5 Challenges for PPC Lead Generation

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

Nothing is sold.

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

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

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

Lead generation advertisers can’t use Shopping feeds.

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

Landing pages can be a challenge.

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

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

Only initial responses are visible in the PPC accounts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ideas Are Not Strategy

I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of advertisers, and even advertising professionals, don’t know what strategy is. So often “strategy” is defined as a list of tactics, like this:

•    Increase our Facebook followers
•    Start using PPC
•    Run ads with “X” creative message

Folks, these aren’t strategies. At best, they’re tactics. Lee Odden wrote a great essay on strategies vs. tactics. He says, “I think part of the problem is that a lot of marketers are spread thin because of chasing shiny objects. They’re distracted from core marketing.  They’re tourists in the digital and social world without taking the time to understand what the locals do and care about.”

So true. I’ve worked in marketing departments that loved to follow shiny objects: “PPC is the next best thing – let’s do it!” or “We’re going to focus on social media because everyone’s talking about it!”

As I tell my kids, just because “everyone’s doing it” doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to do. And it’s definitely not a strategy.

I work at a traditional agency, so we do a lot of creative work for clients. We PPC pros often don’t have much insight into the creative development process, so it’s been interesting to me to learn how it works. But the trap I’ve seen clients fall into is to become enamored with a particular creative theme, or even an individual print or video ad. All of a sudden, that becomes their “strategy.”

As marketers, it’s our job to remind clients (and bosses) that ideas aren’t strategy. Avis’s marketing strategy back in the ‘60s and ‘70s wasn’t “We try harder.” Avis’s strategy was to beat Hertz.

Nowhere is the folly behind turning creative ideas into strategy more apparent than in PPC. In PPC, we don’t have a full-page print ad to tell our story, nor do we have a 60-second radio or TV spot. We have 95 characters in which to get the searcher’s attention. And yet, so often I have clients who want to put their catchy tagline into a PPC ad.

Can you imagine putting this Coke tagline in a PPC ad?

iconic coke ad

It’d look like this:

coke ad

Not terrible, but not very convincing, is it? It looks like a crummy eBay ad.

Or what about this fine tagline?

iconic lucky ad

Translated to PPC, it’s:

lucky ad

You wouldn’t even be sure what Luckys were from this ad! I’d think it was some kind of diet food.

Now, I know these are vintage ads – you can’t really run cigarette ads in PPC as they’re against the TOS. (And cigarettes are not a great way to get slender, folks.) But they’re not just vintage ads – they’re iconic. These are brands that are well-known, and yet their taglines don’t make good PPC ad copy. And they’re certainly not a strategy. “Get people to buy cigarettes by telling them they’ll make them skinny” might have been a strategy, but the taglines themselves aren’t.

Ideas are not strategy. Taglines are not strategy. Creative concepts are not strategy. They’re all tools in the arsenal of a good marketing strategy, which might be “sell more Coca-Cola” or “drive leads via our website.” Don’t confuse the two – and don’t let your clients confuse them either.

Have you ever run into this kind of “creative wagging the strategy dog” scenario? What did you do to convince your client or boss that their creative ideas aren’t strategy? How do you explain PPC strategy vs. tactics to clients? Share in the comments!

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3 PPC Features That Aren’t Ready For Prime Time

There’s an old adage in the car-buying world that advises people never to buy a new model car in its first year. Why? The manufacturer hasn’t worked all of the bugs out yet, so you’re likely to encounter down time while the car is in the shop.

The same thing is true of technology: look at the iPhone 6 and all the gaffes it experienced early on. And Windows 8 is universally hated, to the point that Microsoft skipped Windows 9 and went right on to making Windows 10.

In PPC, we also come across new features that aren’t ready for prime time. Here are the top 3 PPC features that might have benefited from a bit more beta testing.

The New Adwords Editor

Last month, Adwords held yet another “announcement” event. One of the highlights, in addition to one of the speaker’s sweaters, was the rollout of a new Adwords Editor.

