In the previous article we looked at 5 basic steps to enable your business to become visible online. These were having a well-designed and user-friendly site; developing an effective keyword approach; using on-page and off-page optimisation techniques and keeping the content fresh, relevant and authoritative.
While natural, or organic, search success (i.e. page 1 search result on Google, without paying) is the aspiration of the digital marketing community, paid search has the potential to create traffic in an efficient and cost-effective manner to enable you to grow your business.
Paid search results are delivered through Pay per Click, or PPC, campaigns. As with most things digital PPC has become a specialist subject with individuals and organisations providing services and automaton software in this space alone. But there is no reason why the SME owner cannot embark on this as part of his overall marketing approach.
Search is the biggest driver of leads for many small businesses but many are also apprehensive about investing in PPC campaigns through a lack of knowledge or confidence or the belief that they will not see an adequate return.
Despite these concerns there are a number of very good reasons to adopt PPC. It’s performance-based, targeted in use yet broad in its reach, easy to start, low cost and provides valuable market feedback which can be used to refine other elements of your digital marketing strategy.
So, here are 6 practical steps to create an effective paid search campaign, without overspending.
1. Create your (Google Adwords) account
Google Adwords is the dominant force in the PPC market although bingAds, Microsoft’s Yahoo!Bing network is becoming more important. Facebook and LinkedIn also provide paid search opportunities. Take some time to download and review the Adwords Campaign guide and other resources which are available.
Adverts comprise a headline of 25 characters, two subsequent lines of text each of 35 characters and a display URL. There is an art to the use of this space so be creative with the title and ensure keywords are used early.
2. Clarify your PPC budget, objectives and metrics
Although PPC campaigns can be delivered at very low cost, there is a cost and you need to determine how much you wish to spend on a daily basis and build that into your marketing and financial budget. You should also clarify what product or service you wish to promote and the outcomes you wish to achieve in terms of visitors and conversions.
The fundamental PPC metric is Clickthrough Rate (CTR) which is the number of clicks your advert receives divided by the number of times your ad is shown (or impressions). The higher this metric the better which indicates the validity of your keyword choice and the relevance of your advert content.
3. Develop targeted keyword and campaign strategies
PPC has the potential to connect your business directly with the user by attracting him/her to a small advert which appears at the top or right of the results page. The advert displays as a result of the keyword choice that is made and payment happens if the user clicks on the advert. So it is important to develop a list of specific, targeted keywords that are relevant to the products and services you offer and, where relevant, location-based.
The more specific the keyword terms, the more targeted the resulting traffic which will help improve conversion rate and return on investment (RoI). For example, the search term “shelving” produces 38m results, whereas “wooden shelving units manchester” produces 3m results.
Grouping adjacent keywords into campaigns enables you to test various approaches which may be based on the advert content, timing, geo-location or keyword/phrase. If you intend to run multiple campaigns you may wish to consider some of the PPC automation tools that are available.
4. Manage the PPC bidding process, review and adjust
Review your campaigns, keyword groups and individual keywords to see which perform best by measuring how many people click through, how many convert to a sale (or other action), and what your overall ROI is for each campaign. Much of this can be done using Google Conversion Tracking and Google Analytics. You can then start to do things like introduce ‘negative keywords’, specifying those words or phrases you wish exclude from your campaigns. Google reports can be used for this but you may prefer to simply export the data into Excel for further analysis. Move your budget to the more successful campaigns and keep doing trails.
5. Deliver the goods – optimise for conversion
There is no point investing in a great PPC campaign if you then simply take the user to your home page, or, even worse, an awful website! The impressive CTR you may have achieved will be nullified by high bounce and low conversion rates. It goes without saying that if you don’t have a good website, spend time and effort on improving that first.
Set a clear goal for the user visit in terms of conversion and ideally, take him/her to a dedicated landing page related to the campaign group. If the search is for “wooden shelving units” then ensure the advert links to the relevant page and optimise that page for the desired conversion, which may be a download, request for quotation or direct entry to the order process.
Don’t listen to people who tell you that they never click on paid search results. Over 95% of Google’s revenues come from advertising, so LOTS of people do!