It's only late October - what could we possible be doing thinking about paid search for next year? Well, paid search isn't all about tweaking ad copy and keyword research. Paid search is also a component of your marketing plan that needs to align itself with your overall marketing goals. Now is the time to start that process.

About 90% of the posts and articles I read regarding paid search focus on detailed, in-campaign strategies for more clicks, better conversions, etc. I include most of what I've written in that 90%. But what happens when you need to buckle down and justify your budget spent on PPC and prove that it positively affected your overall marketing strategy for the year? Well, as an in-house marketing manager, I'm spending time on that now. It's budgeting and planning time for 2008 and paid search is under the microscope.

For many, paid search is a tool used in a much larger marketing strategy. That larger marketing strategy could include print advertising, display ads, video ads, white papers, TV commercials, etc. It all depends on your audience and how you interact with them. But, what doesn't change is the fact that paid search is a tool to reach that audience and its results and goals should be in-line with your overall strategy.

Go To School on Your 2007 Paid Search Results

Depending on your PPC goals (you had them right!?), it's time to face the truth on what the results were for 2007. If a conversion for you means a sale than your goal tracking could be different than a campaign that focuses on lead conversions, for instance. But, regardless, you still need to learn from the previous year. Remember also that we're not focusing on granular campaign stats here. We're looking to provide information that supports our overall marketing strategy. So, let's pull some basic reports:

  • Conversion Report: This is a no-brainer. Run the report all the way down to the keyword so you can see what keywords perform the best. But, also run the numbers at the ad group and campaign level. This is a must for ROI purposes.
  • Ad Click-Through-Rate (CTR): What does your audience think of your messaging? You're most likely running 1-3 ads for each ad group so now is the time to check out how well your calls-to-action and/or feature/benefit text is performing. If you're text is being used by other mediums, you'll really want to pay attention here.
  • Bounce Rate Report: Through your analytics you can isolate each landing page used in your PPC campaigns and learn a bit more about the bounce rate for visitors. Bounce rate indicates the percentage of people that took one look at your page and then left the site. This works best if you're using a custom landing page for each ad group in your campaign. If your CTRs are high on your ad, but your bounce rate is high on your landing page, than visitors are not finding the information that they thought they'd find by clicking on your ad. Why is that? What needs to change in your messaging? On the other hand, what can you learn from a page with a low bounce rate that you could apply to your other product line ad groups?
  • Geographical Reports: What regions of the state, country, or world provide the best CTR or conversions? You may find that certain messaging or offers work differently in different regions. Maybe one of your products is experiencing great conversion rates in a certain region. Can you ask for better market research than that?
  • Search Query Report: Running this report gives you all the keywords that triggered your ads. On occasion, I'll find keywords or phrases that I was unaware my audience was using to find products or services related to my business. If used frequently, these new keywords offer opportunity for new marketing messaging that can used across many mediums. If you're separating your ad groups by region for more local targeting, this could give you insight into phrasing used by the different territories.
I'll throw in a note here that there are many pieces of important data to pull when reviewing a PPC campaign. I'm only throwing out a few that will help you in determining some overall marketing strategies for the upcoming year.

Turn Stats into Business Results

Providing CTR on individual keywords is not going to help you or your management decide if paid search was an effective marketing medium. Turn those endless spreadsheets of data into useful bits of information that you can share with colleagues so that they'll understand the results. Make sure you're pointing to how the PPC results correlated to your overall marketing strategy. For instance, show the number of leads, sales, or conversion versus your actual budget spend on an ad group.

  • Bad Results Can Be Good: Don't be afraid to report bad results as the bad results are often as important as the good ones. Learning that conversions are low using one type of call-to-action or messaging can play a large roll in how you plan for next year. You may even find that certain products or certain offers aren't meeting customer expectations. In this respect, a paid search campaign can actually help guide product development.

Look Toward The Future

I've heard too many times that either in-house search engine marketers or agencies running PPC campaigns are not in tune with the overall product marketing strategy. How can that be? Paid search is a major expenditure and should be in-line with overall marketing strategies. Make it a point to sit down with sales, product management, etc. and find out their goals for 2008. How do they view the market? Should you be spending more on certain ad groups than others? What messaging do they think is most likely to attract the most qualified clicks?

Don't let paid search have its own strategy!

October 30, 2007

Patrick Schaber is currently the Director of Marketing for Transition Networks, Inc – a data networking hardware manufacturer. His experience working for both large and small organizations has given him keen insights into many facets of marketing including, email marketing, advertising, search engine marketing, social media and more. Along with trainings and industry speaking engagements, Patrick authors his own site, The Lonely Marketer, which focuses on the diverse activities and culture related to the small business marketer.

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Search Engine Guide > Patrick Schaber > Important Steps In 2008 Paid Search Planning