Top 5 “Duh” PPC Techniques

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I don’t consider myself particularly humble by nature, but it is always surprising to me that a shared piece of advice accumulated over the last 15 years of my career is valued quite as much as it is.  Recently, I was discussing ideas with a colleague who works as a PPC consultant – well above my pay grade – and was shocked to learn that some of the techniques I had been using for years and considered pretty rudimentary we’re actually brand new to him, and extremely valuable.

So I decided to share some of what I consider “duh” PPC Techniques with the community in the hopes that they indeed help someone out there be the guru they are being paid to be.  Here’s a list of the Top 5 “Duh” PPC Techniques…

1) Non-alphanumeric Symbols

This is one of the most powerful and least used tools available to Internet marketers.  The price you pay per click is determined by your quality score, which is directly affected by your clickthrough rate (CTR).  The higher your CTR is, the cheaper your advertising budget will be.  So getting the maximum CTR is crucial.  So how do you get people to click on your ad?  How can you possibly compete with 10 organic results and up to 8 paid results to statistically win that click?  Easy… use symbols that stand out to the human eye.

Yes, Google limits the types of symbols you can use and frequency, but there are still plenty of tricks you can use to get around these restrictions.  For example, there is nothing wrong with using a ™, or ® symbol in the title of your ad for brand-related terms (which typically happen to be your most valuable terms over time once your brand has been established in its prospective industry).

Another nifty trick is to use Sitelinks that are not only extremely effective in increasing CTR, but are also rarely disapproved regardless of how many non-alphabetic characters are used.  I’ve seen Sitelinks using $ symbols in the place of bullets overlook scrutiny for months, simply because Sitelinks are not treated with the scrutiny of regular ad copy.  By the way, the results of this technique increased clickthrough rate from an average of 18% to 24%.  This is real money when translated to less expensive prices for higher positions.

(By the way, this technique also works amazingly for SEO.)

2) Using Broad Match Properly

I remember the good old days of Google Adwords when broad match meant that the user typed the keywords you designated in any particular order along with any particular combination of other words.  Nowadays, not only does broad match allow  “similar” keywords to still get a match, but it also triggers a match for what is called “Session-Based Broad Match”.

What is this, you ask?  Google is now serving users ads, not just on the terms they searched for, but also the terms they previously searched for in a completely unrelated query.  It’s kind of like “remarketing for search”.  So if you were searching for deep sea fishing reels an hour ago and are now looking for a nice seafood restaurant to take your wife to dinner at, then you may get some results for “Al’s Deep Sea Bait & Tackle”.  These terms are considered “Session-Based” and are triggered by any broad match keyword in any of your campaigns.

To combat this you can either use something called “modified broad match” which is essentially putting plus symbols in front of all the keywords that are required in order to trigger a required keyword match (Example: Broad match “+red +fast +cars“ will only trigger queries with all three terms included such as “awesome red fast cars” and “red fast cars rock”).

3) Targeting for Device

With tablets like the Apple iPad exploding in popularity, it is important to realize that not all devices are equal.  For example, particular Latin American, European, and Asian countries have extremely high conversion rated on mobile devices (in some cases equal to or higher than desktops).  If you are targeting lower income demographics then mobile devices typically perform equally as well even in the US.

In many cases splitting your campaigns into device device-specific campaigns is very important, because you may be overpaying for a particular device while losing sales in another type of device.  Divide and conquer, as the Romans used to say has been turned into “Device and Conquer” in the age of the tablet.

There is one major exception: If you do not have a site or landing page tailored to a specific device then don’t bother advertising to it.  Chances are you will be wasting money on ads that will never convert, because it is too cumbersome or even impossible to complete a transaction on that particular device.

4) Managing Bids Properly

This one irks me because it is something that I assume every PPC marketer knows.  It’s real simple.  First of all, I’m assuming you know how to structure your ad groups properly and have read at least the most rudimentary information about campaign structure.  Basically: Use campaigns for regional and device targeting (also demographic targeting for display ads), and use ad groups that target specific closely related concepts or ideas within those campaigns.  For high-volume terms, split off exact, phrase, and broad match so you can set bids efficiently for each type.  I could go on, but if you don’t have this level of basics down then you probably shouldn’t be reading this yet.

Here’s how I manage bids: First of all, I check them once a week or every couple of days at most (you can’t get anything reliable or useful in a single day).  I download the statistics data for the time frame since the last time I changed bids, then I sort by price descending  (highest to lowest) and start lowering bids for any ad groups that had no sales or a Cost Per Action (CPA) that was higher than I want to pay.  Once I’m done, I don’t sync changes.  Instead I download a longer timeframe of statistics data (usually a month, or two, or three).

I then sort by CPA descending and select any ad groups that have a CPA lower than the maximum I’m willing to pay.  Then, and only then, do I sync changes and wait for the following week… or few days… or whatever.

The reason?  It all has to do with statistics.  Remember that horrible college course you were required to take way back when and mostly fumbled your way through while thinking about the sexy girl in the third row?  Of course you don’t.  So here’s a reminder: you need a statistically viable sample in order to make a decision.  A week’s data may show an ad group to be extremely expensive at a $35 CPA, but if you get a more bird’s eye perspective over a series of months you may realize that the same ad group only has a $11 CPA over a longer time frame and you just weren’t looking at enough data to make an intelligent decision.

