PPC: 8 Ways to Avoid Busting Your Advertising Budget

AdWords is a powerful search engine marketing platform that instantly connects businesses with an ocean of potential customers. But oceans are wild and unpredictable — turn your back, and you might get swept away. The same thing can happen to your AdWords budgets if you’re not careful.

tight budget
PPC spending can get awfully fat if you don’t reign it in.

AdWords is a powerful search engine marketing platform that instantly connects businesses with an ocean of potential customers. But oceans are wild and unpredictable — turn your back, and you might get swept away. The same thing can happen to your AdWords PPC budgets if you’re not careful.

If you just started using Google AdWords, then you might be overwhelmed by how quickly you blow through your advertising budgets. You might also be frustrated if this tsunami of traffic isn’t bringing you any actual customers. Sure, launching an AdWords campaign is significantly easier (and faster) than getting organic visitors through traditional SEO strategies, but what’s the point if you’re just throwing money away?

Worry not. Here, we’ll review eight ways to avoid busting your advertising budget with AdWords and other pay-per-click (PPC) platforms. Follow these tips, and suddenly the rough waters of online advertising become far less treacherous.

1. Bid High, Budget Low

The first step toward not blowing through your budget is to keep your budgets low. Yes, you might still spend money inefficiently at first. But just because you can afford to spend $100 per day doesn’t mean you should. Start with a small daily budget until you know what you’re doing.

On the other hand, don’t hesitate to bid high on keywords. Your fledgling campaigns will gain traction more quickly, and you’ll get better click-through rates (and higher quality scores) by driving traffic from your best keywords. With your budgets turned down low, this is a great strategy for launching campaigns on the right note.

2. Avoid Accelerated Delivery

When setting the daily budgets for new campaigns, you’ll have the option to choose Standard or Accelerated ad delivery. Standard is the default option; stick with that.

The Standard delivery option is designed to stagger your ads and expend your budget throughout the entire day. Meanwhile, Accelerated delivery will show your ads until your budget runs dry. By staggering your ad delivery throughout the day, you’ll eventually learn which times are most worthwhile to be advertising. You’re also less likely to burn through your entire budget in the early morning hours when few people actually buy.

3. Use Phrase- and Exact-Match Keywords

Only use phrase- and exact-match keywords when building your primary campaigns. Exact-match keywords will only display your ad when people search for that exact keyword. Phrase-match keywords offer slightly more flexibility — they’ll display your ads when people search for phrases containing your keyword.

Now, I’m not saying you should never use broad-match, but you need to be extremely careful. …

4. Create Separate Broad-Match Campaigns

We just talked about the importance of phrase- and exact-match keywords, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid broad-match keywords entirely. Broad-match keywords result in ads being shown whenever your keywords appear in any order within a search term. For example, if your broad-match keyword is “boys shirts,” and someone searches for “boys uniform shirts,” that person might see your ad. And unless your business happens to specialize in uniforms, that person’s click would be a waste of money.

However, what you can do is start a campaign with a small daily budget and only broad-match keywords. Eventually, you can review your search terms report to see all kinds of search phrases people used to trigger your ads. Some of those keyword terms will likely be irrelevant to your needs — but some might actually be unique or long-tailed keyword terms you hadn’t previously considered. This is how you can “fish” for more keywords, but limit your exposure by using a separate low daily budget campaign.

5. Grow a Negative Keyword List

Let’s go back to that “boys shirts” example. If your business doesn’t sell uniforms, why risk wasting money on that “boys uniform shirts” click? Add the words “uniform” and “uniforms” to your negative keyword list, and your ads will never be shown in response to searches for uniforms.

You should always build out negative keyword lists when launching new campaigns. Then, as you collect data about the exact search terms people use to trigger your ads, you can add to those lists with poorly converting keywords. You can also add terms such as “how to,” “what is” or “reviews” — terms people might use when they’re looking to do research, not make purchases.

6. Bid at the Keyword Level

Adjust your bids on individual keywords, not entire ad groups. Every keyword will have it’s own unique performance and will require it’s own unique bid.

