The Four Es of a Successful Pay-per-Click Advertising Program
Key Components That Guarantee a Return on Investment for PPC Management
by Kent Lewis
The good news: you can setup and manage a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising program on Google, Yahoo! or MSN within minutes. The bad news: you can setup and manage a PPC advertising program within minutes. That means anyone can set up a PPC program, which has led to higher overall cost, lower click-through rates and conversions. There is hope, however.
Developing and refining a PPC advertising management process is essential. It enables a company or individual to train, automate and scale a PPC program, compounding the ROI. There are four key components of a winning PPC advertising program: explore, evaluate, expand and enhance. By following the 4E process, you can virtually guarantee an ROI on your PPC advertising program.
The exploration phase requires information gathering and assessment, which includes historical PPC account data, internal Web analytics data and peripheral research on customers and competitors. Determining the amount of additional keyword and competitive market research depends on the quality and quantity of information collected in the initial research phase. The desired goal is to formulate a PPC advertising program test campaign that runs anywhere from two to four weeks in duration.
The evaluation phase consists of implementing the PPC program test strategy (keywords, text ads and associated landing pages) and monitoring performance. In this phase, the goal is to determine which keyword phrases, ad copy, landing pages and bid strategies have the greatest potential, and will serve as the foundation for the ongoing PPC advertising program.
The expansion phase focuses on leveraging insights from the evaluation phase to increase the number of keyword phrases in the overall PPC advertising program to generate the desired quantity of leads or sales without sacrificing conversion performance. For example, a test campaign may incorporate 50 keyword phrases, while the expanded campaign may include 500.
The enhancement phase involves constant tuning and tweaking of keyword phrases, text ad copy, landing page elements and bid strategies. Typically, this phase incorporates A/B or multivariate testing to ensure optimal PPC program performance. Developing a highly successful PPC advertising program is an iterative process that is never fully-optimized due to changes in the technology, industry and competitive landscape. As such, it is often necessary to cycle back to the exploration phase and test peripheral keywords, ad copy and landing page creative.
Once you’ve mastered the “4E process” concept for PPC advertising, the next step is to apply it to the core PPC advertising campaign elements: keywords, structure, copy, landing page, bid strategies and testing. Each of the following campaign elements are incorporated into each phase of the 4E process.
There are an abundance of tools and techniques for identifying possible keyword phrases. While compiling your list of keywords for testing in the evaluation phase, don’t forget to explore “tail” terms, which are typically 4 to 6 keywords in length and are highly focused. Although they generate less traffic, they are often more qualified, less expensive and have a higher conversion rate. Always look at your competitor’s sites and PPC advertising campaigns to enlighten your overall PPC strategy.
One of the most overlooked aspects of a PPC advertising campaign is the PPC account structure. An improperly configured PPC account can nullify brilliant keyword selection, ad copy and landing page creative. Key considerations in PPC account setup include the use of campaigns and ad groups that focus on business or keyword seasonality, geographic targeting, branded terms and the buying cycle.
When it comes to creating PPC text ad copy that generates clicks and conversions, pay close attention to the following elements: messaging, offer and display URL. Utilizing dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) in Google AdWords can be very powerful, but can backfire if not properly implemented. For example, try a search for “scum” on Google and look at the PPC text ads.
The single most important element of an effective landing page is the “scent.” Does the scent, or theme, of the PPC text ad carry through to the landing page? If not, you can all but guarantee low performance. For example, there are very few good reasons to direct PPC text ads to a home page. Beyond targeting each PPC text ad to a specific landing page, ensure that messaging is consistent across campaigns. Also offer limited options to maximize conversion. If you haven’t implemented conversion tracking by this point, you’ll never be able to truly optimize your PPC advertising campaign.
With keywords, text ads and landing pages set up and ready to go; the next step is to determine the overall bid strategy. Are you going to manually manage the PPC advertising program, or utilize automated bid software? There are benefits and drawbacks to both, but our experience is that PPC bid software is overrated, even for larger campaigns. Consider PPC platform capabilities such as geographic targeting and day-parting in your overall PPC strategy. Also consider what time of day, days of week or months of the year you will advertise heaviest.
Virtually every component of a PPC program can be tested, but that doesn’t mean it should be done all at once. An effective approach to optimizing a PPC advertising program includes a structured and methodical assessment of each component, one at a time. Once you’ve mastered A/B testing of text ad copy and landing page creative over time, move on to simultaneous multivariate testing. This requires additional infrastructure and support, but can boost overall conversion in a time-compressed manner.
Utilizing the 4E process (explore, evaluate, expand and enhance) ensures maximum ROI on your PPC advertising program. This process requires assessing key elements of your PPC advertising campaign: keywords, account structure, ad copy, landing page, bid strategies and testing. In the end, you’ll be pleased with the results.