PPC management has definitely evolved over the past few years. Advancements in technology and the introduction of new online advertising platforms now sees PPC managers having to adapt. Continued research into these new opportunities is required in order to be experts in the wider field of online advertisement. These “new” opportunities are not just coming quick and fast but they are aplenty now, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to break into the PPC job market without knowledge of all of these technologies.
Let’s get cracking. Looking back several years when I first entered the PPC industry my day to day tasks included (to name a few):
- Advert testing
- Competitor Analysis
- Keyword Optimisation
- Landing Page Optimisation
Nowadays I find myself inundated with tasks which include:
- Landing page optimisation and usability testing
- Ad Testing with ad extension optimisation
- Reporting and optimisation with attribution
- Facebook Advertising
- LinkedIn Advertising
- Twitter Advertising
- Display Advertising
- Conversion Funnel Analysis
- Google Adwords Video Ads
- SEO input
Some PPC managers may groan and think, “This is way too much to manage in the time that I have,” but I have found that building knowledge on all of these platforms leaves me in very good stead when compiling a client proposal or going to a pitch meeting. Usually businesses are looking for knowledge from their search agency/e-commerce department and a “big idea”. With all the above knowledge and practical application it is easy to come up with new ideas for the project in question. I have found that bringing up just one relevant item from the above list can open up a wealth of questions and interest from the client, and could possibly win your agency the contract, even just by saying “Oh, have you heard about remarketing?”
Remarketing is the highest converting form of display network advertising and as it is hosted in Google Adwords it falls under the PPC umbrella. A basic remarketing campaign can be set up in 20 minutes but campaigns that will drive revenue/enquiries to your client’s site may take a little longer to set up. Slapping the code on the homepage is seen as lazy when remarketing lists can be created on several deeper, more engaged pages. For instance an e-commerce site could have remarketing code on category, sub category, product and checkout pages. It is better to segment remarketing lists as targeted creative will increase click through and conversion rates massively. A great remarketing campaign will use dynamic and interactive creative which shows a browser what exact product they viewed.
What I have found with remarketing campaigns for non e-commerce sites is that the last click conversion rate may not be great but through multi-channel funnels in Google Analytics you can see the assisted conversions and how the campaign has helped out in a customer’s path to order. Another metric to measure a remarketing campaigns success is the “View Through Conversions” column in Google Adwords. Assuming the Google Adwords tracking code has been installed, this column totals conversions of users who have seen the remarketing advert and have not clicked on it. Clients love this as it shows the tangible effect of brand awareness from remarketing/display advertising.
Landing Page Optimisation & Usability Testing
Have you ever taken over an account, decreased cost per clicks, and hugely increased traffic? We have all been in this situation with one account or another, but after all that you may still be faced with a huge mountain to climb. Sending more traffic to a site that does not convert its customers can be as difficult as or even harder than increasing the traffic for the same spends. An ideal landing page gives a user all of the information they require at first glance. Take the below site for example, this company provides short term loans and they ask two questions – how much do you want and how long do you want it for? They even calculate what you need to pay back on the very same page.
Landing page optimisation has evolved with the introduction of usability testing tools. Some tools which I have had experience with are Crazy Egg, Click Tale, and KissInsights, all of which I would highly recommend. These tools show a user’s heatmap, click path, and provide a usability survey to browsers on the site and a client with actionable information about the selected pages. Seen as an add-on or extra work by some PPC managers, we have used landing page usability testing to increase our clients conversion rates, leading us to hit targets without having to dramatically increase spend and visitors.
Ad Testing with Ad Extension Optimisation
Advert testing has been around since the dawn of Google Adwords and is a weekly/monthly task for client accounts. Some in the PPC industry got a shock a few weeks back when Adwords announced adjustments to the ad rotation feature. After 30 days of testing ads will stop being rotated and the one with the highest click through rate will only show. “Ahh the horror.” Some of the inactive account managers will be upset, but I do weekly/monthly tests on my adverts which will reset the 30 day testing clock over and over again. This allows for more control and enables me to focus on conversion or revenue goals rather than click through rates. (editor’s note: between submission and publiction of this post, enough people were upset that Google offered a way to opt out of this feature)
Ad extensions have proven to be a great improvement to the Adwords product. There are six extensions in all – phone, sitelink, social, product and mobile app extensions. The most common one that I use is site links, and it has helped clickthrough rates increase dramatically across client accounts.
