Beyond the Basics: 8 Tips for the Intermediate PPC Manager

A while back I went over the basics of search advertising, or pay-per-click. These are still the best place to start, and can be broken down into four areas:
  • Keywords: do keyword research, and use keyword groups to segment your audiences. Also use different match types to make sure you’re targeting the right users at the right times in their buying cycle, but not overpaying for lower-performance phrases.
  • Ad copy: Use keywords in your ad copy, and prioritize the relevance of what you’re advertising (in relation to the search terms) over branding or your company name.
  • Landing page: Make sure your landing page is relevant to your keywords, and ads.
  • Performance Tracking: Know what metrics are important to your business; monitor and improve your campaigns over time through controlled testing.

But what if you’re already doing all that? Here are the next 8 steps:

  1. Use negatives on your broad match keywords.

    If you don’t want to limit your options to specific phrases by using only exact match, because some of your keywords might be combined with an unpredictably long list of other keywords, most of which are relevant combinations, but a handful of which are irrelevant, set the main keyword to broad match, and enter the handful of irrelevant modifiers as negative matches, at the keyword level.

  2. Use dynamic keyword insertion.

    If you’re targeting a lot of similar products, or one product that comes in a lot of different colors (e.g. blue plaid shorts, red plaid shorts, etc.), you can improve the relevance of your ad copy quickly by using DKI to insert the user’s search terms into your copy (space permitting).

  3. Brand vs. Non-brand keywords and ads

    If you get traffic from people searching your brand name and also bid on brand-name keywords for SERP domination purposes (assuming you rank organically for your brand name), this is when you should test the inclusion of the brand in your ad copy. Similarly, if you sell another company’s brands on your website and it’s popular enough to get branded search traffic, monitor the performance of branded vs. non-branded keywords, as well as brand names in ad copy. (Note: Google has relaxed its restrictions on using brand names in ad copy in the US at least; if you are advertising in another country, please learn about local copyright law and Google’s country-specific policies.)

  4. Discounts and other selling points

    If you offer free shipping, online discount codes, guarantees or other differentiating points, test them against eachother in each keyword group. They might perform differently at different stages of the buying process. However, monitor the performance of discount codes carefully: they will most likely increase sales or orders, but they also erode margins, so make sure that you’re not increasing volume at the expense of profits. In other words, make sure your discount volume isn’t cannibalizing visitors who would be willing to pay full price anyway.

  5. Link AdWords with Analytics

    Even if you’re using the same Google Account login for both AdWords and Analytics, they might not be linked by default: check in the “Reports” tab or AdWords. Linking these two services allows Analytics to incorporate cost-per-click data, and allows AdWords to incorporate Analytics Goal data into keyword and ad performance reports. (Note: if you’ve just linked the two services, it might take a week or two for the latter option to become available.)

  6. Bid based on time of day

    Most search advertising programs now offer the option to schedule your ads for certain times of the day, and even increase or decrease bids. Monitor performance by time of day, and increase your budget at peak-converting times, not necessarily peak traffic times.

  7. Create separate campaigns for the content network

    There is too much variance in costs-per-click, ad performance, and keyword relevance between the Search network and the Content network to use the same campaigns across the two. If you’re currently advertising everywhere, stop. Disable content partners in your current campaigns. If you have gotten ROI out of the content network, duplicate these campaigns, and have these new copies target only the content network, and optimize your two sets of campaigns separately.

  8. Prioritize & Find New Opportunities

    There is a wealth of data about searcher behavior available, much of it for free if you know where to look. Two good places to start are Google Trends, and eBay Pulse. Google Trends provides great historical data on popular keywords, so you can identify seasonal keywords, outdated terms that aren’t worth pursuing anymore, or up-and-coming buzz words that should be on your radar. eBay Pulse is great for growing your keyword list, as it can help you identify the language that shopping searchers specifically are using.