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5 Most Overrated PPC Tactics

PPC marketing offers a huge array of formats, features, and options, but not all deliver on their promise. Here are five PPC tactics to use with caution.

Paid search provides marketers with an enviable array of prospecting and retargeting tactics. This is increasingly true as Google rolls out more PPC products to entice clicks from its huge user base.

However, this means that we often have difficult decisions to make. There are only so many hours in a day. So we need to prioritize tactics based on each campaign’s goals.

Context is key. No PPC tactic is either good or bad, per se. It’s in the deployment of a tactic that it becomes either a success or a failure.

With that caveat in mind, here’s a list of overrated PPC tactics that typically are used to less than their maximum effect.

1. Position 1, at All Costs

To those who have been in the industry for a while, this seems like a no-brainer. Position 1 isn’t always the best place to be.

However, many find the temptation too great to resist. It is possible to pay your way to the top, so why not do it?

This is where ego can get in the way, at the cost of rationality.

That prized first position can be expensive. Cost per click (CPC) and click-through rate (CTR) are both at their highest. That means lots of traffic, but also lots of expenditure.

You can justify this cost if your conversion rate follows the same upward trend, but this is harder to predict with higher volumes of traffic. Control over both the quality of the traffic and your campaign budget reduces, too.

PPC Number 1

Yes, there are exceptions to this rule. But conversion rates typically don’t increase to the same extent that CPC and CTR increase by moving up to the first position. This can be counteracted if your brand has a clear USP, such as a lower price or great reviews, which you can highlight in ad extensions to boost conversion rate.

What Should You Do Instead?

Test different ad positions to see what works best for your budget within your ROAS/CPA targets.

Be prepared for the fact that this may not necessarily mean taking the top spot. We’ve seen 25 percent of a six-figure monthly budget spent on just one keyword. It delivered traffic and satisfied that Position 1 desire, but performance on conversion metrics was below average.

Always ask yourself: is your desire to be in position 1 driven by vanity or by business performance metrics?

2. Neglecting Brand Keywords to Save Budget

It’s fairly common to find companies that don’t bid on their own brand terms. Often this is done to save marketing budget, with the hypothesis that by not bidding on brand terms, any searches made for the brand will be picked up by organic search.

This hypothesis always requires some practical testing.

The issue primarily occurs when this strategy is applied to a business in a fiercely contested vertical. In these instances, there will be as many as four paid listings before the first organic one. This means if you aren’t bidding on your own brand, your organic listing will effectively be down in position 4 or 5 on the SERP, allowing competitors the chance to cannibalize the available brand traffic. Typically the drop off in traffic you receive from position 1 to 5 is exponential.

Your competitors will have to pay a significant price to outrank you on your own brand terms, but that doesn’t mean they won’t do it.

What Should You Do Instead?

When switching off brand paid search, you should measure the uplift in organic traffic to see if this accounts for the lost paid clicks. Usually, there is a significant amount of leakage that allows competitors to snap up the traffic in the higher positions.

To get around this, you need to calculate the incremental cost of running brand ads versus what you are likely to achieve by not running the ads. Typically the incremental cost of running brand ads is still cheaper than using the same spend for non-brand paid search. Therefore, it’s a cost-effective tactic you shouldn’t ignore.

Remember, every business is different. Before committing to a strategy, test! This will help you make more data-driven and reliable decisions. This is usually done by turning brand ads on and off over a period of time and collecting enough data to make the decision.

3. Casting the Net Wide

In an attempt to capture traffic for all products or services offered, some businesses will often target too many search terms – even when they are limited by budget. They think that if you cast a wider net then more customers are likely to hit the website or app, resulting in a greater number of conversions.

Unfortunately, this is unlikely.

Cast the new wide PPC

What usually happens is that you drive a good amount of traffic, but the budget isn’t pushed toward the most qualified traffic. Put simply: casting a wider net results in greater quantity and less quality.

It’s always a good idea to organize keywords around common themes, but you need to keep other factors in mind. One of the most important is the volume of impressions your target audience will generate for your products or services.

If a high impression volume is not observed, a very granular keyword split will only cause the traffic to be spread across a wide spectrum of queries and you will strip yourself off one of the most important parts of PPC management: optimization. You’re spreading your budget too thin.

You spending too much money on keywords that deliver lower quality traffic, resulting in less conversions. This is an inefficient use of paid search.

What Should You Do Instead?

To get the most efficient return on a limited budget, target fewer keywords. Select those which historically have had the most palatable CPL, COS, or whatever KPI is being optimized towards. This helps to streamline the budget, pulling money away from poor keywords and pushing more on those with a greater return.

Remaining budget can then be utilized on tactics such as remarketing to ensure that you are in front of your audience at each stage of their purchase journey.

4. Single Keyword Ad Groups

Increasingly, accounts are set up with individual ad groups for each target keyword. This is a smart approach, when used in moderation.

It’s a good idea to isolate the top traffic-driving or best-converting keywords and put them in a separate ad group to maintain control over bids, reporting, ad copy variations, and promotional activities for each term. However, using this approach across the whole account is overkill and provides diminishing returns.

What Should You Do Instead?

Identify which keywords are vital to your campaign’s success and isolate these in their own ad groups, knowing that you’ll be able to keep control over performance by doing so. Beyond this top-tier group of terms, campaign and ad groups should be organized around keyword groups and themes, rather than a single keyword.

Weigh the pros and cons to your business of spending this much time and effort on a labor-intensive tactic that decreases in efficacy the more it is used.

Categorization of PPC Keywords

5. Remarketing First

A remarketing strategy is essential. PPC plays its part in an increasingly convoluted consumer journey and allows for sophisticated targeting based on past interactions with a website or app.

Nonetheless, there are some barriers to entry for remarketing. It shouldn’t be the first consideration when launching a campaign.

In theory, it’s an excellent idea to target basket abandoners on a retail site when they go on to search [toys for 4 year olds]. They know what they want, we know which products they have come close to purchasing, so the engagement is already advanced.

This is a dream scenario for a retailer, and that is why the lure of remarketing is often too difficult to resist. However, we need to apply some caution. If we remember that remarketing to website visitors on Google requires our prospect list to contain at least 1,000 users, its promise may start to wane.

What Should You Do Instead?

Large online retailers like Home Depot or Toys R Us will no doubt have this quantity of data to hand for a lot of users and keywords. As such, it should be a central component of their PPC campaigns.

If you aren’t a retailer on that scale, focus your efforts elsewhere first. Creating a specific remarketing approach increases the granularity of your audience, as it leads to long-tail queries and more niche requests.

When it comes to remarketing, a good rule of thumb is to start with the basics (website/category page visitors) and expand to more niche audiences (like basket abandoners) if volume allows.

Image Credits: Unsplash

Category PPC
Clark Boyd Founder at hi, tech.

Clark Boyd is an SEO, Content Marketing and PPC specialist. Over the last 8 years, he has devised and implemented ...

5 Most Overrated PPC Tactics

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