October 2, 2014

Small Business PPC – Content Network (Part II)

In Part I of Small Business PPC – Content Network we talked about when you should use the content network and why you should separate content network advertising into their own campaigns. Now we need to talk about how you control the beast that is the Google Content Network.

Controlling Google’s Content Network

The Google Content Network is best described as a black hole, sucking money away from advertisers into an abyss from which there is no return and no trace. However, with a few precautions and a wise course you can use the black hole to slingshot your business to speeds you never thought possible. This is how:

  • Budgets & Bids – These are your safety nets. Set the daily bid at a level where you are 100% cool with spending it. Set CPC bids lower than search, but remember that in the content network you need to be in the top 3 to show on most sites because a typical AdSense unit has 3 ads.
  • Negative Keywords – Run your search query reports frequently. Look for keywords that are triggering your ads but aren’t relevant (ie if you sell toto toilets you don’t want your ads showing next to content about Toto in the Wizard of Oz).
  • Domain Exclusion – Run your placement reports frequently too. Look for sites that don’t get results. This includes sites with lots of impressions but no clicks, or worse, sites with lots of clicks but no conversions. The new interface makes this much easier.

Bridled the Beast? Run with it!

Once you have a grip on the content network, start giving it the reins by increasing your budget. With the lower CPCs found in the content network you can often get conversions cheaper than search, and more of them. Any other advice from the experts out there?

Small Business PPC – Bidding on Your Brand

As a PPC manager I often have the following dialogue with a client:

Client: I ran a search yesterday for “Brand Name” and saw that we are running PPC ads even though we already rank #1. We don’t want to pay [Avg. Bid Amount] for clicks we’re going to get anyway.

As you can see, this isn’t really a dialogue. Ideally it would go more like this:

Client: I ran a search yesterday for “Brand Name” and saw that we are running PPC ads even though we already rank #1. Do we need to pay [Avg. Bid Amount] for clicks we’re going to get anyway?

Me: Actually, for clicks on your brand name the average cost is under [usually between $0.05 and $0.25] and your result will almost always be #1, ahead of your competitors, and allowing you to occupy twice the “real estate” on the SERP. It’s like a cheap insurance policy against your competitors stealing clicks.

Client: But don’t people usually click the #1 result?

Me: Most do, but for searches on your brand name we want to capture as close to 100% of the clicks as possible. They’re already looking for you. Not to mention that we have full control of what a paid ad says and can send people directly to a landing page with [contact form, registration, special offer, etc.] instead of just plopping them on the home page.

Client: Okay. Let’s keep bidding on [Brand Name] then. Thanks for explaining that.

Bidding on Your Brand Terms

In summary, there are many reasons to bid on your brand term:

  1. Double the “real estate” you occupy on the 1st page of the SERP
  2. Stay ahead of competitors bidding on your brand terms
  3. You control the copy 100%
  4. Send visitors directly to landing pages/conversion pages
  5. The clicks are usually pretty cheap (think insurance policy)

Anything I missed?

Small Business PPC – Content Network (Part I)


Content Network Black Hole
Nothing strikes fear into the heart of PPC newbies quite like the content network – a mystical black hole that sucks in all advertisers who dare pass too closely. While true that many an advertiser has lost hundreds or thousands of dollars in the content network, if properly used the content network can provide cheaper clicks and cheaper conversions for your business.

Divide and Conquer

Step 1 for the beginning AdWords user is to create separate campaigns for the content network. There are three main reasons for this:

  1. Keywords: The content network is contextually-targeted. Ads are not triggered by the exact keywords you have in the campaign. Ads are triggered if Google feels the intent or context is similar to your keywords. Therefore, for content campaigns you should feel free to use competitive head terms like weight loss or divorce lawyer (whereas in your search campaigns you are likely using more specific terms like “weight loss after pregnancy” or “Los Angeles divorce lawyer”). This will get you loads of impressions, and hopefully clicks, quickly.
  2. Ad Copy: Ads showing in Google’s content network are alongside articles, blogs, etc. In search the user is looking for you. In the content network they are doing something else and you need to entice them to click on your ads. This important difference is why you should use different ad copy. For the content network you need more compelling copy that draws attention.
  3. Stats: Users aren’t looking for ads in the content network. Therefore you will get lower CTR in the content network. Don’t be alarmed, but keeping content and search separate will help you know just how big the difference is. The low CTR shouldn’t scare you though. The content network will get you far more impressions to make up for the low CTR and you should be able to convert the traffic as well, or better, than your search campaigns.

