PPC Advertising is one of the most profoundly misunderstood aspects of online advertising. Millions of people pour countless amounts of money into online ads each year and waste what could easily be a highly effective advertising campaign.
The reason is simple – it’s about oversaturation. These days, finding the perfect keywords at a good price that will be marketed to the right people is extremely hard – it’s the crux of the entire PPC process and what a lot of this article is about.
Before you even step foot into the PPC advertising arenas, you need to be sure that you are 100% aware of what you are getting into – both in cost and in competition. You’re not just up against other people advertising for your keywords, you’re up against obscure, complex systems like Google’s Quality Scoring and the content network distribution model.
You cannot just throw ads in front of your viewers and expect to get a surge of traffic from ready buyers. You need to research, split test, and run small campaigns over time to get the kind of data that will allow you to create a truly effective AdWords campaign.
So, what is PPC advertising? You probably already have a general idea of that if you’ve ever spent more than 5 minutes searching through Google search listings. Those special sponsored ads on the top and right bar of the search listings are PPC advertisements. Basically, people pay a bid price for a keyword of their choosing. When someone clicks on their ad, they pay that bid price. Their displays of the ad are free, but they pay for every click.
The goal then for you is to find keywords that cost as little as possible but that target your specific audience as well as possible. You don’t want to get stuck with keywords that are too vague or too competitive because then you will either pay too much for each click or you will end up getting a lot of traffic from people who are not necessarily interested in making a purchase from your website.
There are a few specific things you should know about PPC advertising before you get started. On a very basic level, this form of advertising is extremely risky – it requires a great deal of foreknowledge about your audience and their search habits and it requires a good deal of planning on your part to ensure the money you spend on those ads is well targeted to your specific needs. If you try to spend money without planning a budget or pinpointing keywords, you are going to waste a great deal of it and get stuck in a rut very quickly.
The Innate Value of PPC Advertising
Before I get too carried away with all the reasons you need to be careful, I want to be sure you know just how powerful of a tool PPC advertising can be. Too many Digital Marketing courses these days spend their time focusing almost exclusively on the negatives and forget to mention all the good things you can get out of this style of marketing.
Near Instant Feedback
Feedback is an incredibly valuable asset to any marketer. It’s important to know that your marketing efforts are working and PPC advertising provides real time data that can show you exactly how well those efforts are working. When you set up a PPC advertising campaign, you make it so you can review exactly how each ad performs, how each keyword converts to sales and how much traffic is available for your keywords.
If you have a new page on your website and need to see how it performs, you can have a PPC campaign ready and drawing traffic in less than an hour. In 24 hours, you can take that data and analyse it to see just how well your new page performed. There are no other tools on the Internet that provide that much leverage in testing.
Numerous Testing Methods
Because of how easily you can create new campaigns, tweak those campaigns and shift your traffic to different keywords and ad variations, you can perform multiple testing methods at once without having to wait days or weeks to see how things perform. Your website may be optimised for one set of keywords while your ads are pointing in from dozens of different possible audiences. Then, you can take that data and analyse it using the huge array of tools provided by these PPC services.
You have as much flexibility as you want when it comes to PPC. If you want to test how much traffic is generated by the keyword “Apple iPod 32 GB Touch” between 1am and 5am local time with three different ad variations, it’s very easy to do so. This kind of massive control over how your content is shown to visitors is ultimately what has made PPC advertising so dominant as a marketing method.
Unfortunately, the three reasons above are also exactly what have made PPC advertising such a dangerous avenue for a small business or an entrepreneur with limited funds. So, while you now know how many ways you can use this form of marketing to your benefit, you also need to know exactly how to use it so that you don’t throw money down a garbage chute.
Why to Be Careful
This is probably the most important section of this entire chapter because I want you to know very well why PPC advertising can be a dangerous form of marketing if you are not careful. To start with, it is very expensive – and deceptively so.
Many people think that because they are paying only for clicks, the £0.50 they pay for those clicks is well worth it. But consider this – you’re not paying £0.50 to make a sale. You’re paying £0.50 to get someone to your website. If your keyword selection or ad writing doesn’t draw in only people who will be interested in buying your product, you may have to pay for 25, 50, or 100 clicks before anyone even moderately interested in a sale appears.
Consider what happens if your products are £27 eBooks. If you had to pay £0.50 per click and needed 100 clicks to get one sale, you’d be spending £50 for every sale you made. That’s a significant loss. You would need to do a lot of work to make those numbers better.
The problem is that many advertisers don’t think of these consequences until it is much too late. They set their budgets high, don’t spend enough time choosing their keywords and then pour thousands of dollars into advertising before they realise what they’ve done. In addition, your competition is a thousand times more active than it was just 5 years ago. There are millions of people out there using PPC to sell their products. If you are in a competitive niche, it is going to be tough to pinpoint exactly what you need to succeed.