5) Using Negative keywords to Isolate Ad Groups

You have two ad groups in a campaign.  One has terms like “cool cars” with broad, phrase and exact match keywords, the other has terms like “cool red cars” with all three match types also.  Can you guess which ad group may never get any impressions?  “Cool red cars” will always be trampled on by “cool cars” because Google can demand a higher cost per click for such a broad term.

Don’t assume Google Adwords is your friend.  They will often try to adjust their PPC algorithm to make themselves more money.  If they can charge you $1.50 for a broad match hit to “cool cars” why would they ever serve your exact match “cool red cars” ad group?  One way to solve this is to put a negative phrase match keyword “red” in you broad match “cool cars” ad group.  That allows your “cool red cars” ad group to still serve broad match keywords that are more specific to the original search intention, thereby increasing your CTR and lowering your costs.

I hope some of these, what I consider “basics”, are able to help you in your PPC efforts, lower your costs, and help you to tighten your PC Guru status.  So lets get out there and earn our “guru” status!

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  • Justin Freid

    Some very good tips for beginners. I’d also like to throw separating content and search campaigns. A simple structure tip that can go along way in terms of reporting and understanding performance. 

  • Matthew

    Some great tips here however some people spend too much money on PPC and costs them allot of profit,

    Seen allot of smaller busineses waste most of there profit because they are getting than many PPC but not actually getting sales from it because of there website and lack of trust

    • Mike Boudet

      It is true that your landing page is extremely important to the success of any PPC campaign, however my focus for this article had more to do with things PPC managers often overlook in setting up their Adwords campaigns.  Perhaps I will write an article on landing page design in the future.  Thank you for the idea.

  • Virtual Business Assistant

    I feel PPC for small business is too much.I think the best way to build your brand awareness is to continuously advertise on one place or to one group of people. Because we all have limited advertising dollars, we cannot advertise every where. Hence we need to focus building brand awareness on one place, and then really engage with the people/customers there.

    • Mike Boudet

      I think brand building is way more expensive for a small business and in many cases out of their reach.  Unless you have a surplus of initial investment capital, PPC offers the easiest way to start making a real return on your advertising dollars for businesses of any size.

  • Hiren vaghela

    I agreed with Justin, At starting point you need understand firstly keyword research and content optimization. It will good to start for beginners.

  • Brian O’Connell

    I disagree with the comment against PPC for small businesses. You can be as aggressive as you want with PPC. You can set your budget and you determine the keywords. You should also have in place tools for ROI, such as conversion tracking and analytics.  If you have a high bounce rate, you may be bidding on wrong terms, have a poorly written ad, or maybe it’s just that your website fails to seal the deal. 

    As to the points in the article, it’s not just about click through rate. It’s also about getting quality clicks. Be careful with attracting too much attention. Before you focus on CTR, make sure you are focusing on high target keywords that convert well.

    A number of points were not available or relevant 10 or 15 years ago. For example site links in PPC is fairly new, as is broad match qualifiers. Device targeting is certainly more important now then it was 10 years ago.

    Point 5 is a good point that I think many people don’t know. Everything Google says about CTR and Quality Score says to align your keywords with your ad copy and landing page. Yet their algorithm doesn’t adhere to that advice. We bid on “Accounting Websites” and “CPA Websites”, broad, phrase and exact. Google has show our CPA ad group on searches for “accounting” and visa versa. I have seen evidence that they have served the less expensive keyword, so there are other factors in their algorithm that determine which ad to show then what they make from it, but yes, the only way to force Google to show the ad you want in a case like this, is to add your exact matches from one ad group as negative keywords in the other ad group.

    • Mike Boudet

      Brian, thanks for your comments.  You make some great points.  For example, I strongly feel that PPC is one of the best places for small businesses to advertise because of how targeted and granular they can get in terms of focus their smaller advertising budgets on simply delivering conversions.  Branding and other types of traditional advertising are simply too expensive for a lot of small businesses.

      I do agree with you that CTR is not the only metric you should pay attention to, but it is by far one of the most important because increasing that number will make your ads exponentially cheaper.  Setting up campaign structure properly and having the right keywords trigger appropriate ads is how you can accomplish this.  I’ve seen many mismanaged campaigns that have a list of a thousand unrelated keywords in an ad group with generic untargeted ads.  If you’re not sure how to start structuring things, looking at CTR will guide you in the right direction.

    • Hiren vaghela

      Useful advise Brian. Looking more updates form you.

  • Press

    Thanks for advice

  • Johnm

    Great posting here!  It’s so important to utilize negative words.  Eliminating useless results is essential and saves money.

  • Daniel Ramirez

    Great article! Very well organized digestible information with great actionables that quickly add value to any adwords account. 

  • Mark Carter

    Hi, these are all great tips. The first one is actually the most useful one for me … I didn’t realise that the sitelinks had less scrutiny. I’ve got ads which had alpha-numerics from the past, which are still up and running. However, any that I’ve tried to add (other than trademark, etc) have been refused. So I thought it was a matter of just keeping those old ones going for as long as possible. Very good to get another avenue on this. Thanks for that!