Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is one of the most powerful approaches to getting traffic to your site because you have so much control over it. At the flip of a switch, you can have traffic to any page of your website. But because each click costs money, you must handle PPC carefully, paying the right amount per click, making sure your audience is targeted, sending each click to the most appropriate page, and monitoring / adjusting to results. If you're doing this without the help of a professional, keep these tips in mind:
[Please note, Google and Bing ads generated through feeds are a little different, so I won't focus on those here.]
Choosing PPC Accounts
While Adwords and Bing Ads are the best known PPC services, there are many to choose from. However, the more you expand into additional services, the more time you'll take overseeing your accounts. Plus, a lot of evidence suggests that other services are more prone to click fraud, which means you're charged for clicks that do you no good. Also, Google provides ads on Ask.com and Bing provides ads on Yahoo.com, so between these two, you're covering more than 95% of all search traffic. These two should largely do the trick for you.
If you have time and budget to expand beyond that, you could investigate Yahoo Gemini, which Yahoo uses to provide ads to cell phones and tablets. My early results on this show minimal traffic coming from these sources.
You can also consider running ads on places like Facebook or LinkedIn. These can be very targeted by demographics, including interests, but they're not shown when someone is actively searching for something. So these are of a different nature than other PPC options.
Getting Set Up
When you first set up your PPC accounts, the most important thing to do is to connect them to your analytics account, preferably Google Analytics since this integrates so well with Adwords. Take the time and get help if needed to set these up correctly to track conversions and revenue. Otherwise you'll have no idea whether the cost of your ads is justified by the sales (or other conversions) they're making, and you won't know how to adjust your bids (see below).
Also make sure to place a daily budget on every new campaign you set up so that, if ads start running faster than you expect them to, they won't break the bank. You can always increase budget once you know that your average click is making you money. Then you'll obviously want as many clicks as you can get, as long as you make sure they continue performing well.
Rotating and Testing Ads
After you set up a campaign, you'll be asked to write your first ad. You have a limited number of characters in your headline and in the body of the ad, so you must be hyper focused. There are also limitations on capitalization, punctuation (no HYPE!!! please), claims about being the best, etc.
There is not just one best way to write an ad, which is why it's important to write several. (You'll start with one, then set up keywords. But then you can write more ads. In the settings, you can choose to rotate all ads evenly so that each is seen equally, and this helps you see which one gets the best click through rate AND conversions. You can turn off poor performers and write new ads to test against your best performers.)
There are options for having Google automatically select your winning ads, but I find that it often does so before testing has reached statistical relevance; so if you can monitor things yourself, great. If not, you may want to still choose this option.
In general, make sure you include the keyword that triggered an ad (every campaign runs ads based on keywords someone types into a search engine) so people know that the ad is relevant to their immediate needs or interests. Do your best to capture their attention, perhaps with unique features of a service or product, or with benefits of working with your company. (Free Shipping. Same Day Shipping. 24/7 Award-Winning Customer Service. And so on.)
There are ways to automatically insert someone's searched keyword into your ad; it's not hard, but it involves a bit of a focused conversation due to the variations on how to do this, and the mistakes that can be made. So for now I won't go into that.
Running several ads and testing them against each other is critical, because the best ads may not be what you expect. I tried running some ads featuring a "10% Off" coupon code, and these ads (contrary to my expectations) generated a much lower click through rate than ads that simply detailed what we had in stock. Here's an example of the ads, running for generic keywords surrounding the term "light bulbs":
I'll talk more about the broad nature of the term "light bulbs" below.
A Caution on Click Through Rate (CTR)
One of your goals when running ads is to get the highest Click Through Rate (CTR) possible for your ads, making the most of the traffic available. However, we should be exceptionally clear that CTR is not king.
CTR can be manipulated essentially by two things: ad position (which determines visibility) and ad content. You can bid a lot of money (and improve the ad quality score, but this is beyond our conversation here) to get the most possible visibility, but if those clicks cost you more than the money you make from them, that's obviously a problem. Better to get a lower CTR if profitable. Of course you can make more profit per click by bidding very low on ads, but this reduces volume. So you need to balance profit per click with volume in order to maximize overall profit for the business.
Ad content is the other element of driving CTR, and you could possibly drive more traffic by over promising or offering ridiculous deals. But is that the traffic you want? Again, the true measure of success is actual conversions and the profit made per conversion. So if an ad promises too much and compromises profits, you don't want to use it just to boost CTR.
Of course I should point out that your success in conversions depends in part on the traffic you're sending but also in part on the website you're sending them to. Maximizing sales on your website is the topic for another discussion.
