SEO strategies play a key role in the success of search engine campaigns because of the importance of relevant content in the search marketing space. If search engines find the content of a page relevant to the keywords in a campaign, they will consider the page relevant and assign the keyword a higher quality score.

In the following guide, we will introduce the most important SEM campaign types and share best practices that have been developed after advertising and testing more than 10,000 campaigns, in more than 20 countries, and more than 25 industries.

Search Network Campaigns

Search campaigns are the most common campaign type on Google and Bing and they are very effective because they are based on the concept of the pull system. A pull system is any advertising methodology that delivers ads to an existing demand in the market. Pull systems are very effective because the potential target audience is aware they have a need and is looking for an immediate solution.

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Search network ads are definitely the most expensive ad type on Google and Bing and they are the most likely one to get a higher conversion rate.  The main downside of search ads is that sometimes the cost per click (CPC) might end up being too expensive which makes it difficult for small businesses to compete. Additionally, some industries might have a low search volume for their products and this causes advertisers to look for additional traffic sources.

Each search network campaign includes keywords, ad groups, ads, and extensions. Using best practices during the campaign setup and optimization is key to achieving successful results.

There is a strong bond between search campaigns and SEO strategies. Optimizing your website pages for keywords that you are actually targeting in your search campaigns will help your quality score. The better the quality score is the lower the cost per click will be. If you work hard to rank a page for a specific term you will end up benefiting Google AdWords and Bing Ads which will eventually find the page relevant for that target keyword.

Let’s know have a look at the most important elements of a Google AdWords search campaigns and find out what best practices can be used to improve the overall performance of a campaign.

Introduction to Keywords

Keywords are the terms that advertisers target in search campaigns because they believe that showing an ad for them is likely to generate clicks that will eventually generate new customers. However, there are thousand of new searches each month on Google and Bing for search terms that have never been searched before. This means advertisers needs to target keyword variations as well.

This can be done using keyword match types. There are four main keyword match types in Google AdWords and Bing, and each of them retrieves different keyword variations. Here is an explanation of what they are and what they can be used for:

Here is an example of search queries that are retrieved by each of the keyword types:

Keyword Match TypeKeyword in Google AdWordsTriggered Search Queries
Broad MatchDog StoreDog Food

Dog Store

Pet Store

Dog stores near me

Broad Match Modified+Dog +StoreBest dog store

Stores for dog

Affordable dog stores

Phrase Match“Dog Store”Dog Store Directions

Direction to the nearest dog store

Nearby dog store

Exact Match[Dog Store]Dog store

The keyword formatting we have used in the table above is the one you will need to use in the live AdWords and Bing interface to add keywords in it.

Choosing what keywords to advertise for and what match type to use is a very important decision and will have an important role in the success of your campaigns. Here is a list of best practices for keywords:

Keyword Research

Finding the right keywords is extremely important and requires thorough research. Google offers a great keyword research tool that can be accessed directly from the live interface in AdWords:

The tool enables users to insert a term or a group of terms and then suggests related ad groups and keywords. You can also insert terms you want to have in the suggested keywords or insert negative terms that you don’t want to be suggested:

The keyword planner is going to be the place where most of the campaign planning will start. There are a few strategies that allow the advertiser to make the most of this toll:

There are also two other ways for you to find additional terms. The first one consists of using the autocomplete function on Google.com. All you have got to do is to start a search and look at the autocomplete suggestions from Google. This will show you common combinations with the keywords you inserted in the search box and can be a gold mine for quality long tail keywords.

The second method to find additional keyword is keyword spy tools. These tools use large keywords databases to estimate with great precision the keyword being used by your competitors.

To learn more about PPC from Rocco (and his business partner and wife, Christina), check out this episode of Marketing Nerds:

Sorting Keywords in Ad Groups

Once the keywords have been found, advertisers need to sort them in ad groups. Each ad group should contain keywords that are related to each other. For instance, if you are selling animal products, ad groups could include but may not be limited to:

As you can see above, each ad group has a theme. This theme indicates each of the keywords in a specific ad group are strictly related to each other. This carries several advantages. First of all, you will be able to have a panoramic of your performance by keyword “theme”. This is helpful to get an immediate snapshot of performance at any point in time.

Additionally, creating a structured ad group layout gives you the possibility to write laser targeted ads that are specific to the keywords in a given ad group. Including keywords in the ads is always recommendable, because it will increase the quality score of the keywords and consequently decrease the cost per click that you pay to show up in a given ad position.

Your quality score increases even more if you align keywords, ads, and landing page. This is why it is highly recommendable to optimize the content of your landing pages based target keywords the same way you do for SEO.

