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As Google continues to push organic results further down the results pages to accommodate space for Maps and more AdWords ads, a Pay Per Click campaign will become an even more critical component of your online marketing strategy.

If you’ve never taken on an AdWords campaign before, it can seem a little overwhelming. You know that you’re not charged for anything unless someone clicks an ad, but what happens if you blow your entire budget on a few clicks for some highly competitive terms that were ultimately unprofitable?

So is PPC really all about getting more clicks for less money?

Well, yes. More or less.

But if you’ve never done AdWords before, how you make sure that you’re not paying too much for each ad? How can you make sure that you’re getting the most from every click?

If you’re starting your first AdWords Campaign, there are five things you need to do.

Can you handle an online marketing campaign alone, or should your company look at outsourced alternatives?

1.  Structure the Account

Your account is where all your individual PPC campaigns will reside. You can get it started here.

You can have multiple campaigns running, and within each one you can target different ad groups. These ad groups are usually based on the type of keyword that someone might search for.

You can divide these groups by any number of different qualifiers. For example, you can target people in different geographic locations with different ads. You could also design different ad for people who are going to see it on a mobile device. You can even segment your groups by specific products or services, which will help searchers find exactly what they need.

Your keyword groups can contain as many ads as you want to rotate through for each of your targeted keywords.

This kind of organization is important because it makes it easier to see what’s working and what’s not. More importantly, it’s easier to go in and make changes later and determine if there are any opportunities for AdWords Remarketing.

Even in this first stage, it’s important to remember that you aren’t just trying to stick certain words in certain ad groups. You need to keep your overall goals in mind, and you need to create a plan to achieve them.

That means every campaign should have a specific budget, be focused on the right audience, and have an understanding of where the ads should appear (content pages or search results pages).

You should structure each separate campaign around a single goal and with a single plan. Don’t try to get someone to sign up for a newsletter and buy something at the same time. Trying to do too much at once will only divert attention and cause friction. Pay-per-click-style campaigns are all about making the customer’s journey from first click to final purchase (or sign up or whatever) as simple as possible.

A Note on Quality Score

Before we go any further, we need to take a moment to discuss Quality Score. Everything in modern online marketing relies on producing quality content. To say Google is a stickler for quality is like saying rain is a little wet.

Quality Score was created by Google to help determine the relevance to the things people are searching for, as well as the quality of the page the ad is linking to.

Google uses that Quality Score to rank your ads among the other ads on the page. The higher the Score, the less you pay to show up on the first page of results.

2.  Choose the Keywords

Keywords are the cornerstone of your campaign. You will use them to target specific consumer needs and to get into the heads and the thought processes of your customers. They will show you how people are searching for your products or services so you can address their needs and create ads and content that will attract the clicks you need to succeed.

When you add your keywords to your campaign, you should start by using all your available resources and tools (including Google’s Keyword Planner) to brainstorm as many words as you can that may relate to your products or services.  Don’t hesitate to put even vaguely related keywords on this list because it can be trimmed back down, later.keyword_research.jpg

Often, the hardest part of this process is trying to predict what your customers will actually search for, not what you – from your insider’s perspective – think they ought to be searching for.

Once you’ve got a solid list, you can start moving them into ad groups, based on the topics they cover. This way you can write ads based on that group rather than separate ads for every single keyword.

A lot of those keywords really won’t fit anywhere. This is why you need to refine your list to get the most value. You don’t need every single keyword, and you can always add more to the list later as you see what works and what doesn’t.

Broad or Exact Keywords?

You can also use different forms of keyword matching to allow your keywords to appear for terms that are similar – thus broadening your reach – or you can set it to only appear for an exact match, to keep your efforts highly specific.

But be careful. The general keywords may look like they get a ton of traffic, but that might not be what you need. If you target “cars,” you may see a lot of broad matches, but you probably aren’t going to get anyone who wants to buy your eco-friendly hybrid cars. On the other hand, “red eco friendly hybrid cars with four wheel drive” might be going a bit too far the other way, so those types of keywords might not be that helpful either.

3.  Write the Ads

You’ve only got a few words and a few seconds to capture someone’s attention with these ads. Where many people fail in the process is in trying to sell a complete product or service with a single headline and two lines of text.

