The process I use to develop a new campaign when there is account history is one I developed on my own through trial and error. In all the years I’ve been following other industry experts and pundants, no one has ever discussed anything like it. Perhaps because it’s too nuance or too difficult to know when and how to apply it. Nevertheless, I will attempt to explain.
Knowing when to apply these techniques depends on the quantity and quality of account history, specifically search terms, analytics and conversion data. Given my market niche, which is helping those who are already Google Ads advertisers, almost all my clients have some account history. However, in the absence of any historical data, I usually rely on more traditional forms of research, such as keyword tools, relevant searches, competitor’s websites, etc. What many advertisers don’t realize is that a robust account history is like a custom keyword tool specifically designed for them. They just need to know how to use it.
As with any form of advertising, achieving success with Google Ads comes down to optimizing your return on investment. There will always be more traffic than you can afford to buy so optimization is essential. Optimizing your Google Ads account is a process of determining what works, what doesn’t and applying probability theory to whatever lies between. The process I use for determining what works and what doesn’t is based on visitor behavior and what I believe is their intent, based on the user’s search query. Did the visitor take the action you wanted? What was the relative quality of their search query?
The data element I want to focus on is a search term, because a search term is as close as we can get to knowing what the prospect is thinking. Not to be confused with keywords, which are tools for determining what search terms will trigger your ad. If we know what they are thinking, we can either filter that visitor using negative keywords or encourage them with ad copy, custom landing pages and calls to actions. See my article titled A chain of success.
Focusing on search terms and not keywords, and applying probability theory, is what separates the novice Google Ads advertiser from the professional.
The fact is, you simply can’t afford to target every search term that has in the past or might convert in the future. When you consider targeting a search term, you need to consider the probability that you will be able to convert that visitor. Can you convert them 5% of the time or 1% of the time? Where you draw the line should be based on the lifetime value of that visitor. How you determine the lifetime value of a prospect will be different for every advertiser and potentially every search term. If you can convert visitors searching for blue widgets at a rate of 5% and those searching for red widgets 1% of the time, chances are you can’t afford to advertise red widgets using PPC because you can’t make the numbers work. It’s a matter of economics.
In Google Ads, we use conversion tracking, in Analytics it’s bounce rate, number of pages visited and time on page that help you make these important decisions. Google Ads is a very powerful and feature-rich advertising platform, but it has limitations. Prospects are not going to write an essay about what they are looking for and why; they are only going to use 3-4 “core words” in a search query. We have to be able to read between the lines and assign a probability as to whether we can convert them. This is a skill that has taken me years to develop and is a significant factor that has contributed to my success.
Knowing enough about the niche market you are targeting is critical. I go out of my way to tell prospects that I don’t pretend to know their industry, their market, their competition, their product or service. That is why I emphasize that my business model is a collaborative process. The degree to which the client knows their market and can help me understand it, will determine how successful we will be in optimizing their Google Ads account. For example, if I am not aware that you don’t sell red widgets when I’m building a campaign for widgets, then you will be spending money on clicks that you can’t convert and that will be reflected in your ROI.
But it’s not as simple as knowing the search terms that work because Google Ads has limitations when it comes to using keywords. If we try to be too specific with keywords, Google slaps us with the status of “Low search volume”. See my article titled The keyword conundrum. On the other hand, if we use keywords that are too broad, we subject ourselves to a lot of poor quality visitors and dangerously low keyword quality scores. See my article titled The broad-match effect.
The degree to which these challenges are present varies greatly from one campaign to the next. For some, we can achieve an acceptable level of success relatively quickly. For others it is a painstakingly slow and costly process. A lot of it has to do with the number of keywords in play and how easy it is to describe the advertiser’s product or service. The length of time it takes to develop a campaign design also depends on how much historical data exists in the account. If the market is well defined and the search vocabulary is relatively simple, having a robust account history is less importance. On the other hand, if the search vocabulary is more complex and there is relatively little account history, then the advertiser will essentially have to buy the information they need to optimize their campaign through trial and error.
One of the things I try to determine early in a client relationship is how aggressive or conservative they want to be. If they have plenty of margin in their product or want to achieve an optimized campaign sooner rather than later, we can be more aggressive. Most of the time it depends on how committed they are to using Google Ads as an advertising channel. On the other hand, if there is less margin to work with and the advertiser is tentative about using Google Ads, we take a more conservative approach.
There is one caveat that comes with implementing this strategy however. It has to do with the fact that there will be a point of saturation. That means there will be a finite amount of traffic that meets your criteria and the only way to get more traffic is to raise the amount you are willing to pay for a conversion. That is why it’s critical to have accurate, reliable and comprehensive conversion tracking in place. Please refer to my articles titled Conversion tracking and Telephone conversions for more information. If you are not tracking the right actions or you are only tracking a portion of the actual conversions, it will be reflected in your ability to optimize your account.
Another important element of the process is choosing the right keywords and the right keyword matching options, but that’s the topic for another discussion.