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.

7 Google AdWords Features You Probably Aren’t Using, But Should Be

Google AdWords is loaded with potential — and if you haven’t explored the platform’s latest features, then you’re probably missing out on opportunities to improve your advertising performance. Hundreds of new features launched over the past couple years, and there’s a good chance you missed a few of them.

Anchor Man AdWords Features MemeGoogle AdWords features are loaded with potential — and if you haven’t explored the platform’s latest features, then you’re probably missing out on opportunities to improve your advertising performance. Hundreds of new features launched over the past couple years, and there’s a good chance you missed a few of them.

In this article, we’ll review seven AdWords features you should consider testing in your ad campaigns.

1. Google AdWords Editor

First things first — learn about the Google AdWords editor. Thanks to this tool, you can download all of your campaign data to your desktop hard drive and make all kinds of adjustments without the lag from page loads or slow connection speeds. It’s especially handy if you’re dealing with several campaigns or accounts at once.

When finished, just upload your data back into AdWords. It’s as if you were working online the entire time. This tool won’t single-handedly improve the performance of your campaigns, but it can certainly boost your productivity.

2. Ad Customizers

Including details about sales and limited-time offers is a great way to drive interest in your AdWords ads. Few things are more motivating than the thought of missing out. However, including this information in your ad copy used to be a tedious (and sometimes monumental) chore. Counting down with a limited-time offer meant manually updating your ads on a daily basis; large store-wide sales meant writing unique ad copy to match every discounted product.

Fortunately, Google unleashed its Ad Customizers. These tools allow advertisers to dynamically change ad copy according to certain conditions. If your ad mentions a limited-time sale, simply list an end date in the Ad Customizer tool and the countdown will be automated.

The Ad Customizers tool saves a ton of time while helping your ad stand out from the competition.

3. Callout Extensions

Experienced marketers are familiar with sitelink extensions, but many people aren’t yet familiar with callout extensions. A callout extension is an extra line of text that appears beneath ad copy and above sitelink extensions. Unlike sitelinks, callout extensions are not hyperlinked; it’s simply a chance to double-down on product benefits and customer incentives.

For maximum impact, try using callout extensions along with sitelink extensions. Your ad will be 20 percent taller if both extensions appear, and that can attract eyeballs and boost clickthrough rates.

4. Website Call Conversions

Want to learn how many phone calls you get as a result of your Google ads? Until recently, that wasn’t possible from within AdWords — you could only track calls when visitors clicked on the click-to-call extension button. If the extension didn’t show, or if visitors clicked through to your website before calling, then their phone calls wouldn’t be tracked as AdWords conversions.

That has changed, thanks to Website Call Conversions. With this feature, you can dynamically place a Google forwarding number on your website that will keep track of phone calls from your ads. Setting up this feature is fairly simple, although you’ll need to place a piece of JavaScript code on webpages where you want your forwarding number to appear. Anyone with web development experience can handle this easily.

Optimizing Your Bing Ads Campaign: The Basics

Bing’s search engine market share has grown to 21 percent. Google is still your best bet for reaching the largest number of customers, but to neglect your Bing Ads campaigns is a mistake. Fortunately, optimizing campaigns in Bing Ads is similar to the process of auditing your Google AdWords campaigns. Read on to learn more about the basics of optimizing in Bing Ads.

Optimize - Improving ResultsThere’s no denying that Google is the undisputed king of search engine advertising, and the potential reach of Microsoft’s search platform pales in comparison. However, Bing’s popularity is rising.

In late 2015, Comscore reported that Bing’s search engine market share had grown to 21 percent (Google accounts for 64 percent), probably because of Bing’s incorporation into Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile and Surface devices. Google is still your best bet for reaching the largest number of customers, but to neglect your Bing Ads campaigns is a mistake — one that grows bigger by the day.

Fortunately, optimizing campaigns in Bing Ads is similar to the process of auditing your Google AdWords campaigns. Some of the reports and user options are different, but the general tenants are the same. Read on to learn more about the basics of optimizing in Bing Ads.

Running Reports — Know Your Options

Just like the first step of cooking is to gather your ingredients, the first step of optimizing is to collect your data. Bing Ads provides the following reports with uniquely beneficial information:

  • Performance reports: Track the overall performance of your efforts at the account, campaign, ad group, ad and keyword levels. See important metrics such as your CTRs and impressions.
  • Change history reports: Want to revisit how you’ve changed your campaigns over time? Just run these reports to see your change history.
  • Targeting reports: See which audiences your campaigns are reaching.
  • Campaign analytics reports: Designed to aid conversions, these reports help you understand how visitors are interacting with your website’s landing page.
  • Billing and budget reports: Good for accounting, these reports offer the nuts-and-bolts of your campaign spending and billing over time.

