Fail Fast, Learn Fast

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

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 Some, like Google Reader, became outdated.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Challenges for PPC Lead Generation

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

Nothing is sold.

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

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

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

Lead generation advertisers can’t use Shopping feeds.

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

Landing pages can be a challenge.

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

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

Only initial responses are visible in the PPC accounts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PPC Remarketing: What Not To Do

By now, we’re all accustomed to being followed around by remarketing ads. Those of us in PPC are particularly attuned to remarketing ads. We know what they are, first of all. Most of us can probably spot a remarketing ad on the first impression. Second, we visit a lot of different websites as we research competitors, read news, and check display campaign placements. It always makes me chuckle to see our clients’ competitors as I move about the web.

I don’t blame the competitors for following me; after all, they don’t know why I was on their site and didn’t convert. As long as they don’t show me hundreds of impressions per day, it’s not a problem. Then again, there are some remarketing ads that seem nearly ubiquitous, almost to the point of harassment.

Here’s an example of an ad that most PPC pros probably see at least 20 times per day:

remarketing ad

Now, I think WordStream has good products – I’ve praised several of them in posts I’ve written. And I have nothing but respect for Larry Kim, their CEO. But I gotta be honest – I’m tired of seeing their ads all day long, everywhere I go.

How to avoid harassment: Use frequency caps! I usually start with 5 impressions per user per day. And even that might be high – I’ve gone as low as 1 per day.

Now, I’m sure the fine folks at WordStream have probably tested the frequency threshold and likely are serving the right number of impressions to drive the results they’re looking for. But gosh, these ads are everywhere. I’ve even tried to get them to stop showing by going to different pages & sites – I gave up after about 50 impressions.

This week, I got to thinking about another, bigger problem: showing salesy remarketing ads to people who already use your product. I credit my co-worker, Ben Nusekabel, with pointing this out. Here’s the ad he sent me – for the project management software we all use every day!

remarketing ad

Now, I love so many things about this ad: the copy, the art, the call to action… If I’d seen it, I probably would have downloaded the ebook! But here’s the thing: they’re wasting money on me, because I work for a company that already uses them.

The solution? Don’t remarket to people who log in to your site. Create an exclusion list for them.

Here’s another one, for the videoconferencing program we use:

remarketing ad

Great – I started seeing this ad AFTER a video meeting in which I gave a presentation from my home office in Michigan to our main office in Cincinnati, while I was logged in, of course. At least this ad wasn’t interesting enough for me to click on it. So maybe the key is to use boring creative? (I keed, I keed.)

And finally, the icing on the cake:

remarketing ad

Yes, our friends over at Adwords want me to check them out. “Try Google AdWords,” they say. As if I’m not logged in to their interface from dawn till dusk. This one made me laugh out loud. Yet another example of Adwords not using their own best practices.

I’d have been ok with seeing all of these ads if I weren’t logged in to their sites at the time I saw them. Makes me wonder if their PPC department or agency doesn’t understand how to use remarketing. At least it’s good for a few laughs.

What about you? What are the craziest (or best, or creepiest) remarketing ads you’ve seen lately? Share in the comments!

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PPC Campaign Setup Best Practices

Everyone who works in PPC management will have to set up at least a few new PPC campaigns. Setup seems easy, especially if you read what the engines tell you. But there are several tricky default settings that can trip you up.

It’s easy to make mistakes in campaign setup that can negatively impact performance. Here are some PPC campaign setup best practices to follow.

Campaign Setup Basics

Experienced PPC managers may take the basics for granted – after all, we’ve looked at these settings hundreds of times, right? But that doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes. I recently set a campaign’s geotargeting to the entire US when it was supposed to be geotargeted to a few cities. Be sure to look at the following settings to ensure they mesh with your campaign goals:

  • Billing & Currency
  • Account Timezone
  • Geographic Distribution
  • Language
  • Campaign Budget
  • Ad Distribution
  • Ad Rotation

For an overview of all these settings, here’s an article I wrote for Web Marketing Today.

Campaign Setup Strategies

Once you understand the various settings that are available, you need to think about campaign strategy. What makes the most sense for each campaign? Review some of the choices you have in terms of ad rotation, budget delivery, etc.

Also, think long and hard about mobile. Do you have a mobile version of your site? Is your site responsive and works well on mobile? Can users take conversion actions on a mobile device? Don’t just automatically include or exclude mobile – think about how it fits with campaign strategy.

Audit and QA

Even the most experienced PPC managers make mistakes in campaign setup. I’ve set the wrong budget, opted campaigns into display by mistake, set wrong geos, added “keyword” to my keyword list, and messed up destination URLs and tagging. It happens to the best of us.

