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PPC Strategy 101: Key Considerations for Effective Campaigns

There’s no one correct way to approach PPC, but creating a PPC strategy may help you more effectively invest your ad spend and monitor ad performance. Here’s how a PPC strategy can help support your marketing goals and what to keep in mind when crafting your own.

Dec 22, 2023

12 m read

Whether you’re getting started with PPC ad campaigns or revisiting your strategy, there are crucial elements you need to consider to make sure PPC functions as a successful marketing channel. From targeting the right search queries to improving the chances that potential customers click through from the search engine results page (SERP), a PPC strategy can be your ticket to higher ROI.

Still not sold?

Here are six reasons why investing in a PPC strategy is worth your time:

  1. Cohesiveness: A holistic PPC strategy transcends mere ad placements — it’s about integrating every element, from precise keyword selection to efficient budget allocation. All moves should align with overarching business objectives. Meticulous planning leads to advertising efforts that are coherent and goal-driven.
  2. Cost Efficiency: A targeted approach in PPC can be the difference between an expensive experiment and a profitable campaign. A strategic approach ensures you’re not throwing your budget into the abyss but investing it in avenues that lead to genuine, interested potential clients or customers.
  3. Enhanced Performance: A dedicated strategy involves constant monitoring and optimization. Like a gardener pruning plants for optimal growth, regularly refining your PPC campaigns can enhance performance and, consequently, improve your return on investment.
  4. Adaptability: A robust PPC strategy offers a structured path yet is flexible enough to adapt to unexpected changes in market conditions or shifting business goals.
  5. Competitive Advantage: With a thorough PPC strategy, businesses can identify and leverage unique market opportunities, setting them a notch above competitors.
  6. Synergy with Other Marketing Efforts: A well-integrated PPC strategy doesn’t operate in isolation. Your PPC efforts should harmoniously complement other marketing endeavors, crafting a unified and potent online presence.

Ready to start building that PPC strategy? First up, goals.

Setting the Foundation: Goal Setting

Clearly defined goals offer a roadmap for your campaign, providing direction and making every effort purpose-driven. For instance, if your goal is to boost website traffic, your tactics, keyword choices, and even ad copy would differ from a campaign focused on increasing direct online sales.

Setting SMART PPC goals (like those we discuss in our SEO goals post) allows you to:

  1. Better measure outcomes. With explicit goals in place, you can measure your campaign’s performance against set benchmarks. If your goal is to achieve a 10% increase in newsletter sign-ups through PPC within three months, it’s much easier to gauge progress and make necessary adjustments along the way.
  2. Allocate resources wisely. Goals help prioritize resource allocation. For example, if lead generation is your primary goal, you might allocate more budget towards keywords or ad placements that historically result in higher conversions rather than merely driving traffic.
  3. Make data-driven decisions. As your campaign progresses, you’ll encounter many crossroads. Clear goals act as guiding lights, helping you make decisions that align with your broader objectives. For example, if the goal is brand awareness, you might prioritize reaching a wider audience over immediate conversions.

Setting Effective Goals: The SMART Framework

Any marketer worth their salt is likely familiar with the SMART framework, but it bears repeating due to its immense value. Here’s a recap:

  • Specific: Narrow down what you want to achieve. Instead of “I want more sales,” aim for “I want a 15% increase in online product sales.”
  • Measurable: Decide exactly how you’ll track your progress. Tools like Google Ads’ conversion tracking can be invaluable here. If your goal is to enhance brand visibility, measurable metrics might include impressions or click-through rates.
  • Achievable: Be ambitious but realistic. If your website historically converts at 2%, aiming for a sudden leap to 15% might be a stretch.
  • Relevant: Your goals should tie back to broader business objectives. If your company’s primary focus for the quarter is boosting a specific product line, your PPC campaign should mirror that emphasis.
  • Time-bound: Set a clear timeframe. Whether it’s a month, a quarter, or a year, having a deadline creates a sense of urgency and gives a clear endpoint for performance evaluation.