Getting The Hang of Ad Copywriting

Ads and extensions are the only part of your campaign set up that a potential client sees. Ads are more important than extensions because they show up on top and are seen first.

Google’s standard search ad is composed of four visible and one hidden field. The visible fields are the headline (25 characters maximum), the first description line (35 characters maximum), the second description line (35 characters maximum) and the display URL (35 characters maximum). Bing has the same structure but with one only description line of 71 characters. The display URL needs to include the root domain of your site, which is what comes after the www. All the way until the .com/ (or .org/, ./edu etc…). Anything after the “ / “ can be customized and doesn’t need to correspond to an actual page on the site.

The hidden field is called final URL and it is the actual landing page that you want to send traffic to.

Google recently starting to roll out a new, extended ad type. The new ad type will include two headlines of 25 characters each, a full 80 character description line, and two URL Paths which are nothing more than the possibility to include up to two “ / “ after the display URL as long as it won’t exceed the character limit of 35 (e.g. example.com/Buy-Now/Promo).

The final URL will be a hidden field, and this is where you will send your traffic to. The display URL will automatically pick up the root domain to use in your ad.

There are a lot of best practices that come in place with ads. Here are some of the most important ones that should help improve your performance right away:

Extensions Will Increase Ads’ Performance

Google offers a lot of extension types for the search network. Extensions provide additional information about a business and help searchers make better decisions.

The most important extensions are:

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You can find a complete list of extensions here.

As a rule of thumb, extensions should always provide additional information to what you are already writing in the ad. This is going to engage the searcher and increase clicks to the website.

Choose The Right Campaign Settings

The last step in setting up a campaign on the search network is selecting the right settings for the campaign.

Here is a collection of best practices for campaigns’ settings:

Maintenance and Optimization Best Practices

Having an effective optimization strategy has a huge impact on the cost per acquisition. Each account is going to need custom optimization strategies depending on performance and how it has been built out. However, there is a set of best practices that can be used in all accounts on a regular basis to maximize performance:

Shopping campaigns are Google specific campaigns and are most often used by retailers. These campaigns are highly automated and advertise all or selected part of the products of a business based on a feed which can be manually or automatically uploaded in Google. This campaign type cannot be used by companies offering a service. It also doesn’t use keywords, but Google will look at the content of the feed to determine whether a search could be relevant for a business or not. Shopping campaigns are displayed on the search network together with regular search ads:

Most businesses use website plugins that automatically create product feeds based on the content of a website. This means the more each product page is optimized for the best keywords, the more impressions it will receive.

Shopping campaigns can also be organized in ad groups which can each target a specific section of the feed, such as different product categories, brands, or custom parameters. The advantage of breaking down the feed in ad groups is the possibility to easily get a snapshot of the performance of your group of products but also to assign custom negative keywords for just one ad group rather than for all products in a feed. For instance, if you are selling used and new clothes you would need to add the negative term “used” only to new products.

Shopping campaigns can assign custom bids all the way to the product level. You can decide to assign a standard bid for a product category (or brand or any other variable) and then increase or decrease the bid for the needs of a specific product.

Shopping campaigns aren’t as easy at it might seem, and optimizing the feed to appear for more searches is extremely important. Here is a list of best practices to generate better performance:

Display Campaigns

Display campaigns are another great option for advertisers that are looking to generate solid traffic at a good cost per click. Display campaigns promote text ads or banner on websites that partner with Google and agree to host ad spaces on their pages.

Advertisers can target potential clients based on four target criteria and any combination of them: Placements (which are pages you want to show ads on), keywords, topics (group of websites that have content about similar topics), and remarketing.

The Google Display Network also has a quality score metric that influences ad performance. Once again, the quality of the content plays a big role in increasing the quality score. The biggest elements influencing the quality score  on display network are:

Setting up and managing display campaigns can be done much more effectively by using some best practices that will save you time and money. Let’s have a look at some of them now:

Conclusion

There are different ways to create a search network campaign, researching the best practices that apply to your strategy is key. Analyzing your current market will bring forth crucial information needed to make your campaign a success. The most important thing is to remember there is a strong bond between search campaigns and SEO strategies.

Optimizing your website pages for keywords you are actually targeting in your search campaigns will help your quality score. The better the quality score is, the lower your the cost per click, which means you can get more clicks within your budget. Additionally, if you work hard to rank a page for a specific term you may end up benefiting Google AdWords and Bing Ads, which will eventually find the page relevant for that target keyword.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Paulo Bobita
All screenshots by Rocco Baldassarre. Taken June 2016.