My firm is in the pay-per-click advertising business. We’ve managed PPC accounts for hundreds of companies for roughly a decade, and we’ve developed strong opinions as to what makes for a good PPC manager, and what does not.
To be sure, there are many terrific PPC management firms other than Exclusive Concepts, the firm I founded. And a search for “Pay-Per-Click Management” in Google, Bing or Yahoo! will produce dozens of qualified companies.
My recommendations below come from working with large companies and small companies, with both large and small budgets. And in the last few years we’ve examined hundreds of PPC accounts from online retailers.
What follows are the most common errors and oversights we’ve seen in the management of PPC accounts.
1. Lack of Transparency
Your PPC manager should be able to explain to you what he or she is doing with your account, and why. You should have direct access to your accounts — many firms prevent this — so that you can review the campaigns and ask questions. “Just trust me” or “I’m the expert” are not good answers as to why a particular decision is being made with your money.
2. Failure to Educate
Along with transparency, another hallmark of a good PPC manager is the ability and willingness to educate a client. Your PPC manager should be willing to teach you about pay-per-click advertising. You may know the basics, like what a click through rate is, and what cost-per-conversion is, but a good PPC manager will give you the details about why a campaign is structured the way it is, and what positive result can be expected from certain strategies.
Some PPC managers “do it for you,” but don’t involve you in decisions. Some will “tell you what to do,” but won’t give you support after the fact. We recommend the “do it with you” model, where your PPC manager takes responsibility for creating ideas and implementing them, but involves you in strategic decision making.
3. Ignoring Actual Revenue from PPC Ads
If your PPC manager is not tracking your revenue-per-conversion — this is different from cost-per-conversion — in Google AdWords and Microsoft adCenter, you are likely missing out on valuable and actionable data. It isn’t enough to assume that your PPC conversions will produce a similar average order value as the rest of your marketing efforts.
4. Lack of Ecommerce Expertise
Managing an ecommerce PPC campaign is very different than managing campaigns in other industries, such as software and financial services.
In ecommerce, you and your competitors often have access to more actionable data — including revenue numbers — which requires constant analysis to find unexploited opportunities in the marketplace. There is also much more competition in ecommerce, and a much smaller margin for error.
5. Ignoring the ‘Settings’ Tab
The settings tab for PPC campaigns is one of the most overlooked areas we’ve seen in our PPC account audits. The settings tab in Google AdWords is where your PPC manager can make a huge difference by targeting your audiences correctly. The settings tab includes all the “under the hood” options, such as where your PPC ads will appear geographically, when you would like them to show, on what devices you want them to be displayed, and in what network(s) you want them to be included in, such as search, and display.
Choosing the correct options in the settings tab can help a campaign perform profitably. Choosing the wrong settings, or not making any adjustments to the default settings at all, can cost you a lot of money.
6. Lack of Campaign Structure
Your PPC manager should carefully structure your account in AdWords and adCenter.
Each campaign should have multiple ad groups to target tight, specific clusters of keywords. Keywords from within the ad group should be used as frequently as possible within the text of ads to improve the overall relevance of each ad group.
Landing pages should be specific to the ad group that is being targeted. Using the home page as a landing page should be avoided, except in the most general of ad groups. Mobile targeting and computer-only targeting should be separated. Ads should be tested to collect data and improve performance.
Make sure your PPC manager understands this.
7. Failure to Test
There is always room for improvement in any PPC campaign. The best way to determine what is working and what isn’t is to frequently test the effectiveness of campaigns, ad groups, ad copy, and landing pages. At the very least, a good PPC manager will A/B test your ad copy by setting ads to rotate evenly.
Over time, it is possible to analyze results from your copy tests to determine which messaging is most effective for your customers. Once a winning ad is identified, similar messaging can be used in other ad groups.
You can help determine what users value about your products by experimenting with different adjectives in a keyword campaign. For example, are users more likely to buy “Custom ID jewelry” or “Personalized ID Jewelry”? If you are in the business of custom engraved jewelry, this is something you want to know, and PPC testing can help you to find out.
8. Ineffective Budget Allocation
Budget allocation for ecommerce PPC advertising can drive your profitability, or hold you back, depending on how it is managed. Be wary of any PPC manager who hands you a new set of campaigns where every campaign is set to spend fifty dollars a day, or where every ad group has the same maximum cost per click. It is possible to set specific budgets for every campaign, and specific maximum costs on both the ad group and keyword level, and optimizing these settings can have a big impact on the profitability of your account.
We suggest that you allocate more budget to your most profitable campaigns, to be sure. But also allocate to campaigns where you have higher profit margins on the products being sold. Additionally, it makes sense to bid higher on highly converting keyword terms, as well as on long-tail keywords that are most often searched for by a highly motivated buyer.
Monitor campaigns that are tagged as “limited by budget” in AdWords. This may indicate that you are losing out on opportunities because with your current budget you’re losing a high level of impression share. That said, don’t assume that just because your campaign is tagged as “limited by budget” that you should immediately increase the budget. The budget decisions should be made based on the historical data you have collected on the profitability of the campaign.
In terms of PPC budget, the rule of thumb is that there is no rule of thumb. Each campaign and ad group should be analyzed separately and the budget should be set in order to make the most of your investment.
9. Missing New Opportunities
Your PPC manager should know about the newest developments in the paid search market, and take the time to determine if your account would benefit from new types of advertising being offered. Is your PPC manager suggesting that you get involved with beta programs through Google? Has your PPC manager started using remarketing in your account? If not, have they explained why it wouldn’t be the best choice for your market? Is your PPC manager targeting the display network through topic targeting? Has your PPC manager linked your Google Shopping feed into your AdWords account to take advantage of product extensions and product listing ads?
10. Not Understanding Your Business
Any small business owner can tell you that every market is different. Setting up a PPC account for a retailer selling baby toys is different than setting up one for, say, industrial and commercial lighting. The demographic is different. The buyers are different. The time of day they search for products may be different. The geographic areas where they are searching from may be different. The point is, a good PPC manager won’t just create one size fits all campaigns for every client, and pile different keywords in each time.
A professional PPC manager will ask you questions about your products, your competition, and your customers to best craft a PPC account that can be profitable. This may involve geotargeting with specific campaigns for different locations, or setting ads to only show during the business week, or on Pacific U.S. Time, for example.
Your PPC account should be as unique as your business. Your PPC manager should react quickly to seasonal changes in your market, and create fresh ad copy to take advantage of especially strong buying seasons. He or she should also be on top of your marketing calendar, crafting ads to highlight sales and promotions. The more custom tailored your PPC account is for your market, the more effectively it will perform.