The current editor, while a must-have tool for PPC managers, has limitations. It doesn’t support shopping campaigns well. It doesn’t allow copying across accounts. It doesn’t have an “undo” button.

The new Adwords Editor v.11 has all of those features, and more. But it’s missing some key elements, too. And it’s buggy. Here are just some of the issues that PPC Chat users have reported:

•    Won’t load/ freezes
•    Error messages
•    Missing metrics
•    No callout extensions
•    Keyword planner is gone
•    No click data for sitelinks

I was all set to download the new Adwords Editor, and then I started seeing these reports. I decided to hold off. Perhaps Adwords is using the PPC community as one big beta test?

Bing Ads Universal Event Tracking (UET)

I was excited to get started with this much-ballyhooed tracking tool from Bing Ads. It’s called “universal” because it was supposed to be one tracking code for all accounts across an agency: “In Bing Ads, tags are defined at the customer level. This means that you can use the same tag to define and track goals across all your accounts and campaigns. This flexibility allows you to instrument your site just once (when you create your first goal) and keep defining new goals to measure without ever needing to add another tag to your site.”

In reality, while that is technically true, in practice it’s not that simple. First of all, you’ll find the tracking code in different places, depending on whether your client’s account is a “built in” account or a “linked” account.

I’m not even sure what that means, except it means I can’t see the UET code for all my clients when logged in to our agency Bing Ads account. Apparently, for some accounts, I have to log in to the child account. Which I didn’t even know existed for Bing Ads. And I certainly don’t have logins for any of these child accounts.

To make it even more interesting, Bing is retiring the old conversion tracking scripts effective in April. So we’ve all got less than 3 months to figure this out. I’m a little scared.

LinkedIn Ads

I wrote about LinkedIn back in November 2013 and the fact that they didn’t want my money. Merry Morud wrote about their terrible interface back in July 2013.

Here we are 18 months later, and the only thing that’s changed is their timeout – it takes a little longer than 5 minutes now to time out, and it doesn’t log you out when you’re actively working in the interface.

Every other complaint that Merry made about their interface still exists. It’s crazy that LinkedIn, with its $8-10 CPCs, hasn’t done a single thing in a year and a half to improve their UI. Twitter and Facebook have made huge leaps ahead, while LinkedIn sits and languishes with its awful UI and expensive clicks.

One thing that really bugs me about LinkedIn Ads is that there is no way to keep sponsored posts from displaying to people who already follow you, nor from your own employees. We’ve had clients who’ve ended up paying (at $8-10 a crack) for their own employees to “like” their sponsored posts. Crazy. The LinkedIn Ads UI is definitely not ready for prime time.

Found any other PPC features that aren’t ready for prime time? Share in the comments!

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PPC Campaign Setup Best Practices

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

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

Campaign Setup Basics

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

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

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

Campaign Setup Strategies

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

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

Audit and QA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Must-Read Posts On PPC And Other Topics

I’ve been bookmarking great PPC posts like a madwoman the past few days, and some of the posts are too good not to share. Here are my must-read posts on PPC, and on a couple other topics that PPC managers will find useful.

Excellent Bidding in PPC by Lauryan Feijen. This long but worth-the-read post covers how to effectively bid on keywords for best results. If you’re looking to meet your PPC goals, check this one out.

Multi-Ad Group Testing by AdAlysis. This video is intended for users of Brad Geddes’s AdAlysis tool, but it’s worth a watch for anyone looking to streamline ad copy testing across large accounts. You could apply the principles outlined in the video to a pivot table and gain similar insights with a few calculations, although it would take significantly more time than it takes in AdAlysis.

Incidentally, I’m a huge fan of AdAlysis. If you manage multiple accounts or have a large account with multiple ad tests, this tool is a must for saving time on test analysis.

