There is an old saying in advertising and marketing:
“Half of your marketing is working – the only problem is, we don’t know which half.”
Have a think about the advertising you do currently. How much of this do you know is working? How much of the money you spend on brochures and sales and marketing do you actually know delivers a return?
Digital marketing tools like Google AdWords and Google Analytics can give you these answers. You can measure how much you pay and what actions users take when they visit your website. You can accurately determine if your digital marketing spend is delivering the goods and at what cost.
Unfortunately, whilst digital marketing provides these tools, most advertisers still find themselves in a situation where they don’t know what is working. The ubiquity of search engines in our modern lives has led advertisers to skip straight past considerations for strategy, planning, and measurement and dive straight into tactical marketing efforts like Pay-Per-Click and SEO, where they are as equally unsure if their efforts are delivering a meaningful return for their business.
Strategy, Planning & Measurement
Fortunately, there is a better way. Smart targeted advertising and measurement start with strategy and planning. Likewise, this is best undertaken on a platform like Google AdWords where you can start quickly and ably measure your results through integration with Google Analytics.
Google AdWords allows you to display targeted advertising across Google’s search engines but also across related search sites such as YouTube and Google Maps. You can reach further still with the Google Display network and show adverts on a wide range of content sites like The Independent, eBay, and many, many others across all content categories.
In this guide, we will outline a model for successful online advertising. We will outline how you can develop a framework that clearly considers business objectives, goals, and audience for the campaign.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
Chapter 1: How to Develop a Successful PPC Marketing Model
Successful online advertising requires ongoing work and optimisation to improve performance and results. Paid search, in particular, is a moving target with advertisers vying for the keywords and ad positions that deliver the goods. With so many variations refining your model, maximising output and reducing input is critical.
Developing a solid framework and foundation is crucial to the success of your campaigns. You must clearly outline the business objectives, goals, and audiences for each campaign. Where you have existing campaigns, you must revisit these concepts to ensure your ads are aligned with your business goals (and are delivering the goods).
The following model considers objectives, goals, audience, and targeting to ensure your PPC is based on a solid strategy with clear measures in place to analyse and improve as you go.
Chapter 2: How to Set Clear and Achievable Objectives for Your PPC Strategy
We must first clearly outline our objectives. This first step is where most campaigns fail before they are even off the digital starting blocks. We must clearly identify our objectives for the campaign and tie the campaign objectives to business objectives.
Example objectives include:
- Raising awareness of the business with the local audience
- Selling a product or service to new customers
- Selling a product or service to existing customers
This will need to be tailored to your specific business and you may be more focused on leads than sales. However, the idea is the same and you will want to map your objectives to a typical marketing funnel:
Build an audience for your product, service, or business
Educate your audience with regards to your offering
Generate sales or leads for your product, service, or business
Keep existing customers happy and create upsell opportunities
Consider the following example for a newly opened dentist surgery:
Awareness – Increase the number of people that know about the dentists
Engagement – Increase the number of people that are interested in using the dentist
Conversions – Booked a check-up
Retention – Additional work and bi-yearly check-ups
Given that this is a new dentist surgery, the initial part of the campaign should focus on awareness and engagement. We would also look to set up conversion and retention (follow-ups) goals, but our main objective is to build an audience.
This is important as our goals determine how we measure success. If we are looking to build an audience then we are looking at ad impressions, total clicks, pages viewed, time on site etc. We would also hope that improvements here feed directly into conversion-related goals so we can demonstrate that increased awareness and engagement leads to an increase in appointments booked.
Chapter 3: How to Set Goals to Measure the Success of Your PPC Campaign
We must establish goals to measure the success of our campaign. These should be directly tied to the stated objectives, as well as being measurable and achievable as business objectives may have more than one goal.
Building on the dentist example we may have the following goals:
– Increase the number of people that know about the dentists
- Increase ad impressions
- Increase number of pages and total pages per visit viewed on the website
– Booked a check-up
- Used special offer for free check-up
– Increase number of people interested in using the dentist
- View the location page
- View the price page
- Email newsletter sign up (on back of special to incentivise)
- Social media follow (special offer to incentivise)
- Read blog content
– Additional work and bi-yearly check-ups
- View new booking page
- Refer a friend (incentivised)
- Click through from email newsletter
- Click through from SMS
Google Analytics allows for page or engagement-based goals to measure your campaign performance. This is not so easy with awareness driving activities and as such you will want to measure advert impressions, ad clicks, and view-through conversions (conversions that happen after a user has seen but not clicked an advert).
