How can I use pay-per-click advertising to improve my rankings?

A step-by-step guide to creating an effective search marketing campaign

I have an e-commerce business and have previously relied on well-placed organic search listings. However, I’ve recently dropped to page three or under on Google for my main keywords and have been considering investing some money in a pay per click campaign. I don’t really know where to start however and need some help in measuring results. How do I go about this?

Rob Weatherhead writes:

Getting started in paid search is relatively easy. Open an account with the major search engines, choose some keywords and away you go. However, doing it well, and more importantly, knowing what is working and what is not, is a different matter.

To get started with PPC on the major search engines you simply need to open an account with a credit card, select the keywords you would like to advertise on and write some adverts to run alongside them.  To get the most out of your campaign however you will need to understand how the PPC ad systems work in order to make sure you dont make any costly mistakes. 

Understand the different ways a keyword can be treated

Each of the search engines has a list of different ways in which a keyword can be used in a PPC campaign, known as match types.  They all use slightly different terminology but the main ones to consider are:

  • Broad match – if a keyword is added to a campaign using broad match your ad can be triggered wherever and however the keyword (and potentially other similar keywords) is used in a user query.  Broad matching is an effective way of reaching a wider audience, but has the potential to draw unwanted traffic.
  • Exact match – if a keyword is added using exact match your advert will only appear when that exact keyword is searched for.
  • Phrase match – if you have used phrase match your advert will appear if the keyword is used with other keywords in front or behind of it, but not in between.  E.g. “used book” on phrase match would appear on “used book dealer” and “buy used book”, but not “used paperback book”.
  • Negative match – negative match can be used to stop your adverts showing for a particular keyword.  If in the “used book” example above you didn’t want to show for “used paperback book”, you could include “paperback” as a negative keyword.

Understand campaign structure 

There is a very clear structure to PPC campaigns when you set them up but many people fail to use this correctly. The basic structure is:

  • Account: The top level account you open with the search engine
  • Campaign: You can have multiple campaigns within an account
  • Adgroup: A group of keywords and their associated ads

Many newcomers to PPC will open an account, create 1 campaign, 1 adgroup, dump a load of keywords in it and write 1 advert.  This is not the way to go about things! This approach will give you a very poorly optimised campaign and will limit your success greatly.  You should group your keywords into common themes and create an ad group for each theme.  You can then write a number (ideally three) adverts targeted to that specific theme, thus allowing you to get the keyword in the adverts displayed in bold, and earning you a much higher click through rate.

Decide what success looks like

Before beginning a PPC campaign it is important to decide what success looks like for the campaign.  What are you trying to achieve? How much is a sale worth to you? From here you can work out what are the key metrics you need to measure and can set targets for your campaign to work towards.  Without this it is very difficult to know whether the campaign is “working”.

Ensure you have a way to measure success

Now we come on to the method for measuring effectiveness and monitoring the success of the campaign as a whole as well as individual keywords.  At a time when there are free tools available on the market which offer advanced data on your online marketing efforts there is no real excuse for not utilising them.  Without accurate tracking on a PPC campaign you are effectively operating blind without any knowledge of the areas of the campaign which are bringing you sales.  This leads not only to inefficient spending of PPC budget, but also missed opportunities as it may be you could be driving more business through the keywords which are working for you.

Google have their own tool named Google Analytics which is free to use.  All you have to do is sign up for an account and install some tracking code on each page of your website.  You can then set up Google Analytics to track your PPC campaign and whatever onsite metric you are using as a measure for success.  Once installed correctly this will show you everything you need to know about your PPC visitors.  It will show you what pages they looked at, how many pages they viewed, how long they spent on your site and ultimately whether or not they made a purchase.  This information can be fed back into your PPC campaign and can also give you an indication of how your website is performing and whether there is anything you need to do to improve user experience.

Rob Weatherhead is Managing Director of Latitude Express offering pay per click and search engine optimisation for small to medium sized businesses.

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