The worst possible thing that can happen is to have a client, or your boss, find your mistakes. While some things will inevitably slip through the cracks despite your best efforts, putting an audit and quality assurance (QA) process in place will help you to avoid the most egregious errors.

One key to successful QA is to have someone else check your work. We recently did a huge launch of new landing pages for a client with a very large campaign. On top of that, we had to manually tag our URLs. It was a complicated process with a big margin for error. We had multiple sets of eyes on the destination URLs to make sure everything was set up correctly. We checked, and then checked again. And I had others help me, because after I’d stared at it for multiple 10-hour days straight, it was hard to find my own mistakes.

Another key to correcting errors is to do regular audits. We’ve all made changes to accounts in good faith, only to realize we messed something up in the process. Auditing your campaigns on a weekly or monthly basis will help keep errors from perpetuating over time.

My favorite audit tool is Joe Kerschbaum’s 10-Minute Audit spreadsheet. He presented it at SMX Advanced 2012 on a panel we were both speaking on, and I’ve used it ever since. Even though it’s 2 years old, it still holds up – the only thing that’s changed is device segmentation (sadly). Even still, you should think about mobile as I mentioned above. Are you using mobile-preferred ads? Call extensions? Other tactics for mobile success? Use the audit spreadsheet to find mistakes quickly.

Again, it’s best to have someone else audit the campaigns you manage. While I’ve used it on my own campaigns, it’s easy to miss things. If you work on a team, take turns auditing each other’s campaigns each month. You’ll be glad you did.

What are your favorite campaign setup best practices? Share in the comments!

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6 Milestones For Successful PPC Campaigns

When I train new PPC hires, one of the questions they often ask me is, “How long does it take to get a PPC campaign running well?” It’s a fair question, and the answer isn’t what you might think.

A good PPC campaign takes time to set up. It’s not immediate like Google Adwords would lead you to believe:

This is Google's idea of how quickly a campaign can go live. They're wrong.

This is Google’s idea of how quickly a campaign can go live. They’re wrong.

Here are 6 milestones that will take you on your way to a well-run campaign.


Doing your homework is a must. Guessing at keywords and creating one ad that lands on the homepage is not the way to approach PPC. You’ll need to think about campaign goals first, and then do your keyword research.

Creating good ad copy is harder than ever with all the options out there today. Be sure to incorporate best practices.

Campaign structure is also vital for success. Plan for expansion, and create campaigns and ad groups that will make management and reporting easier.


If you don’t measure results, how will you know if the campaign is running well? Tracking setup can be very simple, using only Google Analytics or the engine conversion tracking scripts, or it can be ridiculously complex, with content marketing and CMS integration, call tracking, social media, and other integration elements.

Set aside time to get the tracking right before you launch. Inaccurate tracking is worse than no tracking.


Whether you’re in an agency dealing with clients, or in-house with a boss or CEO, someone will need to approve your campaign before it goes live. Chances are you’ll need someone else to set up the tracking on the website, too. Allow time for approvals – in my experience, a 2-day turnaround is lightning-fast, and it frequently takes a week or more for all approvals and tracking codes to be installed. Work that time into your launch plan.

And if you’re creating new landing pages, plan on at least a month to get them up and running. Even with marketing automation, I’ve found it takes several weeks to create new pages, QA them, and get them ready for traffic.

Relevant Data

One of the great things about PPC is its immediacy – you can start seeing data right away. But just because you can see data the first day doesn’t mean you should act on it.

Use the first days of a new campaign to trouble-shoot: ad disapprovals, broken links, and tracking issues are some of the roadblocks that can crop up in the early days of a new campaign. You should definitely look at the data to spot these challenges and fix them as soon as possible.

But don’t fall into the trap of viewing performance after a couple of days or weeks and making huge decisions on it. Most campaigns need at least a month to really get a feel for performance. The first couple weeks will have huge swings in key metrics – so it doesn’t make sense to decide the fate of keywords and ad copy while things are going back and forth. Give it time.


Campaign optimization should be ongoing, of course, but it’s in the first month or two that the most learning happens. You’ll probably find a couple of keywords and ad variations that perform terribly. As long as you remove them quickly, usually there’s little to no harm done. Fail fast and learn fast should be your motto.


Reporting is another way to get your campaign performing well. In a report, you must show results, highlight key wins, and point out issues and problems. Even though you’re looking at your PPC data on a regular basis, you’ll probably see something in the first report that you didn’t notice before. And that’s ok.

I always tell clients that their first report is going to be their worst report in terms of performance. It’s the baseline by which future performance is judged. And a good PPC report will facilitate a conversation between you and your client or boss that will help you get the campaign to perform better in the future.

Work toward these milestones as you set up your next PPC campaign. What milestones do you look for in a new campaign? Share in the comments!