You’ll need higher bids on your most competitive keywords, but you can often get cheaper traffic as you find more unique keyword terms. Adjust your bids accordingly and you can attract more visitors without spending more money.

7. Write Accurate PPC Ads

It’s tempting to say whatever it takes to get clicks on your ad, but a say-anything approach is problematic. For starters, Google can suspend ads (and even lock down campaigns) for dishonest advertising. In addition, people who click on your ads are more likely to bounce from your website if your landing pages don’t meet their expectations. In other words, it pays for your PPC ads to accurately (and honestly) represent what you’re actually offering.

Don’t even try to toe the line between reality and exaggeration. Keep it real and enjoy the stronger conversion rates.

8. Use Remarketing

The Remarketing feature of AdWords displays your ads to people who’ve already visited your website. That means you can limit your ads to only display if the person searching has already visited your website.

If you knew the prospect had already visited your website, then wouldn’t you want to increase your bids to ensure she saw and clicked on your ad versus your competitors? What if you knew that person had already added a product to their shopping cart or viewed a key page in your sales funnel? Chances are you could show a more compelling ad to get that person back to your website to complete the sale.

Conclusion

In the time needed to start a campaign — just a few minutes, if you already have an active account — AdWords can bring waves of visitors to your website. It’s up to you though to not get overwhelmed. Make every dollar you spend on advertising count by following the tips above. Any form of PPC marketing will quickly turn into a colossal waste of money if not properly done. Take the right steps, though, and reaching new customers will have never been easier.

Want more tips to improve your Google AdWords performance? Click here to grab your copy of our Ultimate Google AdWords Checklist.

Top 10 Google AdWords Mistakes to Avoid

Google AdWords is a powerful tool for driving sales and reaching new customers — but when used incorrectly, it can quickly become a huge waste of money.

Google AdWords logoGoogle AdWords is a powerful tool for driving sales and reaching new customers — but when used incorrectly, AdWords mistakes can quickly become a huge waste of money.

An ad campaign not properly configured may be shown to the wrong shoppers. Or, a campaign that isn’t compelling enough may simply get lost among the competition. Regardless of the mistake, the end result can be spending a lot of money to get very little return on investment. Fortunately, most of the mistakes made by business owners and online marketers are easily preventable.

Read on to see the top 10 errors to avoid when setting up new campaigns in AdWords.

1. Targeting Search and Display
When setting up new campaigns, Google urges advertisers to run their ads on both the Search and Display networks. Google’s reasoning for this is to put your ad in front of as many eyes as possible.

Don’t do it.

People interact differently with each network. Ads on the Search Network are presented to relevant customers who are searching for your product, while display ads appear on relevant blogs and websites to people who are likely not even shopping.

Rather than run single campaigns on both networks, you’re far better off creating separate search and display campaigns. Then you can optimize each campaign for different target audiences.

2. Wrong Keyword Match Types
Always start your campaigns with exact- and phrase-match keywords. It’s tempting to start with broad-match keywords, which are more likely to drive higher volumes of traffic to your ads. However, the traffic from broad-match searches is less likely to be relevant to whatever it is you’re selling, meaning you’ll end up paying for visitors who don’t convert.

Also, your ads will get higher clickthrough rates by using exact- and phrase-match keywords, and higher CTRs means better quality scores. And that can result in cheaper costs per click!

3. Missing Negative Keywords
Negative keywords let you block your ads from being shown when searches include certain words.

Why is this useful?

Imagine that you’re using AdWords to attract new customers to your auto mechanic shop. Unless you set “school” as a negative keyword, then your ad may be shown to scores of people who are searching for “auto mechanic schools.” This can sink your CTR, lower your quality scores and ultimately bring lots of non-converting traffic to your site. Always set negative keywords to preemptively exclude non-converting visitors.

