Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be an effective way to drive traffic to your website quickly, but small businesses too often make mistakes that undermine their campaigns.
Here's how PPC works: Through programs such as Google AdWords and Facebook Ads, marketers specify an amount they're willing to pay for each visitor who clicks through to their sites. They also indicate whether they want their ads to appear in search engine results or content blocks embedded within websites, or both. It's an auction-style system through which the advertiser that bids the most for a targeted keyword receives the most exposure.
Although PPC advertising may sound simple, plenty of novices have created campaigns that generate little click-through action because they target the wrong keywords or lack a compelling message. So, consider these suggestions for avoiding the seven mistakes that most new advertisers make:
1. Avoid "broad match" keywords.
One of the biggest mistakes is ignoring the difference between choosing specific keyword match types and setting all keywords as "broad match," which means that your ad will appear not just for your chosen keyword phrase, but also for any similar phrases or relevant variations your advertising program deems appropriate. Although broad match placements can help increase your exposure, they can also attract irrelevant traffic that costs you money.
For example, a PPC ad with the broad match term "show ideas" could be displayed for the search query "baby shower gift ideas." Even though the search query contains the broad match term, it isn't a relevant match.
To avoid losing money on irrelevant clicks, focus on phrase or exact match keywords.
2. Separate search and content ad placements.
Search network placement refers to PPC ads that appear in search query results, while content network placement means websites that display PPC ads as blocks within their pages. Most new PPC marketers select both the search and content networks when they set up their first campaigns, and they usually use the same keywords, ad content and payment amount for each click.
But the specific queries and websites that trigger your content network placements can be significantly different than what yields results on the search network. Running the same ads on both networks, therefore, could cost you money in terms of irrelevant placements. Although customizing takes more time and effort, it's far more efficient to tailor your keywords, ad copy and keyword bids for each network.
3. Use negative keywords, too.
PPC marketers often fail to use negative keywords, which allow you to specify where your ad should not appear. For example, in our "show ideas" and "baby shower gift ideas" example, the words "baby," "shower" and "gift" could be designated as negative keywords to help eliminate such irrelevant ad placements.
4. Efficiently target ad campaigns.
Many advertisers aren't precise enough in targeting their campaigns. To increase efficiency, take advantage of features in PPC accounts that allow you to specify who sees the ads.
Here are a few areas to consider in targeting your campaigns:
- Multiple countries. If you plan to advertise in several countries, set up an ad group for each. Otherwise, limit your ad to U.S. placements.
- Micro-geographic focus. If you create an ad for a local business keyword -- "Mexican restaurants in Chicago," for example -- use the micro-geographic targeting features in your advertiser account to select the specific zip codes in which your ad will appear based on your business's delivery area.
- Time of day. If your ads generate the most conversions during a particular time of day, set them up to run only during those time periods.
5. Match landing pages to ads.
Sending a visitor from your PPC ad to an irrelevant landing page not only disrupts the sales process, but also can also result in the assessment of lower ad quality scores. That means you'll pay more for each click and receive less exposure than advertisers with higher scores.
To avoid low relevance ad and landing page pairings, decrease the number of keywords. That will help make your landing pages as relevant as possible.
6. Test ad copy.
Writing effective ad copy can be difficult. Unless you test different versions of ads to see which perform best, you aren't maximizing the ROI of your campaign.
Most PPC platforms allow you to set up split tests that rotate different ads for each of your targeted keywords. To do the test effectively, adjust your setting so that ads will be served up randomly rather than according to the platform's formula of displaying the ad it determines will result in the most clicks.
Related: Pay-Per-Click ROI Calculator
7. Track your return on investment.
To effectively manage PPC campaigns and improve your ROI, you need to know exactly which clicks are resulting in sales. To generate this data for free, tie your PPC account to Google Analytics to track which ads led visitors to your page and which visits resulted in sales. Without this information, you can't adjust your keyword bids or eliminate less effective ads and keywords.
AJ Kumar is co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media and various other marketing strategies.