dollars.

Money.

By now it’s pretty clear how a complicated test can cost you actual dollars and cents. If a test takes too long, you might be paying for losing ads for weeks or even months. And if you make a mistake in ad copy or in analysis, that’ll cost you, too.

The moral of the story is, just because you CAN test all kinds of fancy things in PPC doesn’t mean you SHOULD test them. Using a systematic approach is much better (and easier) in the long run.

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Using Twitter to Keep Up with PPC News

It’s no secret: I love Twitter. When used strategically, Twitter is a great way to network, meet new people in your field, and get breaking news. It can also be an overwhelming firehose of random content. With a little forethought, though, you can dial down the firehose. Here are my tips on using Twitter to keep up with PPC news & innovations.

Include “PPC” in your Twitter bio.

Part of making good use of Twitter is getting followed. When people follow you, they’ll see your tweets and, hopefully, interact with you. People who are new to Twitter often use the “people search” function to find other people to follow – and they’re searching on keywords like “PPC.” Including “PPC” in your Twitter bio will help you get found by other PPC pros, with whom you can then interact and share info.

Follow other PPC pros.

A lot of celebrities have thousands of followers, but are only following 12 people. This isn’t really interacting – it’s broadcasting. While that’s fine for celebs, Twitter is much more useful for you and me if it’s a two-way conversation.

Make an effort to find other PPC pros and follow them. You can use the people search feature I mentioned above to start. Another great way to find people is to do a hashtag search. Hashtags are used on Twitter to sort conversation around a certain topic or catch phrase. Search for hashtags like #PPC, #SEM, and #Adwords. I’ve found a lot of great new PPC’ers to follow in #PPCchat (by the way, if you’re doing PPC and are not not currently participating in this chat, you’re missing a ton of great info!).

Set up a list or column for PPC pros.

Finding great PPC pros to follow is cool, but they’ll get lost in your Twitter stream quickly (unless you ONLY follow PPC people, which most of us don’t). If you’re using the Twitter web interface, create a list for PPC pros and then add your new friends to it. If you’re using a desktop client like Tweetdeck, create a column for PPC pros, and add your friends there.

I personally love Tweetdeck: it’s much easier to sort conversations there than in the web interface, in my opinion. I have a column for PPC Tweeps, another for #PPCChat, and yet another for conferences I attend, such as #SESCHI (SES Chicago) and #SMX (SMX Advanced).

Lists or columns are awesome when you’re really busy. I almost never read my entire Twitter feed during the work day; I just don’t have time. But I do make sure to read my PPC Tweeps column – that way I can keep up with what’s going on in my industry, and even interact a bit, without it sucking up hours of my day.

Learn who always shares worthwhile & trustworthy content.

Let’s face it: we’re all guilty of sharing the occasional off-topic, personal, or silly remarks and links on Twitter. That’s fine – in fact, it personalizes the experience and lets us all get to know one another as people instead of just PPC’ers.

That said, you’ll find that some people’s Twitter stream is 10% personal and 90% good & useful PPC info; while other people’s streams are just the opposite. Unfortunately, some people also use Twitter for sales pitches disguised as good info. They’ll tweet a link with a comment like “New techniques for PPC keyword research!” but then the link goes to a page to buy their company’s expensive tool.

If you’re in the market for a keyword research tool, that’ll be helpful to you. If not, though, you probably don’t care – and neither do your followers. Retweeting is a big part of interacting on Twitter – it’s a great way to share useful info with your followers. But you need to know what you’re retweeting; your followers may not appreciate being baited into clicking a link that turns out to be a sales pitch.

The bottom line is this: Twitter, like any social media, is a conversation. Treat it as such. People don’t want to hang out with blatant shills in real life; nor do they want to be barraged with personal details. People do want to learn things that will help make their jobs easier, though. With a little forethought, and a little more practice, you’ll find Twitter to be an invaluable resource.

What are your favorite ways to get PPC info on Twitter?

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A 5-Point Checklist for Successful PPC Campaign Settings

I love checklists. I use them for everything, even things I do every day. Not only do I get the satisfaction of checking things off as I complete them, but I make sure I don’t forget something important. It may seem silly to use a checklist for things you do every day, but when you’re as busy as I am, it’s easy to forget even the most mundane tasks.

Checklists are great for PPC too – even for us old pros who’ve been doing this for a long time. Checklists help you make sure you’ve set up your campaigns for success right away, which is the name of the game – and campaign settings can make or break your PPC success.

Point 1: Change ad rotation from Optimize to Rotate.

Google recently added an option to the ad rotation arsenal: optimize for conversions. While this is cool, I don’t use it – especially for brand new campaigns. The very first thing I always do after posting a new campaign to Adwords is to set everything to Rotate. It’s the fastest way to get good ad testing data to build on for future optimization.

