5 Simple Steps to Develop an Effective PPC Strategy

Okay, you’ve just landed your dream job as an SEM professional and your boss is now asking you to deliver your “PPC strategy” — you know that brilliant, airtight strategy you put together that’s going to help your boss (and your company) not only to meet their business objectives, but also exceed them?

But there’s one small problem. You don't have a strategy. In fact, while you may know a lot about PPC, you’ve never actually sat down and documented how you make magic happen with PPC. Where do you start? There’s so much to cover and so little time. Especially given the fact that developing a competitive PPC strategy isn’t as easy as it used to be. Advertisers now have a number of ways to target their audiences, which makes distributing ad spend a challenge.  

But don’t worry. We’ve not only organized the process of developing a PPC strategy into an easy framework, we’ve also created a quick PPC Strategy Checklist to ensure the strategy you do eventually develop is an effective one.

In short, our 5-step framework for effective PPC strategy involves selecting the right platforms, targeting features, and ad types to deliver their message, and balancing investment in each.

So, if you’re ready to develop a more advanced PPC campaign strategy for your business, these 5 steps can help you get a head start. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Define your goals

Defining what you actually want to achieve with PPC is probably the most important part of building an effective campaign strategy. Today there are so many different PPC targeting options available within Adwords and beyond it. Defining your goals will help you choose the platforms and ad types that are best suited for your marketing needs.

Consider these common PPC goals:

  • Increase site traffic

  • Generate leads

  • Drive sales

  • Raise brand awareness

If your main goal is brand awareness, then social media and display ads are ideal for your strategy. If your main goal is to drive sales, then most of your PPC investment should be in search or PLA. If your priority is to generate leads, then you can explore using Facebook’s lead capture ads.

Sophisticated PPC strategies use a combination of ad types and platforms to target their audience. For example, digital marketer, Ben Wood, has some actionable advice about distributing investment between social and search ads: 4 Advanced AdWords Audience Targeting Tactics.

Determine your main goals and prioritize them, then use this information to determine which platforms and ad types you should be investing in.

Step 2: Audience targeting

Here’s an overview of how to target your audience with AdWords PPC and social media. The kind of audience you target and their point in the sales funnel will also tell you which advertising options you should invest in.

AdWords audience targeting

The key to success with AdWords audience targeting is not targeting the most relevant keywords related to your business, but targeting based on intent. The keywords you bid for, the ads you display, and the landing pages you send people to all need to match the position individuals are in your sales funnel.

PPC traditional knowledge tells us there are three main categories of search intent keywords:

  • Transactional — searchers want to make a purchase

  • Informational — searchers want to learn more about something

  • Navigational — searchers want to get to a certain page or resource

Here’s a nice visualization with examples from Moz, including how keyword targeting changes when you’re optimizing for voice search:

Keyword Targeting for AdWords

Now, most businesses can’t and shouldn’t target all these categories of keywords for PPC. The ones you focus on should depend on your business type and other marketing strategies. For example:

  • An ecommerce business should invest largely in transactional keywords to encourage conversions.

  • A service-based business may invest more in informational keywords to boost their content marketing strategy.

  • A SaaS or app developer could invest more in navigational keywords to improve user experience.

Of course, search isn’t the only PPC vertical you can optimize for. There are several other types of audiences you can target on the Display Network, YouTube and Gmail:

  • Affinity audiences — Audience targeting to expand the reach of TV ad campaigns. Create custom affinity audiences using URLs, types of places and keyword phrases to define interest categories.

  • In-market audiences — Reach audiences who are actively researching products or services like yours. Usually these people are at the bottom of the sales funnel and are ready to convert.

  • Life events — Reach audiences in YouTube and Gmail based on important life events like graduating from college, getting married, and moving to a new home.

  • Custom intent audiences — Create custom audience categories based on keywords, and URLs related to what your ideal audience is researching across the web. Adwords can use machine learning technology to analyze and create these for you.

  • Remarketing — Reach people who’ve already engaged with your company’s products and services.

