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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Eliminating Ambiguity in PPC

Time for a pop quiz! What do the following have in common? You have 30 seconds to give your answer. Ready? Go!

•    Tesla
•    Madonna
•    Prince
•    Washington
•    Sam Adams
•    Chojuro

Did you figure it out? If you said “they’re all famous people,” you’re right. But only partially right.

All the names above are ambiguous. They have more than one meaning. Think about it: Madonna could be the singer, or the Mother of Christ, or a college, or a statue.

madonna search

When you say Tesla, do you mean the man, the band, or the coil?

tesla search

Prince and Washington have probably 100 meanings between the two of them. And so on.

In normal conversation, ambiguity is often eliminated by the context. If you’re talking about concerts you saw this summer, and you mentioned Madonna, it’s pretty clear who and what you’re talking about. Same thing goes for Tesla.

In PPC, though, the context is in the mind of the searcher. When we search for something, we know what we mean – but the search engine may not. As a result, especially with one-word queries, you fall into the ambiguity trap. You might be paying for visitors who weren’t searching for Madonna concert tickets – they were interested in information about the local Madonna University.

Celebrity names aren’t the only ambiguous search terms out there. In a recent conversation about ambiguous keywords on the PPC Chat hashtag on Twitter, Bryant Garvin pointed out the fact that all of the Choice Hotel brands have fairly generic names:

•    Comfort Inn
•    Comfort Suites
•    Quality Inn
•    Sleep Inn
•    Clarion
•    Cambria Suites
•    Mainstay Suites
•    Suburban
•    Econolodge
•    Rodeway Inn
•    Ascend Hotels

Now, this is by no means a dig at Choice Hotels. They’ve built great brands that are recognizable and familiar to travelers across the US. Still, every single brand name except maybe Econolodge has multiple meanings – and that’s where the challenge for PPC’ers comes in.

Fortunately, there are several techniques for clearing up ambiguity in PPC.

Don’t Bid on One-Word Keywords

This is going to be your best bet for steering clear of those irrelevant and ambiguous meanings. Just don’t do it!

Make sure you’re bidding on long-tail phrases. Tighten up your match types so you don’t get broad-matched to the irrelevant searches by accident. Don’t give the search engines the chance to show your ad on ambiguous searches!

But let’s do a reality check. I know there are times where bidding on single-word keywords is a must. Maybe it’s your brand name (e.g., Madonna, Tesla, Prince). Maybe your CEO is insisting that you show up for that one word, no matter the cost. Maybe a lot of people really are looking for you when they search for that word. Let’s talk about some ways to rein in the ambiguity.

Find Out All the Other Meanings of Your Keywords

This may seem obvious, but I’d be willing to bet that nearly every PPC professional has stumbled across new meanings for their keywords that they weren’t aware of. Just today, for example, I learned that “spice” is a slang drug term. Who knew?

Here’s where your keyword research tools come in. Scan through the list of results to see if any weird ones show up.

Google the term and see what appears in the SERPs. Ask your friends and coworkers if they’re aware of other meanings for the word. Go old school: get out your good old dictionary (or go to dictionary.com) and look up the word. Urban Dictionary is another great resource for alternative meanings of words and phrases.

Add the Irrelevant Meanings as Negatives

When you’re bidding on ambiguous terms, a huge negative keyword list is a must. Take all the irrelevant meanings of the word you can think of, and add them as negative keywords. Then add more.

A great source of common negative keywords can be found here. Add every single negative that doesn’t apply to you, so you can be sure to capture only the most relevant traffic.

You’ll also want to get into the habit of running search query reports. You may even want to run them daily (this can be automated – here’s how), at least at first. Relentlessly add every single irrelevant search query as a negative keyword.

Make Your Ad Copy Crystal Clear

Clear, concise ad copy is a best practice no matter what keywords you’re using. But with ambiguous terms, it’s vital to the success of your campaign.

Now is the time to go overboard with repetition. Repeating your keyword in context will go a long way in deterring irrelevant clicks on your ads.

For example, if you’re selling Madonna concert tickets, your ad could say:

•    Madonna Concert Tickets
•    Get Madonna Concert Tickets Here
•    Buy Madonna Concert Tickets Online

I know it looks and sounds ridiculous; but it will really drive home the fact that you’re not advertising about the Mother of Christ, college, or anything but Madonna the singer.