Now you know the basics for getting started, but how do you control the beast? That will be the topic of my next post. Tune in next Tuesday!

Small Business PPC – How Long Should I Run Tests?

Hypothetically let’s say you’ve successfully set up your AdWords account. You built a campaign (with all the settings right) and a couple ad groups (with well-targeted keywords) with two ads so you could test which is better. The account has been running for awhile and one of ads is performing better than the other. But is the test valid or is it just chance?

Statistical Significance

Don’t let the big words scare you, statistical significance is just a fancy term that mathematicians use to say, in effect, the difference is legit (and not the random 1 in 1000 chance of a bad ad doing better than the good one); the mathematical way of validating what will probably look like an obvious answer. So how do you apply statistical significance to your small business PPC? Two ways.

  • Rule of 30 – Make sure you have at least 30 responses (can be either clicks or conversions) and that the results are at least 10-20% different. For example, each ad ran 1000 times, one was clicked 25 times (2.5% CTR) and the other was clicked 35 times (3.5% CTR). You have 60 responses and the second ad received a CTR that was over 25% better. Replace the underperforming ad.
  • Use a Statistical Significance Calculator – You can go out and learn the math, or you can use a simple online calculator like this one. For a CTR test you put the impressions in as the sample sizes and clicks as the responses. For a conversion rate test, clicks are the sample sizes and conversions are the responses. Note: Conversion rate tests will take much longer than CTR tests.

Running your tests through this simple step will ensure that you make the right call on winners and losers while testing your small business PPC.

Small Business PPC – Search Query Reports


If you are looking for insight into what customers are searching and when your ad is being seen, this report has the answers. And with the new AdWords interface these reports are easier than ever.

How To Run A Search Query Report

To run a search query report, login to AdWords and drill down to the ad group level. Then select the “See search terms…” button like so:
Search Query Report

After the report runs you’ll be presented with your search terms like this:
Search Query Report

Notice here that the 2nd keyword, online marketing consultant, got clicks on 3 of 4 impressions. This is a keyword that I could add to my keyword list. Just check the box and click the “Add as keyword” button at the top of the list. Google has made this super easy. You’ll also see that my ad was triggered by the broad term “market”. Yes, it got a couple clicks on 60 impressions, but market is too broad for my product. I can add this as a negative keyword by checking the box and clicking the “Add as negative keyword” button at the top of the list.

How Often Should I Run A Search Query Report

I recently saw a good PPC checklist that recommended weekly and I agree. My only caveat would be that if you have a small budget and are accumulating clicks slowly, you may not be getting a lot of data every week. In these situations every couple weeks would be sufficient.

Moral of the Story – Search query reports will help you find new keyword opportunities and weed out irrelevant searches which will boost CTR and QS, lowering your CPC. Give it a try and let me know how it went.

Small Business PPC – Negative Keywords


One of the most underutilized features in PPC is the negative keywords function. Hours are spent looking for the most relevant keywords and every imaginable permutation and misspelling. Those keywords are then organized into ad groups and campaigns using multiple match types, all in an effort to make sure our ad shows when a search is performed. All this effort to show up, but aren’t there searches where we DON’T want our ad?

Negative Keywords – Your Own Personal Jiminy Cricket

I love the movie Pinocchio and especially the character of Jiminy Cricket. This little guy has the job of keeping Pinocchio out of trouble. Effectively, Jiminy tells Pinocchio what NOT to do. Negative keywords are the Jiminy Cricket that you give to Google with instructions of when NOT to show your ads.