Point 2: Change Ad Delivery from Standard to Accelerated.

This may seem like the opposite of what you should do; after all, you might run out of budget by noon and your campaign will shut off until midnight. In the past, I advised against accelerated delivery for this very reason. However, lately I’ve found that standard delivery, which spreads impressions out across the entire day, sometimes leads to low total impressions & clicks, especially for a new campaign.

I’ve had better luck starting out with Accelerated to get traffic going and establish a baseline, and then switching to Standard if the campaign is reaching the daily budget too early in the day.

Point 3: Set the right daily budget.

The only way I can accept the risk of using Accelerated delivery is by setting a campaign daily budget I’m comfortable with. It’s critical not to set the budget too low, but at the same time you should never set the daily budget at an amount you’re not comfortable spending. If you only have $1,000 per month to spend on PPC, don’t set your daily budget to $500, or you run the risk of blowing through the whole month in 2 days!

Point 4: Turn off the Display Network.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying don’t use the Display Network. In fact, I’m a big fan of Display. However, search and display campaigns should never be lumped into one campaign. If you want to use Display, do it – but set up a separate campaign just for Display so you can optimize accordingly.

Point 5: Install conversion tracking.

Whether you use Adwords & adCenter’s free conversion tracking tools, Google Analytics, Omniture, or something else, the point is to use something! If you’re not tracking conversions in your PPC campaigns, you’re better off buying a lottery ticket. Don’t spend a dime of your company’s money (or your client’s, if you’re an agency PPC’er) until you know you can track the results. Sometimes people (aka bosses) hear about how great PPC is and they get anxious to launch a campaign first, and track things later. Don’t give in to this temptation! Get your tracking codes in order first, and then go ahead and launch your campaign.

So the next time you set up a PPC campaign, run through this checklist – you’ll set yourself up for success! For more tips on campaign setup, check out this article I wrote on campaign setup for Web Marketing Today.

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AdWords Campaign Experiments: Details and Pitfalls

Back in September, I wrote a brief overview of AdWords Campaign Experiments (ACE), and Joe Kerschbaum wrote an excellent post on ways to use the feature.

ACE is a great enhancement that can really take your PPC campaigns to the next level. That said, there are a few important details you need to know before using it, as well as some pitfalls to watch out for. Let’s look at an example to illustrate.

ACE Details

One of the highly touted ways to use Experiments is to try new keywords, and with good reason. Maybe there’s a broad match keyword you’re not sure will generate the results you want, or maybe there’s a keyword that is marginally relevant to your campaign, but you’d still like to test it out.

Pre-Experiments, your only option was to add the keyword and watch it like a hawk while hoping for the best. Now, you can use Experiments to display the keyword on as little as 5 percent of your total traffic. Great news, right?

Yes and no. First of all, using Experiments requires at least a rudimentary understanding of testing principles. If you haven’t conducted controlled tests before, even the terminology in the Experiments documentation will be confusing.

It’s also a little tricky getting your head around the “control,” “experiment,” and “control + experiment” categories. Basically, the “experiment” will only run on the percent of traffic you specify.

So if you only want your test keyword to run 10 percent of the time, you’ll need to set it to “experiment only.” Conversely, if you don’t want a particular keyword or set of keywords included in the experiment, you’ll need to set it to “control only.”

Remember, Experiments run at the campaign level, so if you’re only testing keywords within one ad group, be sure to set the other non-experiment ad groups to “control,” as well.

It gets confusing, to be sure.

ACE Pitfalls

One big shortfall of Experiments is that it can’t be applied to campaign settings. For example, it would be great to test dayparting, networks, devices, daily budgets, and other campaign-level settings, and Experiments would be ideal for this. Unfortunately, it isn’t an option at this time. I’m hoping it will be, eventually.

There are also some pretty big pitfalls to watch out for when using Experiments. The biggest one I’ve discovered has to do with launching changes fully.

So, you’ve run your experiment, and it works great and you get great results. The logical next step would be to roll out the changes to all traffic, right? Yes, but rolling it out involves more than just clicking that button in your campaign settings.


I ran into this unfortunate pitfall in a client campaign recently. I ran an experiment on match types: I wanted to see if modified broad match performed better than regular broad match. But I wasn’t testing all the keywords in the ad group — only some of them.

I added a few modified broad match keywords and set them to “experiment only.” I set the broad match variations of these terms to “control plus experiment.” I set all the remaining keywords to “control only.”

The test worked great: the modified broad match terms, as expected, generated a better cost per conversion with an acceptable loss of traffic (traffic did go down, but not enough to justify the higher cost per conversion). So I clicked “Apply: Launch Changes Fully.”

The next day, when I checked on the campaign, traffic and spend had fallen through the floor. It didn’t make sense: the experiment showed a nearly negligible difference in traffic, but the rolled-out results were more like an 80 percent decrease in traffic.

