What is PPC and How To Manage Your PPC Campaign
You've probably heard of PPC or Pay Per Click Marketing and how many businesses are using it to drive highly targeted traffic to their website without the investment of time required in SEO. However you probably don't have any idea where to start.
If you Google “manage PPC” you’ll find plenty of consultants, or campaign managers, willing to assist you with your PPC campaign – for a fee. But you can actually do it yourself, and with the right advice be very successful.
Before you embark on a PPC campaign, make sure you’re prepared to invest sufficient time and money in it to be successful. A half-hearted attempt to do PPC will inevitably result in a sore back pocket and a disillusioned feeling of ‘I’ve tried it but won’t do it again’. This isn’t to put you off; it’s just to make sure you go into PPC having done your homework and with your eyes wide open.
But let’s just go over exactly what PPC is.
When certain keywords or phrases are typed in to Google, you can have an ad appear as a sponsored listing in a prominent place on the results page. You only pay if someone clicks your ad.
Some common applications for PPC marketing are:
- You have a new website and you wish to drive traffic straight away rather than wait for the search engines to catch on
- You are launching a new product on your website and you wish to drive targeted traffic to that page
- You wish to test out different keywords before investing in the time and effort required to optimize for SEO
- Building a sustainable PPC campaign that offers a consistent return on investment - i.e. drives traffic in enough quantities to pay for the advertising
While there are a variety of different PPC advertisers out there, we will focus on Google AdWords in this article.
Start with pen and paper
The first step in building a campaign on AdWords really doesn’t involve AdWords at all - it requires only a pen and a piece of paper.
This is where you need to ask yourself a number of questions about the campaign you wish to run on AdWords:
- What market niche have you selected for your campaign?
- Which specific product or line of products within that selected niche will be marketed through this campaign?
- In which specific geographical region (city, state, region, nation, or worldwide) do you plan to run your campaign?
- Do you plan to run this campaign in English, or in a different language?
- Do you plan to distribute your campaign through search engines, content sites, or a combination of the two?
- Do you have a specific budget in mind for your campaign?
You can organize your campaign around any one of these variables. But until you have these variables in place, your campaign has nowhere to go.
Build your keyword list
Building an effective keyword list is also a vital part of the planning process. Keyword tools such as Traffic Travis can help you create and maintain a keyword list that is based on actual searches in your niche.
Once you’ve built up your keyword list, Traffic Travis provides some great PPC analysis tools that can help you size up the competition. How many competitors are bidding on the keyword, who they are, how many keywords they are bidding for from your list, their ad rankings and even what their ad looks like.
Traffic Travis will actually store information about your competitors AdWords activity so you can see if they continue to use the same keywords – obviously if they do, then these are profitable keywords that it would be worth adding to your own keyword list.
Divide your keyword list into themes or groups as well. This will translate over to Google AdWords well as you can divide your campaign into Ad Groups for greater focus on a specific part of your niche. For example if you’re in the golf niche, you may have one group of keywords relating to improving your swing, another group focused on advanced club technology etc.
Managing your PPC campaign
While you can run a PPC campaign without monitoring it, it would be similar to running a business and not doing any bookkeeping. It would be fine for awhile until the money runs out (and you have no idea where it all went!), so if you want to do PPC long term, be sure to manage it carefully. And, as the old saying goes, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. So use the tools provided!
Google provide a lot of tools to help you manage, or measure, your AdWords campaign effectively. You can manage your campaign either online or offline.
Online – You can make changes using your online AdWords account. These secure web pages provide you with up-to-the-minute information about how your AdWords are performing (for more detail see the ‘What do the numbers mean?’ box). You can update anything to do with your campaign using this online tool and the changes are instantly live.
What do the numbers mean?
The Google AdWords tool provides a wealth of information. This should help you translate the report data.
- Campaign Name - a list of your campaigns, with each name linking to a breakdown of the ad groups within the campaign and other statistics.