It’s important to consider all the targeting options available when developing a PPC campaign strategy with AdWords. You can use search and display ads to target audiences at different points in the sales funnel and better allocate your ad spend. For example, if you target top of the funnel (awareness stage) audiences with display ads, you can focus more of your search ads on bottom of the funnel keywords.

Building your social media audience

The real benefit of advertising on social platforms like Facebook and Linkedin is audience targeting. You can build very detailed audiences to target based on your buyer personas.

Here’s an overview of the different audience targeting strategies available on Facebook:

Facebook audience targeting strategies

So, you have the freedom to target your existing specific leads (Custom Audience), people who are similar to your existing leads (Lookalike Audience), or target based on demographics, interests, behaviors, and other parameters you set (Saved Audience).

Facebook’s Audience Insights can actually help you better define your buyer personas as well, by providing demographic and lifestyle information about the people who are already connected to your Facebook page or appear in your Custom Audiences.

LinkedIn has audience targeting capabilities similar to Facebook, but with greater focus on professional factors, such as company type, years of experience, position within an organization, etc.:

LinkedIn Audience Targeting

You’ll want to use these audience insights features to target your ads, but also to better understand your audience and create landing pages and lead nurturing content that speak to these specific buyer personas (more on this later).

Step 3: Optimize your landing pages

When targeting large amounts of keywords, creating unique optimized landing pages for your ads can be a challenge. But directing visitors to generic product or landing pages is really wasted ad spend. Not only are site visitors less likely to convert, their on-site behavior can lead to lower Quality Scores, making reaching them through PPC even more challenging.

The most effective PPC managers draw a strong link between audience targeting and landing page optimization. The more relevant a landing page is to the initial search intent or audience demographic interest, the more likely site visitors will click through, sign up, make a purchase, etc.

Here’s an example of thoughtfully optimizing landing pages to initial search intent: I searched for “freelance accounting software” and find an ad for Xero:

Optimized PPC Landing Page

I click through and their landing page copy focuses on their value proposition for on-the-move freelancers, not business owners as a whole:

If you’re using social media ads to promote top-of-the funnel content, you’ll want to optimize by using the content types and language that perform well on the platform. Buzzsumo is a great tool to brainstorm content ideas. Say you sell childcare products and want to promote your baby carriers on Facebook. Just go to Buzzsumo and type in your keyword (“baby carriers”) and it will return the most shared content related to that keyword:

Most Shared Content

 

In this example, there are several popular posts related to baby carrier Halloween costume ideas, and other content related to choosing the best baby carrier for different needs. Look for patterns like this in the most popular content types, and use that to inform your content/landing pages for Facebook ads.

Step 4: Create your ads

Once you have your audience targeting set up and created your relevant landing pages, you’re ready to create and optimize your ads.

Your ads serve as the link between search intent/audience interest and the landing pages you’ve already optimized. The goal is to briefly illustrate your unique selling proposition and offer value. You’ll want to experiment using different copy, visual media, extensions, and other elements to optimize your ads.

In recent years, AdWords has done a lot to help you automate ad creation and optimization. So the real key to success here is providing AdWords with a sufficient variety of ad variations to rotate and test. Of course, creating 3 or 4 ad variations for a hundred ad groups is a tall order. But it’s a much simpler task if you take advantage of all of AdWords features to do this.

In AdWords, you can test different headlines, calls-to-action, extensions and more by setting up ad variations. Create your own experiments by duplicating ads then using find and replace to swap out text and elements. Ensure you’ve enabled ad rotation in Advanced settings and Adwords will identify the most effective ad variants for you over time. Set your ad rotation optimization to automatically prefer the best performing ads:

Audience Ad Rotation Automation

Social media ad creation/optimization can also be automated. Facebook Dynamic Creative will actually take your ad components (image, video, title, description, etc.) and create ad variants for you:

Facebook Dynamic Creative

Even the most experienced advertisers can benefit from these intelligent technologies to create and optimize their PPC ads. Just make sure you create and test a variety of ad elements to get a real idea of what resonates with your audience.

Step 5: Analyze and optimize your strategy

As mentioned above, optimizing your ads integrates well into the ad creation process when you use the right tools. So the real focus of your analysis is identifying what keywords and targeting features help drive your campaign goals.

