How create and Optimize a winning PPC Strategy in 2020

This post is for advanced users of PPC, if you want to learn the basics of PPC, I recommend checking this Search Engine Journal’s PPC guide for beginners, Also PPC Hero designed a nice beginner’s guide.
In this page, I will deliberately focus on strategies which can help you take your PPC campaigns to the next level. Though, there are multiple PPC networks such as Google ads, Adroll, Yahoo Gemini, Bing etc, we will keep our focus on Google ads for now.
It’s the largest network and commands over 90% shares of PPC market.

Why PPC Matters

Google ads has been here for two decades and constantly delivering $2 for every $ spend. If you are still in doubts about using PPC as part of your promotional strategy, here are few stats.PPC stats for 2019

PPC can be a powerful head-start to your target market, if you are just beginning. You can use PPC to research the market, build an awareness about your product, create a profitable sales funnel and more.

Step 1 – Define a PPC strategy

Pay per click is a powerful way to advertise; it can produce amazing results if used correctly. However, you can not start randomly. Before you start spending on Google or any other search platform, you need to have a solid strategy in place.
To start with let’s define what a successful PPC campaign looks like.
It starts with understanding the competitive landscape and target audience.
Next, you do a keyword research and decide which keywords to target
You optimize the ad groups and landing page, come up with a optimum bidding strategy.

Have a Clear Goal before starting

How do you start your PPC Campaign?

Let’s try Google ad for $500 and see? Only Google gains, mate.

Or with a question – What do you want to achieve by spending on Google Ads?

Or by understanding the competitive landscape, industry benchmark on cost, conversion rates etc?

If you start without a clear goal, PPC could be a costly mistake which can cause a serious dent in your pocket really quickly.

So, what you want to achieve by spending on Google Ads?
More customers? Leads or Direct purchase on your e-commerce store?

Create an awareness about your brand?

Free Trials of your SAAS products?

More footfall in your local store?

Website visits (Awareness )

How do you know which goals make sense? Just like everything else, finally everything boils down to this; how much business you want to generate using PPC? What impact will it have on your bottom line?

Having a clear Goal in mind helps you in deciding which campaign type is best for you, how much you need to spend and what to expect.

If you want to understand more on how to come up with a winning strategy for Google Ads, I recommend checking the following posts
Setting goals for your PPC campaigns

Your PPC strategy is affected by few variables
What’s your competitive landscape?
How much budget you have?
What’s your product and the sales funnel?
Are you operating in a B2B Or B2C market?
Is it an e-commerce or a local business?

Once you have a clear goal in mind, its time to come up with the KPIs. For example, if you want to generate leads, your KPI should be number of qualified leads you are able to generate. If your goal is to generate direct sales, your KPI should be to generate profitable direct purchases. The success would depend on the number of leads/sales at an optimum cost per lead.
Now, lets think of the budget. Lets start small. You may want to start bidding a small set of keywords with a realistic expectation of clicks and conversion. The clicks and conversion will depend on a number of factors such as relevance of your ad, quality of your landing page, how aggressive are your competitor.

If you are just starting up with your PPC campaign, its good to hire an expert to guide you in goal setting and PPC account set up.

I am not covering the basic account settings here like setting up payment methods, creating account etc. The Google Ads interface is intuitive enough to guide you in the process. if you still need help, check Google Ads support documentations

Who are you competing against?

No strategy exist in the vacuum. The aim of this exercise is to understand who your paid competitors are, whats their PPC strategy. For how many keywords are they bidding, their ad relevance and landing page quality.

For this purpose, you can use any of these tools
Alexa’s competitor keyword matrix – can give you both paid and organic competition up to top 10 competitors.
Use sypfu to get information on highly successful keywords of your competitors, their actual ad copies and more.
SEMrush is another tool for competitive analysis, you can use the free version to check ad texts, budget, traffic and average positions etc.
ispionage offers a limited information in the free version, but great investment if you can want to buy.
You can also use keywordspy to get competitor’s keywords, domains, ad copies and total spend.
Do remember, you competitor research will be an everyday activity, not just beginning. All these tools use compile the search engine data and offer you an aproximation.

Keywords Research

Keywords are the foundation of your PPC campaign. By now, you must be having an ideas of set of keywords you want to compete for.
Create a broad list of keywords, brainstorm with your team if required. You can use tools like Google Ad keywords planner, Alexa’s keyword difficulty tool, Ahrefs, or any other tool mentioned above.
If you are running ads for an existing website with a considerable search traffic, you can use download keywords from search console as well.

Google Ads Account structure

Your Ad account will have following hierarchy
Account>Campaign>Ad Group(Keywords, ad texts are inside an ad group)
 To begin with add all your keywords in an excel sheet, bifurcate keywords according to the searcher intent. For example, if you are runnig PPC for a real estate portal, you will have separate campaigns for rental properties and properties for sale.
With all properties for rent, you will have a set of ad groups for commercial, residential, family homes, bachelor homes, hostels etc.
Try to add a maximum of 15 keywords in an ad group for a better management. Divide further and create one more ad group if you have a higher number of keywords in an ad group.

Write Effective Ad Text

Writing effective ad copy is both science and art. By now you must have already understood search intent behind every keyword.
Your ad copy and ad extension have a direct impact on the click through rate and quality score.
The success lies is having a powerful headline, description and a call to action inside your ad copy.
Here are few quick tips for writing effective ad copies
  • Run a competitor research and create a swipe file of competitor’s ad copy, headline and call to action.
  • Use your target keyword atleast once in headline and description
  • Have a clear call to action, it should match with the action you want your searcher to take. For example, do not use the CTA such as “Download now” if you want users to sign up.
  • Highlight the problem your product or solution will solve for the user.
  • Your ad copy should beat your competitor in terms of quality of product values, call to action and extensions.