Google AdWords Remarketing Lists For Search Ads (RLSA): The Ultimate Guide by Lisa Raehsler. An oldie but a goodie, this Search Engine Watch post is a must-read primer for anyone looking to take advantage of the power of remarketing lists for search ads.

The next 2 posts are on giving great presentations. Even if you don’t speak at search conferences, you probably have to give presentations to clients, or to co-workers if you work in-house. I bookmarked these 2 posts because they’re loaded with tips that I can use right away to make my presentations better.

Making Great Presentations by Ian Lurie. A true lesson in the “less is more” philosophy, Ian’s Slideshare deck will have you fine-tuning your PowerPoint decks in no time.

Free Resources For Great Presentations by my friend Aaron Levy. Aaron gave this presentation at his alma mater, Villanova University – but the lessons in this post apply to far more than just college students. Everyone can benefit from the resources he offers up in this killer post. (Disclosure: Aaron credits me with providing ideas for his presentation, and I did send him a few tips – but this post has given me way more than I gave it!)

Give these great posts a read or view – you won’t be disappointed. Got any great PPC articles to share? Post in the comments!

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6 Milestones For Successful PPC Campaigns

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

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

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

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

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

Research

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

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

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

Tracking

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

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

Approvals

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

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

Relevant Data

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

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

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

Optimization

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

Reporting

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

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

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

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7 Things About PPC Strategy Your Clients Want to Know

So, you’ve landed a new client (or gotten approval to start an in-house PPC campaign) and you’re ready to open up a new Adwords account. You’ve read all the PPC blogs about campaign settings and setup; or maybe you’re an experienced PPC marketer and you’re itching to pull the trigger.

While you’re thinking about ad group structure, campaign settings, and ad copy, your client or boss has questions about PPC strategy. Here are 7 things about PPC strategy that your clients want to know.

1 – Campaign goals.

Ideally, you’ll have discussed goals before you kick off the campaign, and structured your campaigns accordingly. Every conversation you have with the client should center on goals: why the questions you’re asking pertain to their main pain points and needs, and how you plan to achieve their goals.

Sometimes strategies need to shift or change, and if you’re the one driving that change, the client wants to know that too. For instance, if you decide to test the Google Display Network, the client will want to know how that fits with their overall strategy. It’s easy to get excited about testing something and forget to get client or decision-maker buy-in. Keep the lines of communication open for best results.

2 – How you’re going to get more leads for less cost.

This is what it comes down to, right? Sales or leads are foremost on most clients’ minds. All your PPC reports should include optimization recommendations that illustrate how you’ll increase leads and improve cost per lead. Clients care less about the keywords you’re bidding on, and more about making their cash register ring.

3 – How they compare against competitors.

It’s rare for a client not to care about their competition. Market positioning vis-à-vis the competition was probably part of your pitch process – but it needs to be reviewed frequently. Clients are often obsessed with their competitors’ every move. Proactively watching the competition helps the PPC manager to be prepared for threats and opportunities, too.

Use a tool like SEMrush or Spyfu to easily keep tabs on your clients’ competitors. I can guarantee your clients want to know what they’re doing.

4 – Why you picked the keywords you did.

I said earlier that clients care less about keywords and leads, and that’s true. But it doesn’t mean they don’t care about keywords at all. They do need to know what you’re bidding on and why. It’s a good idea to periodically send your clients a list of keywords that are driving traffic, whether it’s the top 10 or 100 or 1,000 terms. Have a conversation with them about why you chose the keywords you did. I often find that clients don’t understand how keywords work, and will ask why you’re not bidding on product attributes or ingredients (I once had a deli restaurant client who wanted to bid on “poblano peppers”), slogans, and other phrases that, to a PPC manager, aren’t even keywords. Take the time to explain why you chose the terms you did.

5 – Why you need a new or improved landing page.

Ah, landing pages. They’re so often the bane of my existence. It’s common for clients or bosses to ask why you need to create new landing pages, or why you need to edit your existing pages. It’s crucial to walk them through the reasons why you need a killer landing page. Nothing is more frustrating for both the PPC manager and the client than settling for a subpar landing page (or, heaven forbid, the home page) and then wondering why results are terrible.

