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Managing Effective PPC Campaigns

Wednesday, March 30 2011 10:44 AM
By Scott Thome

Let me first inject some common sense into this topic: pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is not for everybody.  Not every product, service or idea will benefit from a PPC campaign just like Facebook, YouTube and other social media venues are not the golden arrow in your marketing quiver.  Before you become intoxicated with the latest buzz words and insider jargon, don't forget successful marketing still follows these time-tested basic steps:

  1. Identify your goal(s)
  2. Manage campaign expectations and set a budget
  3. Implementation
  4. Report and Analysis
  5. *and with PPC: wash, rinse, and repeat

Identify Your Goals
This is the most crucial step, and the most commonly overlooked one.  Your goal can be as simple as "selling more widgets" or "generating more website leads."  Your goal directly affects your budget and campaign implementation.  Many times, you or your client may have multiple goals, and that is just fine because you can fragment your PPC efforts as needed.

Manage Campaign Expectations and Set a Budget
This is where the goal(s) need to be analyzed and brought back down to reality.  Not all goals are obtainable, and you or the client needs to understand that early on.  It may not be possible to increase widget sales by 400% or bring in 100 qualified website leads in a month due to a lack of customer base.  In a case like that, throwing a huge budget at the PPC campaign just won't generate enough good leads.  Lofty goals that are attainable may simply require a larger budget, so managing the expectation-budget relationship will be the basis for a solid PPC campaign.

With goals, expectations and budget in hand, you can now develop a method of getting more customers.  First, research the market, competition, and where you or your client falls on the field.  You can't hit a target if you don't have a starting point.  Next gather keywords/phrases and setup a PPC campaign that supports the goals. Third, write relevant ad copy.  PPC ads are still ads, and need to be written like traditional advertisements (only with limited characters).  Stuffing your ads with keywords may not read well to customers, so make sure you're catering to your audience.

Most people click on a PPC ad for a purpose - they're either looking for more info or are ready to make a sale. The landing page(s) for your campaign should close that sale.  That may require you to design a brand new page to collect those PPC leads, or perhaps you already have a web page in place that will accommodate those leads.  Ultimately, you do not want the potential lead to stray off your intended path.  Once they're on the site, you want them to take an action that will help you or the client achieve their goal.

Report and Analyze
Most PPC ad networks offer a variety of reporting and tracking tools, and you should become intimately familiar with those tools.  It is ideal to setup additional tracking on the landing pages so that you can track visitors from click to lead.  You should keep a constant eye on the campaign to see how things are going.  Again, every campaign is different, but I find more value in quarterly reports than daily, weekly or monthly reports.  Search traffic is so variable, that deep quarterly analysis paints a better picture than anything else.  Campaign expectations will govern what reports are run, but I find that ROI calculations are more important than anything.  If a PPC campaign shows that the cost-per-lead is 1200% lower than my clients' print, tv, or radio advertising, and PPC leads are converting, then it becomes a no-brainer as to where my clients' should be putting their advertising dollars.  So, not only have you shown how PPC is working, but you've also helped a client make smarter marketing decisions that directly affect their bottom line.   Pretty cool.

Wash, Rinse, and Repeat
PPC campaigns usually take a few months to really get their feet on the ground and running. Sometimes, a goal is extremely specific, and that guides what keywords, demographics and ads are to be used.  Most times, goals are multi-faceted with a broad demographic and/or geographical target.  The reality with PPC advertising is that it may be difficulty to know the search patterns of your customers until you've been in the trenches a while.  You may think that your customers are searching for "boys shirts" when they are actually searching for "graphic tees."  Initial research will discover insights like that, but campaign analysis will help you refine and optimize your PPC efforts.  Do not get discouraged if the campaign starts off slowly or has a couple bad months. Stay nimble and refine the campaign over time.  Refine your goals if needed.

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