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By Elizabeth Marsten | Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Running Smart PPC Campaigns

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One of the most common complaints I hear about unsuccessful PPC marketing is that “it just didn’t work,” “I didn’t have time,” or “I didn’t see a return on my investment.” All are fair and common problems—and completely understandable. The notion of paying on a per-click basis may seem simple, but it can spiral into a very expensive, complex, and frustrating time sink.

Here’s how to run smart PPC campaigns and avoid wasting your advertising dollars.

Plan and calendar

Set aside time on your schedule to review your account; I recommend between 30 and 90 minutes once or twice per week. Put it on your calendar and treat it like an appointment that cannot be moved or rescheduled. If you don’t schedule this time, you’ll always feel like you’re playing “catch up” and that you’re not in control of the spend or the account.

Next, if you haven’t already identified what “success” means—which metrics you’ll use to determine that success—do it now. Those metrics will feed into the reports you review during your regularly scheduled time. I recommend starting at a 2:1 return: $2 earned for every $1 spent.

If you’re doing ecommerce, the most common metrics to look at are cost, CPA (cost per action), revenue, and transactions. This means you’ll need to make a custom report in your analytics platform that informs you of these metrics and shows up in your inbox via a schedule. Or, if you have Google Analytics, create a dashboard that you can quickly open and see the metrics on whichever date range you select.

If you’re lead-generation based, you’re going to focus on cost, CPA, number of leads, and quality of leads. Having a “go to” report to keep you informed is critical to identifying issues quickly and building confidence in your efforts.

Sort, clean house, and automate

Label campaigns. Label keywords. Label ad groups. Label everything. AdWords lets you label parts of your account—which can be helpful for remembering what you were working on the last time you were in the account. Let’s say you made new ad groups and wanted to track their performance easily. Simply add a label and then the next time you log in, filter by that label to see them all at a glance. This is especially helpful if you have a promotion with a time limit, like free shipping for a limited time. If you have ad copy featuring that promotion, label all those ads with “free ship” and then set an automated rule to pause or delete those ads when the promotion is finished. Save yourself time and worry.

Delete what you don’t need. Don’t hang onto keywords in the hopes that they might convert—even if you know they’re relevant. If you’re unable to let them go, check out the assisted conversions section, if you have Google Analytics. If those keywords aren’t contributing on the first click or the last click in the last 30-60 days, they need to go.

Use AdWords Automated Rules. (But make sure to preview the rule you’ve just created before you turn it on.) Automated rules are a HUGE timesaver when used properly; start simple and set up some “floor” and “ceiling” rules that run every week or every 30 days, depending on how fast your traffic gathers.

A “floor” rule would be that if keyword X does not convert in 30 days but spends more than say, twice the desired CPA, then AdWords pauses it automatically. A “ceiling” rule would be if a certain campaign hit its daily budget (and it normally doesn’t), then it looks at conversions and, if they’re not up to par, it alerts you.

One of my favorite rules is for a client who converts higher on the weekends than weekdays and just needs a “boost” in daily budget for those two days — so we run a rule on Friday evening to increase the daily budget and another rule on early Monday morning to drop it back down. Because it’s a rule, we can just apply it to each new campaign as needed in two clicks.

Keep up with the industry

Finally, how do you keep up with all the new stuff coming out constantly from AdWords? First of all, don’t worry so much. The basic text ad and cost-per-click concept is still there and still works. The best thing you can do is choose a couple of days a week and spend the first 15 minutes of those days reading up on articles and blogs related to PPC on topics relevant to your business. I recommend curating this content on something more robust and searchable than bookmarks, like GetPocket or Evernote. I follow the official AdWords blog for new products or changes (signed up to get new posts delivered to my inbox), This Week in SEM from Search Engine Land for optimization, and opinion articles and PPC Hero for the how-to on implementation and best practices.

Establishing simple habits like these will not only streamline your workflow but help alleviate that overwhelming feeling of uncertainty that PPC has a tendency to build. You’ll feel more in control and should see better results from your marketing dollars.

To learn more, watch my courses Pay Per Click Fundamentals and Google Shopping and PLA Fundamentals on lynda.com.

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