When I dug into the campaign, I realized that most of my keywords were paused! What happened? Turns out, all the keywords that were set to “control only” were shut off when I launched the experiment fully.

After thinking it through, it made sense. In hindsight, I should have set all the keywords to “control plus experiment” instead of “control only,” and then the test keywords to “experiment only.”

Once I realized the issue, I was able to fix it quickly, and luckily the client lost less than a day of traffic. But the result was unexpected and really caught me off guard.

With these caveats in mind, make use of Campaign Experiments, and you’ll reap the rewards without stumbling!

This post originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on February 22, 2011.

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Ramping Up (or Ramping Down) Your PPC Spend

Anyone who’s been doing PPC for a while has heard this before: “We’re getting great results from PPC – we want more! Get us more traffic!” And chances are you’ve heard this before, too: “We need to cut our PPC budget in half for a while, starting today.”

While I hope you hear the former rather than the latter, both statements are enough to strike fear in the heart of any PPC manager. Well, I’m here to tell you there are ways to accomplish both, and quickly. Let’s talk about the “ramping down” scenario first.

Ramping Spend Down

You’re probably thinking, “Well that’s easy – just cut your campaign daily budget in half.” And you’d be right – if you literally have one minute in which to get the change made. Of course you should reduce your daily budgets in half, if that’s the directive. That’ll keep you from overspending. But if that’s all you do, it’ll likely cut your conversions in half, too – or worse.

If you take a little bit of time to look at your campaigns, you can probably squeeze more than half the original amount of conversions out of half the budget. Here’s how:

1. Start big, and get smaller. Look at your ad groups first: are there one or two ad groups that are really underperforming compared with the average? Pause those right away – especially if they’re not generating any conversions at all. If you have some that are converting, but at a higher cost than you’d like, lower your bids.

2. Then look at your ad copy. When was the last time you reviewed the results of your ad copy tests? Now’s a good time to take another look. Keep the winners and ditch the losers. I still recommend testing, even with a reduced budget; but if you’re really skittish, just keep the winners to get the most conversions for your reduced budget.

3. Then take a look at your keywords, the same way you looked at your ad groups. Pause the keywords that are getting a lot of clicks but no conversions; and lower bids on those that are not converting at a good cost.

4. Add negative keywords. It’s common to discover that you’re getting significant traffic for irrelevant search queries. Run a search query report and mine it like crazy for irrelevant terms. If you have time, you can comb through the entire report; if not, filter for terms with a minimum of 5-10 clicks and check that. Be relentless in adding negatives! When the budget is tight (and even when it’s not), there’s no reason to pay for irrelevant clicks.

5. Consider advanced features like dayparting, Conversion Optimizer, or Experiments – but be forewarned, these take more time to implement and more time to monitor, so if you’re short on time, hold off on these techniques at first.

Ramping Spend Up

Surprisingly, this can be more difficult than ramping down! But it can be done, and here’s how:

1. Increase your campaign daily budgets. If I really want to maximize spend, I’ll set each campaign to a daily budget of $1,000 per day, even if I know it won’t actually spend that much. I’ve found that setting lower budget caps can limit spend to far below what you’d really like, whereas setting it at $1,000 seems to max things out.

2. Adjust Ad Delivery Settings to Accelerated in Google, and remove the daily budget cap in adCenter. It’s surprising how much of a difference the Accelerated setting can make in increasing traffic & conversions.

3. Increase ad group and keyword bids. This is basically the reverse of what you did in the “ramping down” section: find the top performing ads and keywords and crank up the bids.

4. Add new keywords. I like to start with the search query report for this step. Just like you’d comb through it for negatives when you need to reduce spend, dig for high-converting variations that you’re not currently bidding on.

5. Consider the Display network. While this isn’t as easy as clicking the “show on all available sites” campaign setting, the Display Network can be a great source of incremental traffic and conversions. We’ve had clients who get as many conversions from Display as from search, at as good a cost.

By using these quick steps, you’ll be able to make your boss (or your client) happy, and get great results from your campaigns at the same time!

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Google’s Display Network, Part 2: Resources for Success

So, you’ve read last week’s article about Google’s Display network and its pitfalls and myths, and you’re ready to give it a shot. Great! Despite my pointing out pitfalls & myths, it really is worth testing for most advertisers.

In this installment, I’ll give you some resources to help you on your journey to content network success. Remember, though, that the best resource is your own vigilance. No book or tool can replace the careful attention of a smart PPC manager.

Resource #1: Articles on search marketing authority sites.

When I’m researching PPC features, I always start with the big 2: Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land. Both sites have a huge library of informative articles by industry pros. (Disclosure: I write a regular column for Search Engine Watch.)

Resource #2: David Szetela’s books.