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Hey Yes, That’s Google Arbitrage

Earlier this week, Susan Waldes caused quite a stir with her Search Engine Land post, Will Google Arbitrage Ever Stop? Google arbitrage is the practice of advertisers buying Google Adwords ads for the sole purpose of driving traffic to their made-for-Adsense or other site where the primary goal is to generate ad revenue. Susan called out for arbitrage practices, giving examples of how buys traffic via PPC, and then sends it to their own search results pages – which are full of ads and links to other sites owned by the same entity that owns

Susan garnered the attention of’s CEO Doug Leeds with her post. In fact, he wrote a rebuttal to Search Engine Land that was published yesterday.

Leeds claims that is not engaging in arbitrage, but rather is “(providing) information from our own network of sites, or from around the web, that can answer (searcher’s) questions.”


I’ve long been tired of seeing results clogging the PPC landscape. Instead of giving searchers the information they asked for, Ask ads take searchers to yet another search page – a terrible user experience that I can’t imagine Google is excited about if they really care about ad quality. (And that’s a topic for another post.)

So, I ran a couple searches. I decided to sidestep Google and try Bing instead. Here is the same search that Leeds performed in his rebuttal, on Bing:

bing SERP


You’ll notice that the ONLY ad at the top of the page is an ad. And it’s a terrible ad. The whole premise of both the ad copy and sitelinks is, “Hey searcher, come to to get answers to your questions!” Hey, guess what? The searcher ALREADY ASKED A QUESTION! They want INFORMATION, not your crappy ads taking them to your crappy SERPs that do anything but answer the searcher’s questions.

(Not to mention the fact that the first ad on the right is an ad – and is owned by the same parent company as, as Susan Waldes pointed out.)

Here’s the landing page for that ad:

ask serp

I added the red box. What’s at the top of the page? Arbitrage ads! Ads that is profiting from!

Let’s recap this process:

  • buys ads on Bing
  • Ask’s ads take users to their crappy search engine results page
  • Users click on their ads
  • Ask makes money

What other possible goal could their Bing ads have but to drive profit from their own ads? Isn’t that the definition of search arbitrage?

In fact, look at the organic results on that “landing page.” And look at the “ads” on the top right. All that stuff is driving traffic to pages! Ask is taking their poor unsuspecting site visitors on a virtual wild goose chase through their various SERPs!

It’s kind of like voice mail hell – every option you choose just takes you to something else that still doesn’t answer your question. That’s the antithesis of a quality landing page, in my book.

What do you think? Is the king of PPC arbitrage? Or are they justified in their actions? Is Doug Leeds admitting guilt with his rebuttal, or does he have a point? Share in the comments!

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6 Must-Bookmark PPC Resources

Way back in 2012, I published a post with my favorite PPC bookmarks. Well, 2 years is an eternity in PPC, so I thought I’d update the list. Here are my 6 favorite PPC resources that you need to bookmark in 2014.

3 of the links from 2012 are still on my list this year. If you’re not using these PPC resources, what are you waiting for?

Modified Broad Match Tool from Acquisio. This tool enables you to paste a list of keywords, tell it which ones you want to add the broad match modifier, and spits them out with a keystroke. It’s a huge timesaver and I use it at least weekly.

Ion Interactive’s Landing Page Checklist. While the original link from 2012 no longer exists, use this helpful post on their blog to ensure your PPC landing pages are designed for conversion.

Google Analytics URL Builder. A good way to make sure your custom URLs for Google Analytics are formatted properly.

Here are 3 great PPC resources I’ve found over the past couple years that I refer to again and again.

Visual Website Optimizer statistical significance tool. This downloadable spreadsheet will help you test ad copy efficiently.

How to Exclude Mobile Apps on the Google Display Network. This post by Bryant Garvin at the Get Found First blog is a must-bookmark for anyone using the Google Display Network.

Optmyzr Free Adwords Scripts. Started by former Googler Frederick Vallaeys, Optmyzr is an Adwords Scripts company. They offer some time-saving free scripts on their site.

Happy bookmarking! What are your favorite PPC resources? Share in the comments!

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PPC Experience: Necessary or Not?

In many careers, the longer you’re at it, the better you get. Think about teaching or coaching, for example. First-year teachers can be downright scary to parents, because they lack experience and may not know how to handle tough classroom situations. The same thing goes for customer service. I worked in customer service for 4 years, and I definitely got better at it the longer I did it.

But what about in PPC? After all, the only constant in the PPC world is change. Knowledge you had yesterday can be obsolete tomorrow – just look at what Enhanced Campaigns did to device-specific campaigns. So does experience matter?

