Online advertising is one of those industries that is always taking heat for one reason or another. Some of it is just the nature of advertising, some of it has to do with expectations of the future of internet usage. However, online advertising has been, is and will almost definitely continue to be an integral part of every brand’s advertising stack.
Specifically, pay per click is not going anywhere, which means that every marketing and advertising professional knows that part of their recipe for success (and promotion) is building up their skills in online advertising and becoming a PPC expert.
I've used PPC to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for my own businesses, and so can you. I'm not some kind of guru, wizard or prodigy. In fact, when I launched my first campaign I made a ton of mistakes, lost boatloads of money and almost put my company in bankruptcy.
But I eventually got over the hill and am now an expert in using PPC. It's a tough journey to become a pro, but the ROI is well worth the struggle. Here are the top three tips for mastering PPC, increasing your brand’s revenue and engagement and being recognized as an expert.
1. Learn the platforms.
The first step to becoming a PPC expert is to become familiar with the major platforms. Until you know how to use the tools, you won’t know what’s possible.
The two pillars of PPC are Google AdWords and Bing Ads. The two systems are similar and both Adwords and Bing Ads offer certifications for their programs. While studying isn’t always the most fun, it is as usual the best way to get ahead in this industry.
Once you’ve learned about what’s available to everyone, consider what platforms would work especially well in your industry. For example, if you work in ecommerce, fashion, home decor or other visually appealing industries, consider looking into Pinterest’s Buyable Pins, which allows users to purchase your products directly from the social media platform.
Remember to pace yourself as you learn -- these platforms will be the tools you use to build your campaigns, so you should be comfortable enough with each to factor in each one’s strengths and weaknesses for various uses.
2. Understand your audience.
Now that you have the tools, you’ll need to understand the goal: getting your audience’s attention. A great place to start with this is with buyer personas, if your brand has developed them. If not, they’re an excellent first exercise!
Study where your audience “hangs out” online. Do they use Google or Bing primarily (or are they into a smaller, more niche search engine such as DuckDuckGo)? What’s their income level? What social media channels do they love and which do they ignore?
Most importantly, understand what causes your audience to search for your brand. Why do they want what you sell? When do they want it? How often do they purchase it?
Once you’ve mapped out your audience as much as possible, you’ll be equipped to create campaigns that will appeal to them specifically. This is especially important with search engine advertising, which is the most competitive type of PPC, but applies across the industry. As a bonus, however, know that the success of your PPC campaigns will also help you refine who your audience actually is, as opposed to who you’re pretty sure they are!
3. Learn by doing (and watching).
After you’ve acquainted yourself with the tools and have a target audience in mind, it’s time to start doing! Your first few campaigns will likely be a bit bumpy as you get used to the constrained format of PPC, so don’t feel badly if the campaigns aren’t immediately successful.
A great way to get better faster is to look at your competitors' PPC campaigns. Look at what they’re doing that’s unique and what seems to be an industry trend. It will be up to you to determine what’s a common theme that, if you ignore, will help set you apart, and what’s a pillar that actually works, which means you should do it too.
After you’ve become comfortable with PPC, you’ll notice that the lessons you learn apply to other aspects of marketing as well. You’ll be more adept to suss out target markets, develop comfort in bidding wars and your tagline game will be much more on point.
As Stephan Sarandrea, director of strategy for the award-winning PPC firm Siteflood, explained to me: “PPC combines the artistry of marketing -- the valuable content and eye-catching designs and catch phrases -- with the science of signage. Each ad is quite small, so you’ll need to be economical with your usage of the space. The combination of the two can be very challenging to work with, but can also be a very fulfilling puzzle, not in least part because PPC is so metric driven! You’ll learn within a few days if you’re improving and watching the clicks roll in when you craft the perfect tagline is one of the best feelings, especially after spending days or weeks A/B testing.”