The Top 3 PPC Engines That Don’t Want My Money

Here it is – the post I’ve been threatening to write. In today’s online advertising world, it seems as though new social media platforms are sprouting every day, and adding an ad network at the same time. Advertisers are excited about testing out new platforms like Promoted Pins and Instagram Ads.

Most of the new platforms’ ad interfaces are awful. Even some stalwart PPC engine interfaces are awful. Now it’s time to name names. Here are the top 3 PPC engines that don’t seem to want my money.

#1: LinkedIn Ads

I work at a B2B-focused agency, so naturally many of our clients are interested in LinkedIn ads. We’ve had good luck with LinkedIn – the nice thing about advertising with them is that if you reach just a handful of people in your key target audience, the ads pay for themselves. As a result, clients who try LinkedIn are often eager to spend more money once they see the results.

And what a challenge it is to spend more money. LinkedIn’s advertising interface has countless shortcomings, and they’re detailed in this wonderful post by Merry Morud over at aimClear, so I won’t rehash most of them here.

I have to mention the timeout issue, though. The LI interface times out after about 5 minutes, even if you are working in it. Yes folks, you can be in the middle of adding companies to a campaign (one by one, because there is no bulk upload), and then it times out. It’s enough to make me take my money and go someplace else, like Facebook which never times out.

The icing on the user interface disaster cake is that LinkedIn’s CPCs are well above industry averages. The minimum CPC on one of our campaigns is $4.00 – because we excluded entry-level people. LinkedIn, please take some of that exorbitant CPC you’re charging and use it to overhaul your interface.

#2: Twitter Ads

In Twitter’s defense, their ad platform is fairly new. They haven’t had a lot of time to work out the bugs. Also, audience data is limited to 140 characters – so it’s no easy task to achieve laser-focused targeting.

Still, Twitter Ads leaves so much to be desired. For one thing, their reporting is TERRIBLE. It took me about a week to even find out where to download a custom report.

Imagine you’re new to Twitter. Where would you go to download a report?

twitter report

I see the “CSV” button, but it’s not clear that that’s the button you click to customize your report. Even at that, the available stats are very limited.

The thing is, if I can’t download detailed results data, I can’t optimize the campaign. If I can’t optimize the campaign, I’m not inclined to keep spending money there.

Another big downfall of Twitter ads is the lack of dayparting. Businesses often want to promote tweets during business hours, not at 2am when Twitter is full of drunk college students. Want to do that? No can do.

Limited options mean limited spend, Twitter.

#3: Facebook Ads

I realize I praised Facebook Ads earlier in this post. They have many, many positive features.

The constant changes to their ads interface are not on that list.

Merry Morud strikes again with a nice comment on the latest changes:

FB ads

(Side note: If you want a good laugh, go read the whole conversation, especially Andrew Goodman’s response. You won’t be disappointed.)

I had the same challenge as Merry with updating URLs. Like most FB advertisers, to create new ads I duplicate ads and then edit them. I tried this in Power Editor, but it wouldn’t let me edit the destination URL. All I was doing was updating the Google Analytics tag – I wasn’t changing the URL itself. And what if I did want to change the URL? So what? Why can’t I do that, Facebook?

If I can’t track it, I can’t optimize it. If I can’t optimize it… You know the rest.

Honorable Mention: Bing Ads

Sorry Bing – I have to put you guys on the list for the recent login fiasco. You did not win friends and influence PPC’ers with that move. I was thisclose to pulling every dime out of Bing when I couldn’t log in.

Thankfully, the issue was resolved and we’re back to seeing the good results we normally do with Bing. I get that there were security issues, but this was not the way to handle them – especially when so many people are reluctant to use Bing due to low traffic.

I find it interesting that Google is all too eager to take our money (case in point: their “optimization” suggestions that equate to “increase your bids” – I just got one of these from them today), and yet their competitors throw up roadblock after roadblock.

Are they competitive with Google? Hardly. I’m not sure they want our money.

What do you think? Do you agree with my list? Got someone to add? Share in the comments!

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Why Agencies Need Better PPC Support

There has been a lot of chatter in the PPC community recently about Google Adwords support, or lack thereof. I’ve written more than my share of rants on the topic. It’s no surprise that Google would bear the brunt of PPC pros’ frustration – after all, they are the market leader and therefore are the platform we all use every day.