4. Not Segmenting by Devices
Newly created campaigns in AdWords default to showing ads on all devices. This might seem advantageous in terms of sheer traffic volume, but people tend to behave differently online depending on whether they’re using desktop PCs, tablets or smartphones. Also, some landing pages aren’t designed to display or function properly on mobile devices, which can cause obvious problems.

The safe bet here is creating separate ads and landing pages for desktop and mobile users. Then, you can optimize your campaigns to get the best conversions from each type of traffic. And if your website isn’t mobile friendly, then you’re better off blocking mobile traffic completely.

PPC Shockers and Secrets

Pay per click (PPC), particularly Google AdWords, is a marketing channel that can produce profitable results for your business, whether your goal is lead generation or sales. I have been managing PPC for businesses, as an in-house marketing leader as well as marketing consultant, for over a decade now. Though the years, I have noticed many secrets to success that I wanted to share—especially with business owners and marketers that haven’t tried PPC yet.

Pay per click (PPC), particularly Google AdWords, is a marketing channel that can produce profitable results for your business, whether your goal is lead generation or sales.

I have been managing PPC for businesses, as an in-house marketing leader as well as marketing consultant, for over a decade now.

Though the years, I have noticed many secrets to success that I wanted to share—especially with business owners and marketers that haven’t tried PPC yet.

First, I’d like to clear the air about a big shocker … or actually a fallacy … that you need a big budget to run an effective PPC campaign.

You don’t. If you happen to have a large budget, your ads will be shown more and you can spread out your ad groups and test different types. With a smaller budget, you do need to be more judicious with your efforts. But if you market smarter, not broader, your campaigns can still produce positive results.

I have run PPC campaigns with total monthly budgets of $1,000. I have run campaigns with total daily maximum budgets ranging from $25 to $50. These campaigns brought in both sales and leads, despite their limited spending. But they do require active management, strategic thinking, deep PPC knowledge and refinement/optimization.

The PPC Tri-Pod
What is going to determine the cost and return of your campaign are three simple things I call the “PPC Tri-pod”, as it supports your entire PPC efforts:

  1. Keywords
  2. Creative (or banner ad, if it’s running on the display network)
  3. Redirect URL

So in order for you to get the most bang for your buck with PPC, you should be aware of a few things regarding the PPC Tri-pod:

Keywords. The more popular the keyword, the more cost per click (CPC) it’s going to have. So it’s very important to do your keyword research before you start selecting your keywords as you’re setting up your campaign.

I like to use Keywordspy.com. The “lite” version is free, but you can also upgrade to the full version and see more results and have more capabilities for a monthly fee. Google used to have its Keyword External Tool, which has since morphed into Google AdWords Keyword Planner. You need a Gmail account to access this free tool.

Either of these tools will allow you to enter keywords or keyword phrases and then view popularity (actual search results), as well as what the average CPCs are. This is important for your keyword selection and bidding. You can also type in your “core” or focus keywords and get additional ad group/keyword ideas. To help refine your search terms, you can also choose broad match, broad match modifier, phrase match, exact match and negative match.

If you pick a word that is too vague or too under-searched, your ad will not see much (or any) action. Impressions will either not be served, or if they are served (in the case of a vague word), it may cost you a high CPC. In addition, a vague keyword may not be relevant enough to get you a good conversion rate. Because you pay by the click, your goal is to monetize that click by getting an instant conversion. And conversions, my friends, will be the role of the landing page. I’ll talk about that more in a moment.

Creative. This is your text ad (or banner ad, if you’re running in AdWords’ display network). For Google to rank your ad favorably, and more importantly, for you to get the best conversion results possible—there needs to be a relevancy and synergy between your keyword, text ad and landing page. Google will let you know if you’re not passing muster by your ad’s page position and quality score. Once you’ve carefully researched and selected your ad group keywords, you’ll want to make sure those keywords are consistent across the board with your ad and landing page. Your text ad has four visible lines with limited character count:

  1. Headline (25 Characters)
  2. Description Line 1 (35 Characters)
  3. Description Line 2 (35 Characters)
  4. Display URL (35 Characters)

Your keyword must appear in your text ad, as well as follow through and appear in the content of your landing page.

