The Internet is full of recommendations from "so-called" gurus on creating the perfect PPC campaign.
Keep in mind that behind these supposed best practices are advertising platforms and online marketing gurus selling the promise of better numbers for your campaigns.
Every company has its own needs, every market is unique, every marketer knows their niche, so are there best practices, just like that, in bulk?
The best thing to do is go through the 7 most commonly recommended best practices one by one and see the pitfalls.
1. Blindly relying on Broad Matching
When you're just starting out in PPC, it's easy to be tempted to add keywords without considering match types. In fact, both Google will recommend that you add keywords in broad match in ad groups where it sees that you don't have that type of match.
You're going to hear and read everywhere that using this type of match is the easiest and best performing. But, unfortunately, all too often, Google will match search terms that don't fit you at all with your broad keywords.
As of today, Phrase and Exact Match offer much better control than Broad.
However, having been warned of the dangers, it is true that Broad Matching, given the right situation, can have its place.
One option that can be very effective is to combine remarketing lists with broad match keywords since, in this case, you are targeting audiences that have previously expressed interest in your brand.
Also, if, after having your campaigns running on Phrase and Exact, you still have a budget left for testing, it may be worth taking advantage of Broad Match to discover new queries.
For the experiment to work, pay close attention to the search terms and look for irrelevant words and phrases to not waste the budget.
2. Use automatic bidding
As advertising platforms increase their level of automation and the level of control by the advertiser decreases, automated bidding has become one of the inevitable tools of any advertiser.
However, I would caution against blindly accepting the recommendation to use automated bidding by default in all cases.
First of all, automated bids focused on generating conversions (such as Maximize Conversions and Target CPA) only work if we can nurture the platform with adjusted conversion data.
To do this, you need to ensure that you have identified the correct targets for your brand, whether sales or leads and that the conversion pixels are set up correctly to trigger when they occur.
Suppose your account is carrying over inaccuracies from past conversion tracking configurations. In that case, you should avoid bidding strategies that optimize conversion performance, as it is impossible for them to work on incorrect data.
Wait until you have accurate conversion data in your account for a few weeks before testing conversion-based bidding.
In addition, a bidding strategy such as Maximize Clicks focuses on getting the cheapest clicks. It can be detrimental to getting qualified traffic (which could come from more expensive keywords).
Therefore, Maximize Clicks is useful in some specific cases, such as to get display campaigns off the ground. Still, in general, I would advise against this bidding strategy for search campaigns.
3. Automatic recommendations
In theory, this type of recommendation's objective is to provide advertisers extra help to achieve a more advanced optimization of our campaigns and save us time and work.
However, you should know that if you make use of this option, you may suddenly find in your campaigns hundreds of keywords that have been added without any review, in addition to broad match, expanded segmentations that exceed your target, and ads that you have not written.
And if we don't check our account correctly and regularly, we might find some surprises. For example, new keywords in the account that are irrelevant or negative for our brand or that use an undesired match type.
Although you can undo these changes within 14 days, it is best to understand how the changes will affect your campaigns before applying them.
4. The number of keywords to add for each ad group
If we search in Google how many keywords should be included in each ad, we will find disparate numbers in response. Most of them, biased by the author's opinion or the interest of the platform in question.
This is one of the most significant doubts when starting in PPC. And there is no single correct answer, as everything will depend on how many keywords are relevant to our ad.
We can also take into account other variables such as:
- Data collection: If we group several similar keywords in the same ad group, we will get a much faster set of data (based on clicks, impressions, and conversions) that will allow the associated ads to make better optimization decisions.
- Keyword intent: If the keywords in each group have different intents for each point in the conversion funnel, it will be best to keep them separate to control the bids, as well as the ads that trigger them.
- Close variant matching: If close variant matching is used, it will not be necessary to include in the account a large number of keywords with the same meaning but with minor spelling variations.
5. Include Search Partners
By default, Google includes the option to share your campaigns with its Search Partners.
The problem is that these Search Partners can cause the account's performance to vary unpredictably, resulting in inconsistent traffic peaks and poor control of the quality of the leads obtained.
One option would be to exclude Search Partners from each platform** at the beginning and use them later as a test to extend the reach of our campaigns.
**Google Ads only allows to activate or deactivate all Search Partners without being able to choose specific Search Partners. However, Microsoft Advertising does allow exclusions to be added to individual sites if performance is unsatisfactory.
6. Combining Search and Display in the same campaign
When setting up a search campaign, Google allows you to publish it on the display network as well.
Although at first glance, this approach may seem like an easy way to increase your reach with minimal effort, display usually ends up cannibalizing search.
It is best to keep search and display campaigns separate.
These networks differ intrinsically because while search focuses on the customer's intent to find a specific product, display focuses on audience and topic-based targeting to show your offer to someone who may or may not be looking for a product.
7. Diversify across multiple channels
Increasingly, advertisers are spreading their budget across the full range of search, display, social, and native advertising platforms trying to reach all audiences.
While in many cases, there may be a valuable return in jumping into a new channel, such as targeting Facebook audiences directly searching for your product, it's not a good idea to segment your budget without first asking yourself these two questions.
- Are you going to invest an additional budget in testing a new channel, or are you going to take money away from an existing channel that is performing well?
- Are you willing to invest sufficient time and budget to see precisely how well a new channel will perform?
While the ideal amount of a test will vary depending on audience, industry, and ROI goals, let's face it, you're not likely to get significant enough data with a 500 euro test.
Also, not all channels are suitable for all brands.
For example, Snapchat is not the best advertising channel for targeting B2B business managers, while LinkedIn is probably not the best for selling sportswear.
The good one: use SKAGs.
Skag allows you always to keep control of your message and tailor it to the customer's intent.
Of course, this is easier said than done, and you won't be able to with manual means alone. You will need some kind of automation.
But the opposite of Skag is to mix all the messages and customer intent like a cocktail shaker and let Google be the one to decide what's right for you.
Giving Google control over your message and not owning customer intent is definitely a bad practice.
So, what is the best way to create a PPC campaign?
Well, it depends. There is no correct answer.
Above all, you shouldn't follow "recommendations" from any platform without first stopping to think about what's best for your business, where your audience is, and how you need to find them.
It is not wrong to try new things, but as I said before, do it little by little, test it, and monitor it closely.
Automate using common sense, and beware of Google being both judge and jury.
Thanks so much for rereading me!
If you have any thoughts on other types of practices that could be detrimental to certain types of PPC strategies, I'll be happy to read you ;)
JOS (without the E)