Your Expectations From Pay-Per-Click Are Critical If You Want It In Your Inbound Marketing Mix
Pay-per-click used to be the marketer’s easy button. Buy some ads, get some clicks and generate some leads. Don’t misunderstand my flippant attitude; I know it doesn’t work exactly like that, but most of our clients and potential clients sure thought that’s how it worked and were disappointed when it didn’t work exactly like that. I even had one client pumping $40,000 a month into Google AdWords to fill up the top of her funnel, even though her sales team couldn’t work the leads she had through the funnel.
Today, all forms of pay-per-click campaign management (search engine and social sites) are much more complicated. Many more people are bidding on the same keywords, the mathematics that drive the programs are more complex, and more inexperienced users are contributing to over bidding and inefficient program management. This is contributing to more pay-per-click programs that are producing lower and even disappointing results. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean pay-per-click won’t work; it just means you have to be smarter and have more realistic expectations.
Here are some risk mitigation tactics that inbound marketing allows you to apply when using pay-per-click or social media advertising as one of your marketing tactics.
Do More Homework Before You Start
It’s so easy to get started with pay-per-click that even Gary Vaynerchuk suggests to just Google it and find out how to run a pay-per-click campaign. It’s true that starting a campaign isn’t hard, but getting results might be harder than you think, take longer than you think and cost more than you thought.
Instead, do a little homework before you start. Just because you think people are searching for these keywords doesn’t mean they are searching for them. When it comes to social pay-per-click, the micro-segmentation opportunities can be overwhelming initially, and it’s likely that your first campaign might not be as targeted as your second or third campaign. The more planning and strategy work you do up front, the better the results, the more efficient the campaigns and the faster you’ll see results.
Use PPC As A Test Platform For Messages And Offers
Our scientific approach to inbound marketing has produced a ton of interesting outcomes. One of the best is the ability to use AdWords and social pay-per-click platforms as a test lab for a variety of marketing campaign variables. We’ve tested marketing messages, content offers and target markets with both AdWords and social pay-per-click campaigns.
The benefit here is that for only a few dollars you can expose large numbers of people to messages and offers. If the messages and offers convert, you have real-time market data that you can translate into bigger, more complex campaigns. Now, instead of making changes on your website home page that represent a much riskier marketing test, you can target your audience, test a message, package it with content offers and see if people connect. If they do, make the change on your website and reap the rewards.
Start With A Strategy
Despite the advice from Gary Vaynerchuk and despite pay-per-click being easy to start up, you want to proceed with caution here. You can quickly spend your entire budget plus 20% (Google is allowed to go over budget by as much as 20% without notifying you) in no time if you don’t know what you’re doing or even if you simply click a couple of buttons in the wrong direction.
Quite simply, you have to know what you’re hoping to accomplish with these types of campaigns. Do you want bottom-of-the-funnel sales-ready leads or do you want to fill up the top of your funnel with people in the awareness stage? There is a difference in the type of campaign you’ll want to execute depending on the type of leads you want to generate.
How competitive are the keywords? You need to know that. What about negative keywords? Those are critical to repelling people who might click on your ad and waste your budget. Without this thought process, plan and strategy, you might find yourself out of budget much sooner than you thought and have little or nothing to show for it.
Set Realistic Goals And Time Frames (HINT: It’s Going To Take Longer)
There’s no “easy button” in marketing and pay-per-click isn’t easy either. Because it’s going to take longer and produce lower results than you probably expect, setting realistic or even conservative goals for the program is critical. If you have relatively low expectations and outperform, that’s great. But if you build your ROI model on unrealistic expectations, you’re going to be in hot water with someone.
Consider the timing, too. It’s very unlikely that you’ll have a program up and running in a week, it’s much less likely that the program will be producing leads in the first week and it’s almost impossible to produce sales-ready leads in the first week. Instead, set more realistic expectations around timing. It takes us about two weeks to build a campaign properly from scratch, another two weeks to get the program up and producing, and then Google recommends (and we agree) to run the program for 90 days before you even start adjusting it.
My team will tell you that they can start making some adjustments based on 30 days of data, but the smaller the data sample size, the more risk you introduce into your tests. It’s possible that some of the adjustments don’t produce positive results. Be prepared if you make the decision to move forward faster than recommended.
Use An Expert To Set Up Campaign Structures
If you’re running one or two campaigns, you can probably handle the campaign setup on your own, but if you’re looking at multiple target markets, multiple campaigns per target market and then multiple test versions of each campaign, your structure is going to be critical to your success.
Even if you set these up on your own, ask someone with some level of experience to look over your campaign structures and give you some suggestions on how to make sure they’re set up properly, optimized and focused on producing the desired goals for the desired budget.
Use Dedicated Landing Pages
You never want to send people from a pay-per-click ad or sponsored update to your home page. Never! Not only is this a recipe for AdWords disaster, but also it’s never going to help you achieve your goals of lead generation and business results. Yes, it’s the easiest option, but it’s the wrong approach.
Ideally, you want landing pages or at least dedicated tracking code for every single ad you’re running, including test variations of ads. This makes pay-per-click more complicated, but it also gives you the data you need to make good optimization decisions over time. If you don’t set the campaigns up like this, you’ll never know what’s working well, what’s working as expected and what’s not working at all.
Track The Quality Score Of Your Ads Weekly
The quality score is a number Google assigns to your ads. In short, it represents the ability of your ad to deliver value to the person clicking through. Google measures this based on the behavior the visitor takes once they land on your page. The higher your quality score, the higher your ad. Yes, bid price has something do to with placement as well, but Google places this quality score metric very highly in its algorithm.
This is why you need to have dedicated landing pages. This is why your ad copy needs to be very specific. This is why your landing pages need to be designed properly and designed for conversion. If your visitors are not converting, filling out forms and becoming leads on the pages you’re promoting, it’s going to be challenging to run the AdWords program you’re trying to run.
Solid quality scores usually range around 8, 9 and 10. Your campaigns might start out with scores in the 4, 5 and 6 range. It’s now your job to improve the scores based on the conversion rates, landing page and other factors. Keep track of these scores weekly and make sure you are making changes to these landing pages a few times a week. You can keep the changes to a single change each week if you want to learn exactly how the changes impact your quality scores.
Make Sure Your Budget Is Set Properly (HINT: It's Going To Be More Than You Thought)
When using Google AdWords or social media pay-per-click, make sure you have a budget that is high enough to move the needle. Yes, you can start low and see how it goes, but be prepared to raise it up if the results are being pushed down because of a lower-than-required budget. Both types of programs give you the ability to get budget estimates before you start and see some type of expected results.
However, most of these estimates are not based on current bidding, current competition or the current available audience. Instead, these estimates are based on historic values. Be prepared to raise your budget, especially when you find campaigns that are converting. Our suggestion is to start low during the test phase, but once the tests are yielding results, you should double down, lean in and give the program the fuel it needs to drive results.
Like most of the marketing tactics we deploy in an inbound engagement, pay-per-click has a role in most client programs. However, our guidance is similar here as with other programmatic elements. Be patient. Don’t expect a lot of results in a short period of time. Don’t expect a lot of leads for a low level of investment. You get what you pay for. The more you invest in the management and the leads, the more leads you’ll see and the faster you’ll see them.
Keep pay-per-click as one of many marketing tactics. Deploy it properly with a well-defined strategy before you place one single ad. Set realistic performance goals and manage to those goals weekly. Use experts to help you navigate the added complexity and to produce results sooner than if you were doing it on your own. Pay-per-click is just one of many marketing tactics in play, and that’s how inbound marketing produces results.
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