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7 Pay-Per-Click Advertising Mistakes to Avoid in 2011

2010 was a big year for pay-per-click marketing. Google made significant changes to AdWords, and Bing integrated PPC advertising from Yahoo! into its adCenter. Now, much to the chagrin of advertisers who prefer a “set and forget” approach to their advertising campaigns, the bar for effective PPC campaign management has risen.

Position your PPC campaigns for success in 2011 by avoiding the seven bad habits listed below.

1. Don’t Get Caught Up In Beta

There are a number of new and exciting features being introduced into AdWords these days. For example, we’ve seen the addition of several new ad extensions — as well as new product targeting — that ties into Google Shopping feeds. Having new features to play with is exciting, but don’t assume they will work for you just yet.

We suggest taking the time to learn the pros and cons of the different advertising options that have been added into AdWords, and then testing them in smaller campaigns so that you can carefully track results and determine which ad types perform best.

Remember to put the largest portion of your attention and resources into proven PPC tactics, and don’t neglect good campaign structure and best practices in response to new trends.

2. Don’t Forget to Focus on ‘Post-Click’

Your PPC advertising is a terrific way to drive traffic to your site, but that certainly can’t be the whole story.

To improve conversions, make sure that your landing pages and site navigation are clean, relevant. Larger stores should also consider conversion testing to determine what site elements and messaging are the most effective at supporting sales. Finally, make sure to follow up with new customers that you obtain through PPC with strong email campaigns that increase the lifetime value of each customer.

3. Don’t Make False Assumptions about Your Competition

Reading up on industry news and advice is important, as is keeping up with what your competition is doing. Don’t assume, however, that just because a competitor is doing something, it is working for them or that it will work for you.

4. Don’t Underestimate the Value of Data

Numbers don’t lie. The most successful PPC campaigns are driven by an objective analysis of data, rather than by gut instinct or an artful approach. Effective PPC marketing is a science, and should be treated as such. Collecting valuable data from which to draw conclusions starts with having an effective PPC campaign structure that enables you to collect and act on data swiftly. See “Google Instant and Pay-per-click Advertising,” my previous article on campaign structures.

What data should you be collecting? Start by tracking revenue to particular keywords and ads — for a full return-on-investment analysis. Also, don’t just rely on the data that’s available to you through your AdWords or adCenter dashboards. Get into your site’s analytics software to measure other data points, such as bounce rate, average time on site, and click trails related to specific keywords or campaigns. A solid understanding of how traffic from particular keywords interacts with your website gives you the opportunity to test new features, techniques, and targets before dismissing particular keywords as poor performers.

5. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the Broad Match Basket

When you find a keyword that performs well, you may be inclined to set a “broad match” on that keyword to expand to similar, related phrases. In many of the campaigns that we audit, however, we find that broad match is being overused to the detriment of the campaign’s overall performance. Moreover, in some of those cases, previous PPC managers were inclined to use “exact match” as a way to rescue a keyword’s performance, but that can be severely limiting.

Consider testing other match options, like “phrase match,” and Google’s new “modified broad match.” Also, as you experiment with various match types, check search query reports to see the keywords that trigger each ad, so that keywords that use broad matches don’t trigger irrelevant ads. Then, monitor your campaign performance over time to find the match types that work best for you depending on the keywords you are targeting.

6. Don’t Go Back to 2001 PPC

Many times when auditing accounts, we find PPC accounts that are falling victim to the “set it and forget it” mindset. These campaigns are managed by individuals who rarely make adjustments to their budgets, ad copy, match types, and various campaign settings. In addition, they are not testing new features.

We also see campaigns that were set up properly — using an approach that worked years ago — but that is not optimal presently. Campaigns like these might be profitable, but as time passes, and as the competition improves, the ROI from these campaigns slowly declines as opportunities for improvement are missed.

The “set and forget” approach will prevent your account from growing, and makes it easy for your competitors to fill the void.

7. Don’t Rely Solely on Google AdWords

While Google AdWords is the dominant name in PPC, don’t rely solely on it for your PPC efforts. MSN adCenter has come a long way since its merger with Yahoo! Search Marketing. MSN makes it easier to import AdWords campaigns and MSN’s interface is easier to use. The audience that you can reach through Yahoo! and MSN cannot be ignored, and many of our clients have seen positive sales come from this often-overlooked channel, at a lesser cost.

If you haven’t already created an adCenter Account, look into doing so. There are still some problems with adCenter, and the software does not yet meet Google’s standards, but there is still a lot of opportunity to build profitable campaigns. Learn what adCenter has to offer while keeping your AdWords campaigns going strong.

Scott Smigler
Scott Smigler
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