Before diving into the technicalities of your PPC campaign, sit with your team and list what you aim to achieve. Refer back to this list and the SMART framework as you plot out your campaign specifics. This exercise helps align every decision with your foundational goals.

With a strong foundation in place, you’re better equipped to build a PPC campaign that not only resonates with your target audience but also drives tangible results. Remember, in the world of digital advertising, a clear direction can be the difference between a floundering campaign and one that truly flourishes.

Keyword Research and Selection

Keywords serve as your trusty compass. They determine where your ads will appear, guide potential customers to your offerings, and ultimately influence the success or failure of your campaigns. 

When you integrate keyword research into your PPC strategy, you can:

  • Increase visibility and ad relevance. The right keywords help your ads appear before a relevant audience. Suppose you’re selling artisanal chocolates, for instance. In that case, you’d want your ads to appear for “buy gourmet chocolates” rather than generic “chocolates,” which could encompass anything from chocolate recipes to chocolate facts.
  • Improve cost efficiency. Selecting the right keywords is a balancing act between relevance, competition, and cost. While high-competition keywords might seem attractive due to high search volumes, they can be costly. On the other hand, niche, long-tail keywords might offer better ROI as they’re more targeted and often less competitive.
  • Match user intent. Keywords provide insights into the searcher’s intent. “Winter boots on sale” indicates a readiness to purchase, whereas “best winter boots 2023” suggests a user in the research phase. By understanding this intent, you can tailor ad copy and landing pages accordingly.

Steps for Effective Keyword Research

Not sure where to get started? Make sure the following steps are part of your PPC keyword research process.

  • Brainstorm: Start with a list of basic terms related to your product or service. Consider how you’d search for your offerings and how you think your potential customers would.
  • Competitor Analysis: Investigate keywords your competitors are targeting. This doesn’t mean you should directly copy them, but it can offer valuable insights and reveal potential keyword opportunities.
  • Use Tools: Keyword research tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, or Semrush can offer keyword suggestions, provide data on search volume, and give insights into competition levels. These tools also allow you to see keyword trends over time.
  • Consider Long-Tail Keywords: These are longer and more specific keyword phrases. Though they might have lower search volumes, they often have higher conversion rates due to their specificity. For instance, “vegan leather Chelsea boots for women” is more targeted than “boots for women.”
  • Localize: If your business has a local component, consider geo-specific keywords. A dentist in Austin might benefit more from “dentist in Austin” than a broad “dentist.”

Like SEO, PPC isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor. As you gather data from your campaigns, regularly review and adjust your keywords based on performance. This iterative approach helps weed out underperforming keywords and emphasizes those driving results.

Audience Targeting: Precision Matters

Casting a wide net and hoping for the best can quickly exhaust your budget without yielding substantial returns. This is where audience targeting, a fundamental pillar of PPC campaigns, comes into play. It’s akin to a skilled archer’s precision shot — your marketing arrow should strike right at the heart of your desired audience.

Audience targeting allows you to:

  • Optimize resources. By targeting a more specific audience, you’re spending your ad budget on those most likely to convert. For instance, a luxury watch brand would see better ROI targeting an affluent demographic interested in luxury goods rather than a broader audience.
  • Enhance ad relevance. Tailored ads resonate better. If you’re targeting new mothers, an ad about post-pregnancy fitness will likely be more effective than a generic fitness ad.
  • Improve user experience. When potential customers see ads that align with their interests or needs, it leads to a more positive brand perception and user experience.
  • Increase conversion rates. A well-targeted ad increases the likelihood of the viewer taking a desired action, be it signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase, or filling out a contact form.