But step back from your daily annoyances and think about the big picture that is Google Adwords. They actually have built a decent platform for agencies, with MCCs and sub-MCCs. They have Adwords Editor. They have Google Partners.

I know Google Partners is nothing to write home about. But have you tried working in any of the social PPC platforms? Tried contacting their PPC support team? Gotten any nice gifts from them?

I thought so.

Here’s the thing. Agencies handle many (not all, but many) of the large PPC accounts out there. We are frequently the ones getting advertisers to try new things like Pinterest Ads. It behooves the search engines to give us the support we need to spend our clients’ money!

I’m sure that many of the questions crossing the desks of the engines’ PPC support staff are basic, and likely come from mom and pop advertisers trying to do PPC themselves. So why should the PPC engines offer any support to agencies when our numbers are relatively small? Isn’t general support enough?

No. And here’s why.

We are not beginners.

Sure, agencies hire new PPC staff all the time, and frequently these new hires have no experience with PPC. The fact of the matter is, though, the newbies aren’t always the ones calling Google or Bing for help. In the agency world, many of us who call are very experienced in PPC. Experienced PPC’ers see support calls as a last resort. We’ve already exhausted all other resources, including reading the help files and tinkering with the interface ourselves. We’re stuck, and that’s why we’re calling.

Therefore, we need dedicated PPC support staffers who are experienced themselves. This is where Bing really shines. We have a dedicated team at Bing, and they are experts. They are not the latest new hires cutting their teeth on the 1-866 number. They get that we get it, so on calls we dispense with the basics and talk strategy; and when we have a problem, they don’t read us the help files – they go in and fix it.

That’s what we want from you, Google – and from all the rest of you: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter… LinkedIn only offers support via email, and I don’t think Facebook or Twitter offer it at all. So when we do have a question or something isn’t working, guess what? We often pull our money and spend it elsewhere.

We handle multiple clients.

Like I mentioned earlier, Google is the leader by a long shot in making it easy to work with multiple clients. Bing has gotten better, but their MCC-equivalent leaves a lot to be desired. Facebook has a decent interface for multiple accounts – and they have Power Editor which is awesome. But their reporting is pretty terrible, and both the online UI and Power Editor are glitchy at times.

LinkedIn? Well, they sort of have an MCC but its usefulness is totally overshadowed by the fact that their ads interface times out after about 5 minutes.

A few weeks ago, I was creating a campaign for a client who wanted to target 100 companies. After painstakingly spending an hour entering each company one by one (since LI has no bulk upload function whatsoever), I hit “next” and got the login screen. Thankfully, LI did save my work – but why give people that heart attack?

Agencies are in PPC interfaces all day. Don’t time them out! Facebook and Twitter never time out on me, and neither does Google. Bing only does after several hours of inactivity. C’mon LinkedIn – if you want agencies to spend money with you, don’t force them out of the ads interface every 5 minutes.

I joked on Twitter a while back that I was going to write a blog post called “The Top 3 PPC Engines That Don’t Want My Money.” Let’s hope we get some fast improvement, or I may yet write that post.

What do you think? Is agency PPC support just a pipe dream for all but the largest spenders? Found a way to get better support? Share in the comments!

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The Top 5 Ways To Use Pivot Tables For PPC

PPC managers live in Excel. We use it for everything from keyword research, to ad copy creation, to results data crunching. We love Excel so much that a recent PPC Chat discussion centered on it.

Pivot tables are one of the most powerful features of Excel. I discovered the magic of pivot tables fairly recently – I started using them in earnest about 3 years ago. Once I got the hang of them, I wondered why I’d waited so long to use them.

If you’re not using pivot tables to manage PPC, it’s time to start! Here are 5 resources that will help you get started.

Ultimate Visual Guide to Pivot Tables for PPC Data by Mark Jensen at Get Found First.  This is your starting point for learning how to set up pivot tables. You’ll want to bookmark this fantastic resource as you’re learning how to use pivot tables for PPC.

The 10 Reports that Made Me Fall in Love with Pivot Tables by Sean Quadlin at PPC Hero. Sean walks through 10 ways to use pivot tables to analyze your PPC data. If you’re trying to figure out exactly what’s going on with your PPC account performance, try running some of these analyses using pivot tables.

Wasting Money In Your PPC Accounts? Pivot Tables Are Here To Help! by Dave Rosborough at PPC Hero. If you’re a visual learner, check out this how-to video. Dave does a nice walk-through for using pivot tables to figure out where you’re losing money in your PPC campaigns.