As with all PPC ad copy, testing is crucial. Test the ad above against another, more “normal” ad. See which performs better. Then test again.

With careful planning and testing, you can indeed eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, ambiguity in PPC.

What techniques have you used?

Author’s Note: Special thanks to #PPCchat participants Dennis Petretti, Bryant Garvin, Chris Kostecki, Luke Alley, and James Zolman for inspiring this post.

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on August 28, 2012.

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3 PPC Wishes – Fulfilled?

google_bing_logosHere we are in 2013, and wow, did 2012 go fast. It seems like yesterday that I was writing my inaugural 2012 blog post on my 2007 PPC Wish List.

Every year in PPC is full of changes and innovations – some needed, some expected, and some surprising. This year was no different. Plenty of posts have catalogued everything that happened, so I won’t bore you with that here.

Instead, let’s see how the search engines did with my 2007 PPC wishes.

Wish 1: More traffic and search leadership from MSN/Bing.

While I can’t go so far as to say Bing hit a home run in 2012, they did hit a long triple. They renamed themselves as Bing Ads, reworked their online UI and desktop editor, and essentially made themselves more like Google. They went a long way towards greater search leadership with these innovations. They also continued to provide the great community outreach and customer support that they’ve been known for. And their PPC search team was ever-present at search conferences, something we’ve seen less and less from Google.

This is all well and good, but what about traffic? If you’d asked me that question in June, I’d have told you they were still languishing in the basement. But by the end of the summer, Bing had reached an all-time high of 25% share. We saw similar increases in our clients’ traffic from Bing Ads, and thankfully the traffic quality, for the most part, remained as good as it’s always been.

Wish 1: Fulfilled!

Wish 2: Better Adwords query matching.

In my 2012 post, I lamented the awful query matching on Google. Throughout the year, Google did make strides in this area, most notably by adding the option for “near match” for exact and phrase match keywords.

In reality, though, this was just Google’s way of changing a default setting (near match is a default) and sponging from newbie PPC advertisers. I know few veteran PPC’ers who choose to have near match enabled – if we want near match, we’ll use modified broad.

Furthermore, judging from my search query reports, even when you do opt out of near match, you’ll still get “close variants” that aren’t closely related at all. It’s frustrating.

Add to that the continued annoyance of “session based broad match”, and Google has completely failed on this.

I’m actually working on a blog post that will further delve into the miasma that is Google keyword matching. Stay tuned for that in future weeks.

Wish 2: Unfulfilled.

Wish 3: More accurate PPC traffic estimates.

On this wish, both Google and Bing made significant positive changes.  Google completely revamped their keyword tool, offering several new options.  My favorite is the “Ad Group Creator,” which groups keyword suggestions by theme. While some have complained about the suggestions made by the tool, I like them – it saves time slogging through thousands of keywords trying to weed out the irrelevant terms. You’ll still need to slog through, but it’s much faster to eliminate entire buckets of keywords than to pick them out one by one.

Google’s traffic estimation tool also has improved geotargeting capabilities, and from what I can tell, they’re fairly accurate. This is huge for advertisers who want to expand into new markets, or who only serve certain cities, states, or regions.

While the Google improvements were good, Bing’s were awesome. I’m not talking about their online keyword tool, either. I’m talking about Bing Ads Intelligence.

I’ve written before about the tool, and am finishing up another post about it. For now, suffice it to say that Bing Ads Intelligence is now my go-to keyword research tool. It’s faster, easier, and more accurate than Google’s, and it offers features that Google does not.

Wish 3: Fulfilled!

Wow, that’s 2 out of 3 PPC wishes. I’d say 2012 was a pretty good year!

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My 2012 End Of The World Post

Image courtesy of www.bizarrocomics.com

OK, I don’t really believe the world is ending on Friday. But I do want to take this opportunity to share some of the highlights of 2012, both in the PPC world and personally.

The beginning of 2012 brought with it a new job for me, and it’s been nothing but rewarding. I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with the fantastic team at gyro and to do it mostly from home!

I also crossed 3 things off my bucket list: seeing Van Halen in the front row, walking a half marathon, and celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary with a cruise. All in all, it’s been a very good year!

2012 has been a good year for PPC in many ways, also.  There were some amazing PPC conferences, including the inaugural HeroConf.