6 – When you will see results.

Ah, PPC reporting. Another potential bane of the PPC manager’s existence. While we may despise reporting, it’s not negotiable – clients and bosses need reports.

New clients will be very anxious about when they’ll see results on their new PPC campaign. Lay out a reporting schedule early on, and agree on what will be reported. Don’t forget to set expectations: I tell new clients that the first month is always going to be the worst month in terms of performance. Frequently, there are tracking issues, keywords you shouldn’t have been bidding on, and landing page issues that don’t get resolved in the first month. Figure out how long the benchmark period will last and set the expectation with the client.

We tell new clients that the first 4-8 weeks are the time that we do a lot of learning and tuning. While we make every effort to set campaigns up for success, not everything we try will work. That’s the point of testing – to fail fast and learn fast. Clients just want to know when they can see the cash register ring, so set the expectations up front.

7 – How do we know if we’ve succeeded?

The answer to this question goes beyond “well, your sales/leads went up.” What is the desired cost per lead? How many leads or sales are you expecting from the program? How does PPC affect other channels? What KPIs will tell us that we’ve gotten what we wanted out of PPC? Be prepared to answer all these questions, or work with your client to answer them. And when you do succeed, shout it from the rooftops!

Are there PPC strategy questions your clients ask that I haven’t covered? Share in the comments!

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PPC for Content Marketing: Buyer Journey

In earlier articles about content marketing, I talked about the content audit, audience research,  and timing. In this installment, we’ll cover the buyer journey, and how content works with PPC along the way.

So what is the buyer journey anyway? At gyro, we define the buyer journey as the stages a potential buyer goes through on their way to making a purchase decision. In general, the buyer journey starts with awareness, and moves through consideration, decision, and demand generation.

You’ve probably heard about the buyer journey stages before, and how content fits into them. But how does PPC work with each stage?

Let’s step back for a minute and think about keywords. Keywords also follow the buyer journey. Think about someone who is buying a house, for example. Someone who is at the beginning of the journey may just search for “houses for sale in Chicago,” for example. They may not even include the location in the query and just search for “houses for sale.” As they move through their decision process, searches will get more long-tail: “3 bedroom 2 story in Lincoln Park,” for example.

At a high level, when structuring your PPC campaigns, you’ll need to match the landing page content with the search query. So for the “houses for sale” query, you’ll show them a broad page with general info about houses for sale in Chicago, from which they can narrow their search. Or maybe you’ll serve up a brochure or white paper about buying your first home.

On the more specific queries, you can show them individual houses that match their search queries: a page of 3 bedroom, 2 story homes, or if you don’t have any, the option to sign up for email notifications for when a new listing comes on the market.

The point is to think about matching your content to the buyer journey. Early-stage searchers will want to see content that informs and educates: white papers about your product or service, informational videos, etc. Mid-stage searchers may be interested in buyer’s guides and e-newsletters. And those near a decision will want to see product reviews, demos, and free trials.

Use your content audit to map content to your PPC campaigns, ad groups, and keywords. I like to create a spreadsheet with campaigns, ad groups, and relevant content. The spreadsheet will guide your landing page creation.

To Gate or Not To Gate

Whether or not to gate assets behind a registration wall is usually a lively discussion between clients and PPC & content experts. There are pros and cons to every approach. My general feeling is that if your goal is lead generation, you should gate most, if not all, of your content. Some are in favor of leaving awareness content ungated, and then gating consideration and decision content. I’m ok with that approach if you include remarketing as part of your strategy. If you need to drive leads, and you paid for visitors to come to your page via PPC, it usually doesn’t make sense to let them “get away” without collecting their lead information. Tagging them for remarketing later on is a good way to do this without forcing a form fill on them.