- Current Status - indicates one of five possible designations for the status of each campaign: Pending, Active, Paused, Ended, and Deleted. More on this in the Campaign Status section.
- Current Budget -indicates the daily budget you have set up for each campaign. Clicks - tells you the number of clicks the ads in your campaign have received. Impr. - states the number of impressions your ad has received on Google or its network sites.
- CTR - gives you the click-through rate of each of your campaign ads. Avg. CPC - indicates the average cost that you accrue for clicks on your campaign ads. Avg. CPM - outlines your ad cost per 1,000 impressions.
- Cost - is the total cost that your campaign ads have accrued during a time frame of your choosing. Conv. Rate - gives you the conversion rate for your campaign ads; that is, the number of clicks that resulted in actual conversions for you.
- Cost/Conv. - indicates the cost per conversion you received during your campaign; this is attained by dividing the number in the Cost column by the total number of conversions.
- Offline – This tool (a free downloadable tool called the AdWords editor) is basically the same as the online campaign manager but essentially allows you to make your changes offline and test them, including getting feedback from other users, before uploading them to the web and making them live. It also allows for bulk changes and copying or moving items between ad groups, campaigns, and accounts.
Now that you've started your campaign
Once you have a campaign set up and running, you inevitably will want to make some adjustments to it, either to maximize the performance of a well-running campaign or to kick-start a potentially dead-end campaign. AdWords makes the process of editing various aspects of your campaign quick and easy.
There is some misconception that a PPC campaign is simply ‘set and forget’. While this would be nice, it’s simply not true. If you want a positive ROI (Return On Investment) and actually make a profit then you’ll need to actively manage and monitor your campaign.
And while your clickthrough rates may be impressive, you need to look at the big picture. Do those clickthroughs actually convert to sales? You may need to view your AdWords reports along with your site metrics (e.g. Google Analytics) to make sure those visitors clicking through from your AdWords are actually buying. This is sometimes more easily determined when the order confirmation page is on your own site, but many merchants are now providing PPC conversion tracking so even if use direct linking you’ll be able to know from analytics reports what clicks actually turned into sales.
When to press pause on your campaign
If your campaign is going well and making you money you may think this section is out of place but believe it or not there are times when it is prudent to either pause or stop your campaign. Campaigns can easily be paused or deleted using the AdWords campaign manager tool. If the campaign is too successful – There’s no point running a campaign for a product that you’ve
sold out of.
- Negative ROI – This is an obvious one, but needs to be said. If you’re campaign is losing money it might be an idea to at least pause it until you figure out what’s wrong.
- Your reporting tool has gone on the blink – If you were a pilot would you still fly if your instruments weren’t working? While a rare situation, if your Google or Yahoo! reporting has gone down then it’s a good idea to pause your campaigns.
- Time of day – If you have the time you can maximize your profits by only running your campaign when it’s profitable. This may mean that you’ll stop or slow down (reduce your bid threshold) at certain times such as weekends or nights.
- Click fraud – Click fraud can be reported on using your Google AdWords campaign tool. If you are getting a lot of click fraud, it might be best to pause your campaign until you come up with a different plan.
- Ego bidders – Occasionally you may get new keyword bidders in your niche that are bidding more on ego than a realistic ROI. This can often happen if your niche suddenly comes into the limelight and becomes the latest fad. If this happens you have two options – continue increasing your bids to match them or hold off until the ego bidders have emptied their pockets and moved on.
Don’t take your eye off the ball
Managing your PPC campaign can seem time-consuming and labor-intensive. But you will get quicker and more efficient as time goes by, and you accrue more experience in running PPC campaigns. Remember even the pros made a lot of mistakes when they first got started! Stay focused and keep a constant eye on your reports, continually tweaking and optimizing your PPC campaigns, determining which keywords are performing well and which ones need work. Don’t give up too quickly, not only does a longer run campaign reduce your bid costs but your reports will paint a more accurate picture, giving you added control as you effectively manage your PPC campaign.