So, to help keep you from making the same mistakes, I’m going to present you with a series of stop-gaps that will keep you from overspending or mis-targeting your audience.
Small Budgets – By starting small and not over extending yourself financially off the bat, you can ensure that you never blow large sums of money on non-performing keywords.
Short Time Spans – Using short, very specific time frames of 2-3 days for testing can help you get enough data to work with but not so much that you must wait months to find the right formula.
In Depth Keyword Research – It all comes back to keyword research. For PPC advertising, you can never have enough high performing long tail keywords.
Split Testing – Testing is never done with. You’ll need to continuously tweak, test, and then retest your keywords for months to come if you’re going to land the perfect balance.
Constant Analytics Research – You should be looking at your reports every day to see what worked, what didn’t and what can be changed. This data is your best friend.
Using these five tools, you will learn exactly how to slow down your advertising campaign so that you can narrow in on exactly who wants to buy your product, exactly how to capture their attention and how to keep from spending all your money on meaningless keywords that will never pay off.
It might seem like a lot of work (and PPC was supposed to be fast right?), but trust me – if you can hone in on the right set of keywords and the right angle for your campaign, you will have a tool that is infinitely more powerful than 90% of the people out there using PPC advertising.
Starting with Google Ads
I have been using the general term “PPC advertising” thus far to describe what you’re doing with your ads, but the truth is that most advertising on search engines these days is done with Google AdWords – the largest and most powerful PPC advertising platform on the Internet. There are others, and we will discuss those other options shortly, but for now, let’s take a look at Google Ads (formerly AdWords) and what it has to offer.
Google Ads, as a service, is one of the most highly vaunted and often updated services Google offers, and for good reason. Their entire fortune has been made through their PPC advertising arm and it continues to be the biggest and best operated of any on the Internet. It is also the most competitive and sometimes frustrating of the options for a variety of reasons you’ll soon see.
There are multiple options on the signup page for how you will target your ads demographically. What you will choose depends largely on what kind of business you operate. If you are a local business, you will want to choose to limit your ads to locations that will be able to take advantage of your services. If you provide a product that is limited by language, make sure to choose the language set that matches your product. For most people, this will be English and English speaking countries and territories. But, don’t leave it as default if you need to expand your coverage.
Your First Ad
Google will have you create your first ad campaign while in the signup process. For now, just enter any information into these fields. We are going to return to this shortly and discuss exactly what your ad should look like and how you should build your keyword list. It can be a bit disarming to be asked for this information so early and many people end up creating underperforming ad campaigns because of it.
We will discuss your budget shortly, but for now, you should set it to something relatively small to get you started, so as to keep from accidentally overspending too early. I recommend £5 or £10. Later, when we tweak your campaign, you can upgrade that budget to match what you actually have to spend. Additionally, set your Cost Per Click (CPC) maximum bid to £0.50. Later you will specifically change your bid amount for every keyword you choose, but for now you can set a broad limit that will keep you from paying any outrageous amounts for highly competitive keywords.
Once you have finished signing up, you will need to pay a small activation fee to get started. This fee will be credited on your first bill for ads you showed, so it’s not an actual charge, but a means of keeping spammers from over using the service.
The Tools and Features of Google Ads
Once you’ve completed the signup process, you can start tweaking around with the various tools provided in Google AdWords. Keep in mind that the interface for AdWords changes regularly but generally, the tools are all the same. So, you may find that they have been moved on you at any given time. Don’t fret – just look through the new menus and they will still be there.
The Front Page
The front page of your AdWords account will include an overview of all your recent activity, including you recent ad purchases, their data and how much money you’ve spent. You can change your front page to display whatever information you like. I recommend minimising the sheer volume of data that jumps in front of you to your recent click thrus and cost. This will allow you to quickly and easily see exactly how many clicks you’ve paid for whenever you login to your account.
The Campaign Optimiser is a tool that will help provide data on how your campaign is performing and what specific actions you can take to improve it. By default, this service is not active, so if you want to use it, you’ll need to turn it on. Basically, what it does it tracks all of your changes to an ad campaign and provides feedback on which changes worked best. Unless you have a method set up already to analyse your changes, I recommend putting this tool to use to help you analyse your split testing later in the chapter.
We already discussed Google’s Keyword tool at length in Chapter 2, where we used it to analyse your various options for you website. It is going to come in just as handy for PPC research and provides quite a few very useful details that are targeted to exactly this type of work. I recommend refreshing on Chapter 2 and our keyword research a bit. We’ll go into your keywords a bit more in depth soon.
Google can run a diagnostic on your advertisements if they are not performing as well as you would like. There are any number of reasons why an ad might not perform properly or appear in the listings as it is meant to. By running the diagnostics tool, you can find out exactly what the problem is and target your efforts toward fixing those issues. Usually, the problem is related to budget, location, or quality score.
