Paid search, otherwise known as pay-per-click advertising (or PPC), has a lot to recommend it:
• It’s a superb way to reach new prospects who are shopping for exactly what you sell.
• Results are immediate.
• Responses can be tracked to the sales level.
• You can start on a small budget and scale up or down as results warrant.
• Selecting specific geographic areas is easy.
• Paid search ads can keep working for you 24/7. By contrast, email and social media marketing require you to keep producing new content.
While paid search is easy to do, it can be tricky to do well. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of it:
1. Use Keywords That Indicate Buying Mode. Search terms like “how to buy a greenhouse” or “seed catalog” probably mean that the searcher is shopping. By contrast, terms like “pruning hydrangeas” or “growing lettuce” are likely to indicate someone looking for how-to information.
2. Balance Keyword Quality With Volume. The best keywords don’t help if people don’t search on them. Use Google’s Keyword Tool to get a rough idea of how much volume your keywords receive.
3. Echo Your Keywords In Your Ads. It’s a common practice to create one “all-purpose” ad and run it for dozens, if not hundreds of keywords. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot like that. Your ads will perform much better if each one echoes the keywords that your prospect searched for.
4. Use Action Verbs. Most paid search ads are heavy on nouns and adjectives. Verbs, by contrast, tend to paint word pictures and engage the emotions. For instance, instead of simply saying “long-blooming perennials,” try “Enjoy blooms all summer.”
5. Mind Your Quality Score. Your paid search ranking in Google AdWords is determined in part by the Quality Score that Google gives your keywords. Google doesn’t reveal exactly how they calculate Quality Scores, but Scores are based on your historic click-through rate, how quickly your landing page loads, and how relevant Google deems the landing page to be to your search term.
The Score is indicated by a number from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. Review any keywords with a Quality Score below 5 and see what you can tweak to improve results. You can often raise your ranking without increasing your bids.
6. Don’t Aim For the Top. Many companies bid aggressively in an attempt to dominate the top spot for every keyword. We’ve found that the #2 or #3 ranking often converts better than #1. The reason, I believe, is that most people will click on the first ad and often don’t find what they’re looking for … and start getting more selective after that.
7. Keep Testing. As with any type of direct marketing, testing is key. Test ads, landing pages, match types, and keyword variations. It’s incredibly easy to do split testing with paid search. Seemingly little changes can improve results 10% , 20%, even 50% or more. Add the improvements together, and you can often double your results without increasing your budget.
8. Use Conversion Tracking. A high click-through rate doesn’t always correlate with high sales … and vice versa. The only way to know how profitable your ads are is by installing tracking codes (generally a simple process for your webmaster) so you can see sales results by keyword.
9. Be Cautious with the Display Network. Google AdWords’ default setting shows your ads both when people search on your keywords (the Search Network) and on sites that include content related to your keywords (the Display Network). Microsoft adCenter has similar settings.
Most of the time, the Display Network generates a tremendous number of impressions, few clicks, and poor conversions. It’s often worth opting out of it. If you do use the Display Network, set it up as a separate campaign on a separate budget.
10. Don’t Forget Microsoft adCenter. Microsoft adCenter is accounting for an increasing percentage of paid search volume all the time. What’s more, it often outperforms Google AdWords on conversions. If you advertise only on Google AdWords to the exclusion of Microsoft adCenter, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.
Follow these ten tips, and you’ll avoid the most common mistakes marketers make with paid search. And if you want to give your spring sales a boost, give it a try now.