Choosing which ad extensions to run is usually determined by several factors. For instance:
- A client has a physical shop/premises (location extension)
- A client has a Google Shopping Feed (product extension)
- A client has a good Google+ following (social extension)
- A client has several special offers (sitelink extension)
I have not used the mobile app extension so I cannot comment. Another best practice with site link extensions is to make sure that you add a unique tracking code to the destination url of each site link so that you can track them in Google Analytics separately.
Reporting and Optimisation with Attribution
Before the introduction of attribution tools and the easily accessible multi-channel funnels, account managers were happy reporting and optimising their PPC accounts based on last click. According to a recent study by E-Consultancy over 50% of agencies still use the last click attribution model. This may be due to a lack of awareness or in most cases a lack of a water-tight attribution model. I can identify with the second option. When performing my monthly optimisation duties the other day I noticed the following results.
By the look of this, the cost per conversion was very high and the conversion rate was very low. In the past I would have performed a full campaign audit, pausing keywords which had not converted.
After digging deeper and creating a multi-channel funnel assisted conversion report for the same campaign the results were a lot different.
When making changes to PPC and even changing SEO keyword targeting, these multi-channel funnel reports should definitely be looked at, as not all clients have a one visit path to order. Some products require a research stage and the user may have several touch points with different sources before making a final purchase/action.
Attribution has also seen advancement over the past few years with the introduction of telephone tracking. This technology allows advertisers to track phone calls made to the site all the way down to keyword level. This adds an extra dimension to attribution and gives PPC agencies some meaningful telephone data. This may add extra reporting time but it proves what % of phone calls PPC is driving and allows an advertiser to optimise their accounts accurately.
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn advertising is a grey area for some PPCers. Shouldn’t the social media specialist be doing this? I am of the opinion that if you have to pay for a click, then it lies under PPC. Facebook advertising is extremely targeted as you can target groups, keywords, demographics, location, age, gender, pages….the list goes on. It sounds like a great idea to advertise a business on Facebook and reach a huge, relevant target audience, but it’s only a great idea if executed properly and efficiently.
In my opinion and from experience, here are the do’s and don’ts of Facebook advertising:
With the introduction of Facebook Interest Lists a few weeks back, we will see our target audience increase for specific interests and hobbies which will refresh any stale or existing campaigns.
LinkedIn advertising is a very affective source for B2B companies which wish to gain brand exposure and in many cases business leads. The targeting is one of the best that I have seen, with options to target job title, job function, company size and demographic, among other things. I have seen external clients using LinkedIn advertising to sell out conferences and sell in new pieces of technology; but as someone who works on an agency, it is a no brainer to advertise our services on LinkedIn also. Targeting options allow search agencies to get in front of the decision makers of companies with their proposition. Targeting private sector companies is extremely effective when done in March/April time as yearly budgets are being set and they may wish to change search agency.
Again like FB advertising, the targeting that you choose must be relevant to the company that you are advertising for. The landing page is also very important when driving users from LinkedIn to your site. A strong landing page will be setup so that the user does not have to click through to other pages to find out the information that they need. The landing page will have information about the company, the corresponding message outlined in the advert, a contact form, and a clear phone number.
Twitter advertising is somewhat in its infancy, and now is definitely the time to become an expert in this field. Sometimes external clients expect you to know about all the new technology and innovations, so don’t be surprised if they read about Twitter advertising one day and pick up the phone to ask for your opinion on it. This happened to me only last week.
Not having managed any campaigns on Twitter, it is hard for me to comment on whether or not it is effective, but from an outside perspective it looks like a strong platform for brand engagement and also seems good to promote discounts and competitions. The main Twitter advertising solutions site (https://business.twitter.com/advertise/start/) is excellent and the case studies show how to use the different promoted products. These are:
- Promoted Accounts: We have all seen these promoted accounts in the “who to follow” box in the top right of Twitter. These are promoted accounts and are paid for. The targeting is quite good, for example I recently followed a betting company on Twitter and this box was constantly populated with rival betting companies wanting me to follow them.
- Promoted Tweets: these are tweets that can be shown when a user performs a search on Twitter or can appear on your followers or followers with similar interest’s timelines. I’m of the opinion that this would be effective for one day sales and limited time offers.
