Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pay Per Click Shockers and Secrets

Pay per click (PPC), particularly Google’s Ad Words, is a marketing channel that can produce profitable results for your business, whether your goal is lead generation or sales.

I have been managing PPC for businesses, as an in-house marketing leader as well marketing consultant, for over a decade now.

Though the years I have noticed many secrets to success that I wanted to share -- especially with business owners and marketers that haven’t tried PPC yet.

First, I’d like to clear the air about a big shocker… or actually a fallacy… that you need a big budget to run an effective PPC campaign.

You don’t. If you happen to have a large budget, your ads will be shown more and you can spread out your ad groups and test different types. With a smaller budget, you do need to be more judicious with your efforts. But if you market smarter, not broader, your campaigns can still produce positive results.

I have run PPC campaigns with total monthly budgets of $1,000. I have run campaigns with total daily maximum budgets ranging from $25-$50. These campaigns brought in both sales and leads despite their limited spending. But they do require active management, strategic thinking, deep PPC knowledge, and refinement/optimization.

The PPC Tri-Pod
What is going to determine the cost and return of your campaign are 3 simple things I call the “PPC Tri-pod”, as it supports your entire PPC efforts:
1) Keywords
2) Creative (or banner ad, if it’s running on the display network)
3) Redirect URL
So in order for you to get the most bang for your buck with PPC you should be aware of a few things regarding the PPC Tri-pod:

Keywords. The more popular the keyword, the more cost per click (CPC) it’s going to have. So it’s very important to do your keyword research before you start selecting your keywords as you’re setting up your campaign.

I like to use The ‘lite’ version is free, but you can also upgrade to the full version and see more results and have more capabilities for a monthly fee. Google used to have their Keyword External Tool, which has since morphed into Google Adwords Keyword Planner. You need a gmail account to access this free tool.

Either of these tools will allow you to enter keywords or keyword phrases and then view popularity (actual search results) as well as what the average CPCs are. This is important for your keyword selection and bidding. You can also type in your ‘core’ or focus keywords and get additional ad group/keyword ideas. To help refine your search terms you can also choice broad match, broad match modifier, phrase match, exact match and negative match.
If you pick a word that is too vague or too under-searched, your ad will not see much (or any) action. Impressions will either not be served, or if they are served (in the case of a vague word), it may cost you a high CPC. In addition, a vague keyword may not be relevant enough to get you a good conversion rate. Since you pay by the click, your goal is to monetize that click by getting an instant conversion. And conversions, my friends, will be the role of the landing page. I’ll talk about that more in a moment.

Creative. This is your text ad (or banner ad, if you’re running in Ad Word’s display network).  For Google to rank your ad favorably, and more important, for you to get the best conversion results possible – there needs to be a relevancy and synergy between your keyword, text ad and landing page. Google will let you know if you’re not passing muster by your ad’s page position and quality score. Once you carefully researched and selected your ad group keywords, you want to make sure those keywords are consistent across the board with your ad and landing page. Your text ad has 4 visible lines with limited character count:

Headline (25 Characters)
Description Line 1 (35 Characters)
Description Line 2 (35 Characters)
Display URL (35 Characters)

Your keyword must appear in your text ad as well as follow through and appear in the content of your landing page.

This will give you a good quality rank with Google, but also help qualify the prospect and carry the relevancy of the ad through to the landing page. Why is this important? It helps maintain consistency of the message and also set expectations with the end user. You don’t want to present one add and then have a completely different landing page come up.

Not only is that a ‘bait and switch’, but it’s costly. Since you’re paying for clicks, a great ad that is compelling and keyword rich, but not cohesive to your landing page will not convert as best as one that is. And your campaign will actually lose conversions.