Brad Geddes Presents: How to Identify Google AdWords Quality Score Problems by Brad Geddes for PPC Hero. My good friend and PPC Moses Brad Geddes has a guest appearance at PPC Hero with a video on how to use pivot tables to analyze quality score. I first learned about this technique from Brad at HeroConf 2012, and I’ve used it ever since to optimize PPC quality score.

How To Manage Big Data with Pivot Tables by the brilliant Annie Cushing at Search Engine Land. If you’re having trouble with Excel, head over to SEL and read some of Annie’s posts. She’s probably the top expert on Excel in the SEM field. This post is a how-to, complete with screen shots, on culling insight from large data sets using pivot tables.

I use pivot tables weekly, at minimum. My favorite way to use pivot tables for PPC is for ad copy analysis. Finding the best-performing ad is easy with pivot tables.

What’s your favorite way to use pivot tables for PPC? Share in the comments!

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My Top 10 PPC Blogs

This summer has been crazy month for me. I was on vacation for 10 straight days in July – the first time in years I’ve taken that much consecutive time off – and then another few days off last week. Of course, now I’m swamped at work. Add to that my life as a mom of two busy teenagers, and I barely have a minute to myself.

Being so busy means it’s hard to keep up with the latest PPC news. We all need a go-to source or two for PPC news and info for those times when we can’t keep up with Twitter and the like. While “mainstream” search news sites like Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land are awesome, sometimes I’m too busy to dig through all the posts to get at the PPC gems – especially if I’m looking for something specific. So, I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 blogs that focus exclusively on PPC.

PPC Hero

These guys are prolific. With new posts nearly every day by a variety of authors, the PPC Hero team puts out great PPC content from beginner to advanced level.

Clix Marketing

The Clix Marketing blog has been off-again, on-again (haven’t we all?), but lately it’s been really “on.” They’re writing thought-provoking posts over there, so if you haven’t checked them out recently, go do it now!

PPC Chat

OK, technically this isn’t a blog, but you’ll find the weekly chat recaps here. If you’re like me and had weeks of meetings scheduled during PPC Chat time recently, don’t fret – you can read the screencaps here!

Certified Knowledge

With posts by Brad Geddes, a long-time PPC pro, you know you’ll find great content here. Brad doesn’t blog often, but when he does, you’ll want to bookmark it!

Inside Adwords

Yes, the Adwords blog puts that nice Google spin on their posts, but it’s still the place to learn about what’s new with Adwords. It’s also a good place to refer clients or bosses who want to learn more about PPC; their writers do a good job of explaining new features that advertisers might want to try.

Bing Ads Blog

Not to be outdone, Bing has a nice blog of their own. And the posts are written by real people, many of whom I’ve met so I know they actually exist. Bing also does nice analyses of data, along with real-world tips to optimize your Bing campaigns.

PPC Associates

While similar to PPC Hero, PPC Associates puts their unique stamp on PPC news and views. They also have a Facebook PPC blog that’s really good.

Get Found First

The Get Found First blog is another up-and-comer. When you see a new post here, you’ll want to drop everything and start reading. Their post this week on Google’s fishy cost per action metric is thought-provoking to say the least.

RKG Blog

RKG is the ultimate PPC geek’s haven. There are posts over there that I’ve read over and over and still can’t understand them. These guys are among the smartest people in PPC.

Acquisio

Acquisio is a PPC tool vendor, so you might think that their blog would try to sell you. Not so. They use a variety of guest bloggers in addition to their own super-smart staff to write about geeky PPC goodness.

There you have it – my top 10 PPC blogs. Of course, there are many other good blogs out there that I didn’t mention. What’s your favorite PPC blog? Share in the comments!

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3 Big PPC Mistakes Even Pros Make

Everyone makes mistakes. You’ve heard that saying a thousand times, and yet it still rings true.

Even seasoned professionals make mistakes; and usually mistakes are the best way to learn.

Still, especially when you’re new at something, it’s encouraging to know that even the pros mess up at times. Every golfer loves it when Tiger Woods shanks a drive, for example.

I asked PPC pros to share their biggest PPC mistakes (anonymously, of course). One long-time PPC manager sent me three mistakes and said they’d made all of them in the last year! I know I’ve made my share over the years, too.

With that, here are the mistakes people made, and how to avoid them.

