10 ways to improve your PPC marketing strategy

Pay-per-click advertising is an effective marketing medium that harnesses the power of search to deliver instant and measurable results. While it is easy to get started, a lot of effort is required to maintain a campaign at an optimum level. Here are 10 ways to help improve the performance of a PPC search marketing campaign.

1. Optimise your ad copy

Optimising ad copy is one of the best ways to improve the performance of PPC campaigns. Thankfully the major search engines allow the rotation of ads to determine which one is performing best. Every ad group should have at least three ads set on rotation for the same set of keywords. This will give you an idea of how well certain ideas are working, and others are not.

The primary indicator of performance is CTR (click-through rate), and engines such as Google will favour those ads that have received a higher CTR throughout the time they have been active. After a period of at least a week, you should have a clear idea as to which types of ad copy perform best. At this stage, remove your under-performing ads and write ones similar to your top performers. This way you’ll be able to refine your ads until they are bringing the maximum level of return possible.

It’s also worth looking at your competitors’ ads to get an idea of what kinds of ad copy works. Doing a search for your primary keywords will give you a good idea of what the competition is doing. Take note of competitors that are paying for premium ad spots and that have been around for a good length of time. Analyse these ads and determine what makes them effective. In my experience, the presence of numerical figures in ad copy such as ‘90% off’ results in higher CTR, compared to ads that only feature plain text.

2. Build the right landing page

All too often an advertiser will not create the right landing page for the campaigns that they are running. The key to a successful landing page is to align the intent of the searcher with the offer that is presented on the landing page. Depending on the goal of the business this can be a product for sale, a sign up form, or other call-to-action.

The keywords that an advertiser bids on must match this business goal, which then forms the basis for the ad copy that is presented to the searcher. Finally the landing page should precisely match the ad, where the searcher is able to find the product or service that they originally searched for. If these three factors are not precisely aligned, the CTR will fall while the cost per conversion will increase – both undesirable consequences.

3. Track conversions

If a business running PPC campaigns is not tracking conversions, then they are missing out on a massive opportunity to improve the performance of their search marketing. Conversion tracking is as easy as dropping in some unique code on the ‘thank you’ or final checkout page of your website, and letting the PPC platform do its work. Once this is in place, conversions can be tracked at keyword level, which helps a great deal in determining which keywords are top performers. Given an appropriate period of time to gain some meaningful account data, an advertiser can adjust bids, pause keywords, and re-arrange campaigns depending on how well keywords are converting and how much a single conversion costs.

4. Bid high, then reduce

Often an advertiser is afraid of setting high bids initially for fear of blowing out their allocated budget. In doing so however, they may not gain enough historical data to make further decisions regarding their campaigns. In addition, setting bids low initially can result in ads being displayed in low positions where they attract a low CTR. This in turn results in a low keyword quality score, which raises the cost of bidding on that keyword. I recommend advertisers place bids at one dollar or more, depending on the level of competition, and then monitoring account performance closely. Once campaign performance is gauged after several days, bids can be gradually brought down to reach an optimal point where CTR and conversions are optimised.

5. Keep track of quality score

Quality score is Google’s way of determining whether your ads and landing pages are relevant to a user’s search query. Google’s ultimate goal is to provide the most relevant information to a user when they search, and this includes your ads. Quality score can be visibly seen at the keyword level of your Google AdWords account. The higher the quality score, the cheaper it will be to trigger an ad for that keyword, and the higher this ad will appear.

Several factors influence the quality score of a keyword, including the CTR of the keyword, the ad relevance, and landing page quality. CTR can be raised by bidding with a higher amount, ad relevance can be improved by ensuring that the ad copy closely matches the keywords in the ad group, and landing page quality can be improved by showing relevant content, ensuring the page loads quickly, and is easy to navigate.

6. Target multiple search engines

When running pay-per-click campaigns, advertisers tend to focus only on the big player among the search engines – Google. While this is understandable considering Google’s massive market share, it is worth looking into other search engines for several reasons. The main alternatives to Google are Bing and Yahoo, with Bing serving a growing portion of the Australian search market. Conveniently, advertisers can appear on both engines by using the Yahoo Search Marketing platform. While search volume is far lower on these engines, competition is lower as well. For this reason bids are often cheaper, with higher ad positions being easier to acquire. This may be a good way to reach an audience that has been untapped by your competition.

7. Correctly structure your account

To ensure a well performing paid search campaign, a logical and efficient account structure is essential. The benefits of this are twofold. By organising your account into logical campaigns, while creating ad groups that contain closely related keywords and ads, quality score is maximized. This helps to reduce the cost per click, while placing ads in higher positions, which increases CTR. A well-structured account is also easier to manage, particularly when it grows to a large size with dozens of campaigns and ad groups. Performance can be quickly analysed at a glance, making it easy to identify problematic areas and edit bids, keywords, and ads.

8. Use dynamic keyword insertion

Dynamic keyword insertion is a technique used to make ads more relevant to a search query. To implement dynamic keywords, simply use this syntax in your ad copy: {Keyword:Cars}. The searcher’s query will now be inserted into your ad. If the query is too long to fit in the ad, then ‘Cars’ will be used in its place. By using this method, ads become more relevant to a searcher’s query, thereby better aligning your ad with a user’s search intent. Your ad will also have more bold text as a result of the query match, which will better catch the attention of the searcher. This all leads to a higher CTR, improving campaign performance.

9. Focus on the long tail

While bidding on high volume generic keywords such as ‘cheap holidays’ is great, it may often end up costly. Competition is intense in many online sectors, making it difficult to run sustainable high converting campaigns. A good strategy is to go for the ‘long tail’, or the keywords that individually have a small amount of search volume, but in the aggregate result in a large volume of traffic. Continuing the travel theme, an example of a long-tail keyword would be ‘5 star phi phi island hotel’. Bidding on hundreds of long-tail keywords can result in a large amount of search volume, most of which is untapped and has low competition. An important thing to remember when targeting long tail is landing page quality – relevant landing pages must exist for keywords or both quality score and conversions will suffer.

10. Implement re-marketing

Re-marketing is a clever way to refine your pay-per-click ad targeting. It is a method through which advertisers can reach just the people who have visited their website, thereby increasing the relevance of ads shown to them, while reducing the cost per click. Re-marketing can be set-up in the AdWords interface by creating an audience list, and applying this list to an ad group. You can get creative by excluding those visitors who have purchased something or signed up, and only show ads to visitors who haven’t. In this way advertisers can target those visitors who have already expressed interest in their product or service.

Stas Belkov is a co-founder of DealFetch.com.au (@dealfetch on Twitter), a daily deals aggregator based in Sydney, Australia.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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