To get started, you should:

  • Define your ideal customer. Create detailed buyer personas. Consider demographics, interests, online behaviors, and purchase intent. For instance, if you’re a bookstore, different personas might include college students, fantasy fiction enthusiasts, or professionals seeking industry journals.
  • Leverage platform tools. Most PPC platforms, like Google Ads or Facebook Ads Manager, offer robust audience targeting features. This includes location targeting, demographic filters (age, gender, etc.), interest-based targeting, and more.
  • Engage in retargeting/remarketing. Target individuals who’ve previously interacted with your brand but didn’t convert. Perhaps they visited your product page but didn’t make a purchase. With retargeting, you can serve them specific ads, maybe even offering a discount, to coax them back.
  • Find lookalike/similar audiences. Platforms like Facebook allow advertisers to target “lookalike” audiences – users who share characteristics with your existing customers. This widens your reach while maintaining relevance.
  • Consider the buying stage. Not every potential customer is at the same stage of the buying journey. Some might be in the research phase, while others are ready to purchase. Adjust your targeting and ad message to cater to these different stages.

As with most aspects of PPC, audience targeting isn’t static. Use analytics to gauge how different audience segments are performing. Over time, you might discover that certain segments respond better than anticipated while others might be less effective. Adjust your targeting strategies accordingly for ongoing optimization.

Craft Compelling Ads: Ad Copy and Creative

An ad needs more than just visibility — it needs to captivate. Crafting compelling PPC ads is a subtle blend of art and science, where well-chosen words meet impactful visuals to create a memorable and persuasive experience. A great ad provides a unique first impression, drives engagement, and maximizes your ROI.

Ready to get started?

Guidelines for Crafting Compelling Ads

  • Know Your Audience: Tailor your message to your target demographic. An ad targeting teenagers will differ in tone and visuals from one targeting senior citizens.
  • Understand Your Limitations: Ads are succinct, and you’re typically limited to a set amount of characters. Know what the limitations are so you can work within them to best effect.
  • Clarity Over Creativity: While creativity is essential, you should never compromise clarity. Your audience should instantly understand what you’re offering. “Get cozy winter jackets at 40% off!” is straightforward and effective.
  • Incorporate Strong CTAs: Direct and motivate viewers to take the next step. CTAs like “Shop Now,” “Learn More,” or “Get a Free Quote” are clear directives that encourage action.
  • Share a Deal: What’s eye-catching and appeals to emotions? A great deal. Create a sense of urgency to encourage searchers to take you up on your offer.
  • Stay Authentic: Authenticity builds trust. Your ads need to accurately represent what you’re offering. Overpromising and under-delivering can tarnish your brand’s reputation.
  • A/B Test Ad Variants: Create multiple versions of your ads with varied copy or visuals. Monitor performance to determine which resonates most with your audience.

Ad fatigue is real. Even the most compelling ad can lose its luster over time as viewers become accustomed to it. Periodically updating your ad copy keeps your messaging fresh and continues to captivate your audience.

Landing Page Optimization: Where Conversions Happen

A carefully optimized landing page makes sure that once a user has clicked on your captivating ad, their journey is met with a seamless and persuasive experience that urges them to take the desired action. While the ad sets the stage, the landing page delivers the performance. It further shapes the user’s perception of your brand, offering, and reliability. Not only does it help you connect with your target audience, but Google assesses landing pages and their relevance to PPC ads as part of their Quality Score. Taking the time to craft and optimize a good landing page is critical to a winning PPC strategy.

Key Elements for Landing Page Optimization

  • Consistency: Design a seamless transition from ad to landing page. If your ad promotes a 30% discount on winter wear, the landing page should immediately reflect this offer.
  • Clear and Compelling CTAs: Much like your ads, your landing page should have a clear directive. If you want users to make a purchase, a prominent “Buy Now” button is essential.
  • Simplicity and Clarity: A cluttered landing page can overwhelm or confuse visitors. Keep designs clean, use concise and compelling copy, and give the user clear steps to take next.
  • Trust Indicators: Incorporate elements that instill confidence, such as customer testimonials, trust badges (e.g., Better Business Bureau or SSL certificates), and recognizable payment options.
  • Engaging Visuals: High-quality images, infographics, or even short videos can enhance your landing page’s appeal.
  • A/B Testing: Create variations of your landing page with different CTAs, visuals, or copy. Test these versions to discern which one drives the most conversions.

