In the first two parts of this introductory series (Part 1, Part 2), we covered the necessity to spend money to acquire data and the value of rolling up your sleeves to dig into the metrics. My hope is that you’ve used and reused instructions from the first two parts to establish a solid foundation to your PPC strategy.
In keeping with Tony Montana’s inspirational mantra, this final installment will discuss a few key strategies to continually acquire customers. To paraphrase Mr. Montana…
“In this online marketing space, you gotta spend the money first. Then when you get your learnings, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the CUSTOMERS.”
A Brief Recap
In Part 1 we:
- Looked at effective keyword / ad copy / landing page relationships
- Picked through the good, bad and the ugly ad copy experiences
- Talked about the typical consumer clicking behavior
In Part 2 we:
- Analyzed the importance of click-through-rate (CTR)
- Learned that impression share (IS) is where you may be losing market share
Step 3: Customer Acquisition
At this juncture, are you able to see the forest through the trees? We’ve covered a lot of material in the first two steps (CTR, Quality Score, Impression Share, Ad copy, Landing Page relevancy, etc.) and it is important that you see the end goal through it all:
Success = Customer Acquisition
We’re going to take a slightly different approach with this final segment by stepping through a list of things not to do if you want to succeed in PPC marketing as a means of customer acquisition.
The ABC’s of failing at successful customer acquisition:
- Assuming you know it all
- Blocking and tackling only gets you so far
- Calling it quits
A. Assuming You Know It All
Assumption is an enemy of PPC marketing and is a sin committed by even the most experienced marketers. An astute PPC marketer may unexpectedly find him/herself surrounded by stagnant keywords lists, dated ad copy and uninspiring landing pages and without a clue as to how he or she got there.
Where did we go wrong?
- Optimized keywords and match types…✓ CHECK
- Optimized ad groups and ad copy…✓ CHECK
- Optimized landing pages…✓ CHECK
- Optimized budgets and let the campaign run…✓ CHECK
- Sit back and watch the money pour into your bank account…X WRONG
The PPC marketplace is a living, breathing ecosystem that demands constant (and I mean constant) attention. There is no “set it and forget it” strategy in PPC. In a 2008 blog post, Google claimed that “20% of the queries receives each day are ones we haven’t seen in at least 90 days, if at all”! According to ComScore’s May 2011 Search Engine rankings report, more than 19 BILLION searches were performed across the top five search engines in the month of May. If the 20% “new search” rule holds true, that’s roughly 86,000 searches per minute that are new to search engines and search marketers!
Relevance is a moving target and you need to make sure your customers find it in your campaigns. Always, always be checking (another ABC acronym to remember!)
1. Check “see search terms” to see which terms triggered your ads. Using this tool provides a high probability of discovering new keywords to add to your existing campaigns.
The advantage of “longer headlines” is to (Google said it best) “display more information where it’s most likely to be noticed–in the headline”.
Ads 1 and 3 in the real-life example above are NOT taking advantage of longer headlines.
Per Google, advertisers have seen upwards of a 30% lift in CTR through the use of Sitelinks.
1-800-Flowers’ use of sitelinks takes up twice the real-estate as the FTD ad.
3. Have a discerning eye: learn from every landing page you visit. This applies to your casual surfing, online shopping, research and competitive analysis. After you’ve clicked on a paid ad, take a few extra seconds to observe the landing page and try to pick it apart. What works well on the landing page? What doesn’t? Take these observations and try to apply it to your site. It just might give you an edge over your competitors!
The bottom line is, between a steady influx of beta tests from Google/Bing and innovations of PPC ads and landing pages from other Search Marketers, you simply don’t and can’t know everything. Never assume you’ve figured it out. You will get left behind.
B. Blocking And Tackling Only Gets You So Far
This section can be summed up in two words: GO BIG. “Blocking and Tackling” is a phrase that emphasizes the need to excel at fundamentals. We covered many PPC marketing fundamentals in the first two segments and it is important to note that you should always strive to block and tackle your way to success. However, don’t let the routine of blocking and tackling impede your creative and innovative side. Constantly remind yourself that end goal is customer acquisition (and your ongoing challenge) is to constantly build a better mouse trap.