You can keep track of your conversions through Google AdWords by defining a goal within the software. For example, if you create an ad that links directly to your homepage and your goal is to make a sale, you could define that to Google AdWords by telling it which page on your site the visitor needs to end up on after the sale is made. This might be a thank you page or a checkout page. Whatever page it is, make sure to describe the exact path and then install the snippet of code on that page so that Google can keep track of the tracking.
You will also need to tell your customers that they are being tracked – just for your own good and disclosure needs. I highly recommend implementing Conversion Tracking because it is the only real way to know that your ads are having a positive impact. If you don’t know that your ads are creating sales, you’ll never be able to know if your money is being well spent. Sure you may have gotten 100 hits from AdWords, but how many of your 40 sales were from those clicks. If only 3 of them were, you may need to tweak your advertising campaign slightly.
Insights for Search
Google’s newest tool for AdWords users, Insights for Search, is an intuitive search tool that lets you see a lot of interesting demographic data broken down over multiple lines including country, language, related terms and more. The tool provides category popularity, worldwide breakdowns by interest level, timeframes for popularity of those searches, and a variety of data that can be used to boost your keyword research and targeting.
Going over everything in this search tool would be hard, but if you are using every piece of data you can get your hands on effectively, this will be a highly effective tool for many things.
Search Based Keyword Tool
To help you stay within your quality score rankings, you can use the Search Based keyword tool to analyse which searches are actually made that match up to your content. This tool is relatively simple to use. Just enter the landing page you are going to advertise and then choose some basic keywords to link up to it. Then, do a search to see what real searches people are making that might match up to your website.
These are the most valuable tools that Google AdWords currently has to offer, but keep your eye out for new ones. It is in Google’s best interest to provide the most advanced and easy to use interface for their advertisers so new tools are constantly being added to make your job a bit easier.
One of the things that you’re going to get a good grip on early is the use of quality scoring for your website. Google uses this to decide how they will charge for your keywords and while most keyword costs are based on bids between you and your fellow competitors, Google will ramp up the cost on you if your quality score is not high enough.
A Quality Score is essentially a rating of your site to determine if the content matches up to the keyword you are using. So, for example, if you were trying to use the keyword “canon cameras” and your website only sold MP3 players, your quality score would be relatively low because there would be no related keywords on your page.
Quality scoring is done on a scale of 1-10 and in general, if you can get a quality score of 4 or higher for a keyword, Google will not influence the cost of your bid. However, if you have a keyword or set of longtail keywords that you want to bid on and that you do not have a good quality score for, you may need to optimise your site slightly with some new content to make it match.
My best advice here is to use the Ad Diagnostics tool and then make slight tweaks to your site as needed. If you cannot get the cost down of a set of keywords, you may just need to move one. Sometimes, certain keywords will cost upwards of £5 each with limited competition just so that Google can maintain the integrity of its search results. The process seems arbitrary, but it is a vital part of Google’s maintenance of their results.
Creating A Google Ads Campaign
It is now time to create your ad campaign, something that will involve three very important steps.
Creating Your Ad
Step one is to create your ad. Keep in mind that you’re going to be creating multiple ads over the course of this campaign because of our split testing, but you should still spend a great deal of time focusing on how to get the exact message you want into your ad. Each ad has four distinct parts for you to work on, with a limited number of characters to utilise. Here is a breakdown:
Headline – The Headline is the bolded, underlined link that appears atop your ad. This is the first thing anyone will see and needs to be the most important part of the advertisement. In general, it is good to use your root keyword here. Most ads will be attached to a longtail keyword set. When your ad appears in search listings, the parts of the keyword searched for will be bolded in your ad. Make sure to take advantage of this.
Line 1 – Your first line must always highlight benefits to the reader. It needs to tell them what they gain by clicking on your link. Never just list off features of your product in an ad.
Line 2 – The second line of your ad can speak more to the features of your product, but should still continue it in benefit language. For example instead of saying “32 GB MP3 Players” say “32 GBs to Hold All Your Music”. That is a direct benefit to the reader.
URL – The final line is the URL which will simply be what appears to the reader. If you are linking to a subpage of your website, just list the main domain and make sure to capitalise all the words within that URL.
To give you an idea of what a bad and good ad look like, here is a poorly written ad followed by a better, more targeted version of the same ad:
Best MP3 Players Around!
Apple, Zen, Creative and More
MP3 Players for Everyone!
MP3 Players and Video Players
Largest Selection with Apple and Creative
Carry More Music with Huge 32 GB MP3
As you can see, the second ad is more targeted, with specific details and benefits to the searcher. It also looks more professional without unneeded exclamation marks and a capitalised domain name.
