Why Context Matters In PPC Case Studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

case 1

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

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

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

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

case 3-6

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

Decent compared to what?

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

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

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

case 3

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

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

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

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

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

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The Many Layers of LinkedIn PPC

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

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

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

LinkedIn Targeting 101

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

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

LinkedIn Targeting 101

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

Location: California – 13.3 million LinkedIn users

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

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

Job Title: Teacher – 149K LinkedIn users in California

Job Function: Education – 623K LinkedIn users in California

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

Targeting For More Volume

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

LinkedIn Targeting Volume

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

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

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

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

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

Targeting For Highly Qualified Traffic

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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Social PPC For B2B: Who Does It Best?

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

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

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

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

social PPC performance

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

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

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

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

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

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Top Tips for Social PPC Success From the Experts

Social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are here to stay – and they all have PPC ad platforms. More and more advertisers are including social PPC in their search marketing mix.

While there are many similarities between social PPC and search PPC, there are some key differences. In many ways, social PPC acts more like display than search – but it doesn’t really act like display, either. Social PPC has its own set of best practices for success.

If you’re like a lot of PPC pros, you’re probably struggling to get your head around the whole social PPC universe. So, I asked some of the top experts in social PPC to share their top tips for social PPC success.

Facebook Audience Tips

The power of social PPC is its targeting abilities. With search, you’re targeting keywords; with social, you’re creating personas. Accurate targeting is a great feature of social PPC, so it’s crucial to get it right.

“Create and manage audiences in Facebook Power Editor to run and test ads with specific messaging for specific demographic groups,” said James Svoboda of Web Ranking. “This will help control ad spend on new campaigns and helps speed up creation of new ads by having established audiences.”

If you aren’t using Facebook’s Power Editor, bookmark this article to read later and go get started. It only works on Chrome and acts a lot like AdWords Editor for Facebook.

One of the great features is audience creation. You can create an audience in Power Editor and apply the audience to any or all of your ads. You can also create new ads and apply the saved audience to them.

Reaching your target audience in Facebook can be challenging, especially for B2B advertisers. My coworker Jessi Link recommends that advertisers “get creative with targeting. Since most of our clients are B2B, and job title targeting can be lacking on Facebook in particular, I’ve found it helpful to reach these audiences by targeting fans of industry publications, conferences, and companies that serve that audience exclusively.”

Targeting competitors is another popular tactic.

“Targeting people who like/follow your competitors is one of my favorites,” said Julie Bacchini of Neptune Moon.

Joe Drury of WebTrends agreed, saying users of all social PPC platforms should target competitors.

Drury also recommends using Facebook custom audiences. Custom audiences let advertisers target Facebook users by email addresses, phone numbers, Facebook user IDs, or app user IDs.

LinkedIn Audience Tips

Many of the Facebook audience tips are great for LinkedIn as well. Of course, LinkedIn has its own unique opportunities for audience targeting.

Drury said that “on Linkedin, groups are king.” Using and targeting groups, as well as job titles and interests, is highly effective.

Robert Brady of Righteous Marketing recommends that LinkedIn advertisers “overlay targeting for increased relevance. Industry + Seniority + Job Function is a good one to try.” I’ve had success using this method myself.

Bonus Audience Tips

I love the tip I got from social PPC guru John Lee of Clix Marketing. He suggested that advertisers “use the ‘back door’ – target LinkedIn and Facebook with the Google Display Network, layered with contextual keywords.” Both LinkedIn and Facebook use the GDN to backfill their display inventory, so if you want to dip your toe in the water using a platform you’re more familiar with, here’s your chance.

Here’s another tip from yours truly. If possible, prioritize your audience and create campaigns by priority.

For example, you may have a “hot prospects” list and a “cooler prospects” list. Create separate LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter campaigns for each audience. This allows you to use different messaging, bids, and budgets for each audience much more easily than if you lump them all into one.

Social PPC Ad Optimization

Ad burnout in high-impression social PPC networks is a real problem. It’s imperative to keep ads fresh while still generating a good CTR. Ian Mackie of PointIt offers this simple, yet profound tip: “Use dark/old posts in Facebook to quickly A/B test images, headlines, and creative.” Why reinvent the wheel?

