In the previous edition to these series of blogs I discussed the view by many of how paid search has apparently become a commoditised product. I touched on how this notion has come into the minds of people, but really wanted to focus on the point that there is always more that can be achieved in paid search, in which case it should never be thought of as commoditised. In the following blogs, I want to go deeper into the methods for how PPC managers should be maximising the potential of their paid campaigns.
Getting the fundamentals of a PPC campaign correct are crucial for long term growth and success in paid search. Many people reading this blog are already likely to know what these are, but I’ll cover them off anyway:
- Granular, organised account structure
- Deep level keywords – from generic to long tail
- Suitable match-type strategies and negative keywords
- Targeted ad creative allowed by tightly targeted adgroups
- Concise, yet character space maximised ad creative with USPs and clear call to actions
- Deep linked landing pages
- Short and long term bidding strategies
The above are the fundamentals, but none of them should be left alone once created. All of the above elements lend themselves to experimentation and optimisation. Structures can be modified, keywords can be added or removed, and their match-types experimented with. Negatives keywords should be regularly added following search query analysis, and the performance of ad creative formats should be analysed in terms of both CTR and conversion rate, modified, and tested. Similarly, landing pages should be tested for conversion performance, and bidding strategies should be based around conversion rate and positioning.
All of these optimisations are absolute basics, in that they increase relevant exposure, reduce wasted cost, improve CTRs and Quality Scores, and improve conversion rate – but all should be optimised regularly (every month makes sense in most cases, more regularly in others). Without perpetual optimisation of paid search fundamentals, campaign performance won’t improve to the levels that it could be, and those competitors who are optimising will begin to catch up or pull away.
Unsure if your account is getting the perpetual optimisation as it should? A simple check of the change history should show you the activity in the account.
It’s true that most PPC campaigns are front heavy in terms of workload. Naturally there will be more work to do to begin with when it’s a new account build or a fresh takeover, with more search queries to analyse, keywords to add/remove/modify as data builds, ad creative to test, features to add etc. However, just because a campaign matures doesn’t mean the work should stop, not even close. Here are a few reasons why:
Behaviour Changes – Over a long enough period of time, the behaviour of searchers will inevitably change. This could be due to seasonality, market or industry changes, or simply development of users’ search intelligence. Whatever the reasons, search term usage and behaviour relating to those searches will evolve and campaign management must react to this.
Data Validity – Actions can always be made based on data, but those decisions will only ever be made with a certain level of confidence. More data, more confidence. Just because there isn’t a huge amount data build up, doesn’t mean that the data is invalid or that actions can’t be made, but that level of confidence always has to be considered, and the actions revisited when more data is present. As behaviours, markets and strategies change, that data can become less valid and the data build up has to start over. It’s a perpetual cycle – so there’s no room to get complacent.
Product & Marketing Development – This is a pretty obvious one, but I’m often amazed by how much it gets forgotten. A company and website’s product(s) should be developing. In almost all cases I can think of, if they aren’t then that’s problem in itself. As products change, PPC campaigns need to follow suit with suitable structure, keyword and ad creative changes. Similarly, as marketing strategy develops, the likes of promotion and messaging does too. Integrated marketing is a fundamental principle and that absolutely includes search. As products, marketing and search strategies change, so does the data, restarting the cycle of the data validity from the previous point.
Test, Test, Test More – If you’ve heard it once, you’ve probably heard it a million times, but testing is crucial to get anywhere close to an optimised campaign. Whether it’s testing keywords, match-types, ad messaging or landing pages, a structured hypothesis testing will take campaign performance to the next level. A good campaign manager will have a list of elements they plan to test. A great campaign manager will take action from the testing to optimise performance even more…..and line up further tests on the back of it. There are always more tests that can be carried out, so don’t let it stop.
Marginal increases on many factors – Lots of small changes can have a major impact. Impression volume, CTR, CPC, conversion rate, average order value – if all of these are improved by a marginal amount then profit could in theory (depending on market prices) improve by more than the sum of its parts.
In the above example, 1% improvement on each of the 5 elements will improve profit by 6.1%. The percentage of profit improvement is determined by the CPC and AOV.
There really are no excuses for lack of work on a paid search account. Work should never stop. Even if the work being carried out is data build up for testing or only minor changes on a mature account, it all adds up…..as long as the right changes are being made!
So if you’re PPC manager, marketing department or search agency claim that a lack of work on the account is because it is optimised, it’s time to have words!
In the next blog I’ll discuss the component which can really separate the men from the boys – time and cost efficiencies.
Find the other blogs in this series below – more to follow: