PPC Search Campaigns

How to use pay-per-click (PPC) search campaigns to boost website traffic and maximize profits from day one: a 90-day plan.

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Synopsis

Topic: How to use pay-per-click (PPC) search campaigns to boost website traffic and maximize profits from day one: a 90-day plan.

We recently released the audio recording of our clinic on this topic. You can listen to a recording of this clinic here: 90-Day PPC Plan

Whether you are launching a new site or simply want to generate a large traffic spike to an existing site, we have found the best way to do this is with PPC advertising.

However, if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing with PPC, here’s what can happen:

  1. In your efforts to dramatically grow the number of visitors to your site, you can find yourself over-spending on keywords.
  2. If you’re paying too much for PPC traffic, your ROI drops and your campaigns become unprofitable.

There is a key point to recognize here.

Some companies will view PPC advertising as an expense, and will not expect to see an immediate, positive ROI, particularly during the early weeks of the campaign.

This needn’t be the case.

In this brief we will show you two things:

  1. We will show you how we drove 1,644,732 visitors to a new site over a 90-Day period, AND MADE MONEY FROM DAY ONE.
  2. We will share with you a 90-Day Plan that will enable you to design and implement the best possible PPC program for your business.

Findings

For our testing, we selected a recently launched site that provided useful information using a paid-subscription model. Traffic to the site without pay-per-click was substantial but not spectacular:

Test Site A – Natural Search Traffic
Search Engine May – July 2005
MSN 9,728
Yahoo! 5,371
Google 6,826
Other 1,563
TOTAL 23,488

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What You Need To UNDERSTAND: In three months of testing, natural (non-PPC) search traffic amounted to 23,488 unique visitors.

Test Site A – Other Traffic Sources
Search Engine May – July 2005
Other Websites (Links) 17,875
Email and Banner Ads 25,430
TOTAL 43,305

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What You Need To UNDERSTAND: In three months of testing, traffic from non-search sources (website links and email) amounted to 43,305 unique visitors.

KEY POINT: Without PPC traffic, we would have generated only 66,793 visitors to our test site. With PPC traffic, we were able to generate closer to 1.7 MILLION visitors.

Here are the results of our test site’s PPC campaign over three months:

Test Site A – PPC Traffic
May 2005 June 2005 July 2005
Cost Per Click $0.09 $0.09 $0.09
Total Clicks 549,565 416,785 678,382
Cost $48,731.45 $36,833.87 $61,647.57

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What You Need To UNDERSTAND: In a three-month period, we generated 1,644,732 visitors using PPC search marketing. In addition, we were able to optimize our campaign to create an additional 128,817 in July versus May. This is an increase of 23.4%, WITHOUT INCREASING OUR AVERAGE COST PER CLICK.

The strategy for this site was to capture as much of the market share as possible while remaining profitable. It’s certainly not difficult to spend a lot of money on PPC traffic, but to do so while maintaining a positive ROI can be a daunting task.

There are a number ways to increase the profitability of a PPC campaign. These include:

  1. Buy more traffic that converts at a defined minimum rate. (This minimum rate will depend upon your average order size, profit margin, and other factors unique to your business.)
  2. Eliminate unprofitable keywords that drain your marketing budget.
  3. Reduce bids on keywords with a negative return on investment (ROI). However, this may also substantially reduce the amount of traffic to the site.
  4. Increase the conversion rate of PPC traffic once it has reached your site.
  5. Increase the order size of converting traffic.

If you PPC campaigns become unprofitable, keep these points in mind as ways to recover. In addition, before implementing the protocol below, you may wish to review our report, Avoiding Unprofitable PPC Campaigns.

The following section describes the protocol used to generate 1,644,732 profitable PPC visits to the test site in 90 days.

90-Day PPC Protocol:

  1. Focus. Focus. Focus.

    Focus your efforts on one major search engine to start. Google AdWords may offer the greatest potential for most businesses, followed by Overture. You should not completely neglect the smaller PPC engines, but launching and optimizing a PPC campaign is very time consuming and you should focus your efforts on that which will yield the most fruit for the time invested.

    Focus on your unique value proposition. Decide what you are selling and what makes you stand out from your competitors. For example, if your price is lower than your competitors’, experiment with ads that contain actual pricing information.

    Focus on the most relevant keywords. These terms will convert better than words or phrases that are not as appropriate for your offer.

    Consider both PPC and natural search, but if you are trying to generate the greatest amount of traffic with the least effort, PPC will create more immediate results. But do not neglect building a spider-friendly site as well.

  2. Reap the benefits of a fresh start.

    If you are launching a PPC campaign for a new site, you don’t have to correct past mistakes and can begin with a well-structured search approach right away. Remember to use:

    1. Well-designed landing pages;
    2. Optimized ads with relevant keywords;
    3. Negative keywords to reduce less relevant traffic;
    4. Smart bids (not round numbers);
    5. A free, valuable email newsletter to capture the addresses of potential customers so you don’t have to pay to reach them again; and
    6. A well-organized campaign structure (see below).
  3. Build a list of keywords.

