How to create a successful Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing campaign without overspending

Eight tips for start-ups and small businesses to create, manage and analyse effective paid search campaigns

Search is the biggest driver of leads for many small businesses and increasingly start-ups are investing in Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns to drive traffic. However, it’s easy to buy hundreds of keywords and then end up with a budget that’s out of control, or an expensive campaign that’s not generating the return you want. Here’s some practical advice and tips on how to create an effective paid search campaign without overspending.

1. Choose your keywords

Firstly, broadly speaking, the more specific you are, the better. Specific search terms should mean more targeted traffic, a better conversion rate and a higher return on your investment.

So if conversions are your goal, keep your keywords very specific to what you’re selling and use words your potential customers would be familiar with. Choose them based on what people are searching for (rather than choosing obscure marketing terms, for example), and make them relevant to what you want people to buy. If you’ve set up a cupcake delivery business in Manchester, bidding on a keyword ‘cake shop’ or even ‘cupcakes’ could end up wasting you a lot of money. The phrase ‘gluten-free birthday cupcake delivery in Manchester’ might get you less traffic, but it would be much more targeted, and will save you wasting money on irrelevant clicks to your site.

2. Group your keywords and create campaigns

Rather than setting rules for every single keyword on its own, group associated keywords and create campaigns which include a number of groups. For example, if you have a jewellery shop, you might create an ad campaign for ‘earrings’. Within that there might be a group called ‘silver earrings’, which would include keywords such as ‘silver hoop earrings’, ‘handmade silver earrings’ and so on. This makes your keywords much easier to manage, and lets you assess the Return on Investment (ROI) from campaigns, as well as from groups of keywords within those campaigns.

3. Make sure your website delivers the experience your customers want

Using the cupcake example again, if someone is searching specifically for ‘gluten-free cupcakes’, make sure that the link will take them through to the page where you list that product. You then need to ensure that the specific product is easy to find and easy to buy. Using Google Analytics effectively will help you make sure your website is working with your search campaign. However good your PPC is, if your website isn’t up to scratch, you could be wasting your budget.

4. Analyse your busiest times

If you don’t know, visit Google Insights for Search, which lets you view search trends for a keyword in a specified location. This means you can work out when your target audience is most likely to be searching for your product or service, and plan your bidding and budget accordingly.

5. Set your budget

To help you work out a budget, visit the Traffic Estimator Tool in the ‘Reporting and Tools’ section of your Google AdWords account. Here, you can enter your main keywords, set a maximum budget per click and your ideal budget, and the tool will show you how much traffic you’re likely to receive. You can play around with the tool until you find the right balance between traffic and budget.

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6. Manage the bidding process

If you use an automated bidding tool, you can adjust your bids automatically based on any set criteria (such as budget parameters, or by increasing your bid at the best performing times of day and decreasing it at lower-performing times).

7. Track the success of your campaign

Look at which of your campaigns, keyword groups and individual keywords are performing the best, by measuring how many people click through, how many people convert to a sale (or other action), and what your overall ROI is for each campaign. You can do much of this on Google, using Conversion Tracking and Google Analytics. You can then start to do things like introduce ‘negative keywords’ – keywords that you exclude from your campaigns –  and pause campaigns that aren’t performing well, to focus on the ones that are.

8. Review your keywords and campaigns regularly

Ideally, your campaign should be reviewed continually (if you have automated reporting), but if not, it should be looked at monthly at least- to make sure you aren’t wasting money on clicks that don’t convert. If you’re doing it yourself, Google reports are a good place to start, but they aren’t always easy to use, so be prepared to export a lot of excel spreadsheets and set aside some time to analyse what they mean.

Alistair Dent is head of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) at Periscopix, a marketing agency with a specialist division offering PPC campaigns to Small businesses.


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