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Auditing a Pay Per Click account

PPC Audit Guest Post by Steve Loszewski

PPC Audit Guest Post by Steve Loszewski

Identifying Areas of Improvement

Popular pay per click programs include Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing (YSM), and Microsoft adCenter.  If you have accounts in these programs, you’re probably interested in improving them to increase (or achieve) profitability.  There are a number of ways to improve a pay per click account – what follows is a summary of some of the most common methods in identifying and improving elements of a campaign. Google AdWords is given heavy focus in this article, although many of the concepts can be applied to YSM and MSN as well.

Campaign Settings

For each campaign in your account, you should check the campaign settings.  These are some of the most important settings at the campaign level:

  1. Budgets
  2. Geo-targeting
  3. Networks
  4. Keywords
  5. Bids
  6. Ads and landing pages

1. Budgets

If your campaign shuts down early in the day, or has limited ad distribution because it is reaching budget-limitations, you can get more clicks and more conversions by lowering bids or raising your budget.  You can see if your campaign is reaching its daily budget by running reports inside the AdWords interface for previous days, or by seeing if Google has a warning that you may be missing out on clicks.  If you have accelerated ad delivery turned on, you want ads showing the entire day unless you think that conversion rates or conversion values are worth less later in the day.  Either way, the appropriate way to deal with this is by using ad scheduling to change bids by time of day – another, more advanced campaign setting.  If you are having your ads distributed evenly throughout the day (the default setting), you never want to be reaching your budget, since (presumably) it is profitable for you to have ads running in the first place.  Daily budgets are a device for limiting costs from fluke errors in your bids, settings, or other elements in your account.  They shouldn’t be used as a method to otherwise limit ad exposure.

2. Geo-Targeting

If different geographic locations have different conversion rates or competition, affecting the cost per conversion, they should be separated out into separate campaigns.   This allows you to set bids separately.  If different locales require different ad messages, you will also want to separate those locales into different campaigns. In addition you want to be sure you are not missing out on relevant visitors because your geo-targeting is too narrow.  For example, it sometimes makes sense for companies to target international visitors, although advertisers typically only start with targeting only the US.

You can see how your campaign performs by location by running a “Geographic Performance” report from the AdWords report center.  This report only aggregates data daily, so you’ll need to consolidate it into a pivot table to get totals for the entire period you run your report for.  If conversion rates or the cost per conversion is significantly different for a location then you will want to separate it into a different campaign.  Whether or not a conversion rate is “significantly different” can be a matter of common sense, but for more rigorous methods you might try a Student’s T-Test.

If you change the geo-targeting of a campaign, you want to be sure that you are aware of the effect it will have on how your ad is displayed.  Some targeting options cause a location to be displayed under your ad, and you may not want that to happen.

3. Networks

If you have campaigns opted into the content network, you probably want these in their own campaign.  The content network generally has different costs and, typically, lower conversion rates.  You should be setting bids and tracking performance on the Google Content Network separately from the Google Search Network.

Yahoo! Search Marketing, in particular, has spammy search partners, and a less reliable content network.  Run an “Ad Delivery” report from the “Reports” tab in YSM to find sites that are costing you money but are of poor quality.  These sites can be blocked in the “Blocked Domains” section, under the “Administration” tab.  Google also allows you to block poor quality sites.

4. Keywords

Keywords should be directly relevant to your products and services so that they convert well.  Organizing them in ad groups according to theme helps you repeat relevant keywords in the ad text and put visitors on the most relevant pages.  You might also organize them in ad groups according to performance so that you can reduce account management time by setting bids at the ad group level.  Poor performing keywords might be deleted or given narrower match types if other methods, such as writing more specific ad text or creating better landing pages do not help improve their profitability.

Besides switching Broad matched keywords to Phrase or Exact match, matching might be limited by adding negative keywords.  To find prospective negatives, run a “Search Query Report” from the AdWords report center to see if there are any irrelevant variations of your terms that are generating clicks.  You might also put your terms into the Google Keyword Tool to see if any irrelevant suggestions come up.  These should also be blocked.

You can add negative keywords at the campaign or ad group level. Negatives, themselves, can be given different match types.  Be sure you are not inadvertently blocking relevant queries for other ad groups with your campaign negative keywords; this is a common mistake.  Besides blocking irrelevant queries altogether, negative keywords can be used to control the ad group that shows an ad.  Broad matching sometimes leads to unexpected results.  Take a look at some of your ads in Google’s Ad Preview tool.  If you notice some queries are triggering the wrong ads, you might get the right ad to show by using ad group negative keywords.

5. Bids

The key to good bidding is knowing the value of a keyword.  It is sometimes difficult to gauge how much revenue a keyword might provide your company.  Before adjusting bids, you should have measurable goals and a target cost per conversion.  From there, run reports and adjust bids according to those goals.

6. Ads and Landing Pages

For your most important keywords, study the ads that show when you do a search inside Google’s Ad Preview tool.  Make sure your ads are compelling and accurate.  With optimized ad rotation, you can circulate multiple ads at once, and Google will circulate the best ads more frequently, based on click-through rates and quality scores.  Also make sure that your ad and landing pages fulfill visitor expectations.  Ads and landing pages should be goal oriented.  You can test different landing pages using Google’s free Website Optimizer tool.  If you have destination URLs set at the keyword level you will want to pay close attention to these to make sure they are accurate and updated.  Settings at the keyword level are easy to overlook and forget about, making for some unexpected surprises.

When Your Account is Optimized

This is an incomplete guide – an experienced internet marketing company will have plenty more tips, especially for optimizing bids, landing pages, and ads.  But this guide might help you make some very big improvements to your account.

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This is a Li’l Engine guest post by Steve Loszewski of an internet marketing company that can help you audit and optimize your Pay Per Click campaigns by Google AdWords Certified Professionals.