It is important to track as many actions and goals as possible. This is what really drives understanding and insight from your analytics data. It is trivial to remove or disable goals if you feel there is too much going on, but by having as much engagement data as possible you will derive further insights regarding which campaigns are delivering the goods.
Chapter 4: How to Understand Your Audience for a Laser-Targeted PPC Strategy
Before we can create our campaign we must clearly understand our target audience. This will help us develop the campaign structure and inform the way you create the campaign.
To understand our audience we can ask the following questions:
Who are your customers? Better still, who are your ideal customers? If you have worked on a digital marketing plan then you have hopefully detailed your customers and ideal customers. You have explored their wants and needs in marketing personas. Job, sex, age, marital status and whether they are parents are all useful demographics for our dentist example.
You need to know what your audience is looking for and what they are interested in. For a search campaign, this is going to include a look at the keywords that your prospects will search with. I would always look at this through the entire buying cycle where it makes sense to do so.
Ask where your audience is located. Paid search platforms like Google AdWords offer laser-targeted geographical targeting so take some time to identify where your customers are. Also, consider where your ideal customers are. If you target the whole of the UK but believe your best customers are in London you could bid more across London postcodes.
For our dentist, we may target users who live or work near the surgery. Considering demographics and location allows us to conceptualise campaigns where we target single professionals who work near the surgery and married families who live near the surgery.
The key to successful advertising is truly understanding the wants and needs of your customers, so you need to ask why would your customers want what you have to offer? With simple customer profiling and an understanding of the marketplace, you can more carefully craft and communicate your USPs. Let the customers’ whys inform the creative of your campaign so you are serving a very real need or interest.
When are your customers online and how do they behave? Is the user searching for information or simply browsing the web? This distinction is critical in determining when in the buying cycle you advertise a product that someone is not yet aware they want or need and is somewhat different to how you tap into a specific and instant requirement. In practice, most users will extensively research a product or service in 2017 and beyond.
Taking our dentist as an example, we can break the keywords down into four main categories: problem, research, compare and buy.
Problem – Toothache, bleeding gums (etc)
Research – Dentist, dentist Sutton Coldfield (home), dentist Birmingham (work)
Compare – Dentist reviews, [brand] dentist, reviews, [brand] dentist prices, [brand] dentist opening hours, dentist availability calendar
Buy – [Brand] dentist book online
Websites – http://www.example.co.uk/toothache, http://www.example2.com/bleeding-gums/
For a display (banner) campaign we will want to see what websites the user visits and where we could potentially show banner adverts. Google provides a range of targeting options, one of which is specific placements, so keep an eye out for sites that are highly returned for the keywords you are looking to advertise around and make a note of these.
Joining the Dots
With five basic questions in place let us imagine an individual with an awful toothache. They search for ‘toothache’ and find a page detailing some short-term solutions. This page shows banner adverts and you show your banner on there for 24/7 emergency dentistry. They click the ad, call the number, and you have a lead.
This catches the user right in the moment as they research their problem and certainly before they go back to the search engine and conduct a search (and click on one of your far more expensive search adverts).
Speculative advertising for a dentist’s surgery could be a tough job. However, if you are trying to sell a new model of mountain bike or promote an event where people can test ride bikes to people reading mountain bike reviews, you will likely have more success.
The trick here is to understand the audience and build a campaign around their wants and needs.
Filling out the following basic fields (where relevant) will help you get a handle on who your customers are and better identify opportunities to target them with search and display adverts.
Chapter 5: How to Target Your PPC Ads to Your Ideal Customers
With a clear understanding of our objectives and audience, we can now determine how we want to target our prospects across the AdWords network.
The following targeting options exist and it is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Search Network with Display Select
This option shows adverts on the Google Search engine and partner sites. It also shows adverts on relevant sites across the Google display network (websites and over video) in an automated fashion.
