Last month we covered a range of updates and changes to PPC this year, many of which cite 2016 as the biggest yet for paid search. Despite this, the question still remains how these changes are going to impact the way we run campaigns?
It may be a while, not to mention some trial and error, before some new best practices are defined. In the meantime there are still some PPC fundamentals that remain as true in 2016 as they have always been. Whether you’re new to PPC and in need of advice or simply just need a refresher, our top five tips for PPC are hand-picked to help you cover all the key bases.
The right structure
This is often the first piece of advice anyone with basic PPC knowledge will tell you, but we’ve included it here because it remains just as important and just as badly executed as ever. It may seem like stating the obvious, but there are still a surprising amount of campaigns following a haphazard structure with hundreds of keywords per ad group or else hundreds of ad groups per campaign. A poor structure can completely undermine the quality and success of your ads at its worst, and at its best it can be a nightmare to manage.
Generally speaking campaigns and ad groups should be structured based on your website, with distinctive product categories that should end in a concise list of closely related keywords. Structuring your account in this way will have a number of benefits:
- Increased relevancy to search terms and audience. Hopefully your website has been optimised for user experience, with customers able to find what they want thanks to clearly defined and well organised categories and sub categories. Consumers tend to search from experience and this categorisation forms the bulk of search terms, so structuring your account in this way will make it much easier to create concise and relevant lists of keywords that will capture quality traffic.
- Higher quality scores. Basing your account structure on your website will result in much higher landing page relevancy as every ad can link to a specific and highly relevant landing page optimised with all the keywords from your ad group. In combination with higher search term relevancy this provides an essential boost to your quality score, which means lower CPC, better ad rank and return on ad spend.
- Better management. Keeping an organised and clear structure means easier management for you. Not only will this save you time and plenty of headaches, it also has practical benefits for a successful PPC strategy. It means less time lost and confused, and more time making clear and well thought out changes to optimise your campaigns.
The image below shows a basic ad group structure for a shoe retailer, and helps to highlight how account structures can vary in detail. Take the example below; for retailers with smaller inventory these basic categories may be detailed enough, while other businesses may need to have more granular categories depending on their business and product offering. Women’s shoes for example could be further refined, with separate ad groups for ‘ankle boots’, ‘heeled boots’ and so on, rather than just one overarching boots group. Look internally and on your website, and base your structure on your individual needs, products and goals.
The right keywords
Keywords form the foundation of any campaign and are the driving force of PPC success. Keywords within an ad group should be closely related to ensure maximum relevancy to search terms and the triggered ad copy which will improve CTR and of course quality scores. A more refined list of keywords is also much easier to manage so you can expand or refine lists over time in response to changes in the search landscape.
Managing negative keywords in particular reduces spend on irrelevant and unrelated search terms, increases ROI and helps you focus on monitoring the search terms that really matter. Top convertors and long tail keywords that may offer less competition, lower CPC’s and higher conversions can be added to keyword lists over time.
Within any list of keyword ideas there will appear distinctive subcategories of keywords. These subcategories may also have further themes that can be further refined. Essentially keywords can be narrowed down to increasingly more granular categories until there’s as little as one keyword per ad group. This is not recommended as this type of keyword structure poses problems all of its own and can be just as much, if not more of a headache than managing hundreds of keywords per ad group.
Google recommends between 5 and 20 keywords per ad group, but each one will be different with either fewer or more keywords depending on the category and search trends. Rather than aim to have a certain number of keywords or have a specifically large or small scale keyword structure, look at each ad group and product category individually and don’t be afraid to play the long game. Having a group of high performing keywords straight away is impossible, so start with the basics and then improve on keyword lists continuously over time, adding new keywords, negatives and pausing under performing ones as and when required. Search trends are always changing, so the fact is the number of keywords in any given ad group should change over time as well to effectively meet the demands needed for successful PPC.
The right ad extensions
To start improving on the metrics that drive your KPI’s, whether they include impressions for brands awareness or CTR to drive traffic, ad extensions can help improve your ads visibility and relevancy. Aside from simply using more space and providing an extra clickable surface, ad extensions can provide additional information that may be the deciding factor for a click. Additionally ad extensions help your ad rank, as Google calculates the potential effect of extensions along with expected CTR, quality score and bid to decide your ad rank.
Most extensions have the ability to provide some additional value to your ad, particularly callout or sitelink extensions which provide essential details about your other offerings and USP’s. Some will be much more relevant to your particular industry, business or goals. For example location extensions will be most relevant to businesses operating locally with goals to increase foot fall while adding consumer ratings might provide the extra encouragement needed for higher involved items and word of mouth focused services.
For all extensions Google will show the extensions or combination of extensions that will improve performance, so create a range of extensions and continue to edit and add relevant extensions to improve results. For example create a variety of structured snippets using all the relevant headings possible to test and find the highest performer. Similar testing should be carried out with callout extensions. Google recommend keeping the text short and using sentence case as these ads have seen better performance compared to title case. For example ‘Free delivery’ rather than ‘Free Delivery’.
The right device
We have spoken frequently about the growing importance of mobile in terms of PPC, with Google placing increasingly more emphasis on tailoring strategies to mobile. There is an array of tools in AdWords that can be used to create a mobile optimised strategy, including device bid adjustments which can now be set specifically for all devices. With more searches originating from mobile than desktop, creating mobile specific opportunities in your campaigns is more essential than ever to PPC success.
Every business is different, and this particular tip is about optimising for the right device, not just blindly making mobile focused changes without reason. Use segments in AdWords to analyse which device is driving the most traffic to each campaign and ad group; making changes accordingly. If mobile is standing out then make relevant bid adjustments, including anchoring bids to mobile and adjusting for tablet and desktop if necessary. It is also important to note that all landing pages should be mobile friendly and for certain ad groups where mobile is responsible for a large portion of traffic, introduce ads that direct to a specific mobile landing pages.
Finally don’t forget the various extensions and add-ons that make your mobile ad experience stand out to consumers. Adding a click-to-call call extension to ads is a must have for any ad on mobile search pages, particularly if this metric is an integral part of the KPI’s you track. The same also applies for location extensions which can dramatically improve CTR’s for local businesses.
The right maintenance
Managing your PPC strategy should be an on-going process with the aim of continual improvement. This means testing and re-testing to find strengths and weaknesses in every campaign. The search landscape is continually changing, so while a particular campaign or ad group may score highly on key metrics now, this may not be the case later down the line. With additional functions and changes to AdWords itself, varying consumer search trends and competitor behaviour it only makes sense to continually adapt and optimise your strategy to meet these changing demands.
With this in mind time should be set aside regularly to experiment with ad copy, introducing new ads and monitoring performance against existing ones. Under performing ads can then be paused and new ads introduced again, building and adapting on the success of the best previous ad copy. Similarly experiment with different ad extensions; introducing new structured snippets with varying categories, product ratings and site link extensions with varying pages listed. Again, every business is different; not all extensions are relevant for every business, and from those that are relevant some may work better than others. Continual experimentation is essential to figuring out what works best for your business, as well as being able to keep track of changes. You’ll know the minute something stops being successful and adapt immediately.
If you think you could use some help managing your PPC, or want to know more about how we can help you realise your PPC goals, contact one of our team on 01183 805 705.