As with all things PPC, test it! Create multiple versions of your landing pages, and test the impact of gating vs. not gating. Make sure to track your visitors all the way through your sales pipeline, not just the initial lead. You might find that your first-time lead conversion rate is lower with gated content, but you get more qualified leads that ultimately filter through the funnel.

Test The Content

It’s also important to test different types of content to see what performs best at each stage. What makes sense for one advertiser may not be effective for another.  We’ve found that informational content like white papers work best for awareness, but that’s not true for every advertiser. Test and track each content type very carefully.

And, as I mentioned earlier, try to track your leads all the way through the buying cycle. Use a CRM system to help you close the loop – there are several good ones out there at different price points. Following leads all the way through to close will tell you not only what drove leads, but what drove sales – all the way back to the keyword.

Finally, make sure your keywords, ad copy, and landing pages align, as mentioned earlier. By thinking about your potential customers and how they search throughout the buyer journey, you can create a PPC campaign that ultimately drives a good volume of leads.

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Why Sitelinks Are A PPC Worst Practice

A few months ago, one of my coworkers asked me a thought-provoking question that I’ve been ruminating on ever since. She asked, “Does Google’s increased push on the use of sitelinks contradict their best practice to make ad groups as specific as possible and to drive users to the most relevant page? Say I’m advertising blue widgets. Long-standing best practices would be to have a very specific ad group pertaining only blue widgets and using my blue widgets page as the destination URL. Now instead of just being able to send them to my blue widgets page, I’m being pushed to include less relevant pages to keep my ad at the top of the page – Widgets, Widget History, Widget FAQs, etc. If your campaigns and ad groups are properly organized, sitelinks are only useful in limited circumstances.”

I thought this was an interesting perspective – one that I agree with. With our B2B clients, I usually don’t use sitelinks, for this very reason. The client has specific goals for each product or service, and we structure our campaigns and ad groups accordingly. The client doesn’t want us sending traffic to other pages within their website – these pages may not be optimized for conversion, or they distract the visitor from taking the action that the client really wants them to take.

Also, there are times when 6-10 or even 1-2 relevant links besides the landing page just don’t exist. Again, the client has a specific product or service they want us to promote. Maybe they even have a budget dedicated to that product or service. They not only don’t have other pages for us to send traffic to, but they don’t want us using their budget for that traffic!

This problem is more common for B2B advertisers, to be sure. I discussed it with Jeremy Brown in a post back in 2012.

This isn’t the first time I’ve covered the pitfalls of sitelinks. Back in 2011, I wrote a post for Search Engine Watch about the not-so-great aspects of sitelinks. While 3 years is an eternity in search, and Google has fixed most of the issues mentioned in that post, there are still shortfalls. Conversion tracking is still a challenge.

And Google doesn’t make it easy to see how individual sitelinks are performing. Take a look at this example:

sitelink data

At first glance, it looks as though the Contact Us sitelink has driven 8 conversions. Not so fast:

this vs other

In reality, no one is clicking on “Contact Us” – they’re all clicking on the ad itself.

This isn’t unusual, but to new PPC manager, or to clients looking at their own data, it’s misleading and confusing to say the least.

But I digress. I’m not the only one who thinks sitelinks might just be a worst practice. Andrew Goodman, in his famous rant “Why I Hate Sitelinks,” lists 11 reasons why he believes sitelinks are problematic. #1 on the list really resonates with me: “Where is the testing? Where are the key performance indicators (KPIs)? It’s impractical and/or irrelevant to test them; you can’t get actionable feedback.” Indeed.

I’m not totally anti-sitelinks. Sitelinks, and ad extensions in general, are a great way to take up more screen real estate. For advertisers with a robust catalog of related products and pages, sitelinks make a lot of sense. But they’re not for everyone, especially those with tightly-themed ad groups or those with only 1-2 relevant landing pages.

What do you think? Are sitelinks the love of your PPC life, or are they a worst practice? Share in the comments!

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PPC Experience: Necessary or Not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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