To achieve optimal results, all elements of a PPC campaign must be in good working order, operating together synergistically. Like an automobile engine, all parts must be finely tuned together to ensure that the driver gets from point A to point B, quickly and efficiently. If any one part of the engine is defective or inefficient, the engine may run poorly or not at all.
Likewise, if any one part of a PPC campaign is deficient or ineffective, it can drag down the performance of the whole campaign to unacceptable levels.
The individual elements of a campaign are as follows:
Keywords: In search PPC, these are the words and phrases the advertiser chooses to trigger ad display. In content PPC, keywords describe the kind of website pages where the advertiser wants their ads displayed.
Ads: The words and images used to persuade the reader to take action, such as clicking through to a website.
Bid prices: The price the advertiser is willing to pay for each ad-induced visit to the site.
Landing pages: The website pages respondents see when they click on an ad.
Conversion path: The steps the site visitor must take in order to achieve the objective of the site (for example, a sale, a submitted lead, a newsletter sign-up, or a donation).
Let’s explore each of these elements a bit further.
In PPC search campaigns, advertisers lists words and phrases that they think prospective customers would use in a search query. The advertiser is essentially saying, “Google, if someone uses this phrase as part of a search query, display my ad.” (Note that the word keyword can mean a single word or a multiple-word phrase.) Keywords can be very general (such as Hawaiian vacation) or very specific (such as reserve a hotel on Oahu).
It’s important for an advertiser to anticipate the many ways that people express themselves when performing a search.
Keywords in content campaigns play a much different role than the keywords in search campaigns. They tell Google, “Display my ads on site pages that contain all or most of these words.” Figure 1.2 shows how ads appear on a page in Google’s content network.
As mentioned, writing effective PPC ads is an important cornerstone of a successful PPC ad campaign. The advertiser is challenged to pack a lot of meaning and persuasiveness into no more than 145 characters. An ad needs to deliver the following messages in the short time it takes to read it:
- The advertiser’s website is likely the best source for satisfying the visitor’s need or desire.
- There are clear benefits associated with clicking through to the advertiser’s website.
- Visitors know what’s expected of them when they arrive at the website.
PPC advertising operates under an auction model. Advertisers tell the PPC service how much they’re willing to pay for a click on an ad and subsequent visit to the advertiser’s website. Google takes into consideration how many other advertisers are bidding on the same keywords, and generally speaking, the advertisers willing to pay the most for a click will see their ads displayed closest to the top of the search results page. See Figure 1.3 for an illustration of ad group bid prices.
How much should an advertiser be willing to pay for a click? For now, understand that at the beginning
of a new PPC ad campaign, this decision usually takes some guesswork, based on the amount competitors are bidding as well as the advertiser’s assumption about the number of site visitors who will take the desired action—the conversion. But after a PPC campaign has been underway for a while (anywhere from a few weeks to a few months), the advertiser will know with certainty how much each conversion is costing. Thereafter, they can adjust bids so that the target profitability is consistently achieved.
The object of most PPC campaign optimization efforts (improvement of ad copy, for example) is to drive the average cost per click (CPC) ever lower. That way, profitability will increase steadily over time.
Many advertisers are surprised to realize that the key element determining whether a site visitor will convert is whether the PPC landing pages are well designed and operating correctly. A PPC landing page is simply the page on your site upon which visitors land after clicking on a PPC ad. PPC landing pages can, and often should, look very different from the site’s home page and other pages on the advertiser’s site. In many cases, advertisers can get much better results when landing pages are customized to match the theme of a particular PPC ad group (the keywords and ad message).
This is often a difficult but crucial concept that’s hard for many site owners to grasp. They’re accustomed to thinking about their site as analogous to a bricks-and mortar storefront: one entrance (the home page) through which all customers enter, linked to other pages where site visitors can (hopefully) easily find what they’re looking for. Site owners often design their home page to satisfy the needs of casual browsers as well as visitors who are looking for specific items or information.
But with PPC advertising, the site owner has information about the intent of the visitor who has come to the site by clicking on a PPC ad. The site owner knows the search term used, and that the visitor was motivated by the specific messages and benefits mentioned in the ad.
For example, let’s say a site sells Hawaiian vacations, and the site visitor has clicked on an ad that promises discounts on the rental of cottages on Oahu. If the PPC visitor arrives on the home page, which necessarily contains a wide variety of links to parts of the site that do not pertain to cottages on Oahu, that visitor quite possibly will leave the site without converting.
This is because visitors don’t want to take the time and effort to navigate through the site to find pages that pertain to their specific needs. On the other hand, if a site visitor arrives at a page that describes Oahu cottage rentals, that visitor will much more likely conclude that she has come to exactly the right place and will take the desired conversion action. Figure 1.4 shows an example of a good ad and landing page combination.
Frequently, the site visitor must traverse more than one page to finalize the conversion action. A typical example is the shopping process on an e-commerce site. Having decided to buy, the visitor must enter shipping information, credit card numbers, and so on.
Every step in the process introduces the possibility that the visitor will become distracted or confused. Site owners are often shocked to find that many visitors, having decided to buy or convert, leave the site in the midst of the conversion process. This is referred to as abandonment. The ratio of the number of people who leave the site compared to the number of people who complete the conversion process is known as the abandonment rate.
If the conversion process is not designed and optimized correctly, abandonment rates can be as high as 50–80 percent. Obviously, it’s in the best interest of the advertiser to continually work to lower this percentage.