Use tools like Google Analytics to gauge how users interact with your landing page. Monitor metrics like bounce rate, time spent on page, and, most importantly, conversion rate. Periodically refining your landing page based on these insights boosts its effectiveness and helps you improve it over time.

Streamlining Campaign Structure

The structure of your PPC campaign serves as a foundational blueprint. A streamlined campaign structure helps keep your marketing efforts organized and targeted. It also simplifies management, optimization, and scaling.

Key Steps To Streamlining Your Campaign Structure

  • Segment by Objective: If you have multiple objectives, such as brand awareness, product sales, and newsletter sign-ups, consider segmenting your campaigns accordingly. This way, you can tailor ads, keywords, and bids to each goal.
  • Group Related Keywords: Within each campaign, create ad groups that cluster related keywords. For instance, if you’re a shoe retailer, you might have separate ad groups for “running shoes,” “formal shoes,” and “sandals.”
  • Tailored Ad Copy and Landing Pages: For each ad group, create ad copies and landing pages that are highly relevant to the grouped keywords. Using the previous example, the “running shoes” ad group should lead to ads and landing pages specifically about running shoes.
  • Use Negative Keywords: Within your campaign structure, designate negative keywords to prevent your ads from showing up for irrelevant searches.
  • Adjust Bids at the Ad Group Level: Different ad groups might have varying performance levels and values. By adjusting bids at the ad group level, you can allocate more budget to high-performing groups and reduce spend on underperforming ones.
  • Regularly Review and Refine: As with many facets of PPC, your campaign structure isn’t set in stone. Regularly assess the effectiveness of your ad groups, keywords, and ads. Adjust and restructure as needed based on performance data.

While it’s tempting to quickly dive into creating ads and bidding on keywords, taking the time to thoughtfully structure your campaign from the beginning will pay dividends in the long run. As your campaign grows and evolves, this initial organization will make scalability and optimization far more manageable.

Smart Budgeting and Bidding

Behind the scenes of every successful PPC campaign is a robust financial strategy. You should optimize every dollar spent for maximum returns. Much like a savvy investor seeks to balance risk and reward, marketers must adeptly handle budgets and bids to extract the utmost value from their PPC initiatives.

Creating Your Bidding Strategy

  • Determine Overall Budget: Before diving into bids, determine an overall budget for your PPC campaign. Consider factors like your total marketing budget, the value of a conversion, and the expected conversion rate.
  • Keyword Value Assessment: Understand the potential value each keyword holds for your business. High-intent keywords that align closely with your offerings might warrant higher bids due to their conversion potential.
  • Competitive Analysis: Gauge what competitors are bidding for similar keywords. Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner and Semrush can provide insights into competitive bidding landscapes.
  • Ad Scheduling and Geotargeting: If certain times of the day or specific regions yield better results, adjust bids to capitalize on these high-performance windows.
  • Leverage Automated Bidding Strategies: Once you understand the value of your keywords and have a grasp on manual bidding, consider exploring platforms’ automated bidding strategies. These can optimize bids in real time based on various factors to maximize results.
  • Regular Monitoring and Adjustments: The PPC landscape is dynamic. Regularly review your bids in relation to performance metrics like CTR, conversion rates, and average cost-per-click (CPC). Adjust bids as necessary to optimize performance.
  • Consider the Entire Funnel: While it’s essential to focus on final conversions, don’t neglect the broader customer journey. Allocate parts of your budget to awareness and consideration phases to nurture potential customers through the funnel.

