We’ve just welcomed in another year — by my reckoning there’s no better time to try a new approach to pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. While PPC continues to grow increasingly competitive across many niches, it’s still a supremely important part of the online retailer’s inbound marketing strategy. Don’t lose focus! It’s more important than ever to make a commitment to tweaking and improving your campaigns on an on-going basis. If you want to make as many sales as possible with the highest ROI, you’ve got no choice but to put in those long hours and optimize.
Here are my top seven tips for you to take action on now to make the most of PPC in 2014:
Change and test ad copy
It seems fairly obvious but I’ll say it anyway; different ad copies perform well at different times of the year.
From my own experience, prior to Christmas my best performing ad copy had a CTR of around 35%. Post-holiday season it has a CTR of about 10%. The worst performing ad copy before Christmas had a CTR of 5% – it has now shot up to over 30%. The copy that performed poorly before Christmas contains a voucher code for visitors to redeem on my website.
As people are hit with credit cards bills from the Christmas period, they’re becoming more price sensitive. Lots of people tighten their belts and embark on a real austerity drive when the festivities are over – it’s little surprise that my ad copy containing a discount code has really taken off.
It doesn’t matter what time of year it happens to be, ad copies will perform better at certain points than others. Roll with the seasons and establish what works and when for your campaigns. The important point is to change and test often!
Focus on your ‘Quality Score’
Business owners often scratch their heads when I ask them about their Quality Scores. They’re throwing all this money at paid traffic, yet they don’t understand one of the most basic factors that goes into determining how much they pay per click!
Each ad and keyword in your campaign is assigned a Quality Score – the score looks at ad relevance, user experience on the landing page, and the expected click through rate of the advert itself. There’s a lot you can do in order to influence Quality Score and it’s important that you do everything you can to take your Quality Score to as close to 10 as possible.
How high your paid listings are placed is determined by Ad Rank, which is calculated using your Quality Score * your maximum keyword bid. It’s possible for you to secure the highest possible listing on a search page without having the highest bid. Money [usually] talks, but Quality Score is also hugely important and can be a real game changer for your ROI – a higher Quality Score means cheaper clicks.
Don’t shun your Quality Scores – actively monitor them and always look for ways to improve them.
Laser target your ad groups
There’s nothing worse than running a PPC campaign that has one big ad group complete with hundreds of different keywords. The bigger your ad group, the less control you have.
Let’s say you sell cars. You shouldn’t just have one big ad group for hundreds of different car related keywords. You should have separate ad groups for new cars and old cars – you should have an ad group for green cars and an ad group for red cars.
You should also have an ad group for Ford cars and a separate ad group for Kia cars – you get the idea!
Make sure your ad groups are as granular as possible, that way you can see exactly which products on your website sell – and which products don’t – through your PPC efforts. When you’ve got granular data to work from you can see that red car ads convert best on a Monday night, or that ads for green cars just don’t lead to conversions at all. You can then manipulate your individual ad bids and budgets in order to ensure the best performing ads receive the highest share of your overall PPC budget (thus reducing wasted spend on ads and keywords that just don’t convert). If you use large ad groups that aren’t granular, you simply can’t gather this data.
Search for new keywords
It’s a New Year, so why not add a few new keywords to your PPC campaigns? User trends and search behaviors change as time goes by – keywords come and go. If you did a bit of keyword research when you first setup your campaigns but you haven’t done any since, you are certainly missing out on some profitable keywords.
Use the Google Keyword Planner (check out our #AmazonDomination series for some great video on how to do this) and have a good look at the terms people are using to find sites in your industry. Another great idea for keyword acquisition is to use one of the many keyword spying tools out there – you can generate a comprehensive list of keywords that your competitors are bidding on. More often than not these tools will throw up at least a couple of keywords that you haven’t bid on before.
If you’re a keyword research wizard you won’t need to spy on your competitors, you should be able to extract every last profitable keyword from the Keyword Planner.
Get to grips with ‘match type’
The amount of money that people waste by using the wrong match types is unbelievable.
Broad match will match broadly related search queries to your ads – you could end up bidding on keywords that aren’t all that relevant to your website (and you’ll have to pay for the pleasure should someone actually click your ads). Be very careful with broad match!
The best campaigns are built using modified broad, phrase and exact match keywords. My favorite match type is phrase – it gives me just enough control to ensure that 99% of the traffic I receive is directly relevant. Exact match is also useful if you’re able to isolate exact keywords that lead to conversions on your website. You can then enter exact match keywords as part of your campaign with a higher bid than the broad or phrase match keyword. You can afford to do that if you know the exact match keyword has a higher chance of leading to a conversion.
As well as getting to grips with match types, you should remember to use negative keywords. Start with the basics like “free”, “cheap” and “reviews” and constantly update your list of negative keywords in order to prevent your ads showing for search terms that aren’t relevant or won’t lead to conversions.
Also known as ‘remarketing’, retargeting was raved over in 2013 and it’ll only become more popular in 2014. It involves showing display network ads to people who have already visited your website.
If you’ve ever logged onto a site and looked at a few items before going to Facebook or some other website, you’ve probably scratched your head and wondered why you’re bombarded by ads from that merchant after leaving their site. The answer is retargeting. A cookie is dropped onto your machine when you hit the merchant’s website – that cookie then lets advertising networks know to retarget that merchant’s adverts at you, hence why you see their ads everywhere you look.
It’s pretty clever, and incredibly valuable for merchants. Retargeting has some very impressive conversion rates and ROI figures compared with standard display network advertising metrics. If you’ve not invested time and money into setting up a retargeting campaign, now’s the time to do so! You can build one right inside Google Analytics or use a third party solution like Adroll.
Expand your search network
A large number of ecommerce business owners that I socialize with only advertise on the Google search network (via Adwords). They have various reasons and excuses for doing so – and almost all of them are reluctant to try something new.
If you’re only advertising on Google’s search network then you’re missing out on a lot of highly targeted traffic. Think about using Bing Ads, Facebook Ads – and consider Google Product Listing Ads too. There’s a lot more opportunity for PPC than just running text ads on the Google AdWords network!
PPC traffic is available in abundance and it’s highly profitable if you are deliberate and persistent. Configure your campaigns properly and analyze your data carefully. Don’t be the person reading this post in a year’s time thinking: “Damn, I meant to act on those points last year” – implement these things now! The sooner you do, the sooner you can start seeing more traffic, more orders, and more success with your ecommerce website.