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The Essential Ingredients of a Successful PPC Campaign

Running a successful pay-per-click (PPC) campaign is far more technical than many first time campaign managers realize.  Really it is a highly competitive challenge between you and others that are competing in the same market to attract the clicks of users.

Understanding the rules of the game and getting some familiarity with the playing field will give you an advantage over less experienced or less competent opponents. Make no mistake about this: it is a competition, and you must be determined to win, no matter what it takes. Anything less than a total commitment to the task and you are probably wasting your money.

Great Campaigns are Built on Great Key Words

Key words are likely to make or break a campaign.  Research is seriously important to guiding you in the right direction.

Using keyword research tools, you can get a feel for how hot or cold certain keywords are.  One of the best tools you can add to your collection is iSpionage, a keyword analysis system that identifies what your competitors are already using.

What iSpionage will do for you is show you details of your competitors' adword campaigns with Google, Yahoo, and Bing.  A summary view will show you how their key words have been performing over the past 12 months.  You can then look at precisely what key words they selected, and get data on the key words effectiveness index (KEI), the cost-per-click (CPC), the average search volume (ASV), the average position of the ad for this advertiser, and some other miscellaneous data.

You can also look up "organic key words" that are relevant to the advertiser, and obtain information about the performance of those words, which will tell you the ASV and CPC for those terms.

Armed with this information, you provide yourself with a number of options for creating PPC campaigns as well as traditional online advertising campaigns, as in both cases you'll be able to identify which sites are performing well on those key words, and you'll be able to develop a strategy formulated around that.

After researching your key words, you should have a reasonable list of words that you believe will get your ad noticed.  You then need to refine this list and try to work out which key words are going to provide you with the maximum return on your investment (ROI).

ROI is determined by factoring how many clicks you expect to get, the expected KEI, and how much you have to spend to get those clicks.  You can get some idea of the value by determining the ASV for a particular key word (or key phrase) and the CPC associated with that keyword.

The optimum value is derived from a key word set that generates the highest ASV at the lowest CPC.

Why Understanding These Things is Important

Your goal must be always to get maximum ROI on what you are spending for PPC advertising.  If your ROI is poor, then your campaign is under-performing and you are likely to be wasting money.

In addition to the above points, you should also understand the nature of key words and how they help advertising services to show your ads to what they think are relevant users.  Always remember that a click from a user who is not really interested in what you are providing is a wasted click.

Key words are really just simple phrases that you think somebody might use to try to find the types of products that you sell.  You then want somebody searching on those terms to find you through your ad (although it's even better if they find you some other way, because then you are not paying to get their attention).

When a user could be shown your ad from just any combination of the words in your key phrases this is a "broad match".  Broad matches can be sometimes a bit misleading because not every user that sees the ad will really have an interest in the ad.  The converse is an "exact match" which requires all the words to be in a specific order.  Not many people bother with exact matches these days because users rarely refine their searches with quoted strings.

Thus a user could be just as likely to type in "web hosting canada" as "canada web hosting".  So exact matches are not always your friend.

Negative Key Words

Effective management of negative key words is important.  Negative key words are any words and phrases that you want not to trigger your ad to be displayed.  This can actually be more complicated than you may think.

For example, if you have a Canadian web hosting company, you might want to exclude the key word "Ireland" from triggering the display of your ad.  However there could be a situation where a user types in something like "Should I buy web hosting in Canada or Ireland?", and there you are potentially losing a qualified click because this user is already showing an interest in possibly buying Canadian web hosting.

So be cautious about building your negative key word list too quickly.  It is a better strategy to build this negative key word list based on observed performance over a period of time.  You will notice that certain matches are not doing well, and you can then investigate and find the negative words that are causing problems.  By doing this, you can avoid accidentally adding false negatives.

Actually Visit the Top Sites for Your Key Words

This is a step that often gets overlooked, but you have to assume that your ad will end up being displayed most often on the sites that get the most hits for the key words you selected.  With that in mind, you should evaluate the sites that feature near the top of the results.

There is a very good reason why you should do this.  If the pages are ranking well but are actually totally failing to meet the needs of the users, they will probably not bother to read much of the page and probably will not click on any of the ads on that page.

