Top tips on optimising your Paid Search campaign to maximise ROI

Hello folks! As promised here is my next, juicy instalment of top tips to optimise your Paid Search campaign to maximise return on investment (ROI).

Last month we looked at the top tips for setting up a Google AdWords account. Now we will focus on the day to day management of the campaign that will help ensure that your paid search campaign is driving as higher ROI as possible.

In a continuation of last months post, my recommendations are on the basis of a ROI focused strategy where Paid Search is used with the aim of making direct sales.

Bid Management

In my last post I went through how to calculate your maximum, break even cost-per-click (CPC).  Just because you have calculated this figure doesn’t mean that you can get away with litte or no day-to-day management of the account.  Hopefully, your break even CPC is high, and allows immediate number one positioning in the paid results.  However, this amount will only allow your paid search revenue to break even, and not make a profit.  Ideally, you should incrementally bring down the maximum CPCs of keywords in order to attain maximum visibility, for maximum ROI.  With regular bid management, over time you will find a natural equilibrium.

Anyone that tells you that bid management is an “old” concept and no longer fits within Google’s quality score concept is wrong! The higher your advert appears in the listings, the higher your click through rate (CTR) is likely to be. In turn, your ‘quality score’ is likely to be higher and average cost per click (CPC) lower. As CTR is such a large factor in quality score, ensuring high visibility in the paid search listings is imperative.

If you are in a competitive area your break even CPCs may not be high enough for sufficient visibility.  In this case I would recommend “testing” increasing your bids over your break even threshold to calculate the increase in conversions (perhaps conversion rates) and effects on average CPCs.  In some cases, increasing your bid may increase your quality scores sufficiently to actually decrease your average CPCs.  When you have sufficient data, analyse the effects of the test and re-calculate your break-even CPC.  The increase in quality traffic may have increased your site’s overall conversion rate, which may now mean that you are free to bid slightly higher.

Negative Search Terms

In order to ensure that your adverts are only appearing against the highest quality search queries it is important that you keep your negative search term list up to date.  A negative matched term will prevent your ad from appearing against a search query that contains an “excluded” term in your campaign.  For example a company selling only “leather boots” for adults would not want their ads to appear against “wellington boots”.  For this reason we would recommend that they add “wellington” as a negative search term.

To add a negative within AdWords go to:
Tools  – Edit Campaign Negative Keywords – On the Campaign drop down menu, select the appropriate campaign that the negative search term should be applied to and then click OK  – Enter the negative search term in the box and then click “Add Keywords”

With the new Adwords interface it is also far easier to add negative search terms at the ad group level.  However, if you are new to negative search terms, we would advise that you start top level first, until you are used to it.  If you want more information on this pop me a tweet on @Amelia_Dawson

An easy and effective way to find relevant negative search terms is to run regular Search Query Reports.  These reports will show you the actual search queries that your ads are appearing against.  Running these regularly, you will be able to find search queries that you will not want to appear against, and add relevant negative search terms to the campaign.

Ad Copy

When setting up a campaign, ad copy messaging should ideally be highly descriptive, incentivised and with good call to actions.  Depending on your audience and the product/service type you are promoting some ad copy variations will inevitably do better than others.  For this reason it is important to continually test ad copy.

In the campaign settings you can choose whether you wish to show better-performing ads more often (Google Recommended) or show ads more evenly.  If you are looking to test your adverts we would strongly advise that you choose the latter, to show ads more evenly.  This will mean that you have total control over your “test environment” and Google will not “auto-optimise”.  Google tends to show the ad with the highest CTR more regularly.  The following example explains why this may be detrimental to your campaign and deliver lower quality traffic to your site.

An internet security company sells antivirus solutions to business.  Due to the relatively low search volume for “business internet security” related terms, and due to the way that people search for products of this nature, they must bid on the term “internet security”.  They are, however, only looking for B2B related traffic which is prominent in their ad copy (title, description, display url).  As the ads will only be clicked on by a B2B audience (which is relatively low volume) the ads will have a very low CTR.  It is likely that the slightly more generic ad copy variations within the ad group would gain higher CTRs, and therefore be shown the most.  This, however, would likely not drive the highest quality traffic.