My good friend David Szetela has written 2 great books on PPC. The first one is PPC: An Hour A Day, which came out last year. While the book covers much more than just Display advertising, it devotes a decent amount of space to Display and how to succeed in this channel. If you’re a PPC manager and this book isn’t in your library, you’re missing out not only on great Display Network tips, but overall PPC best practices as well.

David has also published a free e-book that covers the display network exclusively, called Customers Now. Even old pros like me will find new and helpful information in this book – and it’s free!

Resource #3: Shelly Ellis’s website.

Shelly Ellis is considered by many to be one of the preeminent experts on the Display Network out there. Shelly frequently speaks at search conferences. She also offers a couple of free content network guides on her website. Like David’s book, these are free, so there’s no excuse for not getting them – and reading them!

Bonus Resource:

Hot off the press, published just yesterday, is a great post by my Twitter friend Robert Brady asking whether the Display Network is the Black Hole of PPC. He concludes that it’s not – and offers up several best practices for success. Give it a read!

What are your favorite Display Network resources?

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Google’s Display Network, Part 1: Best Practices & Myths

Just last week, I had a call with one of our Google reps. He was quite knowledgeable, and made several helpful suggestions on Adwords features we could try for our Fluency Media clients. While I was aware of most of the features already, he explained them in detail, and suggested which clients should try which features.

One of the features he brought up was the Google Display Network. The conversation with our rep reminded me that many new advertisers don’t know how to use the Display network, which then prompted me to outline some of the best practices and myths.

When Google launched the Display network about 7 years ago, it was like the Wild West: the network was full of MFA sites, and there were none of the great features like site exclusion that we have now. It was a huge gamble to even thinking about running ads there.

Thankfully, Google listened to advertiser feedback, and made huge improvements over the years. Still, though, the Display network can be a money pit for advertisers who don’t follow best practices.

Best Practice #1: Realize that Display isn’t search.

The first concept to understand is that Display isn’t search. Ads aren’t served based on keywords typed into a search engine. Instead, ads are served on websites where the content matches the content of the ad. Because of this, Display campaigns should always be separate from Search campaigns. Although Google allows advertisers to run ads in both Search and Display in the same campaign, don’t be tempted to take this shortcut. It’s not unusual for ad groups & campaigns to perform very differently in the two networks, so you’ll want the control you get with separate bidding for Search & Display.

Best Practice #2: Use small, tightly-themed ad groups.

This is good advice for search campaigns, too, but is critical for Display. It’s your job as an advertiser to make it abundantly clear to Google what your ad group’s topic is, so Google can show it on appropriate pages. Using tightly themed ad groups will accomplish this.

Best Practice #3: Make heavy use of the placement performance report & site exclusion.

Probably the best thing Google did to enhance advertiser performance in the Display Network was to create the placement performance report. I remember literally whooping with joy when this launched – finally, advertisers would have the transparency to see where their ads were being served, and what the results were on a site-by-site basis! Use this feature to your advantage. The report is easier than ever to run in the new Adwords interface – just go to Networks, set your date range (I use All Time to give the largest data set, and start excluding.

There are a few myths out there about the Display Network that advertisers should be aware of, as well.

Myth #1: Display is an inexpensive source of traffic & conversions.

OK, so this isn’t a total myth. Frequently, Display is a great incremental source of conversions at a very low cost. However, this is by no means always true. Click costs can rival those in search – in fact sometimes CPCs are higher in Display than in search, depending on the vertical. So if you’re looking for a quick way to grab incremental conversions, Display is definitely not the answer. You’ll get traffic, but it may not be inexpensive, and it may not convert.

Myth #2: Display is for everyone.

Again, this isn’t a total myth. We have several clients who get as good or better results from Display as from search. But it’s not a given. For every client who gets great results in Display, we have at least 2 who got horrible results, despite our best efforts to optimize. I firmly believe that there are some businesses for which display is just not a good fit. But you wouldn’t know this from talking to Google – every time I talk to a Google rep, including the conversation last week, they try to pitch me on trying Display for every client.

Myth #3: Site targeting in the Display network is easy.

First, a brief explanation. There are a few targeting options in the display network: keyword targeting, interest category targeting, and placement, or site, targeting. With site targeting, an advertiser can choose exactly which sites they’d like their ads to appear on. So if you want your ads to appear on about.com, you can target that site using site targeting.

Sounds simple, right? It’s not. First of all, there are thousands upon thousands of sites in the display network, so choosing the right sites is a daunting task. Secondly, advertisers tend to gang up when site targeting – everyone wants to target the same popular, high-traffic sites. And what happens when inventory is short and demand is high? You got it – the price goes way, way up. So not only is it challenging to figure out what sites to target, it can be challenging to get conversions at a good cost when the bids are so high.

In Part 2, I’ll share some display network resources that will help you make the most out of the network.

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