Each day there are over 3.5 billion searches on Google alone. Is your brand appearing against searches related to your products or services? Are you missing out on traffic from potential customers? Do your competitors appear in results for your brand terms? Is paid search part of your marketing strategy?
Incorporating a pay-per-click or PPC campaign into your overall digital marketing strategy can help elevate your brand awareness and drive business results. Unlike a social media or display ad, search ads reach users in the moment they are actively demonstrating interest in your products or services.
If you are new to paid search advertising, here are some tips for developing your PPC strategy and successfully launching your first PPC campaign.
1. Defining Your PPC Goal
As with all marketing strategies, it’s important to establish your goals and define your target audience in order to develop a successful PPC strategy. Are you looking to drive top-of-funnel awareness or capture bottom-of-funnel traffic? What action do you want users to take when they reach your site?
2. Bidding on Ad Clicks
The search engine advertising platforms (Google Ads, Microsoft Bing Ads) offer multiple PPC campaign optimization strategies, designed to support a variety of paid search objectives. Bidding strategies vary from manual CPC (cost-per-click), where you can control individual bids for each keyword, to automated campaign strategies, which leverage AI to optimize bids based on expected user behavior and your objective. Automatic campaign strategies have advanced campaign optimizations from being solely click-based to considering conversion actions, which has empowered bidding based on Target Cost-Per-Action (CPA) and Target Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) values. When you build out your PPC campaign, you can select the bidding strategy that best aligns with your goals. This can also be adjusted later on once you have performance data to inform target metrics.
3. Building Your Keyword Lists
The foundation of PPC advertising is keyword targeting. To inform your PPC keyword strategy, it’s important to consider what topics your target audience is researching and what content you have to answer their search queries. Looking at your site map and landing page content can serve as starting points for building keyword lists. From there, Google Ad’s keyword planner is a great tool for expanding your keyword list and projecting both search volume and ad spend.
In addition to target keywords, it’s important to consider a negative keyword list to prevent ads from serving against irrelevant search queries. This can happen when a topic is broad or has multiple-use cases. A way to test this is to conduct a search for a few of your top keywords or keyword phrases. If you see irrelevant results or irrelevant suggestions under the “Searches Related To” section, you may want to add those terms as negative keywords for your ad campaign.
As you build keyword lists into your PPC strategy, think about how to organize and segment words by theme and intent level. Breaking out keywords into different campaigns and then multiple ad groups within paid campaigns helps organize and maintain alignment between keywords, search ads and landing pages. For example, you may want to target a branded keyword and a nonbranded keyword. Both of these sets should be separated into different campaigns. Users searching for your branded product name should be served different search ad messaging and driven to a different landing page than a user researching a general topic related to your products or services.
4. Aligning Your PPC Strategy
From developing your PPC strategy to implementing optimizations, quality score should be top of mind. Your ad campaign is evaluated by the search engine to favor positive user experiences. Keywords, paid ad copy and the landing page should all be tightly aligned. This means top keywords should be incorporated into ad copy and featured on the landing page, which should contain content and a CTA (call-to-action) as described in the ad copy.
Clicks to Conversions
The relevance across these 3 areas (keyword, ad copy and landing page) will greatly impact your ad rank and quality score, which will determine when and where your paid ad is served in comparison to competitors in the ad auction. It’ll also impact campaign performance. If an ad doesn’t relate to the search query, users won’t be enticed to click. Additionally, if an ad doesn’t accurately explain the experience on the landing page, users that do click will be unlikely to convert.
Ads live within a campaign’s ad groups, so each ad group should only include closely related keywords that could be served the same ad. Ad copy should be tailored by ad group to specifically correspond with each set of keywords. Following SEO best practices and using a CTA that aligns with the landing page content will drive the best conversion rate, as users will know what to expect after they click. How many search ads should you run? It’s best practice to have a minimum of 3 ads per ad group, with 1 responsive search ad and 2 expanded text ads. Enabling the ad rotation setting to allow for optimization will allow the platform algorithms to test and serve the ad creative most likely to drive results in each auction.
Using Ad Extensions
Both Google and Microsoft Ads offer several types of ad extensions, which can be used for different purposes to provide additional context or alternative CTAs alongside your main paid search ad. For example, sitelink extensions can be used to drive traffic directly to other pages of your website, while countdown extensions can dynamically update your ad copy to call out a sale ending soon.
5. Refining Your Targeting
PPC strategies typically revolve around keywords, but overlaying audiences and demographics should not be overlooked. With remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA), advertisers can focus in on previous site visitors searching for target keywords. Overlaying similar audiences of 1st party or customer relationship management (CRM) data, such as customer lists, into your nonbrand campaign with a bid adjustment will let you reach these lookalikes more aggressively than general users.
Before your launch, ensure your location and language settings are set correctly to reach the right target audience. It’s also important to configure remarketing and conversion tracking so you can accurately measure against your PPC goals.
Search engine marketing is based on demand, so ad spend may fluctuate, especially if seasonality, events or news impact interest in your brand, products or industry. Make sure you factor in any key moments for your brand or industry when you are mapping out your PPC campaigns and budgets.