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SEM: Adding up changes - PPC Campaigns

Sep 23rd, 2009 | By Dave | Category: Industry Experts, Marketing

We humans like bold moves. How many of us have cheered out our favorite teams who put up the winning, homerun, touchdown, goal, basket, etc when there is no time on the clock and the air is thick with tension? Or how many of us have made a big change in life and thought, "I'm starting a new chapter," ceasing to realize that the turn of each page is just as important?

Ok so maybe I am being a little more philosophical than I should be since I am going to talk about marketing, but just as well I think we know where I am going with this. When it comes to search engines the tiniest of fractions add up and depending on how they add up they can produce BIG numbers.

Okay so lets get started. Examples, we will use a simple PPC Adwords campaign, search engine ranking on a key term, annnnnnnnnnnnnd lets go with a banner landing page. (I am just going to cover the PPC one today)

PPC Adwords

A few years back I was in a session led by Curtis R. Curtis. I believe it was at HostingCon. The important part was one of the speakers discussed PPC Adwords. He asked us how many people spent say more than $50 a month, then $100, then $1000, then $10,000, and one person there actually spent $20,000. Now mileage of course will vary when it comes to small changes, the company that spends $20k a month who receives a 1% savings will save a lot more than a company that only spends $500 a month, but the principles are of course the same. For this exercise, I am going to use a company whose budget is $1000 a month and they are running it for a year, so a $12k a month budget.

The basic principle of Google's Adwords is simple; make a text based ad, targeting certain keywords. The amount of money you are willing to spend on a click + how many people click on the ad = the ranking of where it will show up on the search term pages. That said, so you wrote a really good ad and you spend $4 a click. The 1-3 positions for that main key term targeted by you add are spending $7 a click. So we'll say you are somewhere around the 10th spot, however, web surfers like your ad better and click on it. After a few days of clicking your ad moves up to #3. You are spending less money than the others, but your ad was rewarded for its content so you are in the 3rd spot and are saving $3 a click over the #4 spot. In this, extremely basic, example you saved $3 a click and with an ad budget of $1k that would mean you save $750 a month. This is an extreme example of course to illustrate what our objective is.

The other side of the coin is Google likes putting your ad in areas that are similar to your keyword(s) to maximize your ppc dollar. Your main keyterm might cost $4 a click but Google puts you on something similar so lets say the original keyterm was web host deals, Google, being clever thinks hmmm host deals, host and hostess? Awesome I will put this ad with the hotel keywords as well. Now you might get a ton of clicks. But when they click through they see that you are selling web hosting and not party or hotel hosting deals. So they leave, but you still spent the money on them clicking on the ad. Since Google is trying to save you money, we'll say this particular one was costing you $1 and was clicked 200 times before you caught it. You were up $750, but now you are down $200 so, so far you have saved $550. Not bad, but a very simple step would have saved you $200.

Little Thing #1:Negative Keyterms

There are two forms of keywords, normal and negative. Normally means this is what I want my ad to appear on (this and its derivatives). Negative keywords are those you don't want your keywords on. Last time I talked with Ken Jurina at Epiar, he said that Google allows for 10,000 negative keywords, Yahoo allows 250, MSN allows 1,022 (with a cap of 100 characters apiece). Ken and Epiar both are the authority when it comes to negative keyterms and PPC campaigns in general. For some info on them check their rare negative keyword skills at

You made your campaigns you have multiple ads and you have spotted your target keywords. Two things you need to do is brainstorm your keyword terms and even specific words within your phrases, and figure out what other industries they are associated with and add them to your negative keywords list. Each day you should check your PPC stats and see if you got clicks from odd keyword placements, add those to your negative keyword list. Each one can save you one cent to hundreds of dollars and it shouldn't be too hard to get a few hundred. If you actually want 10k of them then sign up with Epiar (If you have a big budget for your PPC campaigns, then you should go to Epiar or another quality consultant).

Little Thing #2: Ad swap

Review, rewrite, refresh! I am going to say this every time, over and over again. Any ad campaign online that you do you need to make sure your ads are fresh. Depending on the venue this can mean swapping them out everyday, every other day, or every week. The thing is we are not even looking at big changes, we are going for small ones first. Capitalize every first letter on the second line. Swap out one word something more actionable. Swap the first and second line. Capitalize words in your domain name. Whatever, there are billions of combinations for any single ad and you should try going through them. Those who do this I salute you, now the next step. Do not base your swapping on one keyword phrase and do not base your success on clickthroughs, it should be based on conversions.

So you have 10 ads ready to go. You put two up at 50% each and you track how many clicks and the conversions on those clicks. You notice one is rocking across the board the other one isn't doing very well. Swap out the poor performer put in one of your new ones. Check it again. You notice one of the keywords (not your main) in your list is doing really well on the new one, but the new one isn't doing so well for all your other terms. Put that keyword into its own placement with the good performing ad and deal with it separately. Going back to your main, drop the underperformer and swap it with a good one. The new ad has low clicks but you notice its conversion rate is through the roof. No time to be sentimental, the first ad had a great one but its time to swap it for the new ad.

This is a constant process - it is very important (to the point of if you are not going to do it there is no point in running PPC ads). It's really not that much work either. The corrections take maybe a 10-20 mins to do per ad and you should already be tracking your ads anyway. This trick though has been known to save companies thousands and can really make your PPC campaigns pay for themselves with conversions.

Little Thing #3: Decrease your bid

In marketing, there have been many stories about companies that increased or decreases the cost of the products and ended up either making huge gains or classic blunders. One can hardly forget Cadillac and their ill-fated venture into economy cars. The car was not only failure but it knocked Cadillac out of the top luxury car spot in America because shoppers were now confused on whether Cadis were luxury cars any more. The thing is sometimes you can adjust the cost per click on your ads. After a few months of them being on there, drop the bid by a cent or so. Wait a week. If nothing happens drop it another cent. Going back to our example, it can get a maximum of 250 clicks on the main keyphrase (if you haven't used Adwords, I am greatly oversimplifying this, in practice you get a more diverse amount of clicks and 1 cent can really save you a lot more than what I am about to say). our company has decided to be bold and reduced their bid by 10 cents. The "gamble" worked and their position is unmoved. Instead of spending $1,000 for the month and getting 250 clicks they instead spent $998.40 and received 256 clicks. One minor change is all it took.

Little Thing #4: Check your organic traffic

This one actually slips a lot of peoples' minds. say you are have your Google ads targeted at keywords that you aren't doing so well in (a noble and worthwhile goal) and then one day you end up placing high on a keyword in the organic search. If your organic position is better than your ad position, its probably a good idea to make that keyword a negative keyword for your Adword campaign. Why pay for a click when you can get them for free?

Well that's four quick areas that can save you some cash with PPCs. All told, all of these can be a few hours a week and I would think a few hours is definitely worth the potential gains.

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