- Promoted Trends: the aim of promoted trends is to get users talking about the brand and encourage conversation. Promoted trends allow an advertiser to promote a hashtag on the left of the Twitter screen where the popular trends are listed.
Does being an expert on the Google Display Network make me an expert on display advertising? Probably not, but it has led me to perform more research into the field and manage several successful display campaigns. The trick to display advertising is to find a site that your target audience is engaged with. The CPM model can be a bit confusing at first as you won’t know what results you will get before you start. This is why, once your target sites have been defined you should perform a monthly trial on them all and measure the results. Remember when viewing the results to look at assisted conversions.
The creative is also extremely important to catch a user’s attention. The click through rate can be very low in display advertising therefore your budget can be exhausted quickly with just a few resulting clicks with shoddy creative. One tip is to request top level analytics stats for the website before committing to a display campaign, even ask for page level visits if focussing advertising efforts on a certain page of a site. Also ask if there is a minimum monthly spend on the campaign.
Conversion Funnel Analysis
Looking at a client’s conversion funnel can give great insight into where you can increase conversion rates. In my experience clients will not communicate checkout changes with an agency unless it affects what you are doing. That’s why I encourage all of my clients to report on any changes in the conversion process as they can have a huge effect on transactions. Recently an e-commerce client started to see a decrease in conversion rate, and after digging deeper I found the following results:
The results on the left are from November to December 2011 and on the right January to February 2012. Even taking the increase in customers entering the funnel the decrease in advancement rate had been drastic. After enlightening the client of this major conversion rate drop at this stage, they informed me that the added credit card charges of £18.75 to this page from January, and they placed merchandise boxes over the call to action to move onto the next step. This meant that a user could not see the action required to proceed to the next step without scrolling down the page.
From my experience, it is advised that conversion funnels are checked on a monthly basis and added to monthly reports to show some clients that change to their checkout process is required in order to increase sales through the site.
Google Adwords Video Ads
Google Adwords video adverts are a great way of increasing brand visibility via YouTube videos. This recent introduction has allowed some early adopters to take advantage. An advertiser just has to have a YouTube account and one video to access this feature. You bid on a cost per view basis, therefore you are only charged when somebody views your video. The targeting features include demographic, topic, interest of YouTube search keywords. In my experience the YouTube keyword tool can be a bit misleading so I usually use my common sense when selecting keywords.
I have recently created my first Google Adwords video ad, and the results so far have been very good. The campaign has only been live since the end of April, but as you can see, the video is getting an average of 200 views per day. Overall the video has received 2,728 views, and from that, 726 website clicks. The engagement on the site has also been good, with a 46% bounce rate and an average time on site of 2 minutes and 47 seconds. There have been no direct sales from this but there have been over 12 brochure requests at cost of £315.76.
Well if you have got this far in the post a big congratulations is in order. Seeing that the SEOmoz community is very heavily SEO-based, I will now share the data which I outline to our SEO department. Usually we have clients who use our services for SEO and PPC, so when we sell the services in together we explain that running these campaigns coherently will have huge benefit, and it does.
We mainly use PPC to find and research high volume and converting keywords. The search query report in Adwords and the Matched Search Query report in Analytics are excellent reports which help you find high volume and long tail keywords to feed in to your SEO strategy. These reports give the exact search figures for the queries that were searched in Google.
PPC is also used to test and trial new keywords which the SEO team believe will drive volume and conversions through the site. We constantly set aside a portion of the monthly budget for keyword testing and are always running a test campaign alongside our normal PPC campaigns. These tests are usually run over a month with keywords on broad, phrase and exact match to encourage a variation of clicks to be received from several keyword sources. After a period of testing the results are presented, and keyword selections are made based on volume, engagement and conversion rates.
These keywords are also used for content expansion on the site. For example, if we see high volumes around the term “what is paint” we will create a page or a guide around it. When the keyword targeting is refreshed, PPC plays a big part in the selection and information gathering process.
The more that you know, the more in demand you are. Learning about all of the above elements puts you in a position of power and will lead you to be the go to guy/gal in the company when someone needs new ideas on a project, you may also be asked to join random meetings where your expertise will be called upon. The saying “A jack of all trades but a master of none” may spring to mind but with in-depth research and putting what you have learned into practice you will be a master in no time.