First, an example. Say you are selling small business backup software like Mozy Pro. Of course you want your ad to show for searches like “small business data backup” or “business backup”. So you put these guys in your ad group. However, do you really want someone searching “free business backup”? Say you sell Toto toilets. Do you want your ad showing for searches on Dorothy’s dog Toto from the Wizard of Oz?

How To Add Negative Keywords

Google AdWords has rolled out a new interface in the last few months and negative keywords got moved. You will now see them below your keyword lists like this:
Negative Keywords in AdWords

Simply click the “Add” button and type in keywords that aren’t related to your offering. “Free” is a good one if you don’t offer a free option. Our Toto toilets site above would add words like “Oz”, “Wizard”, “Dorothy” or “Dog”. This has two main benefits:

  1. Your ads don’t get stupid clicks (missed clicks, curiosity clicks, etc.) from people not looking for your product/services.
  2. Your CTR goes up, your QS goes up and your CPC goes down for the same position.

PS – Can’t think of any more negative keywords? Run a Search Query Report and you’ll find more, guaranteed! But that is Thursday’s post.

Small Business PPC – Campaign Settings


Tucked away in the Google AdWords interface you will find a very important area that many people never even think to look at, let alone actually optimize: the Campaign Settings.

Campaign Settings

Below you will see a screenshot of the campaign settings area in the new Google AdWords interface.
AdWords Campaign Settings


Locations in AdWords can be set at the national, state, and/or city level. If you’re a plumber in Omaha, you can show your ads only within a 50 mile radius of your offices.

Languages are pretty self explanatory.

Demographics are more of an advanced feature that I wouldn’t recommend for most small businesses. These settings apply only to the content network (a beast in its own right) and the system Google uses to determine demographics isn’t perfect. Leave a comment if you have questions about this area and I’ll help you one-on-one.

Networks, Devices and Extensions

You have the options of serving ads on any combination of Google search, search partners (other sites that have their search powered by Google), the content network and mobile phones. Unless you have experience and are confident in your knowledge of AdWords, I recommend you start with just Google search and search partners.

Bidding and Budget

There are a lot of options here, but I’ll keep it simple: set the daily budget you’re willing to spend and then leave these settings alone.

Advanced Settings

First, you can schedule your ads to run during a period of time (say you run your ads from June 25th to July 3rd for your fireworks site) or “dayparting”, which is showing ads only during certain parts of the day (if your product is a pure B2B play it might be wise to only show your ads during business hours on weekdays). Dayparting is most effective when used to weed out less productive times and should be based on web analytics or sales data that shows which times of day aren’t profitable.

Second, you can change the ad rotation. The default is for Google to optimize. Optimize = Google serving the ad with better click-through-rate (CTR) to maximize their revenue. Therefore I recommend you change from the default to “Rotate”. This will serve the ads more evenly and let’s you effectively conduct simple A/B tests on ad copy and landing pages.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” Be smart!

Small Business PPC – Landing Page Strategies

You set up your AdWords account. You made a couple campaigns with a couple of ad groups. Your keywords are tightly themed in each keyword and you have two different ads running in each. Now you can just sit back and watch the traffic (and sales) come 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. Right?

Not really.

Where Is The Traffic Going?

So far you’ve done a great job. However, there is an important factor you MUST consider if you want AdWords traffic to perform at the highest level and that means landing pages. A landing page is any page where you are sending traffic from an outside source. Your home page might be a landing page (though I don’t recommend this) or you may have specially designed a page for your PPC clicks (I do recommend this, actually I recommend more than one specially designed landing page).

The most important exercise in marketing is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think like they would think. Let’s say you are a beef rancher in Idaho looking to sell your grass-finished Idaho beef. Here is what your potential customer might be thinking:

  • Grass-fed beef sure is expensive at Whole Foods. I wonder if it would be cheaper online? [They search grass-fed beef in Google]
  • Hey, this guy says his farm is just a few miles from here and he sells direct. [Since they are within the geographic area where our rancher has ads running, they see an ad for just what they want. And it's from a local guy to boot]
  • These prices are way lower than Whole Foods. I’m going to call these guys and buy some beef. [Customer picks up the phone and calls]

What the customer doesn’t realize is that the PPC ad sent them directly to the pricing page (here), not the home page (here). Because you bid on keywords, you have a good idea what the user is looking for and your objective should be to deliver a web page that meets that expectation. This customer was looking for grass-fed beef and clicked an ad about grass-fed beef. Therefore, we go to step 2 in their thought process, which is likely the question “How much does it cost?” Different industries have different customers with different thought processes, but you need to make sure that you do one thing with your landing pages:

Give them the right information, right away, and make it obvious what the next step is (call to action).