1. Budget Mistakes

“One of my team members uploaded a new campaign with a budget of $5,000/day, not $500/day. Campaign went live over a weekend and spent a ton.”

“PPC mistakes I have made: spending budgets too fast and forgetting to add new budget for the start of a new month (using Manager Defined Spend).”

One of the great things about PPC is that you can decide how much you want to spend. As an advertiser, you can decide to spend $5 per day or $50,000 per day – and you control the budget limits.

The problems arise when simple typos are made in budgets, or when an agency manager forgets to add new budget to their MDS (which I have done myself).

How to avoid budget mistakes: Have someone else double-check your entries, and put a reminder on your calendar for the last Friday of each month to reset your MDS budgets.

2. Bidding Mistakes

“My biggest PPC mistake: late one night I accidentally increased bids on two keywords… I meant to type 11 cents, but I typed 11 dollars. By the next day the account had racked up $7,000 in unwanted charges!”

“I tried changing bids only to remember that the client has automated bidding for those keywords – after spending time setting up all the new bids.”

“Biggest mistake: Forgetting a decimal point on a bid. Fortunately, it wasn’t for a client account. Unfortunately, it was for me. Ka-Ching.”

“Someone I worked with once put a popular head term on broad match with a £80 bid instead of a £0.80 bid.”

I’d be willing to bet that every PPC manager has made a bidding mistake at least once. It’s easy to type $30 when you really meant $0.30 – or vice versa – and the results can be disastrous in a short period of time.

I once set up a bunch of new keywords for a client in a very competitive vertical, and couldn’t figure out why they weren’t getting any traffic. Turns out I’d set the bids at $0.50 instead of $50!

How to avoid bidding mistakes: It’s hard to completely avoid them, but using an offline editor like AdWords Editor or Bing Ads Editor helps, because you can check your work before the changes go live. Also, make sure to check your campaigns the next day – you’ll easily spot anomalies before they get too far out of control.

3. Network Targeting Mistakes

“Not turning off content network for a new campaign, set to single word broad match. Not always a mistake, but this time it was.”

“With all the teams I’ve managed, the favorite rookie mistake has always been content network =on. Have seen £00s wasted on that.”

Google doesn’t do novice PPC marketers any favors with their campaign defaults. PPC best practices such as separating search and content (display) and proper geo-targeting are overridden by Google’s default settings, which target “All Countries and Languages” and “All Networks.”

google network default

How to avoid network targeting mistakes: Make sure all new hires are trained in best practices for PPC settings, and be sure to check their work early on. Using a desktop editor makes it easier to double-check all campaign settings before pushing campaigns live. After the changes are live, check the settings again in the online interface to make sure everything is the way it should be. Schedule a report, segmented by network and campaign, to be sent to your email the day after the campaign goes live. If you’re seeing traffic in the wrong place, you’ll know what to fix.

Summary

Hopefully this post has taught you two things: that even the most experienced PPC managers make mistakes, and how to avoid those pitfalls!

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared at Search Engine Watch on February 5, 2013.

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International PPC: How to Go Global

This week, I had the enormous pleasure of hosting PPC Chat. It was my first time hosting, and I had a blast! Credit goes to Matt Umbro for helping me prepare ahead of time – Matt, you made my job easy!

Anyway, we talked about International PPC and I learned a ton. I’ve managed international PPC campaigns before, but have always felt like I could be doing it better than I was. And as we all know, the world is getting smaller and more and more companies are going global, so it’s time to get on the international PPC bandwagon.

Here are my key takeaways from the chat.

Enlist the help of native speakers for ad copy & keyword creation and optimization.

Sure, you can use Google Translate for this, but that’s probably worse than running ads in just English. Not only will the ads read awkwardly, but you might inadvertently make cultural faux pas. We’ve all heard the legend about the Chevy Nova selling poorly in Latin America. Don’t be that advertiser. Either use client resources to vet your ad copy, or hire an international contractor to help you.

International PPC rollout strategies vary.

Answers to the question “When you launch internationally, do you start with an entire account, or one campaign at a time?” were widely varied. The majority of chatters said they launched gradually, one campaign at a time, to control spend and results. James Svoboda said it best: “Campaign at a time. Too many ‘WTF is happening to conversion rates’ scenarios can happen.” Indeed.

While many chatters agreed with James, Jessica Fisher had a different strategy: “I just roll them all out with low budgets and conservative settings. Takes less time & you never know what will/will not convert.” This also made a lot of sense to me: the low budget minimizes risk, and you’ll learn faster.

