Part 1: Paid Search – The First Hurdle
After working in the online marketing space for over eight years, I realize the value of an effective online marketing campaign. Starting in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising opened my eyes to the focused and cost-effective nature of paid search advertising.
Successful PPC campaigns that generate useful traffic means focusing on keyword evaluation, landing pages, quality score, and PPC management tools.
Keyword evaluation helps determine the potential revenue and consumer traffic available in your product’s paid search market space. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when considering how a customer would use your product, because the customer is certainly going to be thinking about their needs.
For example, when I worked with mortgages, I was looking for potential HELOC consumers. Advertising under keywords like Home Depot, Lowes and Menard’s provided significant traffic and converted visitors quite well. Of course, this was only because the landing page/microsite were set up to reflect the user’s needs.
Landing page, Landing Page, Landing Page
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of the content and structure of landing pages. If you want users to convert, you have to make sure they stay on the landing page, which also has the added benefit of raising your quality score.
If your keyword is targeted at customers looking to purchase anti-virus software, don’t distract them with any other information. I have clicked on hundreds of PPC ads (specifically in the software space) where the ad redirects the consumer to the software vendor’s homepage. Your homepage provides a comprehensive knowledge of your business, but your PPC landing pages need to be focused on converting visitors. Focus the message and don’t offer opportunities for wandering.
Quality score is truly the love/hate relationship of paid search. Sometimes I reminisce about the old days, when you could simply outbid competitors to see what position a PPC ad converted best. Unfortunately, the result of this model was click fraud. So search engines introduced “Quality Score,” to prevent click fraud and make sure their searchers only see the most relevant ads for search terms.
Quality score has many determining factors, all of which are weighted differently, but include:
- Length of time the advertising account has been open
- Amount spent on advertising
- Landing page relevance
- PPC bids
- Click-Through-Rate (CTR).
These are just a few of the known pieces of how the quality score spyder/algorithm evaluates paid search campaigns, but a desire to improve quality score is one reason to invest in a PPC management tool.
PPC Management Tools
There are a variety of PPC management tools available to online vendors: third-party marketing agencies, PPC add-on tools (Ominture, Atlas One, Kenshoo) and in-house PPC management. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.
The advantage to using a thirty-party marketing agency is that the agency does most of the work for you. The downside is that if a vendor chooses to leave the agency’s program, their Google and Microsoft accounts are rarely returned. The vendor in-turn loses all of the keyword history and quality score data associated with the accounts. Ultimately, the vendor may be forced to recreate the ad campaigns without knowing exactly what keywords were used and how the marketing agency’s PPC algorithm was utilized.
The response to this disadvantage is investing in an in-house PPC manager, so there is no worry about losing valuable campaigns. However, the problem with keeping a PPC manager in-house is the amount of optimization required for effective PPC campaigns. It can be too much for one person and additional PPC tools may be required.
While PPC tools allow one person to perform tasks that normally require 3-4 people, these tools can take months to setup. Links need to be replaced and tracking scripts need to be created and placed. Once all those pieces are in place, a system may need up to 90 days to learn how to properly manage keywords, and in some case the tools require the manual setting of a day parting schedule.
Once you evaluate your keywords, optimize your landing pages and have your management tools in place, you must take advantage of the traffic. Ultimately, the question is how to combine leads and sales. As an online vendor, you are paying for each click, so it is important to create as many touch points as possible with each potential customer.
Keystone: Paid search is the complex, but primary step for building online marketing campaigns. Evaluate keywords creatively to direct traffic to a landing page focused on converting visitors.