    Build a list of the keyword “themes,” phrases, and single words you plan to target. Build this “map” outside of the constraints of the PPC interface. This will allow you to focus your thoughts and more easily implement the keyword bids over multiple PPC platforms.

  4. Stay organized.

    The more thoughtful and organized your approach to PPC campaign management, the better your campaigns will perform and the better you will be able to navigate through testing and optimization. Be sure to plan for campaign expansion from the start.

  5. Use smart initial bids.

    When creating a new Google AdWords campaign, consider bidding higher than you normally would for some important terms. This is an approach unique to Google because it rewards a higher click-through rate (CTR). In a simpler world, CTR would depend solely on the quality of the ad copy. However, your CTR will be higher if your ads appear higher in the search results.

    KEY POINT: By bidding slightly higher during initial launch and then gradually lowering your bids, you can achieve and maintain better placement at lower cost per click.

    Currently, our test site is one of 16 sites bidding on its most popular word. We hold one of the topmost positions, yet have been paying less than 8.5 cents average CPC (over the last ten days) because of the high historical CTR it built up during initial launch, from which it still benefits.

  6. Test your ads.

    Set up split-testing to optimize your PPC ads. Optimize for click-through rate, which will help you achieve higher placement at lower cost, especially for Google AdWords.

    You can now choose to allow Google to automatically manage your campaigns based on the CTR of your ad creatives. Google will serve the highest CTR ads more often. Note, however, that the ad with the highest CTR may not necessarily be the ad that drives the most relevant traffic with the highest conversion rate.

    For more on this topic, read the recent related MEC Journal article, PPC Ad Copy Tested.

  7. Test your landing pages.

    Split-test your landing pages as well. Here, you will be optimizing for conversion.

    For more on this topic, read these recent related MEC Journal articles:

    Landing Pages Tested

     

     

    A/B Split Testing Brief

  8. Refine and optimize your campaign.

    After 30-60 days, you should be able to evaluate the initial success of your PPC campaign. Have you been able to tap the full potential of this PPC engine, or is there more potential for improvement? Can your ads be better? Have you experimented with keywords in the title copy? Have you utilized the right negative keywords to avoid accidental clicks from unsuitable traffic?

    If a desired keyword is too expensive, try to break it down and go after phrases that are more specific. Identify words and phrases that may not receive as much traffic but can be purchased at a lower bid.

    Consider creating customized landing pages for specific keywords. Certain types of pages will convert better for some terms than for others.

  9. Expand your campaign.

    Most companies set up a PPC campaign for terms they know their customers are looking for. But take a step back for a moment. Ask yourself what led your customers to search for those terms. This will often help you find targeted phrases that your competition hasn’t thought of.

    There are also some online tools that will help you brainstorm keyword phrases. Overture, Google, and Teoma will help you identify more relevant keywords with their keyword suggestion tools.

    Do not be afraid to go after highly specialized terms. The most specialized terms, while they may see much less traffic, often also yield the highest conversion rates.

    KEY POINT: Think BROAD instead of (or in addition to) thinking DEEP. Rather than focusing on getting the number-one position for a few keywords, purchase as many (relevant) keywords as possible. 200 terms at $0.10 per click will usually perform much better than 15 terms at $0.50 per click.

  10. Analyze profitability at the keyword level.

    Certain keywords will yield a higher ROI than others. To optimize your PPC campaign, analyze the return at the keyword level.

    Some words you will eliminate while others may deserve higher bids. But keep in mind that ROI is not the most important metric for your overall business. Your true success indicator should be total net profit, so it may be worthwhile to keep all terms that have a positive ROI, even if they are quite low. Your marketing budget and cash position will be the determining factors here.

    Our report on Avoiding Unprofitable PPC Campaigns further clarifies the distinctions and importance of ROI vs. profit.

  11. Replicate your successes.

    Now expand your campaigns to other PPC search engines.

    Pay-Per-Click Search Engines lists 659 PPC search engines, including a list of the “Top 10” that will produce the greatest results for your efforts. Also, read our previous reports:

    Small PPC Engines Tested

    Five Pay Search Engines Tested

    Overture Tested

  12. Continually revisit steps 6 and 7. Your ad-copy and landing-page optimization efforts should be recurring, periodic processes as the markets evolve.

This protocol has proven itself over time with hundreds of millions of profitable clicks. Using it will help you launch your own profitable PPC campaigns and achieve a high level of profitable traffic in a short amount of time. As always, however, no formulaic approach to Internet marketing can substitute for your own testing.

Related:  Your Landing Page Needs an Ultimate Reason to Maximize Conversion

As our further research unfolds, we will continue to share our findings with you. If you would like to suggest a topic for future study, please contact us via the website.

RELATED MEC REPORTS:

Literature Review

As part of our research on this topic, we have prepared a review of the best Internet resources on this topic.

Rating System

These sites were rated for usefulness and clarity, but alas, the rating is purely subjective.

* = Decent | ** = Good | *** = Excellent | **** = Indispensable

About This Brief

   Credits:

  1. Editor — Flint McGlaughlin
  2. Writers — Brian Alt
    Nick Usborne
  3. Contributor — Aaron Rosenthal
  4. HTML Designer — Cliff Rainer

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