My advice? Work with your client or boss and decide which approach you’re most comfortable with. Depending on your goals and objectives, either strategy could work for you.

You must support the languages in which you’re advertising.

The “quote of the chat” came from my friend Carrie Hill: “If you cannot support the conversion in another language – why are you targeting it w/ PPC?” This is something that we’ve struggled with. Advertisers want to create ad copy in native languages, which makes a lot of sense – but their website is in English only, and they don’t have customer service reps who speak other languages!

Think about that for a second. You’re running ads in the Netherlands, in Dutch. Your keywords are also Dutch. So a Dutch-speaking person searches, sees your ad, clicks on it – and ends up on an English-language site. Strike one – you’ve already alienated him. Then Mr. Van Customer calls your international 800 number in hopes he can reach another Dutch speaker. Strike two – your CS reps don’t speak Dutch, either. If he’s really persistent, he might go back to your site and find a contact link, and he sends you an email – in Dutch, which no one can read or respond to. Strike three.

Sure, we can all use Google Translate, and it’s better than nothing. But we’ve all seen those awkward translations it spits back, too. The point is, you must support the language!

If you can’t, you’re better off running ads in English. That way you can still reach English-speaking customers in other countries, without alienating others.

If you missed Tuesday’s chat, you can check out the streamcap. Did you participate in the International PPC chat? What are your best international PPC tips? Share in the comments!

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PPC News Around the Web, Summer Reading Edition

Well, it’s the last day of May already. If you’re anything like me, your thoughts are fast turning to summer: warm weather, vacations, barbecues, beaches, or whatever you like to do in the summer. Me, I like to read – I read year-round, but there’s something cool and comforting about curling up with a great read in a lounge chair pool or beach side.

With that, here’s my reading list from the many great blog posts that were published in May.

Long Term PPC Keyword Expansion: Moving Beyond the Obvious from John Lee at Clix Marketing. OK, so John gave me some nice props in this post, but he’s also outlined some fantastic and little-used keyword research techniques that you should try.

5 Excel Skills Every Marketer Should Know by Annie Cushing over at Search Engine Land. I’ve found myself bookmarking every post that Annie writes, because they’re (a) so informative and (b) so geeked-out that I need to read them multiple times. While this post isn’t as geeky as some of her others, it’s still a great how-to on much-needed Excel skills.

Getting Away From Our PPC Campaigns This Summer also at Search Engine Land, this one by my good friend Matt Van Wagner. Matt’s found some great hacks that will save time and aggravation. This one is a must-read.

How to Exclude Mobile Apps on the Google Display Network by Bryant Garvin at Get Found First. This was spurred by a Twitter discussion amongst some of us frustrated Display advertisers who were seeing placements like this:

tablet display site fails

Bryant has an easy and yet not-so-obvious way to eliminate this garbage traffic. Thanks, Bryant!

Market Research for International PPC Success by Heather Cooan at Search Engine Journal. International PPC is a whole new ballgame for those of us who’ve been stuck stateside. This post covers key differences that international advertisers need to be aware of.

Speaking of international PPC, I’ll be hosting this week’s PPC Chat where we’ll be talking about International PPC! Hop on over to Twitter at noon Eastern time on Tuesday, June 4 and join the conversation!

Adwords Support Sinks To A New Low by me. This was really a frustration rant on my part, but it ended up being my most-read and most-commented post ever. Clearly I struck a chord. In case you missed this one, go take a look and be sure to read all the comments.

PPC Books I Recommend. I regularly get asked about PPC books and which ones I recommend. I finally decided to compile a list someplace for easy reference. I have read all of these books and refer to them often. If you’re new to PPC, or if you just want to learn more, bookmark this page as your starting point.

Enjoy your summer reading!

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My 5 Favorite PPC Management Tools, 2013 Edition

Back in 2008, I wrote a post about my 5 favorite PPC management tools. I decided to revisit that post to see how much has changed in the last few years. Interestingly, despite all the improvements and new toys out there, the tools I liked in 2008 are still pretty much the tools I like now.

Tool #1: Excel

I loved it then, and I love it now. Although there are fancy bid management systems and calculators out there, I still spend most of my time in Excel. There’s no better way to sort and filter data than in Excel. It’s still my number 1 PPC management tool.

