Google AdWords pay-per-click marketing runs on the simple concept of delivering relevant results to searchers when they’re looking for information and are most likely to act. The strategy and implementation of successful AdWords campaigns, though, involves more complex considerations. In strategizing and managing PPC campaigns for clients, I find there are a few tactics that are often misunderstood but can have a significant impact on a campaign. Here’s why they matter.
When I ran my first digital campaign back in 2000, digital meant about what you would expect from the year 2000. Static banners delivered on a cost-per-thousand-impressions to sites that I had to negotiate down from a $75 CPM. “Relevancy” meant choosing a website that your gut told you the audience might visit, at least someday. The term “big data” had been uttered for the first time only three years prior. Sites didn’t know who their visitors were or how they got there, they just knew if they had them or if they didn’t. Google didn’t even start offering advertising until October of that year, let alone Analytics (that was another five years in the making) Banner ads were king, ruling the roost, commanding dollars. Check out these gems for a walk down memory lane.
And then it all changed. Google’s laser-focused goal of delivering relevant results to searchers through organic and subsequently paid ads is the premise that has shaped the PPC industry and pushed marketing in general into a whole new realm of highly targeted delivery. While it’s not exactly new news that Google AdWords is all about relevancy, advertisers are often guided through AdWords in a fairly simplistic manner: determine your landing page, mine it for keywords, add in any other keywords you think are appropriate, and write some ads that include some of those keywords. Relevancy!
But don’t go spending all your newly made money just yet. Landing pages and keywords and ads certainly do need to maintain relevancy. After all, a tanking quality score could spell trouble. But it’s just not as simple as making those all match, as any PPC manager would be happy to tell you. The top three areas of PPC that I find are often misunderstood and can positively impact results:
Targeting to desktops/laptops, tablets and/or mobile has been an option for quite some time, but the game recently changed with Google’s announcement of Enhanced Campaigns. In the past, targeted device was chosen on a campaign level, resulting in separate campaigns for mobile or tablet in order to better control the budget and tailor ads to a mobile- or tablet-only audience. Enhanced Campaigns now default to serving to all devices and allow bid management across devices all within that same campaign. Bids can also be managed based on location and time, an important advance for businesses that benefit from searches occurring in close proximity at the eleventh hour (which 55% of mobile search conversions do. Hospitality – restaurants, hotels – and retail are the obvious choices to enjoy this feature. For example, my parents never book a hotel in advance on a road trip. They drive until they can drive no further and then figure out where they want to stop. As they cruise down Route 80 across beautiful Pennsylvania searching for a place to stay, there is a huge opportunity to reach them with a deal that will tip the scale in favor of a particular hotel. Enhanced Campaigns provide that opportunity. Many other categories can also benefit from Enhanced Campaigns when approached strategically.
Activating Enhanced Campaigns requires creating standard text ads and mobile-optimized text ads in a campaign. Mobile-optimized ads are designated by changing the “Device preference” setting to “Mobile.” Essentially, ads designated as “Mobile” will be given preference on mobile devices. Properly implementing this feature takes forethought and a deep understanding of your customers’ behaviors and habits. What information are they seeking when searching from mobile? What message is likely to result in a conversion? It may not be what you think. Focus on Analytics to spot trends in historical data and then test messages. Be sure to set your ad rotation to “Rotate Evenly” in campaign set-up to give ads a chance to build traffic and prove themselves. Once the campaign is up and running, take advantage of bid adjustments for device, time, day, and location to maximize your exposure at the times that are most important to your customer.
Depending on the source, customers go through up to five stages and visit a website up to seven times before actually making a purchase decision. Take a look at the Frequency and Recency report in Analytics to get an idea of what kind of cycle your visitors follow. For advanced “days to purchase” and “visits to purchase” analysis, follow Google evangelist Avinash Kaushik’s method. This data will give you a glimpse into how useful remarketing tactics can be for your business in order to capture visitors who have demonstrated interest but haven’t yet converted. The key to successful remarketing is in determining why your visitors left and how you could bring them back. Start by reviewing top exit pages. What kind of information is on the page? Perhaps they entered the site on a specific keyword and exited on a page that didn’t address their intent. Did they exit on a rates page? Perhaps your price structure didn’t sit well with them. What information can you deliver to those users that might lure them back to the page? If they exited just before final purchase confirmation, perhaps they need one little incentive to sweeten the deal.
Once you have a hold on what is motivating your audience and what could bring them back, set up a new audience in the AdWords Audiences Shared Library. For example, you may designate a group that viewed the costs page but didn’t purchase. AdWords will guide you through this set-up process. The designated audience can then be chosen when you set up a display remarketing campaign, after which you tailor ads accordingly.
3. Match Type
More may be better when it comes to happy customers who make purchases. But the PPC path that leads to conversions is not necessarily defined by the same theory. Specifically, I’m talking about impressions. There are occasions when campaign KPIs (key performance indicators) do focus on impressions, when getting the message in front of eyeballs trumps any subsequent actions. In most digital initiatives, however, the customer is prompted to take a next step and a conversion is measured, whether it’s a straightforward purchase, a site interaction or a page visited, among others. In these situations, not all impressions are created equal. An impression that results in a click and a conversion brings much more value to your business than an impression that falls flat, even when paying on a cost-per-click basis. Your campaign organization will be tighter, your targeting will be more focused and your quality score will improve when your impressions result in more than just an impression.
Keyword match type is a key component in this process. AdWords defaults to a broad match type in campaign set-up. This means when you bid on the keyword saint patrick’s day green beer, your ad will be eligible to serve to search terms that include any of those words in any order. You could serve in search results for green day albums or patrick’s dry cleaning. Google doesn’t like this (relevancy). Your customers don’t like this (again, relevancy). You should not like this (because you don’t want to become irrelevant). By changing your match type, you tighten your targeting. Change the same term to a phrase match for “Saint Patrick’s Day Green Beer” and you will now only serve to search inquiries that include that phrase: Vermont Saint Patrick’s Day Green beer or bars serving saint patrick’s day green beer. In some instances, you may want to tighten your keyword even further by choosing exact match. In this case, users have to search the exact keyword you are bidding on with no other words before or after. This ensures relevancy, but take care in utilizing the exact match to avoid being too restrictive. I also recommend that you opt to include close variations in your campaign set-up, which covers misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, abbreviations, etc. To help guide which match type to use, take advantage of the “keyword details” function in AdWords to see which keywords are triggering your ads.
Unlike banner ad CPM buys in 2000, the proof will be in the Analytics. Implement these changes as it makes sense for your organization and watch the numbers for improvements in your site traffic and conversions.