One of the many reasons SEM is an essential part of a successful marketing mix is the transparency into what works and what doesn’t. ROI isn’t subject to conjecture, it’s an equation grounded in data points that can guide every advertiser to smarter marketing and business decisions. That doesn’t stop the mechanics from being mildly confusing and expensive if you get them wrong.
While it’s tempting to dive right into account structure and targeting prospects via keywords and other campaign level settings, nothing you do from an SEM side will matter if the landing page isn’t spot on, and the conversions you’re tracking aren’t the right ones.
This is why before beginning with the context of the article, I would like to walk you through the stages of a Conversion Funnel.
Many advertisers fall into the trap of making conversions out of actions that don’t actually drive value. While it’s true that a conversion can be a form-fill, viewing a page, a call, or a purchase, too many advertisers put the same conversion values for all their conversions and have all conversions lead to the same confirmation page.
By tracking conversions or goals from analytics that don’t directly result in money in your wallet or a lead that goes into a proven sales process, you could be compromising your data integrity.
PPC’s main function is targeting prospects who are mid to low funnel – i.e. the people who have already spent the time browsing. They don’t have time to read a wall of text or fill out a lengthy form.
The two potential pitfalls
- The moment the user lands on the page, they are blocked from interacting with the shopping cart/form fill, and are instead prompted to chat with someone live or fill out a short form to give them access to a white paper or discount. While it might be tempting to provide value instantly, you might be inadvertently driving away a solid prospect.70% of Americans found pop-ups annoying and when they’re done poorly we can hardly blame them. This isn’t to say that pop-ups are a complete wash – if timed correctly, they can enhance subscription rates and engage a prospect who has shown enough interest based on time on site.
- When a form-fill goes longer than three fields, specifically when the fields aren’t crucial information, conversion rates drop dramatically.Making a prospect fill out every ounce of detail they need to become a customer, when they are inquiring for a demo, can be a bit much. That said, there are some fields that can be vital to the conversion process (these will vary by industry).The goal should ultimately be to keep the form above the fold with the “submit” button visible, and the experience shouldn’t be compromised by switching from desktop, to mobile, to a tablet.In the above form, there’s an attempt to divide the info into required and optional information. If you don’t care if the person supplies it, leave it off the form. Additionally, this form pops up when you click the “request more info” button on the landing page that should be leading you to book the vacation. By adding unnecessary steps to the sales process, you greatly diminish the odds of getting the sale. Websites are capable of selling, and far cheaper than a traditional sales force (70% of the purchasing decision is made before the consumer talks to the sales team).
So how do you avoid these pitfalls? Keep the user experience in mind, and allow the data to guide you. If you know that a particular whitepaper is good at getting a prospect into a demo, make it easy for the prospect to sign up for it with a two field form that pops up at least 30 seconds after they have hit your site, or have gone to at least two pages.
If most customers would need to pay shipping, offer free shipping after the user has lingered on the product or they’ve added it to their shopping cart, but haven’t checked out within one minute.
It’s ok to track these assisting conversions, so long as they are given a lesser value than the actual conversion of a completed shopping cart or initiating a trial/requesting a demo. To track them, make sure that the URL changes, or you have the ability to code in a custom goal parameter in analytics.
This is also where the distinction between conversions and converted clicks come into play. By default, AdWords will show you conversions (every single conversion action that happened because of a click) as opposed to converted click (the unique click responsible for however many conversions).
By using conversions to determine cost per acquisition (CPA), the value could be artificially brought lower by conversions that aren’t as useful (landing on the landing page, visiting multiple pages, etc.).
Once the landing page is optimized for conversion and conversion codes are in place to only track profitable actions, we can begin looking at our AdWords and Bing accounts. Healthy account structure is crucial to getting the right prospect to engage with your brand. I’m going to divide this section by e-commerce and service provider because the approaches you need to take to win are different.
Service Provider Approach
A healthy service oriented account will make the choice early on to focus on the locations they serve or the different services/products they offer. In both instances, advertisers should factor in their mobile presence, and include at least one mobile optimized ad to cater to the population who spends 51% of their time-consuming media through mobile devices.
Structure By Location
- Because the campaigns are targeting different countries, states, or cities, the budget can reflect the auction prices of the location in question. Search engine auction prices fluctuate based on the affluence of the location in question, as well as how competitive particular keywords are.Targeting a major metro like Boston, can mean higher prices and if your main focus is the suburbs, allowing a major metro to fall within your targeting zone can spike your spend and allow for your budget to run out too quickly.Visa versa, targeting areas that are not affluent enough to afford your services might yield cheaper cost per clicks (CPCs), but the lead to conversion rate will suffer.