Jeremyah Grigery posted that very question on PPC Chat this week:

A flurry of fascinating conversation followed, with most contending that experience counts in many ways. Although performing actual PPC tasks may not require years of experience, knowing what tasks to perform does.

I believe that experience counts for a lot in PPC. Knowing the history of PPC helps veteran PPC’ers come up with workarounds in situations like Enhanced Campaigns – because in the early days, we had to use a LOT of workarounds! I like how Julie Bacchini put it:

A lot of people also talked about having general business savvy, which is something else that comes with time. We often find that junior staff (and this goes beyond PPC to all areas of the agency) are not experienced in dealing with clients, so they struggle with it. Let’s face it – client communication is a learned skill. When I first came to the agency world in 2007, I had a lot to learn, despite working in customer service for much of my career and in PPC for 5 years. So if you’re dealing with clients at all, experience definitely matters.

In fact, life experience helps – and that’s true of any job. Susan Wenograd said it best:

In fact, experience dealing with change is super important in PPC, as Tamsin Mehew points out:

I’ve worked with people over the years who were very resistant to change. Any time a new process was put in place, they complained and resisted it. I’ve even dealt with a few people like this in the time I’ve done PPC, although they’re usually not fellow PPC’ers, but rather people in support roles. Nonetheless, learning to adapt to change makes a difference, so if you’ve had experience with it before, it’ll likely be easier to swallow.

So if you’re new to PPC or only have a year or two of experience, does that mean you’re doomed? Absolutely not! Willingness to learn, combined with a curious and positive attitude, is a good recipe for success in PPC. Some skills can be learned faster than others. I’ve found that daily PPC management tasks are easier to grasp, while dealing with clients and giving presentations are harder and take longer to master. But that’s a generalization: I’ve known people who were great with clients but shaky on the day-to-day. As with all things PPC, it depends!

Did you see the discussion about PPC experience on PPC Chat? What do you think? Does experience matter? Share in the comments!

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Think You’re Cut Out for Being A PPC Manager? Take This Quiz

So you wanna be a PPC manager. Do you think you can bring the goods? Here’s a quiz to see if you’re cut out for PPC:

1. You’ve run into a problem on the job that has you stumped. You:
a. Ask your boss for help
b. Look up the answer online
c. Move on – it’s probably not that big of a deal

2. You’re reading a book or article and you see a word or phrase that’s new to you. You’re not sure what it means. You:
a. Keep reading, making a note to ask someone about it later
b. Stop reading and dig out your smartphone to search for more information
c. Who has time to read?

3. At the weekly staff meeting, the boss announces that the entire office is being remodeled and all the desks will be moved around, creating a new seating arrangement. You:
a. Go along with it, but cringe inside at the thought of sitting next to people you don’t know well
b. Embrace the change, even though it may be challenging at first
c. Complain! Who needs the disruption of yet another office move?

4. You’re having trouble finding the answer to problem you were working on in Question 1. You:
a. Keep doggedly running Google searches in hopes of eventually finding the answer
b. Go to an online forum, discussion board, or Twitter and ask your question there
c. Fuhgeddaboudit

5. You’re talking to a colleague who doesn’t know a lot about your job, and they’re asking a lot of questions. You:
a. Answer them as quickly as you can
b. Patiently explain the concept in layman’s terms, pausing to check for understanding
c. Tell them to ask someone else

6. You’re at an amusement park with your best friend. He or she is bugging you to ride the latest thrill ride. You:
a. Hesitate, feeling the need to research the ride first
b. Run ahead to get in line for the ride
c. Tell him or her no thanks, it’s not your type of ride

7. Your boss has given you a new assignment, something you haven’t done before. You:
a. Ask a lot of questions, and check in with the boss daily for reassurance
b. Map out a plan, get the boss’s ok, and run with it from there
c. Ask the boss to assign the work to someone else

If you answered mostly B, congratulations! You’re ideally suited to be a PPC manager. The best PPC managers love to dig for the solutions to tricky challenges. They are constantly hungry for learning something new, and aren’t afraid to test it out on their own PPC account. They persist until they find out why performance has fallen off. They embrace change – let’s face it, PPC is a daily dose of something new! They love a new challenge and taking risks. And they’re patient, because most people don’t understand PPC. Whether you work in an agency or in-house, you’re going to have to explain what you do on a regular basis. And good PPC managers know when to ask for help, turning to the fantastic PPC community for help.

If you didn’t score well, don’t despair! You’ve just identified the areas you’ll need to work on in order to succeed as a PPC manager. (Although if you chose mostly C’s, you might want to consider an alternate career path.)

What about you? What traits do you look for when hiring new PPC managers? What do you still need to work on? What’s your favorite aspect of being a PPC manager? 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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