Build and optimize your landing page for conversion

Ideally you should create a separate landing page for PPC. A highly converting landing page will have benefit rich headlines, its optimized for the target keywords.
The headline text and the body is in line with the search intent of your customer.
Never send paid traffic to a generic landing page, it will a higher bounce rate and poor quality score. A low quality score translate in a higher cost per click and less chances of ad showing in the peak hours.
Your message should be consistent with the searcher intent. A highly converting landing page will have following elements
  • Value rich product benefits
  • Product information
  • Social proof (Testimonials, reviews)
  • Risk Averse ( refund guarantees, clear return and no spam policies)
  • Clear call to action and other relevant information.
  • One call to action and make sure its properly highlighted for a better conversion.
  • Simple and easy to fill lead form (Only essential fields. )
  • Great loading speed.

Keyword Match type and Broad Match Modifiers

Keywords match type is control mechanism on where to show ads. There are three match types

  1. Broad Match- Google will show your ad for relevant variations, synonyms, misspelling, stemming and other related searches. Basically to anyone whom they think is relevant. Its a default match type if you do not specify otherwise.
  2. Phrase Mach- Your ad will appear for your phrase or a close variation of the phrase, the word order matters in the phrase match. if your searcher enters an unrelated keyword in between the words, your ad will not appear.
  3. Exact Match – With exact match, you can show your ad to customers who are searching for your exact keyword, or close variants of your exact keyword
  4. Broad Match modifiers are the best kept secrets of expert PPC marketer. Broad Match modifier can help you maintain the reach while keeping a tab on unnecessary spend.

With a little understanding of keyword match type, you will know that its a conscious choice between reach and relevance.

If you give free hand to Google, you ad will be shown to every possible synonyms and random searches which results in excessive spend and low ROI. A strict control with phrase match and exact match will reduce your reach significantly and increase your CPC.

Broad Match Modifier is a sweet spot between Reach and Relevance. Lets understand with an example.

Lets say that you are a personal finance coach. Your want to reach out to people who search for a personal finance coach in your area

broad-match-modifier-examples

The broad Match modifier takes care of your reach and give you an additional control on your spend.

Negative keywords are your best friends

Not everyone searching for a relevant or near relevant terms is looking to buy from you.

Understanding search intent should be your primary goal while performing keyword research. Prioritize keywords according to search intent, the low commercial intent, irrelevant keywords should make to your negative keyword list. Step to create a negative keyword list –

  • Perform a Google search to find negative keywords in your industry (Someone might have already done the homework)
  • Perform a Google search for every keyword – Notice if there are any Google ad appearing for your search term, what kind of SERP results show up – Commercial or general information? If no one is showing ad for a keyword or SERP results are just general information the keyword should make to your negative list.
  • Use Common sense.

You can start with a small list of negative keywords, constantly monitor your conversion and search terms to enhance this list.

Monitor Your Search Terms

Google ad is like a leaking bucket. If you give it a free hand to your pocket, it will burn a big hole very quickly.

You need to constantly monitor the spend and search terms for which your ad is appearing. Keeping your campaign goal in mind, take relevant action for every search term –

If its low commercial intent, add to your negative keyword list.

If its high on commercial intent but from an inaccessible location modify the match type

If the search term is relevant and high commercial intent but not delivering, modify your ad copy

If CPC is high as compared to other keywords, check the quality score and landing page.

Note- You should monitor search terms at Ad group level. Sometimes Google will choose to show ad from other ad group for a relevant search term (You can add the search term as negative at ad group level)

This gives a greater control on which ad to show for particular search term.

Conversion Tracking is Crucial

You will be interested in knowing how your customer interacts with your ad, you may have defined a per-determined valuable action such as purchasing a product, download your app, sign up as a lead or calls your business. When a customer completes the action you desired, its called conversion.

By tracking conversion

  • You understand how your keywords are performing.
  • Which Keywords are driving value
  • What the ROI on your ad spend.
  • How you can optimize your campaigns

Master Remarketing and Retargeting [Its your savior]

Even people with High Commercial intent, relevant search term will leave without transaction. They are unable to decide at this moment, evaluating your competitors, comparing options, visiting offline stores etc.

What can you do to stay on top of their mind?  Remarketing is the answer. Strategically target your audience to bring them back to right page. You can entice them with special offers, discounts etc.

Google will force you to overspend [Beware!]

Most automation, bidding strategy, Google’s consultation calls are designed to get maximum out of your pocket.

its your job to use every feature with caution. Here are some of strategies you can use.

  • Limit your ad to search network only
  • Avoid using broad match keywords as much as possible.
  • Focus on maximizing the quality score of your keywords
  • Improve landing page experience
  • Maintain a good list of negative keywords both at campaign and account level.
  • Optimize for time, device and location
  • Use ad extensions
  • Try call only ads
  • Try and use manual bidding as much as possible.

Its a NASTY Game!

Experienced a sudden Surge in clicks from a particular location? Experiencing High CPC and low conversion? Ad budget is exhausting quickly? Your competitor is stealing traffic for your branded terms?

Its your competitor at play. Everything is fair in love and war.