Tool #2: Google Keyword Tool

Google recently made several improvements to the keyword tool that are really quite nice. I actually like the ad group suggestions – while they’re not perfect, they’re still a great timesaver when launching new campaigns.

keyword tool

Google recently launched a keyword planner tool, which is pretty cool. Check out Wordstream’s overview to learn more.

Tool #3: A good analytics program.

Where would we be without web analytics? I’ve written often about using web analytics for PPC – and analytics are perhaps more important today than they were in 2008.

However, in my 2008 post I mention several analytics packages that have all but gone away: NetTracker, ClickTracks, Atlas… I believe NetTracker is still around, but I don’t know anyone who uses them anymore. ClickTracks and Atlas are gone entirely. These days, it seems as though everyone is either using Google Analytics or Omniture. Who would have thought?

Tool #4: The search engines themselves.

I have to say, I find myself relying less on direct engine research than I did in 2008. Personalized search has really made it tough to see what others see when they perform a search. I find myself relying more heavily on keyword research tools and competitor research tools than I did back in the day. That said, there is still no substitute for performing actual searches to get a feel for the search landscape.

Tool #5: My own brain.

Indeed. PPC has become so complicated, especially in the world of Enhanced Campaigns, that it’s nearly impossible to do it yourself. Companies must hire a PPC professional to effectively manage their campaigns. The days of small business owners setting up a small Adwords campaign and seeing great ROI are, sadly, long gone.

Bonus Tool: The PPC community.

In 2008 when I wrote the original post, I wasn’t active on Twitter. Twitter was very new and was mostly used by people sharing what they were eating for lunch.

Fast forward to 2013, and Twitter has become my newsreader. Not only that, it’s my go-to place to ask questions and share information with the community. The advent of PPC Chat has not only helped me get answers to my questions, but has also led to some invaluable friendships. I can’t imagine life without PPC Chat!

What are your must-have PPC management tools? Share in the comments!

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3 Tips for Taking Over an Existing PPC Account

Whether you work at a PPC agency or in house, chances are you’ll be taking over an existing PPC account at some point in your career. Gone are the days when few people had existing accounts – even advertisers who’ve been dark in PPC for a while probably have an old account sitting around that they want to revive.

There are plenty of good articles on the web about account transitions. I even wrote one myself. But sometimes, especially in the agency world, an account gets dumped on you with little notice, and you’re tasked with “fixing” it fast. With that, here are my top 3 tips for taking over an existing PPC account.

Discuss goals with key stakeholders.

Both the PPC Hero article and my SEW post talk about goal-setting, but it’s so important and so frequently overlooked that I must mention it again here. Even if the account you’re taking over has good conversion tracking in place, and even if you’re lucky enough to get copies of reports from the previous agency or account manager, set up 30 minutes to sit down with key stakeholders and talk about goals.

I once took over a B2B account where the client was tracking email signups as the primary conversion. In talking with them about their goals for PPC, I found out that they didn’t even have an email newsletter, and that email leads had to be hand-entered into their CRM! The previous agency had been optimizing for a KPI that didn’t move the needle for this client. We quickly identified other conversions that were more important to the client’s business. If I hadn’t had that goals conversation, I’d have been optimizing for the wrong thing, too.

Perform an account audit.

PPC audits are an invaluable tool for finding gaps and issues with an account. I’ve written and spoken about audits several times. At no time is an audit more important than when you’re taking over a PPC account for the first time. Use Joe Kerschbaum’s 10-minute audit spreadsheet and work through it. When you find problem areas, dig deeper. Have another PPC manager look at the account too, if you can. The initial audit will be your roadmap for the first 1-3 months of the PPC engagement.

I don’t think I’ve taken over a single PPC account that didn’t have at least one or two low-hanging fruit fixes I could make right away. Nothing makes you look like a PPC rockstar more than boosting performance by double digits in your first month.

Check the conversion tracking codes.

It seems obvious, but don’t overlook this step. You’ll want to audit not only the account itself, but the conversion tracking codes. Put through a few test conversions and make sure they show up on the back end. Go into the site’s source code and read through the actual tracking code. Make sure everything is working the way it should be in terms of tracking the goals you identified in the beginning.

Even experienced PPC pros get tripped up by bad conversion tracking codes. Make code audits part of your startup process, and your clients (or boss) will thank you. You might even be able to help them clean up their codes a bit. One of our clients did a tracking audit recently, and discovered that they have 15 different tracking scripts running on their pages. Wow.