In each ad group under ‘Ad Variations’, each ad copy variation will be given a % served rate.  We would recommend that you couple this information with conversion tracking data to analyse the highest performing ad copy variations.  From this information, you should then write a new ad copy variation based on the highest performing messaging.  You should then pause the lowest performing ad copy variation.

Search Based Keyword Tool

No keyword list is ever 100% complete.  As competitors enter the market, new products/services become available and search habits evolve/change there will be the need to continually add new keywords to your campaigns.  Google has a great tool for finding “gaps” in your keyword list, with its Search Based Keyword Tool. Simply enter the URL of your site, and any specific terms of phrases that you want it to look specifically at and it will produce a list of potentially missing terms.

For each term you will get the following information: monthly searches, Insights for search trend data, the amount of competition, suggested bids, Ad/search share and which page the suggested term was extracted from.

Landing Page Optimisation

As you are paying for each visitor that enters your site via paid search, it is imperative that only the highest quality traffic is directed via the medium.  For this reason, you may wish to create dedicated paid search landing pages which will enable you to have far greater control on a visitor’s journey on your site.  Dedicated landing pages cannot be accessed from the “normal” site as there are no internal links to them.

Typical elements of a dedicated landing page are as follows:

Relevant title. Simple but very effective.  If possible create a dedicated page for each ad group so that the relevancy is very high

Content rich opening paragraph. Introducing your company, product, service and then leading on to why you offer a superior service to your competitors

Bullet points of USPs. This should be benefits of your product/service and not simply “what you offer”.  Bullet points help the page to be scanned more easily

Reduce navigation. This ensures a “clean and clear” a route for your visitors to your goal conversion as possible.  This should only be attempted if there is sufficient information on the landing page as you do not want to reduce a person’s trust in your company

Reduced clutter. Less is more.  Simplify the page to only USPs, important content and call to actions (how to get in touch)

Use of relevant pictures and videos. Ensure the user experience of the landing page is informative using rich media content where applicable

Calls to action. What do you want the visitor to do next?  Make sure the content within the page explicitly tell the visitor what they should do next.

Enquiry Form. If you have an enquiry make sure you a) only request absolutely essential data.  Additional data can be acquired later.  b)  Always explain how and by who a person’s data will be used for

Analyse stats, and test, test, test

A stats package is absolutely essential for successful optimisation of your account.  In order to drive ROI it is imperative that only search terms driving high quality traffic to your site are within your campaign.

You should be looking at the following data by keyword:

• Average pages per visit
• Average time on site
• Bounce rate
• Goal conversion rates
• E-commerce data

When looking at average pages per visit, average time on site and bounce rates, be careful to see the bigger picture and not make optimisation based changes based upon individual data sets.  If a visitor has only been on an average on one page, it may be that the dedicated paid search page is working well if the average time on site is high and the bounce rate is low.  You would get an idea that it is not working if the one page per visit is also followed by a low average time on site and a high bounce rate.

When optimising for ROI it is important to put the majority of budget into the terms that are actually driving conversions for you.  However, Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing and Microsoft AdCenter all work on a last click wins model.  This means that a searcher may click on a number of ads, but it only the last ad that they click on that will be attributed that sale.  An example below:

Search Query 1 – Garden Furniture
Search Query 2 – Wooden Garden Furniture
Search Query 3 – Garden Benches
Search Query 4 – 2 Seater Garden Bench
Search Query 5 – 2 Seater Teak Garden Bench

Search Query 5 would be attributed the full credit for the sale, however search queries 1-5 also contributed to the sale.  Yahoo gives data on search terms that attribute to a sale (found within the interface and reports) but Google and MSN do not.

This means that terms that tend to have a high spend, and do not convert may be driving conversions from longer string, more specific keywords, further down the search cycle.  Therefore, when pausing any search terms within the campaign; make sure you test the results on the overall campaign.  If you find that conversion drop as a result of pausing a higher volume term, resume the campaign.

Ok…so did you catch all of that?  There was an awful lot to digest wasn’t there, so if you have any questions please feel free to pop me an email or a message on Twitter.

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