Search Network Only
Shows ads on the Google search network and partner search sites (where selected).
Display Network Only
Display text, image, and interactive ads on websites relevant to what you are selling.
Display highly automated product-specific adverts above and to the right of the Google search results.
Connect with customers using video ads shown before appropriate Youtube videos.
Ad Format Tips
As a general rule of thumb, you will start with Search Network Only adverts. If you are looking to use display or re-marketing, it makes sense to break these out into their own campaigns with their own goals so you more easily understand what is and is not working.
You can also specify the device target for your ad campaigns:
For many businesses with short lead times (emergency plumber) then mobile-specific adverts with a click-to-call button can deliver strong results. The trick is to tailor your adverts to deliver the best results based on how your users browse the web.
AdWords has laser-focused location targeting:
- All countries
It generally makes sense to target areas where you already have success and branch out accordingly. AdWords also allows you to increase your bid by location so you may pay more for major cities like London and Birmingham where you know competition is fierce and clicks will convert.
Ads can be shown on given days and times to best support your objectives:
- All days and times
- Certain days
- Certain times
If you only take calls between 9 am and 5 pm Monday to Friday then running a mobile click-to-call campaign at these times will only infuriate your users. You could have a campaign that targets calls in work hours and then drives users to an enquiry form at all other times.
Keywords are the primary targeting method for your adverts and as such, you should spend some time really getting to grips with how your customers search. For some businesses, this can be straightforward (emergency plumber) and for others, it can take a little more work.
Choosing Your Keywords
We work with three basic steps:
- Research and brainstorming session – what would your users search?
- Expand on these using a keyword research tool (we like ubersuggest)
- Review the numbers in the AdWords Keyword Planner
I also like to conduct an audit of all the keywords we have selected and quickly Google them. This allows us to survey the results to ensure that what we see is relevant to what we want to show for. Google has a lot of data regarding search engine user intent, so this can be an enlightening step.
Finally, whilst Googling these keywords, we often see a ‘searches related to’ box at the bottom of the page which may well add a few more variations to your list.
With these three basic steps, we can choose our basic keyword targeting list.
Every bit as the keywords we wish to target are the keywords we wish to exclude. The suggestions returned by Übersuggest can be a goldmine for a pre-emptive negative keyword strategy (and a jump-in point for your own research on negatives). The more time you spend here the more wasted clicks (money) you will save and the quicker your quality scores will go up, helping you get the most from your budget.
The following match types exist from very tight to loose:
Exact Match – Square brackets indicate that an exact match of the keyword is required
Phrase Match – Double quotes indicate that the phrase must be matched but any words before or after will also trigger the advert
Modified Broad Match – Keywords with a ‘+’ symbol indicate that the specific word prefixed with a ‘+’ must be present in the search query
Broad Match – Google will match on this keyword or any related phrases or synonyms
Choosing match types that best suit your campaign can take some time and effort. Exact match will often result in too little volume for new campaigns and broad match shows your adverts for too wide an array of terms.
With new campaigns, we often start with our primary terms as exact match and modified broad match. We can then use the search terms report to see what exact terms are getting traction and then refine our keyword targeting and bids.
Ultimately, you will use a mixture of exact, phrase, and modified broad to determine what best works for your ad campaign.
Note* AdWords uses a concept of match types. That is, keywords can be very specific or loosely indicate a given topic where AdWords will show adverts for all related or variations on a term.
When you are showing banner adverts you can specify sites or even pages on sites where you would like your adverts to appear. This supplements keyword and topic targeting and provides a much more granular approach.
Let us assume you sell green widgets. A user searches for ‘best green widgets’ and several widget related blog pages come up extolling the benefits of green widget A vs green widget B etc.
If these sites show adverts via the Google display network, you can show your ads on these sites. It may so happen that your ad would display here anyway, but by specifying a site or page you can fine-tune bids for these important pages to maximise exposure for your brand (or green widgets).
By profiling your customers and understanding the sites they frequent, you can use managed placements to run a cost-effective and targeted ad campaign.