So you could get a lot of exposure for your ad but no clicks, or the clicks you get may be low quality ones (that is, they don't lead to sales, they were just generated by bored users who wanted something to click on).

You may find that after visiting some of the top sites for your key words, you don't actually like those sites as a vehicle for promoting your products or services, so in that case you might decide to go with different key words instead.  Of course you would need to repeat this step with your revised key word choices as well.

Group Related Key Words into Ad Groups

The use of the phrase "Ad Groups" has led to a lot of confusion, because what is being grouped is not actually ads but words that can trigger the ads.  When you have multiple possible ad that could be displayed (which you normally should) then using ad groups will assist the intermediary service (usually Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) to display the correct version of your ad relevant to what was being searched.

This way the user is more likely to see an ad which is relevant to them and may be more likely to click on the ad.

Consider Restricting Your Campaign to a Particular Region

Even if your campaign has global reach, it could provide you better value to target your exposure just to people from certain regions.  Your market research should have identified what demographics are most likely to purchase your product.  From that basis, you should strive to identify which regions have the highest concentrations of your target demographic.

By targeting your campaign to areas with better demographics, you are likely to get better value on your investment.  There are certain products that will sell much better in Florida than in Utah, for example.  You can also expect that in many cases you might be able to sell more of your product in Japan than in Uganda.  It all depends on what you're selling and why, but the things you should really take into account are:

Average earnings

Average age

Gender balance

Religious factors

For example, some products could sell very well in places where religion is a major factor in everyday life.  Conversely some products would sell extremely poorly in those areas.  There are products that may be targeted at women or men specifically, so areas where the gender balance is out of proportion may not be the best places to be advertising your products.

None of this is rocket science.  The important point to take from this is that if your product is of no use to a 21 year old male in Indonesia, there's not much point in getting a click from him.  So if your research tells you that your product is more likely to sell to females aged over 50 with a high disposable income, try to maximize your exposure in areas where there are more people who fit that demographic, because more of your clicks will be generating sales for you.

All of this becomes more important when your market is regional in scope.  Getting clicks from Iceland is not much help to a taco restaurant in Tucson, even if those Icelanders are considering making a trip to Arizona.  Even clicks from California and Nevada may be bad value for an Arizona-based business with limited product reach.

Your Ad Copy Should be Irresistible

Don't just write a generic ad that is completely uninspired and uninspiring.  When you visit the sites that are scoring well in your key word selection, look at the copy of your competitors' ads, and strive to come up with something better.

Even though your ad will only be one or two lines, all the usual rules of advertising are in play.  You should aim to create an emotional response or stimulate curiosity in the user so they will click on your ad.

For example, if you are advertising for a charity campaign, your competitor might have something that looks like this:

Give To The Needy

We urgently need money now.  Please give!


But that's a really boring ad that will not generate much interest.  A much better approach to this task might be:

We Are Changing Lives

Find out how just $5 is creating transformation!


Here you can see in the latter example that we are exploiting the natural curiosity of people to attract their clicks.  It won't work on everyone, but there will be some people who will want to know who is having their life transformed and how.  They may also wonder why it is necessary, and how it can be done for only five dollars.

When an ad generates questions, it is a good ad.  But you need to follow it up with a landing page that provides solid answers.  Those answers should be in the form of a strong positive message that inspires people to take action (namely, buying what you are selling).

The one thing you absolutely must avoid at all costs is creating a landing page that will leave the reader having even more questions than before they arrived.

Once again, it can prove to be a good investment to consult experts for creating your ad copy and your landing page copy to ensure that it is up to the required standard for presenting your business to the world.

Use A/B Testing for Optimal Results

This is really simple.  Used properly, it can really help but it's not entirely without side-effects.  The logic behind A/B testing is easy to understand.  You simply have two different versions of your ad, landing page, or other elements and test which one gives you the best result (you could actually test more than 2 things at a time if you wanted to).

The risk to be aware of is that while A/B testing will possibly help you get the best version of your campaign components, there is the possibility of losing some sales through providing more than one version of your campaign when it is not necessary.

So if you started with one version and it is working very well, then you may not need to attempt making a second version until you see results are falling away.  There is also more cost involved in creating multiple versions of everything if you are hiring people to perform these tasks for you.

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