Images in social PPC ads create a whole new level of complexity for advertisers used to dealing with 95 characters of text. Finding effective images is a perpetual challenge for advertisers trying to combat ad fatigue.

Getting attention in Facebook ads, in particular, can be tricky.

“Images of pretty, smiling women get clicks,” said Justin Freid of CMI Media. “They may not be the right clicks, but you get clicks.”

Jesse Semchuck adds that it “also helps if the woman is looking at your call to action button/copy.”

While these ideas may sound frivolous, they’re legitimate. People are drawn to people – it’s instinctive. Our eyes follow another person’s eyes. And pretty or suggestive images get attention.

Even in the more businesslike LinkedIn environment, images can make or break an ad. Choose them carefully, and test them relentlessly.

Images may have other editorial challenges, as well. Facebook limits text in an image to no more than 20 percent of the image. But there is a workaround.

“If you’re getting hit with the 20 percent text rule and have to use a particular image, target your ads just to right hand side,” said Timothy Jensen of Overit.

Twitter Ads pose a different optimization challenge, because most of their promotion options focus on promoting tweets, hashtags, or handles. Carefully crafted tweets work well, but there isn’t a good way to split-test them in the ad environment.

That’s where Twitter Lead Generation Cards come in. Lead gen cards are sort of an “ad within a tweet.” You’ll set up a lead gen card, and then send promoted tweets to it. Lead gen cards are effective for driving email signups, white paper downloads, and other common lead gen activities.

As Drury put it: “Lead gen cards rock for B2B!”

Social PPC Campaign Optimization

Most social PPC channels offer both CPC and CPM bidding options. On Twitter, you pay per engagement: click, retweet, or reply. Facebook and LinkedIn both offer CPC and CPM.

Facebook also offers Optimized CPM. oCPM is an advanced bidding option for users of the Facebook API. It allows advertisers to set a value for actions, reach, clicks, or social impressions. Once the values are set, Facebook optimizes ad serving against them.

Several social PPC experts recommended oCPM. Terry Whalen‏ of CPC Search suggested “using custom objectives with oCPM for Facebook bidding” as a way to improve performance.

Mackie is also a fan of oCPM. He said he always starts with CPC bidding and then moves to oCPM to optimize for whatever the goal is.

I owe a big thanks to Mackie for my final two campaign optimization tips:

  • Facebook’s attribution window is set to “1 day after viewing an ad or 28 days after clicking.” Depending on your sales cycle, you can adjust this for reporting purposes to be whatever combination of 1, 7 & 28 (days) makes sense.
  • Qwaya is by far the most inexpensive Facebook Ads tool on the market today.

I’ll be honest – I wasn’t aware of either of these, and I’m now seriously checking them out.

A huge thank you to all of the experts who contributed tips – I know I’ll be using all of them in my social PPC campaigns!

Got a tip of your own? Share in the comments!

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Search Engine Watch on November 12, 2013.

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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On Social PPC

Looking to dip your toes into the social PPC waters, but aren’t sure how to get started? You’re not alone. Social PPC is similar to keyword PPC, and yet different enough to confuse those who are new to the game.

Luckily, you can follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before you.

Elizabeth Marsten wrote a great post for ClickZ called The Definitive Guide to Social PPC. Check it out.

For tips from top PPC experts on social PPC, check out this post over at Search Engine Watch.

I recently spoke at SES Atlanta about social PPC, and I wrote an article on it for Search Engine Watch. In the article, you’ll find detailed tips to succeed with social PPC.

To boil it all down, I created the ultimate cheat sheet for social PPC. Too many advertisers just decide they “need a presence in Facebook Ads” or another social platform, without thinking through any strategy or keys to success. Use this cheat sheet when you’re creating the strategy for your next social PPC campaign. Thinking about these factors prior to launch will set you up for a profitable campaign, instead of a money drain.

social ppc cheat sheet

You can download the sheet in Excel, too.

What are your favorite paid social tips? Share in the comments!

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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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