We get it. You want leads now. Your business depends on it.
When marketers often explain the differences between Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), they’ll say that SEO is a long-term process and PPC can get you leads now. While this is true, I think it’s the wrong way to think about PPC.
PPC is hard. You don’t just “Set it and forget it”. PPC requires constant monitoring, optimization, creativity and analysis. It’s incredibly easy to blow your budget on things that don’t work. It’s important to plan as best as you can, but nothing beats real data.
Understandably, people want to start getting results right away, but it doesn’t always work this way. At the very least, a PPC manager will have to be making adjustments from the start. When it comes to Vein or Orthopedic clients, for example, we at MD Connect have a great idea of what will work and what won’t, but some campaigns still require experimentation and careful analysis. What works well in Austin might not work well in Chicago. Keywords that convert well for one client might be duds for another.
Most PPC campaigns are not “paint-by-numbers” campaigns. They’re going to take work. The good news is that if you stick with PPC long enough, you just might be able to get the results you hoped for.
The graphic below highlights a client who started off slow, but through a period testing and analysis we were able to nearly triple the results without increasing the budget.
Move Beyond PPC Slog
The team at Moz has a term they call “SEO Slog”. When starting an SEO campaign, you can get some decent results with a little bit of effort. But eventually you’ll get to a point where you’ll need to put in a lot of effort to even get marginal results. Eventually, if you stick with it, you’ll reach a point where you won’t need to invest as much time and effort but your results will increase.
I see a similar pattern sometimes with PPC. You can start running ads and you’re happy because you’re getting traffic and maybe even some conversions. The problem is that you may realize that the results might not be enough. You realize that you’re going to have to look under the hood and see what’s going on. It can take months of testing and optimization to get to a point where your campaigns are working at an optimal level. See the chart below and take notice of “The Gap of Disappointment”. Pushing past that gap can make or break a campaign.
Get More with Less by Applying the 80/20 Rule
You can begin to make decisions based on better evidence once you start gathering data. You can begin to focus on the “vital few”. One of the main tenets of digital marketing (or life for that matter) is to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t work. There’s the temptation to try and do everything with digital marketing. You might be enticed to advertise on every platform, but you need to find what works best for your business. This may be your ego, but any truly data-driven marketer knows that you must see a positive ROI from your marketing efforts so it’s critical to focus on what is working.
Here are the basics of the 80/20 rule: you get 80% of the results from 20% of your efforts. The 80/20 rule is more a rough guideline – not a law. It could be 90/10 or 70/30, etc…
Start Targeting the Right People
Keywords are the lifeblood of ad serving platforms such as Google AdWords and Bing. Choose the right keywords and you can bring in high profits for your business. Choose the wrong ones and your wallet is going to hurt. PPC managers spend a lot of time on keyword research especially before launching an ad campaign. You can gain valuable insight into what people are searching for as well as search volume. What it doesn’t tell are which keywords will be the most profitable. One keyword might bring a lot of traffic to your site, but if that traffic doesn’t convert then it might not be very useful.
The same holds true for interest based ad serving platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Finding the right interests or groups will be a major determinant of success on these platforms. For example, which interest group will most likely convert better for a veterinarian: people who are interested in “pets”, or people who are “pet owners”? The “pet owners” group will most likely convert better. I like pets, but I don’t own any so I wouldn’t necessarily be a good person to target just because I might be interested in pets. This was a very obvious example, but this type of targeting can be quite nuanced.
You will be able to make better decisions on keywords and interests once you have some real data. You’ll find the best performing keywords and interests and you will be able to allocate more budget to them.
Stop Showing Up for Irrelevant Searches
Sometimes cutting is more important than adding. We like to do research for what are called “negative keywords”. This means that we’ll setup keywords that you don’t want to show up for. Remember, most companies don’t have an unlimited marketing budget so you’ll want to get your advertising in front of the right people at the right time.
If you’re a veterinarian and are looking for more patients, it doesn’t make sense for your ads to show up for terms like “veterinarian courses” or “free veterinarian”. The people making those searches are probably not your target market so don’t waste advertising dollars on them. This is the beauty of setting up negative keywords – you’re essentially saving money on irrelevant terms so you can spend more on the relevant ones. You might have a keyword such as “veterinarian nyc”. The problem is that your ads may show up for search like “nyc veterinarian salary” or “free nyc veterinarian”. We must mitigate this by choosing the appropriate match types and negative keywords. We would setup negative keywords such as “free”, “salary”, “low cost”. This means your ads wouldn’t show up for searches like “free nyc veterinarian”. I think you can see how you can save a lot of budget this way.
Implement A/B Testing
Testing plays an important role in improving your PPC campaigns. We go through a testing process to continually improve the performance of the campaigns. The ultimate goal is typically to increase the ROI for the client, but we must look deeper than that.
Decreasing the Cost-per-customer-acquisition (CPA) and increasing the lifetime-value-of-a-customer (LTV) will typically increase the ROI for a client. Since we have very little control over the LTV, we tend to focus on decreasing the CPA. We must look into the factors that can decrease CPA and then run tests for a process of ongoing improvements.
There are three main aspects we focus on A/B testing:
- Targeting: You must get your advertising in front of the right people. You could have the best ads and landing pages, but they’re as good as useless if you’re advertising to the wrong people. We could be running tests on anything from keywords, interest groups, geographic targeting, income, marital status, lifestyle and more.
- Increase Click-through-rate: We typically go through a period of ad testing. If you’re targeting the right audience then you’ll want as many of those people to click on your ad and go to your website or landing page. We can find the ads that work the best and discard the ads that don’t through ad testing.
Below is an example of client where we went through a process of ad testing over several months. The CTR is much higher now and will hopefully continue to improve.
- Increase Conversion Rate: There’s nothing worse than clicking on an ad and then it brings you somewhere completely irrelevant. People don’t want to click on an ad for shoes and are then brought to a retail site’s homepage that sells anything from hardware to clothing to electronics. Again, we go through a period of testing to see what types of pages, elements and messaging convert best on websites and landing pages. This will helps us convert more visitors and increase our conversion rate.
Find the right platform
You’ll need to find which platforms work well for you. Many people like the idea of being on every platform, but this isn’t always a good idea, especially if you don’t have a big budget. Choosing a platform is highly dependent on your industry and product and services. For some companies, Facebook ads gets lots of really cheap leads that are high quality because of interest based targeting. This can be ineffective for other types of companies where targeting based on searcher intent is more important.
People like to see that they’re on a variety of platforms, but be sure to find which platforms work best and then allocate more spend to them.
Some of the many platforms available:
- Google AdWords
- Facebook Ads
- Bing Ads
- Yahoo Gemini
- Yelp! Ads
- Promoted Pins (Pinterest)
- LinkedIn Ads
- And much more…
The example below is from a client who we were running Google AdWords, Facebook Ads and Bing Ads. We found that due to targeting, our cost-per-lead (CPL) with Facebook Ads was significantly lower than other platform and the lead quality was much higher. We obviously decided to allocate more of our budget to Facebook Ads.
PPC is a Long-Term Practice
PPC can be thought of as finding the right combination actions. Budgets and bids fluctuate. You’ll find out what works and what doesn’t. This is necessary for most PPC campaigns – unless you have and unlimited budget (most people don’t). While you can certainly get fast results from PPC – it can take several months before you find what can make your efforts skyrocket. I hope you’ve gained some insight into why Pay-per-click advertising should be viewed more as long-term strategy as well as a short-term practice.