Let us be clear that GOING BIG does not mean be reckless. It means think outside the box and take calculated risks. How? Collect data and create a test plan.
Tim Ash, founder of SiteTuners and a world renown optimization expert, often asks the question “Who should be in charge of designing landing pages?”
C-level executives (CEO/COO/CTO/CMO)? Nope.
Engineers and Developers? Negative.
Marketers and designers? Keep going.
Creative Agencies? Not quite.
Who’s left? Your Customers!
Run an online survey, ask friends and family about what matters to them (as it relates to your online business) and try to think from your customer’s perspective. Don’t try to think for the customer. Be the customer.
Create a Test Plan (and Test!)
Be intentional and routine about allocating a small test budget and force yourself to test new ideas. If finding ideas to test is challenging, it simply means you need to do more research and ask more questions.
Once you have a list of items to test, find the simplest way to set up and run tests. Leverage free tools already available through Adwords like Campaign Experiments to perform A/B split tests or Google’s Web Optimizer as a means of running more complex multi-variate tests. Whatever your methodology, think of the simplest, cheapest way to test that requires minimal engineering resources.
My parting thought on this topic is this: tests results are useless if reporting and analytics are not reliable. Whether your reporting is homegrown, off the shelf or a bit of both, it must be reliable and trustworthy. If it isn’t, fix it.
C. Calling it Quits
Let’s not sugar coat it – PPC marketing can sometimes be frustrating and often unsuccessful. When should you call it quits?
This is not an easy question to address but I will answer it with additional questions:
How much have you spent to date?
If your answer is “a few hundred bucks”, you may not have given yourself a fair chance at success. Did your “few hundred bucks” yield enough clicks? Were you able to collect sufficient campaign data to make the right decision?
If you answered “a few thousand dollars” or “tens of thousands of dollars”, it might behoove you to have a PPC professional audit your campaigns before you spend more money. Having a professional help optimize your marketing spend may make the difference between bleeding money and turning a profit.
Are your direct competitors continuing to bid on the same keywords?
If you answered “no”, it may be an indicator that 1) you’ve stumbled onto a new and untapped market (somewhat unlikely), 2) competitors have optimized out of those keywords due to low conversions or 3) you’re simply targeting the wrong keywords.
If you answered “yes”, you will want to spend some time analyzing your competitor’s ads and landing pages to find the exactly how they’re able to afford to run their campaigns.
Have you sought professional help?
There is no shame in asking for help in PPC marketing (or online marketing in general). Most business owners wouldn’t write and produce their own radio or TV commercials or design their own print/billboard ads… so why assume that the failure of a self designed/managed online campaign was the medium and not the marketer?
If you’re ready to throw in the towel, please take time to answer these questions.
Conclusion: Get Your Customers
Get your customers, as in, go acquire customers. You already know how to Test, Learn, Refine and Repeat. Continually look for signals in your analytics and data for opportunities to optimize for volume and conversions.
At the same time, get your customers, as in, understand their mindset, comprehend their goals and be prepared to test new ideas that try to convince your potential customers to use your site over your competitors.
This concludes our three part introductory series on PPC marketing. We covered a lot of material, “best practices”, strategies and tips, yet this is just the tip of the iceberg. Relative to other marketing mediums, pay-per-click marketing is still in its infancy with a very long, promising future. As you establish your own history with online marketing and expand your knowledgebase, remind yourself to be like Tony Montana (only the positive, inspirational qualities… ignore the rest). Be hungry, scrappy, and aggressive and work harder and smarter than your competitors. As Tony said “The World is Yours!”
About The Author: Jacob Shin is the Director of Online Marketing & Customer Acquisition at Savings.com where he focuses on high volume paid search strategy and conversion optimization for US and UK based traffic. Connect with Jacob.