The truth is you’re just trying to sell the click. Your ad simply needs to convince them that it’s worth knowing a little more about you – that it’s worth giving you a click to see what you have on your website. That is where the real selling can happen.

Writing doesn’t come naturally to everyone, though, and writing in such an abbreviated format comes even less naturally. The good news, though, is that their direct, short format makes it easy to produce two or three versions of each ad so you can test and see which ones get the most clicks.

Elements of a PPC Ad

A short headline, about 70 characters of ad text (35 split up between two lines), and the display URL is what you get to work with. It may not seem like much, but if you keep working at it and testing different wordings, you can see some significant increases.

When you write, you need to use keywords effectively. More people click on keywords when the headline includes the keyword they were searching for. But if your entire headline is a keyword, you may not be as effective as you could be.

Also, something important to note is that the URL that is actually displayed does not have to be the destination URL. This isn’t meant to be a bait and switch, because the URL does have to exist on your site. However, you can send them to a specific landing page while still displaying a clean and simple URL. It’s the difference between showing someone www.seo.com to show them who they’re going to visit, and www.seo.com/seo/video-seo which is long and unwieldy and doesn’t look great on display

4.  Convert the Clickers

The most effective PPC campaign management won’t stop with the ad. It will follow through to the landing pages to make sure these website visitors are converting to paying customers.

Once you’ve convinced them to give you a first click and get them on your site, you’ve got to do something productive with them.

Motivation is a key here. Visitors will convert to customers when they have a reason to do so. Of course, defining what motivates every individual customer can be difficult. So it’s best to focus on some general principles of motivation that can be carried through your ad text as well as your landing page. Consider the following:

  • Relevance – How much does your current offer relate to their situation?
  • Importance – This message should appear to be essential to their livelihood.
  • Urgency – A specific timeframe or deadline in which the transaction has to take place is naturally motivating.

In a webinar from Marketing Experiments, they say that “Motivation is the most influential aspect of conversion. The more intensely connected a PPC ad is to the true motivation of the searcher, the more intense the response will be.”

Converting visitors on the first visit to your site is not typical.  You need to setup a remarketing advertising campaign so your ads will follow these visitors around the internet to remind them to come back and become your customer.

5.  Measure the Results

You need to keep track of how every ad is performing. This will help you know what to do with your keyword bids to make sure you’re getting the best return on your investment.

Google provides a lot of tools to help you get started with this. As you continue to evolve your campaign and gain experience with AdWords, you may look for different solutions. But for now, this should be enough.

Google Analytics shows how the ads are performing and you can use this data to learn what needs to come next.

Of course, Analytics provides a lot of numbers. How do you know which really works?


Conversion tracking is probably the most critical. Yes, it’s good to see how many people are coming to your site, where they’re coming from, and what kind of ad text brought them here. But if those people aren’t generating profit, then your efforts haven’t been productive. (Or at least not as productive as they could be.)

In truth, your tracking should focus on more than just conversions. Getting them to sign up for a subscription counts as a conversion (depending on your settings), but does not necessarily mean that it will provide the kind of return you need. While it is still a step down the sales funnel, you need to focus on the metrics that show ROI. That means you also need to track your cost per acquisition (or cost per sale) so you know how much revenue your ads have actually brought in.

The Perfect PPC Formula?

In the end, it’s not about the perfect formula for PPC ads, so don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from getting started. If you’re not including paid search ads in your online marketing campaign because you’re concerned about making some mistakes, you have a couple of options. The first, obviously, is to talk to a PPC management company and let them do it for you. (Gratuitous self-promotion just there. It can’t be helped.) Or, you can go ahead and test the PPC waters on your own. It’s not as scary as you might think.

The thing is, there’s no such thing as a perfect PPC formula. There’s no: “do this always for automatic success.” There is only “test this always to increase your chances for success.”

It doesn’t sound like sage, Yoda-like advice, but the truth of it is there. Getting starting is often the hardest part, but once you get going you can see a lot of success.


Optimizing your PPC account starts with an overview of your current settings and strategies. Download this FREE checklist to delve into your AdWords account:

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