Setting Your Parameters
The next step in creating your campaign is to set the parameters. This includes the time frame, budget, and location of your ads. You should be sure to match up exactly where and when you want your ads to be shown. Keep your time frames short for the sake of split testing and always allow yourself plenty of leeway for a budget.
When you get started, you should aim for budgets of less than £10 a day, even if you can afford more. This will allow you to tweak your ads for as little money as possible while also getting a feel for how AdWords works. Additionally, you should keep your ads running for only 2-3 days at a time. This will allow you to get a solid 50-100 clicks on each ad without spending too much. In the end, you’ll find out what it takes to analyse each one more carefully.
Choosing Your Keywords
Your keywords lists should already be started (or even completed) from chapter 2. Now, you need to take those words you generated back in Chapter 2 and ensure that they are going to work for you here. Run them through the Google Keyword Tool and be sure that the costs are all good.
You are going to find that when you run a search campaign, the best way to go is to have hundreds of highly targeted longtail keywords that each garner extremely targeted traffic. This way, even if each keyword only gets searched for once a week, you will have hundreds to draw from. On the other side of things if you were to try and market for “MP3 Players” you would pay £2 per click and get hundreds of hits a day, but would likely never get the targeted traffic you need.
This is also where you should use the negative keywords tool to remove any of the words you don’t want to be searched for with. This includes anything like “Free” “Discount” “Import” or anything else that is going to lead people to your site when they are not actually interested in your product.
If someone searches for “free mp3 players” and sees your ad, they have no way of knowing that you don’t actually offer free MP3 players, so they’re still going to click on it. They won’t find what they’re looking for and will leave and you’ll lose valuable parts of your budget to meaningless clicks.
Split testing is the process of taking something and changing just one small part of it to see what happens. In this particular case, that testing is almost always done with your ads, though you may also decide to split test your landing pages to see how your visitors react to different content.
The goal here though should be to make small, tangible changes that can be measured against other changes. For example, if you produced two completely different ads, how would you know which part of the better performing ad was the important change. Rather, if the following two ads were your split tested content, you’d have a much easier time seeing what worked:
MP3 Players and Video Players
Largest Selection with Apple and Creative
Carry More Music with Huge 32 GB MP3
MP3 Players and Video Players
Apple iPods to Match Any Tastes
Carry More Music with Huge 32 GB MP3
In this case, the only thing that changed was the wording of the second line in Ad B. But, if you find that those changes actually make a difference, then you know you should go with Ad B and then make another small change, maybe this time to the headline. Split testing can seem meticulous and the changes may seem to cause very small tweaks to your traffic, but in the long run, those tweaks can have significant impacts on your sales.
The last thing to discuss is the value of good, quality research for your keyword campaign. This is where analytics and split testing are going to come into play. In AdWords, you can run numerous reports that will provide you with endless pieces of data that can be used to take apart your efforts and showcase what worked and what didn’t. Here are some stats that you should be looking at as much as possible:
The average cost per click will tell you how much money you are paying on average to get one person to your website. This number should be as low as possible without sacrificing quality. Remember, if you sell a product every 3 clicks, those clicks can cost as much as they need to. If you only sell a product every 100 clicks, you cannot afford high priced clicks.
This is your click thru rate. This is the percentage of people who see your ad that click on it. Generally, the CTR is less important than the conversion rate from those clicks. However, if you are converting at 10% and only getting a 1% click thru rate, you should work on improving your click thru rate to take advantage of that high conversion percentage.
This is your return on investment. This is how much money you make versus how much you spent. For example, if you spend £500 in a month for PPC ads and make £2,500 in sales on those clicks, your ROI is 500%. You made 500% more than you spent – a tremendously good profit. When you first get started, just aim to have a positive ROI – once you’ve tweaked your account accordingly, you can start worrying about exactly how high those numbers can get.
The last number and the most important one is the conversion rate. You want to get as many clicks as possible to convert to sales. This number will tell you a number of things. First off, it tells you how effective your sales efforts on your website are.
If you are getting highly targeted traffic and are not converting that traffic, you may not have the right tone in your sales copy. You’ll need to check other things through Google Analytics like your bounce rate and time on page to see how those numbers are performing.
Additionally, this number can tell you how effective your ads are at grabbing the right people in clicks. For example, if your website has a 4% conversion rate from organic SEO traffic, and only a 2% conversion rate from PPC advertisements, it probably means that the traffic you’re getting through PPC is not as well targeted. That can mean that your ads don’t accurately describe what you’re selling or that your keyword are not effectively matched up to your audience.
As you can see, the numbers in your reports are extremely valuable in showing you what works, what doesn’t work and how to make tweaks. The important part is that you spend time looking at them every day. If you start glazing over the numbers, you might as well be throwing money down the drain, because there are always ways to do better and to improve. If you stop trying, you’re wasting a perfectly good opportunity.
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