Bidding & Optimization Strategies for the Modern Search Marketer
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If you’re a PPC campaign manager you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with this sequence:
- Do a painstaking amount of keyword research and segmentation, carefully crafting twenty or so nicely targeted ad groups.
- Create two to four ads for each group, ensuring that they speak to the searcher’s intent and map well to the messaging on your landing page
- Create landing pages that speak to different types of queries
- Research the best bids for the initial campaign using some of the Google tools and/or your own data and experience with the niche
- Check your campaign settings
- Set things live!
- No one comes
It’s a bit like spending months and months prepping a restaurant for a big opening that no one shows up to.
Since one of the major advantages to paid search advertising is the immediacy of the data and results available to you remedying this lack of data in a way that will get you quality impressions and clicks quickly is crucial. We’ll take a look at some things to look at dials to turn in attempting to get some quick feedback from your freshly created PPC campaign.
Diagnosing Your Issue
We’ll assume for the sake of this post that you’ve already done your due diligence in researching keywords and identifying opportunities using some of Google’s tools to identify opportunity and potential volume. Even using these tools, however, you might not see the traffic you’d anticipated. The first questions to ask are:
- Are Your Bids High Enough? – You might not be bidding enough to have your ads actually show. There are a couple of good metrics to look at here to get a quick idea of whether bids are the cause of your ads not showing:
- Average Position – If your average position is lower than seven for the campaign, there’s a good chance many of your ads are rolling off the first page and/or that the impressions you’re getting are in lower positions that aren’t likely to get clicked.
- Impression Share – You can look at your impression share metrics to give you an idea of whether your ads are actually being seen by searchers. Look at your IS by Rank to get an idea of whether bid may be impacting your ad getting shown.
- Are You Having Quality Score Issues? – If you’ve looked at your IS by Rank and your average position and they’re both low, that may mean you’re not bidding enough. However it may also mean you’re having Quality Score issues. Take a look at the aggregate Quality Scores for your keywords (preferably weighted by impressions – if you don’t mind giving up your Email there is a free handy spreadsheet to help you with this in WordStream’s Quality Score Toolkit).
- Are Your Ads Compelling? – The best metric to tell you whether or not you’re having a problem with your ad text is click-through rate. Take a look at your CTRs – two indications that they should be higher are poor Quality Scores (see above for diagnosis of this issue) or that they’re lower than many of the click-through rates in other areas of your campaign (there’s no blanket “good” or “bad” click-through rate, but often if your CTR is below 1% that may be an indication that there’s a problem).
- Are Your Match Types too Restrictive? – You certainly don’t want to indiscriminately use broad match in your campaigns, but to get some initial feedback you might consider whether you can implement more use of less restricted match types that you’d initial intented.
So now hopefully you have a better grasp on why you’re not getting the traffic you expected. What do you actually do about it?
Coming Up with a Solution
The next step is to take action against the problem area. Depending on what your issue is, there are a number of different tacts you can take, including:
- Increasing Bids – You certainly don’t want to be “bidding to position” without regard for return, but if you’re really not seeing any traffic yet and you seem to have solid Quality Scores (solid here basically being 5 or better – 7 is also enough when it comes to Quality Scores).
- Rethinking Your Campaign Structure – So what if you run through your account’s Quality Scores and you really are having issues there. One possible solution is to re-think your campaign structure: tighten your Ad Groups to contain fewer keywords (drive for 20 in a group, or if you’re already there, segment even more aggressively). Also look at the keywords that you have grouped together: do they really fit? How tightly themed are they? Can you write one great message that speaks to all those different terms and layers of intent?
- Optimizing Your Ads – If you have issues with either Quality Scores or click-through rates, you should definitely consider testing your ad copy – start with big ideas and drive down to smaller elements like your display URLs.
- Consider Less Restrictive Match Types – Again it’s important not to get carried away here, but take a look at whether or not you can move to phrase, modified broad match, or broad match from a more restrictive matching option to generate more traffic.
By carefully analyzing why you’re not driving traffic and cycling through these exercises, there’s a good chance you’ll find that missing traffic you’d been counting on in setting up your campaign. And if none of these work: beware the galaxy effect and start to work to expand your keyword universe.