It’s a good idea to regularly generate each type of report. Each report type can be customized to highlight the most relevant data for your needs, and you can also schedule automated reports that hit your email as attachments.

Pump Up Low Impressions

Is your campaign getting unusually low impressions? This could be happening for several reasons, most of which relate to your keywords. Open the keyword list for your underperforming ad group and look for keyword disapprovals and low keyword bids. Bing’s reviewers sometimes disapprove keywords based on landing page relevance or various compliance rules. And sometimes, you just need to bid more.

Negative keywords might also be hindering your ad’s visibility. Negative keywords can save you lots of money by filtering out visitors who wouldn’t be likely to convert on your landing page, but misusing negative keywords can have the opposite impact.

Or it could be that people who are seeing your ad just aren’t interested. Try changing up your ad copy, and run a targeting report to make sure you’re reaching the right audience.

Reverse Low Clickthrough Rates

If your ad is getting plenty of views but not many clicks — which you can see in your performance report — then you must make your ad more compelling. Define what makes your business special, include an irresistible offer and give a call to action (i.e. “Contact Us for a Free Estimate”). Compare your ad with competing ads for insights about what you’re missing. You can also experiment with dynamic text, which plugs the actual terms people search for directly into your ads.

Capturing Conversions

The whole point of online advertising is getting conversions on your landing page. If visitors are reaching your site but not taking your desired action — whether that’s making a purchase or filling out a contact form — then that’s a problem.

The Universal Event Tracking tool is Bing’s version of conversion tracking. This tool generates a pixel that you place in the code throughout your website — then, you can run a campaign analytics goals report to see how visitors move through your site. From this, you can get invaluable insights about who converts versus who bounces.

Bing Ads lets you include dynamic text in your destination URLs, sending visitors to landing pages that specifically target their needs. The findings in your campaign analytics goals report might also reveal keywords or ad copy variations that aren’t capturing the right audiences.

Prepare for Editorial Reviews

Bing Ads has several compliance regulations enforced through its editorial review process. The purpose of this process is to maintain a high degree of quality across the Bing Ads search network. You may see real-time alerts requiring you to change your ads and keywords as you optimize, or a recently revised campaign may be tagged with an editorial disapproval. Most disapprovals are easily correctable and not a cause for long-term concern. As an advertiser, though, you should periodically familiarize yourself with Bing Ads’ policies.

Summary

Optimizing Bing Ads campaigns can result in greater revenues and fewer losses — and in business, both outcomes are great for your bottom line. Resist pouring all your efforts into Google Adwords, and remember that Bing Ads is actually growing at a faster rate. Microsoft is committed to integrating Bing into its latest computing and smartphone products. You can capitalize on that by reaching a sizeable audience with economical costs per click, but only if you put in the effort.

Want more digital marketing tips? Click here to get the Internet Marketing Survival Guide.

SEO Tracking 101: What to Track and How to Track It

SEO tracking is a critical component of search engine optimization which will allow you to see which Web pages are doing well and which need an SEO overhaul.

TM0810_searchglobe copyAs you probably already know, tracking is a critical component of search engine optimization (SEO). After all, you cannot possibly know what is working well and what still needs to be tweaked unless you track your results. Watching your trends over time will let you know how your website is performing overall, as well as which Web pages are doing well and which need an SEO overhaul.

Yet, with so much available data out there, it can be tough to know where to focus your tracking. Here are the essential elements that every business owner should track, and how to go about tracking them.

Keyword Rankings
The most obvious way to check your keyword rankings is to simply type your keyword phrases into Google and see what pops up. Unfortunately, your results will be heavily skewed. This is because Google personalizes search results based on previous browsing history. Since you are likely a frequent visitor of your own site, Google will artificially inflate your site’s rankings when you search for your keyword phrases from your own computer.

To get around this, you can use Google Analytics to learn your true, unbiased keyword rankings. Make sure you have an account at www.google.com/analytics and that the relevant code has been added to every page of your website. Also ensure that you have a Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools) account at www.google.com/webmastertools and that the two accounts are linked.