Targeting Your Keywords
These is no limit to the number of campaigns you can set up, and you can further refine each campaign with individual ad groups. So it's important not to stack all your keywords into one campaign or ad group and then struggle to match good ads to those keywords. If your business is small enough, focused enough, and goes after just a handful of keywords, you might be able to get away with this. But generally it's good to break your different products and services at least into separate groups with their own ads.
Next, choose the keywords that are most relevant to just one given page on your site, to which the ad or keyword will send someone. (See "Directing Your Traffic" below.) Let's say you sell computers. Bidding on the word "computers" is extremely broad and is likely to yield a lot of traffic but a low CTR and/or conversion rate. People could be searching "computers" because they just want to learn about computers, or are looking for reviews, or for any numbers of reasons. If you're a review site, then "computer reviews" would be a much more targeted term. And if you sell computers, then "buy computers" would be much more targeted.
But even going for "buy computers," you would still just be sending people to your home page or your general computer category. A much better term (if you sell them) would be "toshiba computers" or, even better, "buy toshiba computers." Now you can send them to a more specific category. And of course best of all is to bid on a specific model (by name or model number).
The more targeted a term, generally the more you'll convert visits into sales and the more you can bid on that term. (Subject to the analytics we'll discuss below.)
Also, there are Exact, Phrase, Broad, Modified Broad matches. For each of your terms, you may want to use all three options. Let's say you want to bid on "toshiba computers" as a term. When adding keywords for an ad, you might use:
Exact: [toshiba computers] (Will only show the ad when this exact term and nothing else is entered as a search term.)
Phrase: "toshiba computers" (Will only show if those two words are part of the search term in exactly that order, but additional words could come before or after the phrase.)
Broad: buy toshiba computers (If all three words, or similar words, are part of the search term -- with or without other words -- the ad will show. Google focuses the breadth of this a bit with its Modified Broad, which is set up with plus signs: +buy +toshiba +computers; I almost exclusively use Modified Broad match rather than Broad.)
After you start generating traffic, go to your Keywords tab and find the area where you can add negative keywords. These allow you to prevent traffic that does you no good. For instance, in the Broad or Phrase matches in our example above, someone might actually be searching "buy toshiba computers from Amazon," and unless your ad specifically tells them why you ought to skip the e-commerce giant and trust your site, you might not want that traffic coming to your site. (In other words, you have a decision to make here.) If you don't want people searching Amazon as part of their phrase coming to your site, then you can add the term "amazon" to your negative keyword list.
Or going back to term "reviews," if you don't offer reviews on the computer you carry, you might enter that as a negative keyword so someone doesn't search "toshiba computer reviews" and end up on your site. (Of course you might consider adding reviews, but this is just an example.)
Google provides you with a way to see what terms have been used to click on your ads, and this will give you lots of insight into the words you want to add to your negative keyword list. Use this to keep from throwing money away on the wrong traffic.
Directing Your Traffic
There are two ways to direct your traffic when they click on an ad. Your ad can determine the page they visit, or your keyword can determine this. Both can be useful.
For instance, in our example above, you might set one general ad for selling Toshiba computers, but use that ad to promote many different models. (And if you use the option of automatically entering their keyword into your ad, you can even show the model number in that general ad.) In this case, you don't want to keep sending them to your general Toshiba category, so you wouldn't use the ad to direct the traffic. Each keyword would send someone to a specific Toshiba computer -- the one they were looking for.
On the other hand, you could run two different ads for the search term "buy toshiba computers" -- one ad might send them to your usual category page. The other might send them to a landing page you want to test. You can see which landing page converts better.
Analyze and Adapt!
Finally, it's critical that you review your results on a regular basis. "Regular" is determined by how much traffic you're getting. Early on, you'll want to review things once a day or so. If you're getting no visibility, it's time to test with higher click costs if you can afford them. Or expand your audience or add breadth to your keywords ... etc.
When your tracking is set up correctly, you can see how much it costs to get a click. You can see how many clicks it takes to convert someone. And you can see how much revenue you make from your average click. All of these will help you to determine if you're spending too much on clicks or if, perhaps, you can generate more traffic by bidding more.
As a business, you'll need to determine how much each conversion is worth beyond the initial sale, too. For instance, after someone's a customer, you should be able to advertise to them by e-mail in the future. Will they continue buying from you? What's their lifetime value to you? Also, do some of your sales come in by phone, which is a little trickier to track? (There are options, though.) If so, do you attribute some of your phone sales to the work of the ads?
A lot of businesses throw darts at a wall when marketing, but using analytics allows you to make sound business choices and to develop long-term, almost predictable success within your business.
I know this is a LOT of information to digest if you don't run Pay Per Click campaigns for a living, and there is no doubt a ton more I could have included here. But I hope this was a useful list of tips to digest and act on as you move forward with your PPC campaigns. The goal is to keep the ads profitable, and following these tips should help.