On a basic level, here are are important metrics to consider for search, display, and/or social ads (depending on your campaign goals):

  • Clickthrough rate: Can help you determine how relevant your ads content is to your keyword or audience targeting for social or display.

  • Conversion rate: A low conversion rate could be an indication that your ad spend is better suited for higher performing keywords.  

  • Cost per click (CPC): How much are you willing to pay to get the attention of a member of your audience? That would be your ideal CPC.

  • Cost per acquisition (CPA): This can indicate how competitive your keyword is, and whether it’s worthwhile to invest in it given the profit margin from conversions.

  • Quality Score (For Adwords): This metric is an aggregate of the effectiveness of a variety of factors, including ad relevance, landing page relevance, and click through rate.

  • Return on ad spend (ROAS): This is a bottom line metric that evaluates the effectiveness of ad spend overall at driving financial goals.

If your goal is lead nurturing, you may also want to take into consideration on-site engagement metrics, like number of page views, new or returning visitors, etc.

Keeping track of key metrics can help you evaluate the relevance/effectiveness of your advertising elements (ad copy, targeting, landing pages, etc.). It can also help you understand which keywords and audience targeting strategies are most valuable for your unique business.

There are a lot of ways to optimize your PPC ads for conversions using data science. Once you have a good understanding of the best keywords and audience targeting, you can use these insights to implement advanced targeting strategies to improve your ROAS even more. Using query segmentation to prioritize revenue-driving keywords is one example of an advanced bid optimization strategy you can implement manually.

Wrapping up

These 5 steps are really all you need to start developing a competitive PPC strategy. The key is to identify what points in the sales funnel you want to target your audience, choose the right platforms and ads to do this, then optimize your PPC advertising material. Over time you’ll identify what elements of your strategy deserve the most investment to improve your ROAS.

Ultimately, the amount of relevant consumer data available is too vast for most businesses to analyze, drive insights and optimize their PPC strategies in a scalable way. The most successful PPC advertisers need to focus on ultra-relevant micro-moments with ad placements. PPC platforms already use artificial intelligence to deliver the most relevant ads to users. Advertisers in-turn can take advantage of these technologies to optimize their bid strategies in real-time. Learn more about how QuanticMind can help optimize your PPC campaigns with a demo.

Your PPC Strategy Checklist

PPC strategy optimization is an ongoing process. Here’s a quick checklist to recap the steps you need to take, along with additional resources to optimize your strategy.

  1. Define your goals

Here are some additional resources that can help you define goals and choose the right platforms to reach them:

Short Term & Long Term PPC Advertising Goals

Facebook Ads vs. Google AdWords: Which Should You Be Using?

  1. Audience targeting

Here are some extra resources that can help you with advanced audience targeting:

An introduction to advanced audience targeting in AdWords

Social Ad Targeting: How to Reach an Audience that Converts

 

  1. Optimize your landing pages

Here are some additional resources to help you create and optimize your landing pages:

PPC Landing Pages: 7 Best Practices for Optimizing Conversions

Improve Conversions on Your Social Media Ads with Landing Pages

 

  1. Create your ads

Here are some resources to help you create and optimize your ads:

How to Master Ad Rotation in Google Adwords

How to Simply Test Different Images and Ad Copy with Facebook’s Dynamic Creative

 

  1. Analyze and optimize your strategy

Here are some resources to help you analyze and optimize your PPC strategy:

AdWords Attribution for Paid Search - Which AdWords Attribution is Right for You?

PLA Query Segmentation - How to Drive Stronger Google Shopping Performance with PLA Query Segmentation

Ebook: Data-Driven Attribution & SEM

 

About the Author

Lynn Langmade

Lynn Langmade is currently Senior Director of Marketing Content and Communications at QuanticMind, where she develops content strategy, manages the editorial calendar, and oversees content production workflow. Lynn is also the managing editor of QuanticMind's corporate blog and social media channels. As an early adopter of social media, Lynn has over 45 thousand followers on social media. In 2014, Lynn was the recipient of the Marketo “Revvie” Award in the Socializer category. She has a PhD in English and over 15 years B2B high-tech marketing experience.

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