Getting A ‘B’ In PPC SEM

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harryhuxford | Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Filed under: PPC Tips & Advice

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Separating The B’s From The C’s
I recall the first days of new college courses and how professors made me read syllabi detailing the material to be learned and the grading rubrics I’d be measured against. Often professors talked about “separating the B’s from the C’s” and presented us with a set of criteria we’d have to meet in order to get a ‘B’. Keeping that memory alive, I’ve compiled a list of 5 pitfalls that novices and beginners tend to fall into when first getting started with PPC. Avoid these 5 pitfalls and you’re guaranteed at least a ‘B’ in pay-per-click search engine marketing.

One Ad Per Ad Group
‘C’ students of PPC tend to populate their ad groups with a single ad, making it impossible to do A/B testing and excluding themselves from one of the most effective optimization procedures for SEM success. There is a lot of variability when it comes to ad writing such as changes in call-to-actions and syntax. Customers themselves vary in their buying stage, needs and the nomenclature they use to refer to products and industries. A single ad cannot effectively cover all this variability. ‘B’ students write 2-4 unique ads per ad group to better cover the diversity found in customers’ buying stages, nomenclature and needs.

A common misconception that ‘C’ students hold about A/B testing is that it’s confined to only two ads, A and B, which each receive half the traffic in an ad group. ‘B’ students understand that a 50/50 traffic split between ad A and ad B is not always appropriate. If ad A has been a good performer, ‘B’ students may consider an 80/20 traffic split to get more traffic to the higher performance ad A while still testing an ad B. They achieve an 80/20 split by including four copies of ad A and one copy of ad B in ad groups (after setting the ad delivery option to ‘Rotated: Show More Evenly’).

Bad, Sloppy Targeting
Pop Quiz: Would you spend $10,000 to advertise earthquake insurance to people in Boston? ‘B’ students make sure the audiences they target are appropriate to their products. Not only do they save on soft costs (cutting unnecessary impressions which ultimately boosts click through rate and Quality Score) but they cut the hard costs of unqualified traffic clicking their ads.

‘B’ students who run ads on the display network know they need to create placement reports and take the time to visit the websites Google puts their ads on. They know chances are very high that a lot of irrelevant websites are running their ads and incurring needless costs. ‘C’ students who advertise on the display network and don’t do these two things burn up more resources than they need to.

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No Negative Keywords
‘B’ students know that a paid search campaign without negative keywords is like a highway without guard rails. Their ROI will fall off the cliff! ‘B’ students don’t trust Google to faithfully show their ads to only qualified traffic. They run Search Query Reports and add exact match negatives for irrelevant queries. ‘C’ students of PPC tend to add negatives on broad match and unintentionally choke qualified traffic.

‘B’ students are also aware that negative keywords are also effective on the display network. They think of keywords that would tarnish their company’s reputation if their ads appeared on sites catered to that keyword and add these as negatives to their display network campaigns. Again, ‘B’ students are precise when they add negative keywords so they don’t choke qualified traffic.

Ignoring Quality Score
‘B’ grade PPC marketers looking to maximize the most of their advertising dollar seek to improve Quality Score. They know that a higher Quality Score leads to higher Ad Rank and reduced costs per click. They understand that Google computes Quality Score with a formula and one of the biggest factors in this formula is the click through rate of keywords. ‘B’ students realize that Google favors higher click through rates because it indicates higher relevance to user’s needs (and it makes more money for Google).

Anyone can increase click through rate by upping their bid and fighting for higher ad ranks but ‘B’ students know that a better way is to employ negative keywords and smart targeting to cut unnecessary impressions. Another way they improve click through rate is by writing ads that are highly relevant to searchers’ queries. The more times a searcher’s keywords appear in their ads, the more bolding their ads will get which makes them more attractive and clickable.

Finally, ‘B’ students make sure their landing page is as relevant as possible which means including the user’s search query in their landing page, preferably in header tags and in the title for an SEM and SEO optimized landing page. They avoid overloading landing pages with graphics and animations because they know a landing page that requires more than three seconds to load will get slapped with a lower Quality Score and they’ll pay more for the same traffic.

Poor Or Nonexistent Keyword Research
Anyone who has created a PPC campaign from scratch and has let it run for a few months will undoubtedly see that their overall pool of keywords shrinks as time goes on. This is exactly what ‘B’ students want from a PPC campaign that undergoes continuous optimization as they cut off the keywords with poor ROI. While this practice cuts costs and lowers their overall cost per conversion, it does not lead to growth in conversions.

‘B’ students of PPC engage in keyword research to continuously add new keyword contenders to their campaigns for growth in leads and conversions. There are plenty of third party software and services that can accomplish this for them through keyword suggestion or competitor espionage but a good place they start (which also does not cost them a dime) is to set up Google Analytics on their websites and track the organic keywords that lead visitors to their content. If an organic keyword has sent traffic to their website consistently at a good volume then they add this keyword into their paid search campaigns. This creates a more direct path between the searcher’s query and their landing page as searchers need not forage through organic results to find what they want.

What Else Earns You A ‘B’ In PPC SEM?
In my view, a PPC marketer who avoids these 5 pitfalls earns at least a ‘B’ in PPC SEM. What do you think? Imagine you’re a professor of PPC and you have to come up with a grading rubric. What criteria would you use to separate the B’s from the C’s? Please let me know in the comments! And please feel free to contact us if you would like a free consultation about your online marketing efforts!

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