Online Marketing Lesson 51: PPC Optimization

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PPC is one of the most effective advertising and traffic generation methods on the web. Unless you learn how to optimize your PPC campaigns, however, you will end up wasting a lot of time and, which is worse, money. In this lesson, we cover the points that you need to keep in mind when creating your PPC campaigns.

Always Be Split Testing

This is one of the most important strategies to maximize the returns of your PPC campaigns. You should ALWAYS be split testing. Practically speaking, this means that every time you create an ad group, you should create a twin ad group with some changes in it. After that, you should monitor the performance of both ad groups, and after some time (which can be days or weeks, depending on how much you are spending) you should ditch the one that performed worse. From this point onward you will keep creating twin ad groups, always trying to beat the top performing one.

Whenever we talk about creating an ad group throughout this lesson, therefore, you should remember that you are actually supposed to create two (the main one and its twin).

Managing Your Keywords

One of the most important parts of any PPC campaign is the keyword management. Selecting your keywords properly will not only increase your CTR (and consequently your Quality Score), but it will also increase your conversion rates. In other words, there will be a higher chance that each of your clicks will convert into a lead or sale. Below we cover six points that you should keep in mind while managing your keywords.

1. More does not equal better. The first mistake that people make with PPC is trying to load all their ad groups with hundreds, if not thousands of keywords. The reasoning is simple: the more keywords I have in my ad group, the more my ad will be triggered, and the more clicks I will get. Unfortunately, this reasoning is wrong. Why? Because by adding hundreds of keywords to a single ad group you will inevitably add a bunch of keywords with low or no relevance at all. This will decrease your Quality Score and your CTR, lowering your display rate and making your clicks cost more.

2. Create targeted ad groups. There is a reason why each AdWords campaign can hold up to 100 ad groups. The best strategy when choosing your keywords is to group a few related keywords inside each ad group and then to tailor the ad copy to match those keywords. If you have a website that sells shoes, for example, you should have one ad group for men’s shoes where you would put all the related keywords, one ad group for sports shoes, one ad group for dress shoes and so on.

3. Use different landing pages. If possible, use a different landing page for each of your ad groups (or for as few ad groups as possible), and make the content of the landing page match the keywords that you are bidding on. This will increase the conversion rate because visitors clicking on the ad will find exactly what they were promised on the other side, and it will also improve your Quality Score.

4. Start with narrow keywords. Another common mistake with keyword management is to bid only on the broad and most popular keywords. Those keywords are also the most competitive ones, and you might have a hard time getting clicks with them. Secondly, even if you get clicks, you might end up wasting money on the process because the CPC will be too high. A better approach is to start with narrow keywords, and then to move up as you gain experience in your niche. If you have a web hosting company, for example, instead of creating campaigns for web hosting, start with web hosting domain name registration, e-commerce web hosting, web design and hosting and so on.

5. Go beyond broad match. Google Adwords offers three main keyword matches: broad match, phrase match, and exact match.

Broad match: This option is the default one. If you write your keywords as they are (or if you import them from the Keyword Tool), they will be in broad match. With broad match, your ads will show when any of the terms or related variations are searched for. For example, if your keyword is web hosting, your ads would show when someone searches for web, hosting, web design, hosting basics, cheap web design, and so on.

Phrase match: You need to add “quotation marks” to your keywords if you want them to use the phrase match. With this option, your ads will show only when your complete keyword is searched for, in the same order, with or without additional terms. For example, if your keyword is “web hosting”, your ad would show for someone searching web hosting basics or cheap web hosting, but it would not show for someone searching hosting web or hosting company.

Exact match: You need to add [brackets] to your keywords if you want them to use the exact match. With this option, your ads will show only when someone searches exactly for your keyword, without adding any other term. For example, if your keyword is [web hosting], your ads would show only when someone searches for web hosting, and not when someone searches for cheap web hosting or web hosting basics.

As you can see now, using just the broad match is a terrible mistake because it will get your ads triggered by irrelevant search queries, lowering your CTR and conversion rates. That does not mean the broad match is completely useless. It can be used in PPC campaigns because it can give your ad more impressions and possibly more clicks, but it should never be the only match type being used.

At the very minimum, you want to create parallel ad groups with the same keywords using the phrase and exact match types, bidding slightly higher. Why? Because those keywords will bring a more targeted traffic, so even if you spend more for them, your ROI should remain constant.

If you want to maximize your conversion rates, you could also start with the phrase and exact match types exclusively, and then after some time you decide whether or not you should use the broad match too.

6. Use the negative match. The fourth match type that Google AdWords offers to the advertisers is the negative match. This option allows you to specify keywords that should not trigger your ads. You just need to add a negative sign in front of a keyword if you want to have a negative match. This option is very useful to make sure that known unrelated search queries will not trigger your ads and waste your money. If you have a high-end web hosting company, for example, you know that someone searching for cheap web hosting is not likely to become your client. In that case, you could use the keyword “web hosting -cheap” to block your ads from showing when someone searches for web hosting and includes the term cheap somewhere in the query.

Increasing the CTR with Ad Copy

As we mentioned before, you should always be trying to increase your CTR. Managing your keywords effectively is the first way to achieve this. The second is through your ad copy. Below you will find eight tips that you can use to increase the CTR of your ads by tweaking their copy.

1. Use the keyword in the headline. If the keyword that you are bidding for appears in your ad copy, Google will bold it. If you use it inside the headline, the effect will be pretty visible, and it will draw the attention of visitors.

2. Use the keyword in the description. Keywords in the description lines will also be bolded. If you don’t want to use the keyword in the headline, use it in the description lines at least. If you want to maximize your CTR, try using it in both places.

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3. Use the keyword in the display URL. You can also use the keyword in the display URL. If you are bidding for “web hosting”, for example, and your website is superhosting.com, you could craft your display URL as www.SuperHosting.com/Web-Hosting/ (making sure that the URL of your landing page is the same, else you would be violating the AdWords policy).

4. Capitalize words. Start all your words with capital letters. This is valid for the headline, for the description lines, and even for the display URL. Many people have tested this technique with positive results. Notice that words in ALL CAPS are not allowed by Google.

5. Create forms. If you craft your ads carefully, you can create graphical forms with them, and these can draw the attention of users. Three forms that have been tested and have produced positive results are the pyramid, the inverted pyramid and the arrow.

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6. Use calls to action. If you want people to click on your ads, you must give them a little nudge. Using phrases like “Order now” or “Try now” can improve the CTR. Similarly, including discounts or prices (provided they are low) can also improve the CTR. The only thing you need to be careful with is to make sure your offers are true and present on the landing page of the ad.

7. Make visitors curious. With certain niches and products getting the visitor curious can improve the CTR. You can achieve that by using unfinished sentences, and by using an ellipsis in the title and/or second description line of the ad.

8. Use trademark symbols. If you are advertising a website, product or service where you claim a trademark (or have registered it), it would be a good idea to include the trademark symbol in the ad copy. Visitors will see your ad as the official one, and they be more inclined to trust it and click. Notice that the ™ symbol can be used any time you claim rights over a trademark, while the ® symbol can only be used if you have already registered your trademark with the USPTO or equivalent.

Action Points

  1. Remember to always be split testing and tracking the results. This is the golden rule of PPC optimization.
  2. Review the points to manage keywords effectively. It is also a good idea to start with a small number of ad groups and few keywords inside each of them. Once you learn the basics you can expand them.
  3. Test the tips mentioned in this lesson to improve your CTR via the ad copy, and see which ones work with your niche and products.

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