Every client I talk to who’s using Pay Per Click (PPC) as part of their online marketing mix voices some level of concern about cost and ROI, and for good reason. With PPC, there seems to be a thousand different ways to spend too much money for not enough return. Have you ever experienced any of these headaches?
Please don’t throw up your hands and pause your campaigns–there’s hope! Believe it or not, the PPC game can be optimized and won. You can get good ROI and good Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) with the right skills and tools.
Since giving advice on all the above challenges would be better suited to a book or an eBook, not a blog post, I’ll instead focus on an aspect of the PPC optimization game I don’t think gets enough attention: the various skill sets needed to optimize PPC campaigns and spending. The skills needed to correct ALL of the above list of problems fall into two distinct buckets: I’ll call one “Campaign Optimization” and the other “Conversion Rate Optimization.” They are two very important sides of the same coin, but it’s arguable that no agency/consultant soliciting you today can be successful at both, because the skill sets are so different and there is so much work that often needs to be done on both sides.
A lot of the “low hanging fruit” in PPC cost control can be quickly accomplished via Campaign Optimization. When I talk about this particular skill set, I’m basically talking about the practitioners who do keyword research, bidding, account administration, budgeting, geo-targeting, ad types, reporting, match types, and more. All the things that live in the administration side of AdWords or Yahoo’s or Bing’s advertising systems.
While online marketers used to be able to handle PPC in their “spare time,” it’s gotten so much more robust (and complicated) in recent years. I would never, as an online marketer, try to run PPC campaigns while also juggling the management of a website, other marketing channels, SEO, etc. Most online marketers outsource this skill set to a PPC agency or consultant, and I agree with the practice. PPC administration is very specialized now, and it’s best left to the professionals. The downside, though, is that online marketers have to know enough about PPC campaign administration to keep their vendors honest. For example, is your PPC agency actively doing match type keyword traps? Or, does that sound like a foreign language?
While Campaign Optimization is a good way to get some quick improvements and cost savings, it takes dedicated effort, especially the constant testing, tweaking, and keyword list building that a successful PPC program needs. Also, every campaign optimization done will only be successful if the traffic you pay for converts, so let’s talk about the other half of the story…
While it’s the job of your campaign optimizer to bring in the most qualified traffic for the lowest price, your website has to convert in order to realize the return on your ad spend. The better you convert, the more money you have to bid on keywords, the more qualified traffic you can get, the more traffic you’ll convert, the more marketing budget you’ll have, etc. It’s a glorious marketing cycle when it’s working!
The Conversion Rate Optimization skill set should be able to segment and analyze your PPC traffic and conversion rate, recommend effective landing page tests, suggest better ad copy, and help you optimize your conversion funnel specifically for PPC traffic. An understanding of the paid search segment, and the user intent of different keyword queries, is essential. Another key skill is understanding your Unique Value Proposition, and how that UVP can span from PPC ads, to landing pages, to conversion. Finally, a CRO practitioner should have a firm grasp on persuasive copywriting, and how to apply it to both PPC ads and websites.
You may be asking this question soon after you start thinking about separating the skill sets into two distinct categories: Is there overlap? Should there be? We believe there can and should be a bit of overlap in the areas of analytics, ad copy, and keywords. And there would need to be cooperation for executing landing page tests that are valid.
Let’s say you’ve hired a PPC agency to handle that aspect of your online marketing. And, you’ve also engaged a Conversion Rate Optimization firm [hint: FutureNow ] to optimize your online marketing for conversion rate. I would expect to work with your PPC agency if I need data, if I want to test different ad copy, if I want to test landing pages, and if I feel there are keywords that are ineffective or under-exploited.
A good working relationship between the two specialties could add up to lower advertising costs via increased conversion rates. And both of those “wins” will compound over time just like a good interest rate on a savings account.