- Structuring PPC campaigns by location allows the advertiser the workflow advantage of having the same keywords and ad groups in every campaign (the ad groups becomes the services on offer).Since the campaigns are entering different auctions, this avoids duplicate keywords (where you bid against yourself) and allows you to test variables across campaigns in an extremely controlled environment. It becomes much more easy to a/b test, and faster to prove out what works and what doesn’t.
- Different parts of the country/world search/think/speak in different ways.By structuring the campaigns by location, you allow yourself the ability to bid on keywords that directly relate to how your prospects would search. Over the first couple of weeks of a campaign, you can begin to pull in the more successful keyword concepts from the search query report, and replace the broader terms/match-types.
Structure By Service/Product
- Depending on how many locations you serve, structuring your account by location can make your account swell to unmanageable proportions. When an account approaches 20+ campaigns, it becomes easy for opportunity areas to slip through the cracks, and for overall budget to be spread too thin.
- If there are more services than can reasonably fit within a campaign (golden ratio is 5-7 ad groups per campaign), the location focus can make you eliminate important services that you should be advertising.The other part to this is if the services have drastically different values and auction prices. Both potential hurdles to the location focus come from Google’s tendency to be an investment banker. At the end of the day, Google is going to spend your budget where it sees value (keywords that have clicks and impressions).If there are too many ad groups, the campaign budget won’t be able to support all the ad groups. If some keywords are drastically higher/lower in price the ad groups will either favor the lower costing keyword and potentially deprive you of the more valuable traffic, or the more expensive keyword will get the click and you won’t get the volume you need.This also applies to ad groups with drastically different keyword CPCs. If one ad group has higher CPC keywords, it likely should be its own campaign, as outliers throw off campaign performance.
- If budget is limited, it might be hard to meaningfully market to multiple locations. While scheduling helps, and you can use shared budgets if pressed (will apply the budget evenly across all associated campaigns), it can be very challenging to run successful campaigns at scale focusing on location.There are two solutions to this – prove out the structure in one location, or lump all locations together for each of the services. If auction prices aren’t different across the locations you serve, it also makes sense to avoid structuring by location.
E-commerce Site Approach
Most ecommerce advertisers fall into one of two buckets: those who have robust shopping campaigns and that’s where the majority of their spend goes, and those who know they need to get shopping campaigns set up, but aren’t sure how to configure their first time-feed. In both instances, traditional search campaigns can play a role, but even more important are the dynamic search ad campaigns.
While shopping is undoubtedly the future for ecommerce (especially with the changes to the search result page (SERP) ), dynamic search campaigns allow the advertiser to see which parts of their site generate the most transactional traffic. Thus, they know how to prioritize their feed, as well as which search campaigns to keep and which to scrap because they focus on products with low margins/low prospect engagement.
Retargeting is helpful in most instances, but it’s mission critical for ecommerce providers. Luckily, Google offers dynamic product listing ads that allow the specific product that got abandoned to follow the user for a set amount of time.
Keyword Selection Theory
The stage is set: we’ve picked our structure; we’ve optimized our landing pages – it’s time to pick our keywords.
When an account is just beginning it’s ok to include some broader terms, as well as some broad match type in your ad groups. These keywords will allow you to gather data on how your prospects are searching.
That said, it’s important to include transactional keywords: “cat vet” vs “vet”. Cat vet focuses in on a very specific customer and ensures the ad will only be served to a pet owner who has cats.
The search term, “vet” casts a much wider net and could lead to potential customers you would never be able to service.
Additionally, unless the keywords is a branded term (and on exact match), single words should NEVER be a part of the accounts. They hog clicks and impressions and steal the legs from keywords that are the real queries prospects are searching, and cause carefully crafted ads to turn irreverent because they are being served to an audience that’s not quite right.
In both instances, there’s a “four-pack” of locations with a map. This comes from “Google My Business” and the locations attached to the campaigns. It’s vitally important that you claim your business, as well as ensure the right one is matched up with your campaigns. Otherwise, it’s possible to serve the wrong location or business to the prospect.
The more transactional you can get with your keywords the better, just remember to keep the keywords separated by keyword concept, and under no circumstance include your branded terms or competitor terms in your general service campaigns (both types of keywords will have outlier metrics that can throw your ad groups/campaigns off.