Searching Beyond the Paid

Friday, October 07, 2011

How to Avoid PPC Campaign Strikeouts

Just as even the best home run hitters in baseball strikeout on occasion, you too could be three pitches away from being the victim of a PPC campaign strikeout. Good decision-making is the key to avoiding and preventing some common PPC pitfalls. Here are three curve balls to watch out for.

Strike 1, High and Outside: Bidding on Overly Broad Terms

Baseball pitchers love to throw a fastball that’s high and outside (outside being outside the strike zone). A good pitcher can fool a batter into swinging at this pitch, when really it’s too far out of reach.

Novice PPC advertisers often swing at this fastball too, by bidding on overly broad terms that are out of reach when it comes to getting good ROI.

For instance, an office furniture store might try to bid on terms like “desk chairs” or “computer desks.” At first glance, it makes sense: that’s what they’re selling, after all.

What they don’t realize, though, is that broad terms like this aren't only too broad, they’re too competitive. They’re just too difficult to hit, like a high outside fastball.

In PPC, you’re much better off looking for targeted terms such as “Aeron desk chairs” (including a brand name as part of the search) or “clear glass computer desks” (more specific). More detailed phrases give you a better chance of getting on base and getting good conversion rates.

Strike 2, Always Swinging on the First Pitch: Not Testing Ad Copy

When I learned to play softball as an 8-year-old, one of the first things my little league coach taught me is never to swing at the first pitch. As a batter, it’s important to get the feel of a pitcher’s style: pitching motion, ball speed, and other tendencies.

Beginning pitchers don’t have a lot in their technical arsenal: their motion & speed tends to be consistent, so it’s a good idea to get a little information first, and see what you have coming to you before you swing away. On the second pitch, you’ll know what to expect.

PPC is no different. At the beginning of a campaign, you don’t really know what type of ad message is going to resonate with your search audience. Yet I see so many beginning advertisers using only one ad variation – in essence, hoping and assuming that first pitch will be a good one and swinging for the bleachers.

One of the biggest benefits of PPC is the ability to test multiple variations of ad copy. Each ad group, especially a new ad group, should include a minimum of two ad variations.

Let both ads run for a while, and measure the results. This way, you’ll get a handle on which ad message might turn out to be a home run, and you’ll know what you’re swinging at.

Strike 3, Switch-Hitting for the Heck of It: Using Advanced Settings Without Data

A switch hitter is someone who bats both left and right handed. Switch-hitting throws off both the pitcher and the fielders: a batter who batted right-handed in their first time at bat, but steps up to the plate as a lefty the second time, requires quick adjustments by the defense.

Thing is, it’s really hard to hit effectively from both sides of the plate. Therefore, it’s not a good idea for a right-handed batter to step up and bat left-handed unless he or she is pretty confident about their ability to hit the ball.

Advanced PPC options like dayparting, the Display Network, Enhanced CPC, and other features are a lot like switch-hitting. When used correctly and in the right situation, these tools can absolutely hit a home run for your PPC campaign. Unfortunately, a lot of advertisers don’t use them correctly, or they make assumptions instead of informed decisions based on data.

Let’s look at an example. I’ve spoken with more than one B to B advertiser who uses dayparting to restrict their PPC ads to weekdays only. When I ask if they did so because they were getting poor results on the weekends, they’d say no, they never tried weekends – they just dayparted right out the gate, assuming performance would be poor.

While there is a good chance weekend advertising won’t perform for a B2B advertiser, this isn’t always the case. We’ve had B2B clients who get great conversion rates on the weekends, simply because their competitors have all dayparted on weekdays only, leaving our client as the only weekend advertiser!

If your data tells you that weekends are no good, then by all means daypart. But just stepping up to the plate left-handed because you’re facing a right-handed pitcher doesn’t make sense unless you know you can hit the ball left-handed! Try it first, measure the results, and then make decisions from there.

Final Score

By making smart decisions in setting up and managing your PPC campaigns, you’ll give yourself a good chance of avoiding that strikeout.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on May 17, 2011.


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