There’s been a lot of talk lately about The End Of The World. Just check out a few Google search results on the topic. I blame Harold Camping, and his May 2011 Rapture predictions. Either way, there appear to be two distinct camps battling it out: those who believe on some level that something disastrous is coming our way; and those who feel as though that first group is totally nuts. Regardless of which side you’re on, if you’re in the PPC game you might find some credibility in one of my favorite ‘the end is coming!’ quotes:
It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.
The meaning is pretty clear for those considering an underground backyard shelter. But for PPC? When it comes to online advertising—and more specifically, the spending of your hard earned dollars on advertising—it’s probably best not to sit around and wait for something disastrous to happen. Take it from the boy scouts, and Be Prepared.
1. Do your keyword research!
You don’t need to be a PPC expert to do a little bit of introductory keyword research. Never assume that you can throw a few phrases together that describe what you do or what you sell, use those as keywords, and watch the revenue come rolling in. Google has put together tools that are fairly simple to use, that will help you identify keywords that a.) have healthy search volume, and b.) don’t cost an arm and a leg. The Keyword Tool is a great place to start. You can begin with a word or phrase that accurately describes your business, and the tool will populate with additional keyword suggestions related to that original term. Don’t be surprised if there are a lot of duds. This is an automated tool, after all, and algorithms aren’t always known for their subtlety or understanding. Don’t write these off, though, without first considering using them as negative keywords to weed our irrelevant traffic. The bottom line? You want a balance of high search volume (i.e. actual folks out there looking for what you’re offering), and low cost (CPCs).
2. Create plenty of ads
Now that you’ve got a decent keyword list in the works, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got good ads to go along with them. One common mistake made during the ad creation process is putting together one really great text ad for each ad group, and letting that ad do all the work. Poor ad—that’s a lot of pressure! Not to mention the fact that if for some reason your ad is disapproved or comes down for editing there will be no ads left to show in its place. Add to that the fact that you’ll have nothing else to compare it to stats-wise, and you’re not in a very good position. You always want to have at least two ads per ad group at all times. This way—provided they’re not identical—there’s a good chance that if one of your ads gets disapproved you’ll still be in the game with the other. And if you need to edit them, do it one at a time so that you continue to run. You’ll also be able to get a better idea of what users are responding to, and make better ads because of it. You can measure your stats, see which ad is performing better, and use that information to optimize your ads…but remember, do it one at a time.
3. Brush up on policy
Yeah, it’s no secret that I’m a bit of a stickler about the Google AdWords policies. And I completely understand that policy isn’t all that fun to read about. So I’ll keep it short and sweet…as I’ve said many times before, while you may not be able to memorize all of the policies, at least make an effort to know those that govern your industry. You should also probably have a basic understanding of things like editorial policy for text ads, to avoid getting disapproved for something simple and preventable. No one likes having their ads come down for not following the rules, only to spend hours researching online and calling support to get them back up.
4. Analytics is your friend
I won’t lie—Google Analytics isn’t the most user friendly program for those new to PPC. However, if you have the ability to get the tracking code on your website, and understand enough about the reports to get a basic idea of what’s going on, it will help you—I promise. Even if you don’t intend to do super in-depth analysis of your traffic patterns, visitors, and goals, Analytics will help to show you where people enter your site, where they navigate, and where they drop off. Why is this important? Imagine for a moment that you’ve been running PPC campaigns just fine for a little while now, and all of a sudden the calls just stop coming. You check your Analytics reports to see what’s going on. You notice that the bounce rate on a key page just prior to your conversion page has jumped immensely in the past few days. You check out your website, and—voila!—the very page that Analytics pointed you towards is now showing a 404 error. Who knows how it got there, but now that you know why people are leaving your site, you have the opportunity to fix it, ASAP.
So there you have it. None of this is rocket science, or even as drastic as stocking up on a year’s supply of filtered water and dehydrated meals. But with a little bit of preparation and time spent up front on your PPC account, you’ll fare much better in the face of unexpected difficulties. By no means is this a comprehensive or complete list of things that one can do before or during the creation of PPC campaigns, but it is a start, and could help save you some dollars down the road.