Custom PPC Landing Pages

Initially you’ll probably do what our rancher did and simply use a specific sub-page as your landing page (ie pricing page, contact page, etc.) but as you get the hang of things you’ll realize that you can do better. The pricing page may not have a clear call to action. The contact page, though it has a contact form or phone number, doesn’t tell them about the product or service you provide. Now you should consider a custom landing page that combines those elements.

The simplest way to do this is to look at your existing site structure (likely a two-column or three-column layout) and see what space you have to work with. Keep in mind that users look at web pages left to right, top to bottom. The most important information should be below the navigation along the left side of the page (with the best stuff in the first couple paragraphs). Then I would put a call to action on the right of this content or just below this content. Then test this simple landing page. In most situations a simple landing page with only a small amount of quality content and a clear call to action will outperform any current page of your website.

Have you tried different landing pages already? What worked best for you? Leave your experiences in the comments.

Small Business PPC – Budget Limitations Got You Down?

The most apparent difference between a small business PPC campaign and the PPC campaign of a large company is the budget. Large companies tell their PPC manager to capture all the available clicks, many times with no real cap on spending. The small business usually can set aside a certain amount each month, say $1000, and then has to squeeze every last drop from that budget. Here is where the rules change for small business PPC campaigns.

Focus, Like a Laser Beam!

I once had a friend who had difficulty studying. He would get distracted by the cool car on the street or more interesting reading material. We developed a saying for whenever he would get distracted to help him get back on topic: “Focus! Like a laser beam!”

Lasers on a fundamental level are just really powerful lights. However, a laser is able to cut through metal because that light is being focused into a single, small beam (think of a magnifying glass and ants). When focused appropriately, even a small laser can be extremely powerful. This is how you need to run your small business.

How Do I Focus?

Remember from our last post that budgets are set on the campaign level. Therefore, if you have $1000 to spend this month and 2 campaigns, each will have a budget of $16.67/day. Seems easy enough right? Actually, this is where you need to look at your own industry to determine the best course of action. Basically you need to see where your PPC fits in these 3 categories:

  • Not Competitive – Lucky you, your niche isn’t a feeding frenzy of competition. You are able to get clicks for under $0.25 on very targeted keywords that will produce excellent leads. There probably isn’t a ton of search volume, but this fits your budget perfectly. You can set a campaign with a $5.00/day budget and capture all the clicks available. Welcome to PPC nirvana.
  • Mildly Competitive – Your main “head” terms are pretty competitive and cost your around $1.00/click. However, you find there are quite a few “tail” terms (pocatello idaho wedding photographer instead of wedding photographer) that have much more reasonable prices and will produce highly qualified traffic. Try to separate your tail terms from your head terms. Make sure your budgets capture all the tail term traffic possible, then use the rest for the more competitive head terms.
  • Very Competitive – All the terms you want to target are highly competitive. Over $1.00/click and sometimes over $5.00/click. You face an uphill battle my friend. If you can’t identify tail terms to target first, you will likely have to consolidate your budget into a single campaign with a limited keyword list. This will allow you to run effective tests in reasonable time frames. When fighting in a melee, keep your forces concentrated. Remember the movie Gladiator? Think of the first fight in the Coliseum where Maximus is taking on the chariots with just shields and spears. Stick together.

Okay, so you’ve ascertained how competitive your industry is, now the next step will be setting your keyword-level bids to match. And that is the topic of our next post, so tune back in on Thursday or subscribe to the RSS in the upper right. As usual, I would love to hear from you in the comments.