Bidding & Optimization Strategies for the Modern Search Marketer
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As a search marketer by trade, I spend a large percentage of my time working on search engine optimization and search engine marketing on behalf of clients. Naturally, my team’s focus is mostly directed toward Google, at least in the early stages of optimization.
Most of the clients we sign up for SEM, in particular, are running Google AdWords campaigns that are failing to provide much value. Our new clients run the gamut from merely frustrated to ready to cut their losses and stop advertising altogether.
We often see common trends among these accounts. This is why we normally opt to completely rebuild the campaign from the ground up. This is especially true if they have used a provider who was careless or inexperienced with setting up the account in the first place.
This is not a formulaic solution – i.e. my SEM team doesn’t rebuild every single account or campaign using a predetermined methodology. Instead, we look at the dynamics of the business and the industry, figure out how much control we can have over the landing experience, and get creative about what fixes we might apply for this individual account.
The beauty of this approach is we can pick and choose the tactics we apply based on situation. This article will cover some of the more common tactics we consider during our rebuild process. Hopefully it will initiate some creative new ideas for you in improving your own PPC campaigns if you manage it internally.
If you look to hire an outside consultant or agency, this can also serve as a reference list for you to better understand what they are proposing during a similar exercise. Either way, I hope you come away from this piece with some new ideas to go out and test for yourself.
Let’s look at 10 things you might do to breathe new life into your own PPC advertising program:
Re-evaluate the Keyword Targeting Strategy
PPC may look simple at first glance, but there is both an art and a science behind the way you select and target keywords. Let’s cover off some of the basics.
First, be sure you are targeting keywords that are very relevant to your offering. For example, if you sell software that cleans up virtual machine orphan sessions, you wouldn’t target the keyword “virtualization.” That’s not what you are selling. Opt for a more long-tail keyword that better hones in on what you do.
Second, look at potential target keywords with the buyer’s journey in mind. When you see “What is…” types of keywords, those are better suited to SEO since they are information in nature. If you want to drive leads or sell something, you want late funnel keywords in your campaign.
Third, take time to decide which match types are the most important to run. You can employ bid stacking if you like, where you target all of the match types with different bids in the same ad groups. If you are unfamiliar with keyword match types, read this before trying to rework your keywords on your own, or bring in a professional who already gets it.
Restructure Ad Groups Using Tighter Themes
One of the biggest problems we find with existing AdWords campaigns is structural. Badly structured campaigns are very hard to optimize and tend to have a fragmented user experience.
User experience is of massive importance to Google AdWords success. Google assigns a Quality Score to each and every keyword, which is a benchmark of how good the user experience is for that keyword. Quality Scores go from 1-10, and they not only impact how often your ad will show, but also how much you have to pay for a click. You want higher quality scores whenever possible.
When I see ad groups with a bunch of loosely related keywords all set to broad match, I know it was built by someone without much experience in PPC. The key is to build each ad group around very tight themes.
In other words, you want keywords with common verbiage / characters in the same ad group. This allows you to then have all or most of the keywords show up in the ad text, where it will be bolded on the SERP. This has been proven to increase click thrus, which in turn helps bolster quality scores (CTR is one of the major factors in quality score).
Back in early 2013, my company rebuilt an enormous campaign on behalf of one of our larger clients in this manner. It was a smashing success, as the average QS across their account jumped from 5.5 to 8.4 in a matter of two weeks.
Amp Up Your Negative Keywords To Avoid Bad Clicks
If you opt to use a mix of keyword match types, you will find bad clicks are inevitable. For example, say you were targeting “cloud it services” using broad or phrase match. Having tested this keyword, you might find your ads showing up for “serta pillow top mattress” or “cloud music player.”
This is where you would want to deploy negative match keywords. Think of negative match keywords as the “everything but” modifier – i.e. show my ad for all of my keywords targeted, but omit anything with this negative match keyword in it. For the examples above, you might use negative keywords such as “serta,” “mattress,” and “music.”