Embrace the iterative nature of budgeting and bidding. Starting with manual bidding can offer hands-on insights into keyword value and performance dynamics. As you accumulate data, adjust strategies and consider integrating automated systems to further refine your approach. Always remember that while automation can be a powerful tool, periodic manual reviews allow you to maintain a close connection with campaign dynamics.

Use Negative Keywords

While most marketers rightfully focus on the keywords that draw users in, it’s equally crucial to identify and negate those that might divert or dilute your campaign’s effectiveness.

Identifying keywords you don’t want your ads to show up for reduces unwanted or irrelevant traffic, which can save your budget, improve your quality score, and enhance the relevance of your ad.

How To Find & Use Negative Keywords

  • Start with Research: Before your campaign even begins, research potential negative keywords. Google’s Keyword Planner can give insights into search terms related to your chosen keywords that might be irrelevant to your offering.
  • Analyze Search Query Reports: Regularly review search query reports to identify terms that are triggering your ads but aren’t leading to conversions. These might be potential candidates for your negative keyword list.
  • Choose Match Types Wisely: Negative keywords have different match types: broad, phrase, and exact. Understand the nuances of each and use them appropriately to prevent your ads from showing for specific queries.
  • Regularly Update and Refine: New terms emerge, and user behaviors shift. Regularly revisit and refine your negative keyword list to align with these changes.
  • Segment and Organize: If you’re running multiple campaigns or have distinct ad groups, consider creating separate negative keyword lists for each.
  • Be Cautious of Over-Filtration: While you should filter out irrelevant traffic, be cautious not to be overly restrictive, which might limit your ad’s reach to potential customers.

Treat your negative keyword list as a living document. Set aside time, perhaps bi-weekly or monthly, to review and adjust your list. Use tools available within ad platforms, and consider supplementary tools that might offer deeper insights into potential negative keywords.

Tracking, Analyzing, & Optimizing: The Continuous Loop

An advertisement that resonated yesterday might be obsolete tomorrow, and search behaviors are constantly evolving. For marketers, the key to staying ahead is not merely launching campaigns but also establishing a robust system of tracking, analysis, and ongoing optimization. It’s this continuous loop that transforms good campaigns into outstanding ones. When you actively monitor and optimize your PPC campaigns, you can more easily spot opportunities for improvement, adapt to changes, and maximize your budget.

Tactics for Effective Tracking and Optimization

  • Conversion Tracking: Understanding which keywords or ads are driving actual conversions (whether it’s sales, sign-ups, or any other desired action) is crucial. Set up conversion tracking on your website to trace these actions back to their PPC origin.
  • Use Analytics Platforms: Tools like Google Analytics offer a wealth of information, from user behavior on your website after clicking an ad to detailed demographic insights, that can guide optimization strategies.
  • A/B Testing: Regularly test variations of your ad copy, landing pages, or even bid strategies to identify which version yields the best results. Continuous experimentation is key to optimization.
  • Feedback Loop with Sales Teams: Especially for businesses where sales occur offline, maintaining a feedback loop with sales teams can provide insights into lead quality and areas of improvement.
  • Monitor Quality Score: Platforms like Google Ads provide a quality score, gauging the relevance and quality of your keywords and ads. A higher score can lead to reduced costs and better ad placements. Use this metric as a diagnostic tool.
  • Adjust Bids Based on Time or Location: Analyze if certain times of day or specific locations yield better results. Adjust bids accordingly, prioritizing high-performing windows or areas.
  • Review Search Term Reports: Regularly review the search terms that trigger your ads. This can help you uncover negative keywords as well as new keyword opportunities.

Dedicate specific times each week and month for a thorough review of campaign performance metrics. With a disciplined approach, you’ll never miss out on critical insights and can make timely adjustments.

Staying Ahead: Keeping Updated with PPC Trends

The world of PPC is ever-evolving. To remain at the forefront, you must embrace continuous learning. Engage with industry-specific platforms to stay abreast of the latest developments, and check our free resources for more insights.

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