I'm sure most Search Engine Guide readers have seen articles about how to set up a Pay-Per-Click campaign. The majority of such articles are written for novice webmasters who don't receive much website traffic and have never done the comprehensive keyword research that is so critical for any successful internet effort. As I discovered recently, creating a PPC campaign for a mature website can differ greatly from a typical PPC campaign setup.

We recently built a PPC microsite for a client who possesses a very mature, content-rich, well-trafficked website that unfortunately had serious lead conversion problems. After analyzing the client's log files in preparation for starting the PPC campaign, I realized that traditional keyword research wasn't going to be a necessary step. In fact, the logs contained an absolute blizzard of mostly relevant keywords. I quickly determined that the Google AdWords tool and other similar tools that people use to flesh out PPC keyword lists would be redundant to this exercise.

So how did I set up this particular campaign?

1) Top Natural Search Keywords. From this content rich website, I took the top 1,000 natural search keywords that brought our client traffic within the previous 12 months. I dropped them in a spreadsheet, alphabetized them, and evaluated each word in the list for its relevancy to client's product / service offerings. Until search engine algorithms are perfected, a certain percentage of natural search traffic will always be mistargeted...therefore, I needed to make sure than that no irrelevant keyword strings made their way into the PPC campaign.

2) Divide Remaining Keywords Into Logical Categories. After a thorough analysis of a site's top keywords, nine topical groupings of keywords became apparent to me. I placed the category names at the top of the spreadsheet and moved each keyword into its proper category. I created a huge, cumbersome spreadsheet, but this process was critical to insure that all the words in each category were very closely related. In order to maximize the PPC click-thru rate, the targeted keyword (or a close variant of it) needed to be placed in the title line of the ad (and perhaps repeated it in the body of the ad). Having a large number of categories in this PPC campaign made the setup quite slow...but I knew that adhering to this process will lead to an optimum click-thru rate for the client.

3) Clean Up Each Category. The first two steps were tedious and, unfortunately, step three is the most tedious of all...but still critical to the effort. I looked over the entire list of keywords again. For each listing, I asked myself the following question "Does this keyword map well to the website's product / service offerings or should I slightly alter it to make it map better?"

An example:

I sell "Green Widgets". "Green Widgets Florida" appears in my website logs. However, I sell green widgets everywhere...so, there isn't any special reason to keep "Green Widgets Florida" in my keyword list so long as "Green Widgets" already appears. Similarly, if "Widgets" appears in the logs and I only sell "Green Widgets", I want to make sure to delete "Widgets" since it is too broad and includes products that I don't sell.

Each keyword string remaining in my campaign should not to be either too specific (so as to exclude relevant searches) or too general (mapping to keyword possibilities that don't fit the business).

4) Use the Budget Optimizer As A Final Check. Most campaigns have a spending limit, and especially, with a new PPC effort, testing the waters is a wise strategy before jumping in with both feet. Plugging the keyword list into one of the budget estimator tools will determine how well the campaign budget maps to desired keywords. Some of the listings will like be too expensive for the budget and must be removed...particularly "generic" words that are relevant to bidders in multiple industries. Once the keyword list is finalized, input your spending limits, create the ads and run the campaign.

Remember my client that I was telling you about? Their new PPC microsite is converting 20% of all PPC traffic into leads at a ridiculously low cost per lead...and I believe that much of their success relates to the keyword "depth" present in their campaign. When I suggested to the client that they double their PPC spend, they responded that they have more good leads than they can assimilate into their sales pipeline. Most businesses likely wish they had such problems.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

March 15, 2006

Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association.

Search Engine Guide > Todd Mintz > How to Setup a PPC Campaign for an "Established" Website