There was the uproar over Google ad rotation, and Bing went from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Every year I’m surprised by posts saying PPC is dead, and by the blatant misunderstandings about how PPC works. In fact, my Adwords Debacle post was one of the most-read posts on this blog in 2012. PPC has been around for well over 10 years now, and yet the lack of understanding amongst many advertisers is always a surprise.

2012 brought some amazing info-sharing around the blogosphere. In June, I listed some of my favorite posts. Since then, there have been more good posts, including this one on testing millions of ads and this one on increasing PPC sales. My bookmarked list of great PPC posts grows by the day!

For a roundup of big PPC news in 2012, check out these Search Engine Watch posts by my friends Joe Kerschbaum and Alex Cohen.

And finally, no 2012 roundup would be complete without a shout-out to my favorite PPC resource, PPC Chat. Founded by Matt Umbro, PPC Chat has become my go-to source for quick answers to tough PPC questions. Someone is always there on the hashtag ready to help! I’ve met so many friends and PPC pros, both online and in real life, as a result of PPC Chat. If you do nothing else in 2013, get in on the PPC Chat action!

Finally, I’d like to wish all my readers a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year in 2013. Without all of you, I’d be, well, talking to myself. You all rock!

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The New and Improved Beyond the Paid

I know I haven’t blogged much lately. The end of summer always gets crazy for me. Every year, I say “Next year, I’m taking the whole month of August off,” but of course that’s not likely.

This year, though, I did something fun over my summer vacation – redid my blog! You’re probably saying “Duh – we can SEE that…”

Back in 2006 when I started this blog, I didn’t know if I was going to keep up with it. It was really just a fun experiment at the time. There weren’t many free options for blogs back then – really, Blogger was the only one. So that’s who I used.

Fast-forward to 2012, and I’m finally ready to take the plunge into WordPress. I’d used WordPress for client blogs & sites, so I was familiar with it; and I’d had my own domain for a long time, so I was ready.

I couldn’t have done this without the help of my good friend Meg Geddes, aka Netmeg. Not only is she a fellow Michigander, she’s a self-described WordPress mofo. She hooked me up with a great new host, a theme, and all the plugins and widgets I needed to make everything look cool – and she did it over a weekend. I can’t say enough about how awesome she is – even if she is a Michigan fan. (wink)

So, make yourself at home and explore! And let me know what you think!

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12 Links Every PPC Pro Should Bookmark

Every day, there is a plethora of great PPC info shared across the web:  on blogs, in social media, and in forums.  Most of it falls into the “that’s interesting” category, but nothing more.

Periodically, though, a post or tool is so good that I bookmark it and refer back to it often.  Here is my list of the 12 links every PPC pro should bookmark.

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 time saver and I use it at least weekly.

SplitTester: A tool to quickly get statistical significance & confidence levels. Great for PPC ad testing.

WebShare’s split testing tool: This tool combines CTR and conversion rate to tell you the overall winner of an ad test.

145 PPC Must Do’s for 2012 from PPC Hero: This was a New Year’s post that was actually very useful.  I’ve been working my way through the list for the past 6 months.  Not every tip will apply to every PPC account, but if you’re looking for new optimization ideas, this is the place.

Excel Hints for PPC from SEOptimise: PPC’ers live in Excel, so we’re always hungry for more Excel tips. This is a good bunch of hints.

Excel Formatting Tips from Search Engine Journal: If your reports look like they were done by a 5th grader, this post will help you fix that.

Excel Tips & Tricks from PPC Associates: Yet more awesome Excel tips for PPC’ers.


Ion Interactive’s Landing Page Checklist: I refer to this often when advising clients on landing page best practices.

PPC Task Checklist from PPC Hero: A great list of PPC tasks that will help all PPC pros, from novice to expert.

Google Analytics Advanced Segments Shares from Jill Whalen: A neat list of advanced segments that you can copy and use in your own Google Analytics accounts.

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

Auditing PPC Accounts Without Account Access from Fathom: A recent blog post to help PPC’ers over a common stumbling block: auditing a PPC account when you don’t have access to the account itself.

And there you have it – 12 must-have PPC bookmarks! I know there are more out there, so share your favorites in the comments!  I’ll compile them into a future blog post.

Editor’s Note:  The link to the Ion Interactive Landing Page checklist was incorrect and has now been corrected. Thanks to commenter Max Miller for pointing out the error!

