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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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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