Under Google Analytics’ Acquisition tab, click on Search Engine Optimization and then Queries. This will show you the keywords for which you are currently ranked, along with additional information for each keyword like the number of searches, your average Google ranking for that keyword, and your average click through rate. These numbers are unbiased, so they will not change based on your browsing history.

Search Engine Traffic
Your search engine traffic is all of the organic (non-paid) traffic that visits your website from search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Under the Acquisition tab in Google Analytics, click on All Traffic, then Channels, then Organic Search to view your search engine traffic trends.

The precise numbers here are not what’s most important. Instead, look for general trends over the past 6 to 12 months. Do you see a general climb? If so, then you are doing well. If you see a general decline, then your SEO needs attention. Also note any major spikes, whether upward or downward, and see if you can determine the reason for them.

Google AdWords Audit Checklist: How to Optimize Your Campaign

Google AdWords is a vital advertising tool for many businesses. However, like anything else, it must be audited and maintained regularly to ensure that it remains fully optimized. Here is a checklist to follow.

Google AdWords logoGoogle AdWords is a vital advertising tool for many businesses. It allows you to focus your advertising budget on customers who are ready to buy, giving you a steady stream of eager new prospects. It also allows you to start with whatever budget you’re comfortable with, making it a tremendous resource for small businesses.

However, many business owners are not maximizing their campaign performance, so they are leaving money on the table month after month. Like anything else, your Google AdWords campaign must be audited and maintained regularly to ensure that it remains fully optimized. Here is a checklist to follow.

Keywords
Keywords commonly trip up both new and experienced AdWords users because there are so many factors to consider. To optimize your keywords, I recommend using three distinct tactics, each of which addresses a common problem.

  • Pruning: The goal of pruning is to remove unprofitable keywords from your list, including those that are irrelevant and those that, for whatever reason, simply do not perform well for you. To start pruning, run a Google AdWords Search Terms report from the Keywords tab of your account. Any keyword that does not show solid performance should be removed or paused. Also consider adding negative keywords, which tell AdWords not to display your ad if a particular word appears in the search string.
  • Fishing: The goal of fishing is to find new keywords that will be profitable for your campaign. Again, run a Google AdWords Search Terms report and look for keyword phrases that are performing well, but are not yet in your Ad Groups.
  • Replanting: Replanting is a process to optimize your top performing keywords while limiting your budget for new or unproven keywords. Move your top keywords into their own campaign, and focus on tweaking your ad copy and landing pages to tightly match those keywords. Likewise, move unproven keywords to their own campaign and reduce their budget until you get more data on them. Replanting allows you to improve your quality score, increase your click-through rate, and maintain better control over your advertising dollars.

Ads
Your ad copy is an excellent place to optimize your AdWords campaign, since it is virtually impossible to write perfect copy on the first, or even the tenth, try. Here are a few ways to optimize your ads.

  • Split testing: Never allow just one ad to run in an ad group. Always run at least two ads so that you can compare their performance.
  • Offer: No matter how good the rest of your ad copy is, a weak offer can sink your AdWords campaign. Remember that a great offer minimizes customer risk and overcomes the tendency for procrastination. Review your competitors’ offers, think through what would appeal to your ideal customer, and split test different offers in your ads.
  • Extensions: Ad extensions factor into your quality score, and also play a role in improving your click-through rate, so make sure you are taking advantage of all of them. The Review extension, with a third party endorsement, is particularly useful in building credibility.
  • Other factors: Other areas of your ad copy that should be audited include your headline, display URL, and description. Make sure that each section is clear and succinct, focusing on how you can solve a problem or fulfill a need for your prospect. Ensure that your entire ad is internally consistent, easy to follow, and has a strong call to action.

Landing Pages
Your landing page is your opportunity to close the sale, turning visitors into leads and customers. It must be laser-focused to match the ad, reassuring the prospect that she is in the right place and explaining what to do next. Optimizing your landing page is not easy, but it’s critical to your campaign performance.

  • Dedicated landing pages: One of the most common mistakes that business owners make is using their homepage as a landing page for ads. A secondary mistake is using the same landing page for lots of unrelated keywords. Make sure your landing page is 100 percent congruent with the keywords and ads in each Ad Group.
  • Congruence: As mentioned above, your landing page must be fully congruent with your ad. This means that the landing page copy should match the keywords, and the landing page offer should repeat the offer made in the ads.
  • Call to Action: It sounds crazy, but I have reviewed countless landing pages that do not explicitly explain what the visitor needs to do to start the buying process.  As a consumer, it’s frustrating when it’s not clear what to do so most prospective customers will leave rather than try to figure it out.  So make sure your landing page has a clear call-to-action, ideally above the fold so the visitor does not have to scroll to find it.