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A 12-Step Program to Improve Your CTR

It’s common to hear veteran search marketers at conferences and in social media talking a lot about PPC conversion rate — so much so that those new to PPC may think that conversion rate is the end all.

Conversion rate is important, to be sure. I’d even say it’s very, very important. But before a PPC ad can generate a conversion, it needs to generate a click. PPC ads are no good if no one clicks on them.

If you’re new to PPC, or if you want to improve your click-through rate (CTR), here’s a 12-step program to help you.

Step 1: Bid on Relevant Keywords

PPC beginners are often tempted to bid on high-volume keyphrases that are only marginally related to their business. Take, for example, a hotel/casino that wants to bid on “Texas hold-em.” While people indeed play this game at a casino, it isn’t relevant if the goal is to sell hotel room nights.

Don’t fall into this trap. Searchers have gotten sophisticated. If your ad isn’t relevant to the search phrase, they just won’t click on it and your CTR will suffer.

Step 2: Bid on Specific, Not General, Keywords

This is related to Step 1, yet is slightly different. Taking the hotel/casino example, you might be tempted to bid on “hotels.” While this term has significant search volume, it’s too general and is unlikely to drive many, if any, clicks.

Step 3: Use 2, 3, or 4 Word Keyphrases

Years ago, one-word searches like “hotels” were common. Nowadays, searchers have become more specific in what they search for, and it’s common to see search queries with four or more words.

Jason Tabeling wrote an informative article with research showing that CTR was highest on keywords containing two, three, or four words. Our experience has been similar: one word is not specific enough, but more than five shows diminishing returns.

Step 4: Create Small, Tightly-Themed Ad Groups

Tightly-themed ad groups make it easy to write relevant ad copy that will generate clicks. A common rule of thumb is 10-15 keyword phrases per ad group.

This ensures that your ads will be relevant to the search phrase, and increases the chance of a click. This in turn will help drive a good quality score.

Step 5: Include the Keyphrase in Ad Copy Whenever Possible

If you’ve set up your ad groups as described in Step 4, this should be relatively easy to do. Search engines bold the search phrase in both organic and paid results, so including the keyphrase or keyphrases in the ad copy ensures they will be bolded, which helps your ad stand out. Ads that stand out get better CTR.

Step 6: Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion

Dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) is a feature that automatically inserts your bidded keyphrase into your ad text. It’s a great way to make sure Step 5 above happens.

That said, use DKI with caution: make sure you’re not inserting misspellings or other awkward phrases into your ad copy!

Step 7: Include a Price in Your Ad Copy

An old adage in classified advertising says that if you don’t include a price in your ad, people will assume you’re selling something expensive.

Calm those fears by including the price in your ad upfront. Even better, include the price in the ad headline — it’ll attract attention and clicks.

Step 8: Include Action Words in Your Ad Copy

Including action words (e.g., exclusive, limited time, online only, 1-day sale, etc.) adds a sense of urgency to your offering. Adding urgency encourages click-throughs.

Step 9: Include Symbols in Your Ad Copy

If applicable, include symbols such as ©, ™, ®, and even the plus sign (+) or ellipses (…) can make a significant difference in CTR. Symbols make your ad stand out on the page.

Step 10: Use Ad Extensions

Google offers several different types of ad extensions: Location, Phone, Products, and Sitelinks. Take advantage of them. While these don’t display on every search, you’ll take up valuable screen real estate when they do show up.

Step 11: Be Creative With Your Ad Copy

Let’s face it: There’s not a lot of space in PPC ad copy. With only 25 characters for a headline and 70 for a description, it’s tempting to put “just the facts” in your ad copy and forget about being creative.

Don’t! When I’ve tested ad copy that I thought was too “wacky” to be effective, I’ve often been surprised by the results.

Remember, PPC often generates results in a short period of time, so if an ad isn’t working, you can always pause it. You might even try an ad like this:

Step 12: Engage in Ad Copy Testing

Ad copy testing is one of the biggest benefits of PPC, yet I’m always surprised by the number of advertisers who don’t take advantage of it. The most successful PPC advertisers are continually testing and refining ad copy — take a page from their book and set up your own tests now!
Go ahead — give a few of the 12 steps a try!

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Search Engine Watch on March 23, 2011.

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