The Beginner’s Guide to PPC for Small Business
Whether you’re a seasoned PPC’er or setting up your first campaign, there are some steadfast guidelines to pay attention to in order to maximize your client’s advertising dollar for good ROI (return on investment…see, I told you this was a beginner’s guide)
Below, I’ll outline several key steps to pay mind when starting your PPC campaigns for small businesses. As you read through them, you’ll probably have a few eye-rolls, a few smacks of the palm to your forehead, or maybe you’ve already copied the URL into an email or your own blog. These are all common-sense preparation steps/solutions to running a successful campaign. And so, without further ado:
1) Review Your Analytics. Then review them again.
Can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people ready to fire off campaigns willy-nilly without even thinking to look at the analytics. (It happens more than you think)
How can you accurately prescribe a solution without knowing the problem(s) are first? How can you leverage what users/consumers are already searching for, roll those searches in a mass of conversions, if you don’t know? You can’t. When looking through the analytics look for the following:
The percentage of search engine traffic that makes up the total visits. This is more for the PPC’er than client. You’ve got to know what you can expect from the campaigns and how to deliver your strategies with reasonable expectations. If you promise them the galaxy, and only end up at the moon, that’s egg you can’t wipe off your face too easily.
Of the search engine traffic, what engine(s) provide the most traffic. If you are dealing with smaller clients, with smallish spends, then you need to know where the majority of search traffic comes from. Sure, you can mostly expect that Google will always be Number 1, but you might find that Live sends more high quality traffic over Yahoo (not likely, but you never know). In this manner you can plan a strategy and carve up that budget accordingly.
Find all the high conversion keyword phrases that users are already using to find the site. Chances are it’s branded keywords and phrases, but on occasion you find a diamond in the rough. (see point #3 for more Keyword Detail)
Geo-Location: Find out where the users are coming from. Remember, this is small business, so the traffic is likely to be localized within a state or a region. Talk with the client about their strong markets, and find those gems they might not have considered. Select some high impact areas to begin with and as the campaign progresses expand the net. In the beginning it’s about getting a good bang for their buck.
Remember this one equation: DATA=CONVERSIONS. Without data, you’re just flying blind and guessing. Ask every single client for at least 1 week of data analysis prior to PPC campaign strategy recommendations and set-up.
2) Goal Establishment: Find Your Finish Lines
Once you’ve done all your research, you need to establish GOALS: goal pages and goal funnels. Work with the client to find out what it is the REALLY want to accomplish with this PPC campaign. Never believe them when they tell you they want increased traffic their site and nothing more. Their lying, and might not even know it. They want to convert something on their website: an email sign-up, a line of products that have become stagnant recently, a contact form, just about anything that can be monetized on the site.
Take that extra step, work with the client to determine just what they want out of this. Never leave it at “increased traffic and more pageviews”.
3) Keyword Research: Big Nets = Quick Spends
Here’s where I’m going to buck tradition because remember we have a very limited budget in order to get high ROI. Be selective about the keywords you choose; meaning, you’ll have to be the decision-maker about which keywords get the axe because they are too broad and are likely to burn up your budget quickly. For small business, it’s mostly about the long-tail phrases and more niche phrases.
Chances are you’re going to be competing with some major corps on that small budget, where you can get priced out of the game easily because they simply have more dollars to throw at it. Over time, if you see good results, you can augment your campaign to compete, but the safe bet is to stay out of the broad terms and work the niche phrases and smaller broad terms. For instance, instead of buying “DVD Players”, you may want to target “Sony XML102100 Blu-Ray Player” or ” Sony Blu-Ray HD DVD Player”.
It may not bring in a flood of impressions, but those that do search for those phrases are most likely farther down the the purchasing funnel and more apt to converting.
4) Ad Variations: A Merry-Go-Round of Words
The key to any successful campaign is to have plenty of ad variations. And, since they are free to create, you have no reason not to experiment with different word combinations. While this seems counter-intuitive to #3, in the long run it’s not. The objective is to find the ad the produces the most conversions. Writing a single ad doesn’t give you enough to test.
5) Get Your SEO On
Yes, I know, everything comes back to SEO. And, unfortunately, it’s true. PPC can be used as a long-term tool, but to be effective for small business clients, there must be an SEO base.
Quality scores are dependent on on-site content and the relevancy for the keyword on the page the ad links to. In essence, the better you do on your SEO, the lower you click-thrus cost, all while maintaining the same position.
5a) Landing Page Optimization: Testing Out Your Landing Pages for Success
More importantly, SEO can be used to optimize landing pages that your ads are linking to. What do I mean? Well, if you see an abundance of traffic coming to your landing page but no one is converting there’s one of two problems:
- You aren’t sending the user to the right page and they aren’t finding enough compelling information to make the conversion.
- Goal Presentation is not optimal and users are not getting into the final leg of the purchase funnel.
The idea here is to test, test, test, different landing page combinations to find which landing page entices the most users to finish the purchase cycle. Try using Google Website Optimizer, now free to public, if you think you might have this issue.
So there you have it, 5 (ok, 5.5) basic guidelines to follow for small business PPC campaigns. If you have any that you think must be added to this list, feel free to write back and let us all know.
Google AdSense: Behavioral Targeting?
Barry Schwartz posted an interesting piece on Search Engine Land today about Google submitting a patent application for behaviorally targeting PPC. Besides being intellectually stimulating, instituting behaviorally targeted PPC to users based off Google Tool Bar data and, of course through, as I talked about in Search 4.0, user login (remember, when you sign up for an account, you provide them geographic data) could have some pretty large ramifications in the paid search world.
1) Quality Score Irrelevant?
Quality Score may become irrelevant down the road. If a user continually searches in specific geographic location, then the behavioral algorithm “should” produce only ads in or around that location. Assuming the advertiser is paying the requisite amount to show in a high position, users may be going to garbage sites. Per the new regulations, Google set in motion in April (not allowing the Destination URL differ from the Display URL) it won’t be true SPAM, but for those of us who spend time optimizing landing pages for the keywords we are buying, it seems a bit ludicrous. Moreover, this seems like another way Google will start a bidding war between paid advertisers and generate higher bids (again).
2) Leveling the Playing Field Further
This is, however, better news for smaller companies and organizations struggling to keep up. Paid ads were meant to level the field for websites who were in the process of, or have yet to, SEO their site. Small sites could get the needed exposure necessary to “play ball” with the “big kids”. Grabbing more detailed information on users’ habits, it only stands to reason that smaller companies who have yet to make SEO improvements, it will allow them to be seen for valuable keywords. (Not withstanding these companies have usable and content-developed site to take advantage of this exposure) The little man gets a semi-fair shake from the big guy.
3) Users’ Privacy
It’s gone, and we’re all going to have to be ok with that. It is what is it. Google owns search, and, therefore, gets to dictate how search functions, how search collects data, and how search is displayed to users. The same is true of Search 4.0 (Personalized Search), and I didn’t hear any complaints about that from the crowd. Think of it this way: (which is how I’m pretty sure Google is thinking about it) users are getting the most, nearly in absolute, relevant results possible for that particular user. And, that’s the key phrase “for that particular user”. Google’s entire mission is to provide the most relevant results possible for each query performed by a user (not to mention making money). This fits into that mission. It’s the where the web has been for the last couple of years, and it’s definitely where it’s going: complete transparency. No more secrets (thank you Ben Kingsley). I’m not too worried about my privacy, everything is available out there anyway, if you know the right people and know where to look. The web is evolving once again and, once again, it’s our job as SEOs and Search Marketers to help our clients understand it, compete in it, and win in it.