Redirect URL. This is your landing page. Different goals and different industries will have different formats. A lead generation campaign, which is just looking to collect email addresses to build an opt-in email list, will be a ‘squeeze page’. This is simply a landing page with a form asking for first name and email address in return for giving something away for free albeit a bonus report, free newsletter subscription or similar. It’s got its name since it’s ‘squeezing’ an email address from the prospect. Some retail campaigns will direct prospects directly to their ecommerce site or catalog page  (as opposed to a sales page). Direct response online marketers will drive their traffic to a targeted promotional landing page.  Where it’s not typically a webpage where there’s other navigation or distractions that will take the prospect away from the main goal. It’s more streamlined and focused. The copy is not technical, it’s compelling and emotional, like promotional copy you would see in a sales letter. The anatomy of your redirect URL will vary on your goal and offer. It will take optimization and testing to see what’s working and what’s not. And that’s par for the course. If you’re testing, I suggest elements that scream and not whisper, such as long copy vs. short copy, or headlines and leads that are different themes. However, no matter what your goal, whether it’s going for the sale or the email address, you still need keyword consistency between all creative elements.

Tips And Tricks For Maximum ROI

Whether you have a big or small budget, there’s a few things I’ve learned over the years that help the overall performance of a PPC campaign. Some of these are anecdotal, so if you’ve seen otherwise, I suggest testing to see if it makes a difference to your particular industry.

Ad and Landing Page. In general, I have noticed that shorter, to the point, landing pages produce better results. And the rationale is quite obvious. People searching the Web are looking for quick solutions to a problem.  This means your creatives have to not only be keyword rich, but compelling and eye-caching. You have seconds to grave a Web surfers attention and get them to click. In the same essence, the landing page has to be equally relevant and persuasive, and typically shorter in copy. Keep in mind Google has many rules surrounding ad copy development. So write your text ads in accordance to their advertising policy.

Price Point. Again, in my personal experience, most Web surfers have a price threshold. And that’s items under about $79. When running a PPC campaign, think about price points that are more tolerable to ‘cold’ prospects, that is, people that haven’t built a relationship with you or know anything about you. They have no brand loyalty. They don’t know you from Adam. So getting a sale at a lower price point is an easier sell than a product you have that hundreds of dollars. Luxury items or items with strong recognition and brand loyalty are the exception to that rule. As a direct response marketer, I urge you to price test and see for yourself.

Campaign set up. There’s a few tactics I noticed helps with ad exposure, clicks and saving money. When you’re setting up your campaign you can day part, frequency cap and run ad extensions. Day parting allows you to select the hours of the day you’d like your campaign to run; Ad extensions allows you to add components to your text ad to help visibility and call to action such as location, site links, reviews and more; And frequency capping lets you set a 
threshold on how many times you’d like a given person to see your ad (based on impressions).

PPC Networks. It’s smart not to put all your eggs in one basket.  In addition to Google Ad Words, try running campaigns on other PPC networks such as Bing/Yahoo, Adroll (retargeting through Facebook),, (formerly, and Then see where you get the best cost per click, cost per conversion, and overall results.

I’ve only touched the surface here. There are more tactics and features that can help a PPC campaigns performance. So get yourself familiar with it, read up on the best practices, and don’t be afraid to put your toe in the water.  As with any marketing tactic, some channels will work for your business, and some won’t. But you won’t know unless you test. Just remember the foundation of success hinges on the PPC Tri-Pod. The possibilities are endless.  

UPDATE: If you'd like to get more for your budget... or you are new to PPC and want to put your toe in the water for a minium budget, try testing Bing before you try Google Ad Words. Bing is effective and typically has a lower cost per click, therefore you get more for money with your overall budget. I ran two campaigns at the same time, identical keywords, one on Bing and one on Google. For one month, the Bing campaign had almost 4x higher click rate, and cost me about $500. The Google campaign, with the same ads and keywords, cost me about $1500 and had a click rate of between 1-2%. Part of the reason is market share. Google has more and hence more people are bidding for the same keywords driving up the cost per click rate. 

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