If you’re taking over an enterprise account, they might have good reasons for having so many scripts. Again, talk this over with the client – maybe they need a tag management system.

Using these 3 tips will help you avoid potential disasters with new PPC accounts. What are your favorite tips for taking over a PPC account?

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Using Web Analytics for PPC Optimization

If you know anything at all about PPC, you know that campaign optimization is one of the most important tasks a PPC manager can perform. Managers spend most of their day tweaking bids, ad copy, campaign settings, networks, keywords, negative keywords, and many other data points within the PPC engines.

Campaign optimization is absolutely essential to PPC success. But if you’re spending all your time in the AdWords and Bing Ads interfaces, you’re missing a big part of the PPC optimization picture.

The Rest of the PPC Story

PPC metrics like CTR, conversion rate, cost per conversion, CPC, etc. are crucial elements that can’t be ignored. This data tells us what is happening with an account: how much traffic it’s generating, how many sales or leads it’s driving, and how much all of that cost. We get a great picture of what is happening.

The problem is, often we don’t know why.

That’s where web analytics come in. Web analytics tell us what PPC visitors did once they arrived at the website.

“Now wait a minute!” you might be thinking. “I’m using AdWords conversion tracking, so I can see conversions! Don’t those happen on the website?”

The answer is absolutely yes. And if you’re not tracking conversions via either the free PPC engine tracking scripts or a third-party tool, then shame on you.

But does that data tell you why someone converted? How many visits to the site did it take for that conversion to happen? What other pages did they view? Were they already a customer making a repeat purchase, or was this their first visit?

PPC conversion tracking can’t answer those questions. But web analytics can.

Key Analytics Measures for PPC

Even the most rudimentary web analytics measures can tell us something about our PPC campaigns. The following metrics can be found in any web analytics program. I’ll focus on Google Analytics, because it’s so ubiquitous – but you certainly don’t have to be using Google Analytics to get these numbers.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of site visitors who visited one page and then left the site.

bounce rate

Usually, a high bounce rate is considered a bad thing. If you’re an ecommerce site, and 80 percent of your PPC visitors are bouncing, that’s not good – it means that only 20 percent of people are bothering to go beyond the landing page.

But what if you’re using PPC to generate leads, and you have a lead form right on the page? Visitors could conceivably fill out the form and convert right there, without going to another page. In this case, it’s a low bounce rate that’s bad – it means no one is converting!

As you look at bounce rate, think about your campaign goals, and what the numbers mean.

Average Time on Site

Average time on site measures how long visitors spend on your website, in minutes.

average time on site

It probably takes at least 4-5 minutes to complete an online order on an ecommerce site, so if you’re an ecommerce PPC advertiser, a longer time on site is good.

What about the one-page lead form, though? Best practices for online lead forms indicate that shorter forms are best. If it takes 4-5 minutes to fill out your form, you’re using the wrong form. In this case, shorter times on site are a good thing!

Number of Pages Visited

This metric is exactly what it sounds like: the average number of pages visited on your site.

pages per visit

Most ecommerce shopping carts are at least 4-5 pages. Add 1-2 pages for your landing page and any additional items the visitor might be interested in, and you’re looking at a good average of 5-7 pages per visit at a minimum.

I bet you know what I’m going to say here. For the one-page lead form, if your average number of pages visited is 5-7, you’ve probably lost the lead. An average of 1.5 is probably good in this case.

Are you seeing a pattern here? In order to accurately evaluate the meaning of web analytics metrics, it’s crucial to think about your PPC campaign goals. Good ecommerce metrics will be very different from good lead generation metrics.

2 Final Caveats

As with all aggregated data sets, web analytics represent averages. And as we all know, averages lie.

While spending a lot of time analyzing what one or two visitors to your site did probably isn’t efficient, it does pay to break your data out into segments. For now, just remember that averages may not tell the whole story.

On the flip side, watch out for outliers. Let’s say that your ecommerce campaigns have an average time on site of 7 minutes, but you have one campaign with an average time on site of 22 minutes. While on the surface that might sound good, it’s probably not – in all likelihood, it means your poor site visitors are trying in vain to find something and aren’t succeeding. So if your underperforming campaign has outlier metrics like this, it’s probably time to optimize your conversion path a bit.

Now go take a look at your bounce rate, average time on site, and number of pages visited. You might be surprised at what you learn!

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on September 25, 2012.

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