This will give you a good quality rank with Google, but also help qualify the prospect and carry the relevancy of the ad through to the landing page. Why is this important? It helps maintain consistency of the message and also set expectations with the end user. You don’t want to present one ad, and then have a completely different landing page come up.

Not only is that a “bait and switch,” but it’s costly. Because you’re paying for clicks, a great ad that is compelling and keyword rich, but not cohesive to your landing page, will not convert as well as one that is. And your campaign will actually lose conversions.

Redirect URL. This is your landing page. Different goals and different industries will have different formats. A lead generation campaign, which is just looking to collect email addresses to build an opt-in email list, will be a “squeeze page.” This is simply a landing page with a form asking for first name and email address in return for giving something away for free—albeit a bonus report, free newsletter subscription or similar. It got its name because it’s “squeezing” an email address from the prospect. Some retail campaigns will direct prospects directly to e-commerce sites or catalog pages (as opposed to a sales page). Direct response online marketers will drive their traffic to a targeted promotional landing page where it’s not typically a Web page where there’s other navigation or distractions that will take the prospect away from the main goal. It’s more streamlined and focused. The copy is not technical, it’s compelling and emotional, like promotional copy you would see in a sales letter. The anatomy of your redirect URL will vary on your goal and offer. It will take optimization and testing to see what’s working and what’s not. And that’s par for the course. If you’re testing, I suggest elements that scream and not whisper, such as long copy vs. short copy, or headlines and leads that are different themes. However, no matter what your goal, whether it’s going for the sale or the email address, you still need keyword consistency between all creative elements.

Tips And Tricks For Maximum ROI
Whether you have a big or small budget, there are a few things I’ve learned during the years that help the overall performance of a PPC campaign. Some of these are anecdotal, so if you’ve seen otherwise, I suggest testing to see if it makes a difference to your particular industry.

Ad and Landing Page. In general, I have noticed that shorter, to the point, landing pages produce better results. And the rationale is quite obvious. People searching the Web are looking for quick solutions to a problem. This means your creatives have to not only be keyword rich, but compelling and eye-caching. You have seconds to grab a Web surfer’s attention and get them to click. In the same sense, the landing page has to be equally relevant and persuasive, and typically shorter in copy. Keep in mind Google has many rules surrounding ad copy development. So write your text ads in accordance to its advertising policy.

Price Point. Again, in my personal experience, most Web surfers have a price threshold. And that’s items under about $79. When running a PPC campaign, think about price points that are more tolerable to “cold” prospects; that is, people who haven’t built a relationship with you or know anything about you. They have no brand loyalty. They don’t know you from Adam. So getting a sale at a lower price point is an easier sell than a product you have that costs hundreds of dollars. Luxury items or items with strong recognition and brand loyalty are the exception to that rule. As a direct response marketer, I urge you to price test and see for yourself.

Campaign Set-up. There are a few tactics I notice that help with ad exposure, clicks and saving money. When you’re setting up your campaign you can day-part, frequency cap and run ad extensions. Day parting allows you to select the hours of the day you’d like your campaign to run; ad extensions allow you to add components to your text ad to help visibility and call to action—such as location, site links, reviews and more; And frequency capping lets you set a threshold on how many times you’d like a given person to see your ad (based on impressions).

PPC Networks. It’s smart not to put all your eggs in one basket. In addition to Google AdWords, try running campaigns on other PPC networks, such as Bing/Yahoo, Adroll (retargeting through Facebook), Advertising.com/AdSonar.com, SiteScout.com (formerly Adbrite.com), and Kanoodle.com. Then see where you get the best cost per click, cost per conversion and overall results.

I’ve only touched the surface here. There are more tactics and features that can help a PPC campaign’s performance. So get yourself familiar with it, read up on the best practices, and don’t be afraid to put your toe in the water. As with any marketing tactic, some channels will work for your business, and some won’t. But you won’t know unless you test. Just remember the foundation of success hinges on the PPC Tri-Pod. The possibilities are endless.