Tracking
Tracking is the only method you have for determining how well your AdWords campaign is performing. Make sure that each of the following forms of AdWords tracking is set up properly in your account:

  • Webform conversion tracking to measure how many visitors complete your webforms
  • Shopping cart conversion tracking to measure how many visitors complete online orders
  • Website call tracking to measure how many visitors call after clicking on your ads
  • Call extension tracking to measure how many people call using the number displayed in your ads
  • Offline sales import conversion tracking to measure how many sales are generated offline via phone calls or in-person

Optimizing and maintaining your Google AdWords campaign is an ongoing, never ending process. A regular audit procedure will determine which portions of your campaign are working well, and which need some attention. Although it may seem lot a lot of work, following an audit checklist like this can be completed quickly if you break up the tasks over the course of a week or two.

Want more Google AdWords tips and advice? I put together an AdWords checklist to help you get your campaigns set up for success. Click here to get my complete Google AdWords checklist.

Trickery Is Not a Marketing Strategy

Despite what some people may think, I was not born yesterday. But lately I feel like I’ve been duped by intentionally deceptive marketing practices everywhere I turn. When legitimate companies deliberately use misleading marketing tactics to try and entice you to respond, I wonder who, exactly, thought this was a good idea?

Despite what some people may think, I was not born yesterday. But lately I feel like I’ve been duped by intentionally deceptive marketing practices everywhere I turn.

I’m far from being a novice when reading emails (so sorry if you really were mugged while travelling in Nigeria), answering the phone (no, I don’t want to invest in the new drug that cures cancer), or opening my door to strangers (based on the way you’re dressed, I sincerely doubt you’re collecting for the San Francisco Opera).

But when legitimate companies deliberately use misleading marketing tactics to try and entice you to respond, I wonder who, exactly, thought this was a good idea?

Let’s start with …

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
If you’ve read anything at all about how the Web works, you already know that for your target audience to find your web site, it needs to be optimized for Google.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a hotly debated topic because Google changes its algorithm regularly and it’s a closely guarded secret. But since Google’s priority is to serve their users and their expertise is to assign relevancy to web pages, it makes perfect sense that the brain collective at Google will eventually figure out that you may be trying to “game” the system when you place words on your site (or in your meta tags) that really have nothing to do with your products or services.

If you’ve optimized your site for Google’s Web crawlers (by including words that are truly relevant to your business), then the logical next step might be an SEM effort—because if you can’t get to the top of organic search results, then why not pay to ensure top billing?

The problem is that many brands are so desperate to wave their arms in front of a Google searcher and “throw their hat in the ring” that they’re choosing SEM words based on potential volume of searchers who will be exposed to their brand message. As a result, they are investing in order to be seen, paying to get clicks, but ultimately losing because they’re getting lots of bounces when searcher discovers the company can’t deliver the information/product/service they’re seeking.

For many business-to-business companies, the problem is not so much trickery, but a lack of alignment between a set of paid search terms and the landing page to which each SEM result is linked. I covered this problem in my recent webinar on website personalization, so you can learn more by listening on demand.

Misrepresentation in Email
Our agency has a GSA contract—meaning we have been approved by the Federal Government to bid on RFPs for government work. Recently, we were required to update our contact information in the SAM (System for Award Management) database. Upon completion, (or so we thought) I received an email from an individual who appeared to work for the federal government. They noted that our update was not complete, but instead advised that we needed to fill out an attached form.

The PDF, labeled “US Federal SAM Worksheet New,” certainly looked official enough, and it came from someone who called themselves a “Case Manager” at US Federal Contractor Registration.

But it wasn’t until we had completed and returned the form, and had several additional email exchanges, that we finally figures out that we were not corresponding with an official of the US Government, but instead with an outside consulting firm who would be charging us for their “help.”

Needless to say, I was aghast.

I’ve now gone back and carefully read and reread our email exchanges, trying to discover how I was so easily duped and how I allowed confidential information to be provided to this outside entity. And I can honestly tell you, it was deceptive from their first contact with us.

If you’re running a legitimate business, you shouldn’t have to resort to either SEM or email “trickery” to attract customers. If you do, you’re no better than those Nigerian email scams.