This chapter provides you with the primary elements required to accurately target your campaign – summarise all of these in a table as below and you can use this to build out a new campaign or review the targeting on an existing campaign.
Chapter 6: How to Structure Your PPC Campaign for Maximum ROI
You must now consider how to best structure your campaign within Google AdWords. These basic building blocks are campaigns and ad groups contained within those campaigns. How you structure this will depend upon your business and marketing.
Factors to consider in structuring your campaign include:
- Products & Services
- Website Structure
- Networks (Search & Display)
If you were a locksmith operating in London, Birmingham, and Manchester, you may have three campaigns that targeted each location. Within these campaigns, you would have ad groups targeting different keywords.
If you were an e-commerce store selling green, red, and blue widgets nationwide, you will likely have a single campaign with an ad group for the green, red, and blue widget varieties.
The main takeaway here is that there is no single way to structure a campaign. Just be mindful of what matters when it comes to advertising and measuring the results of your campaign.
Chapter 7: How to Produce the Best PPC Ad Creative to Attract Prospects
The benefit of clearly describing a strategy for your PPC campaign is that it can feed into and inform the creative. Particularly when it comes to building PPC adverts with our various structural considerations around where we place key points: header, ad copy, ad extensions – where does everything go?
In a nutshell, we want to do the following:
- Consider the objectives & audience
- Create text and visual adverts
- Create at least two of each advert to compare results
- Trial different call to actions (CTA) on your adverts
In practice, we also want to work on the following as a minimum to determine where to best communicate our message:
our main click to action/s (CTAs)
the main content
25-character bullet points
25-character links to specific pages
We typically craft all of this into a document first so we can ensure the right messages go in the right place. Typically, features and benefits work well in call outs and important secondary pages work well in site links, but given the limited character allowance, we sometimes have to be a little creative with how we best structure our ads.
Great advertising is built on great creative, so ensure you spend as much time here crafting solid advertising messages as you do on the strategic and structural elements of the campaign.
Chapter 8: How to Measure Your Campaign to Enhance Your PPC Strategy
It’s critically important to ensure you are collecting good data. To do this you must correctly configure Google Analytics and Google AdWords to share data. You must also create any specific goals that we established in chapter 3.
Tasks here include:
- Linking Google AdWords & Google Analytics
- Configuring relevant goals in Google Analytics
- Importing goals into Google AdWords / set up AdWords conversion tracking
- Sanity checking of conversion data
It is important that this is customised to your reporting needs and individual objectives. Certain metrics may not need a goal configured in AdWords (page views etc) however, by creating goals you can use that data to optimise your campaigns.
Chapter 9: How to Analyse and Optimise Your PPC Campaign
Once your campaign is established it’s time
to start reviewing the analytics data and looking for ways to optimise the campaign. With new campaigns, you are typically looking at ways to improve relevance, impressions, clicks, and click-through rate (CTR). For more established campaigns you will be looking to improve your return on investment (ROI) by improving deliverables (conversions or other campaign goals).
You will typically consider the following when analysing and optimising your campaign:
- Ad Performance / AB Testing
- Keyword Performance / Negative Keywords
- Ad Placement Performance
- Campaign Structure
- Campaign Targeting
This is where setting clear goals and measurements are absolutely critical to allow the campaign to be reviewed against each stated goal.
Chapter 10: PPC Strategy Template
Thanks for reading Bowler Hat’s PPC Strategy Guide. We hope you are now in the position to build your own strategic PPC campaigns. If you have landed here directly from a search engine then you can download the PPC strategy template below or jump back to chapter one and learn how to craft a killer PPC strategy.
This guide was written after our experience with hundreds of clients over more than 15 years and the biggest problem we see with PPC is a lack of strategic direction. Accounts are set up with a couple of ads and a few keywords and when this does not deliver the goods short-term, PPC is abandoned. If I had a penny for every time I have heard “we have tried PPC but it did not work” then – well, I would have a big jar full of pennies at least.
Much of this is common sense and our goal with this guide is to lay out a simple, strategic, and procedural process allowing you to research and implement PPC campaigns that deliver the goods.
Download the strategy template here. Print it off and in 30 minutes you can be on the way to revolutionising your PPC performance.