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5 Steps to PPC Optimization: Brian Carter’s Scary SEO Presentation



I spoke at ScarySEO about optimizing your pay per click advertising.  It was October 2008, not back in the 70's as the curtains to the left make it appear.

 The presentation was based on my 5 step process for optimizing anything

I created that process by analyzing everything I do to optimize PPC, SEO, social media, my driving, and my wife.

(Ok, no, optimizing my wife didn't work.  My SECOND wife however, is much easier to optimize.  Just kidding.)

Back to the presentation.

The slides are below, from slideshare.net... There's no audio and the slides are just talking points, so let me give you a summary... look below the presentation...

I'll talk about how the 5 Steps of Optimization apply to Pay Per Click in more depth here than I had time for at Scary SEO:

1. Decide On Your Goal

In pay per click, your goal could be as simple as to

  • Get Leads
  • Get Sales

Those are the most common goals (and the ones that make clients happiest), so let's work with those.

2. Establish a Key Metric

Quantify Your Goals.

  • For leads, the best metric is Cost Per Lead (CPL)
  • For sales, the best metric is Return On Ad Spend (ROAS)

Note: When AdWords is linked to it, Google Analytics currently shows ROI, while AdWords reports show ROAS (called value/cost).  I mentioned this inconsistency to our AdWords team... grin

The most critical thing here is to quantify your goal

When working with clients, you need to agree with them what success looks like.  You can't keep clients happy or achieve their goals without clarity.  Some clients are easier to get this from than others.

Getting Target Metric Goals:

  • Diplomatically push your clients for this.  Ask what their metrics look like for the other advertising channels they use (or consult your analytics coworkers if you're in an agency)
  • You may have to wait until the campaign has been running a few months and has been optimized to see what's realistic.
  • Ask them if the current pay per click results are satisfactory.
  • Every few months, target a better number, and optimize toward it until you reach the asymptotes of awesomeness.

Results suffer whenever you test new keywords, new ads, new geotargets.  This is part of growth.  It's a necessary evil in the process of getting more.  After the new tests have been running a while, you can optimize them and decide if the optimized results are sufficient or if you should kill it. Don't let clients judge the results and kill a test too soon, unless they're absolutely horrible.

There are two phases to growth:

  • Expansion
  • Consolidation, or Optimization

You must expand (and spend) before you can optimize.  It's difficult to do both at once.  Sometimes clients want to make major changes AND get better results- explain to them that all new ideas are TESTS and take time to optimize.

3. Assess Where You're At (Status)

This means uncovering:

  • Business intelligence: what does your client already know from other advertising efforts about the target market and what ad copy works?
  • Website status: how good are the conversion events and landing pages?  It's not a bad idea to use web analytics to gauge the conversion rate of the key pages before starting PPC.  I like to see a sales site converting above 1% and lead conversions above 3-5%.  The Eisenbergs and conversion optimization will get you higher, but those are the minimums for PPC success.  Of course, this varies with the niche (cost per click is quite high in some).
  • Expertise: if you're doing the PPC campaign yourself, how good are you at PPC?  Do you need outside training or PPC management?

4. Plan Strategies, Tactics, and Route to Your Goal

In pay per click, there has to be a balance between tests and running what already works.  Tests have a cost.  In more mature accounts, we use campaigns to decide how much to spend on proven results-generating adgroups versus new tests (you can only budget at the campaign level).  And sometimes, a client wants to just bang out maximum results for a while, so you do little or no testing.

If your account is new
, setting it up properly will get you off on the right foot.  This is critical because poor account performance will be held against you.  In PPC work since 2004, I've seen MANY accounts that were not set up granularly enough and without ad testing.

Some tactics, used too soon, hinder results
.  For example, you could get really excited about dayparting or geotargeting, but if you commence this without any historical ONLINE data, you might be missing qualified prospects.  And if you don't get enough data, you can't optimize.

You need to start with

  • Good account structure
  • Several unique ads per ad group

Don't neglect conversion tracking or not only will you be unable to optimize, I'll turn into the BRULK and hunt you down and growl at you.

5. Let Results Guide Your Progress (Optimize)

Here you use your quantified goal (from steps one and two) to judge the success of your pay per click tests.

This is an endless cycle that takes you back to steps three (status) and four (strategy).

What you see may tell you more about the website's effectiveness, or lack thereof, at converting prospects.  If you didn't get conversion rates before starting PPC, you'll see them now.  If CPL is too high, or ROAS too low, it may be due to a low conversion rate.  

Nonetheless, conversion rate will improve with optimization, because you'll stop sending unqualified prospects (by killing bad keywords) and you'll warm up good prospects more (with better ads).

NOW in order to optimize, you must look granularly at the performance of your ads and keywords.  If you're doing this with sales, you currently have to use AdWords reports to see ROAS. It doesn't show anywhere else.

Which ads and keywords you keep or kill depend on their performance relative to others in the adgroup.

Optimizing is complex, and will require another entire post- I've written about four single-spaced pages on that alone...


But this is enough to make sure you've set up a PPC testing laboratory that will work

And with that, you can be confident you'll get better and better results each month.


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