Having a successful search advertising program (PPC or SEO) means you must get a lot of things right or you simply can’t make the numbers work. See my article titled PPC Essentials and pay particular attention to the Economics. One element of this has to do with how your website is designed. I talk about that in my article titled Lost in translation. This article is even more fundamental to having a successful campaign. It has to do with what I call the search vocabulary of your market and the importance of selecting the right keywords so your ad displays for the right search terms.
Getting found on search engines using PPC is a lot more involved than most people think, because you are trying to walk a fine line. You want to get the broadest exposure you can, but only have your ad seen by users who you think you have a good chance of converting. See my article titled Who should see your ad. In a perfect world, you would be able to go back in time and only allow prospects to see your ad who will ultimately convert. But we don’t have that luxury. We must make important decisions about who should see your ad, before your ad is displayed.
Allow me to have a small digression to make an important point. SEO is not free, even if the clicks are. SEO, when done correctly, is an on-going, never-ending process that depends on fresh content with lots of quality in-bound links. As soon as you stop, you begin a slow slide to becoming irrelevant; out of the top positions, then below the fold, then on the second page and finally out of sight. Therefore, you had better pick your search terms carefully or you can waste a lot of money and time. You need to make sure the keywords you are optimizing for, produces visitors you can convert. Remember, infinity (number of visitors) times no (conversions) is still zero dollars in revenue and profit! I can’t tell you how many prospects and clients I have spoken to that don’t really understand this point. See my article titled PPC verses SEO.
The same principal applies to PPC. You need to be very careful what keywords you chose or you will be paying for a lot of poor quality visitors you can’t convert or you will have some well qualified visitors, but not very many of them. The key is to find the right collection of keywords that are both relevant to your business and have enough search volume to make PPC a viable channel for your business. If you chose very specific keywords, but Google determines there isn’t enough people searching for them, you will get the status Low search volume. See my article titled The keyword conundrum.
If you have little or no previous search engine advertising experience or historical data to work with, finding that collection of relevant keywords with enough search volume, can be time-consuming and expensive. It means you will need to discover these important keywords through research and experimentation. Keyword tools are configured to produce broad-match keywords, which can be very inefficient and expensive if used incorrectly. There is no substitute for an AdWords or Analytics account with a rich history of visitor information, including meaningful conversion data.
Over the past few years, Google has introduced several new features designed to decrease their expenses and increase their profits. One of these is the keyword status Low search volume. This means that there aren’t enough searches for that keyword and you need to use a keyword with a broader reach. Unfortunately, that broader reach is also less relevant to your target market. Keep in mind that most search queries are only four words or less. If you have to use up some of those words just to get you into the conversation, it can be very difficult to accurately describe what you offer.
Here is another perspective. You may be able to describe exactly what you offer in 3-4 words, but if there aren’t enough searches for those terms, Google will not show your ad and you will have invested a lot of time, effort and expense planning a party no one will come to. It’s like having a beautiful retail store in the wrong part of town.
Here is an example. Let’s say you are in the business of selling blue widgets. However, when you use the keyword blue widgets, you get the status Low search volume! Now your only option is to use the keyword widgets and try to use other tactics such as qualifying ad copy or negative keywords to minimize the number of poor quality impressions and clicks.
Here is where it can get even more challenging. There is an important distinction between users searching for information and those searching for a product or service to buy! For example, let’s say you are a therapist serving a local market and you want to acquire new patients suffering from depression. If you used keywords such as depression or issues with depression or coping with depression, you will be exposing your ad to lots of users seeking information. And while you may be able to convert some of them into a lead, the probability (chance) of that happening is much lower than someone searching for depression counseling or depression therapist. The words counseling and therapist are indicative of someone who is expecting to spend money!
It’s also important to keep your keywords focused on one theme. Google’s algorithm is highly tuned to one important thing, relevance. If you try to combine multiple topics into a single keyword, you lose focus and relevance. See my article titled A chain of success.
In summary, think of PPC as a game of chance or probability that you have some degree of control over:
- What is the probability of your keyword getting an impression
- What is the probability that impression will become a click
- What is the probability that click will become a lead
- What is the probability that lead will become a customer
- What is the lifetime value of that new customer worth
If you are in a position of wanting to optimize an existing AdWords campaign with a rich history, including accurate and meaningful conversion tracking data, this also becomes a question of managing probabilities. However, we now have some additional elements that come into play besides the user’s search query. We have Dimensions and Segments such as:
- Search vs Display networks
- Whether to use Google search partners
- Location targeting
- Time-of-day; day-of-week
- Type of device
- Top vs Other
You want to develop and optimize a campaign based on probabilities and these probabilities are based on either your intuition, if you are just starting out or statistically significant historical data collected by users who actually clicked on your ad and went to your website. The latter being the preferred method.