The PPC Snobs Blog

Module 3: Optimize

Learning to control the levers that impact PPC performance, such as tracking, structure, targeting, creatives, and automation. As we become more familiar with the levers of optimization and the software used to enable them, we'll start to achieve even greater business outcomes.

Table of Contents

3.1 Targeting

Although I’m discussing targeting in the context of PPC, many of the targeting principles that govern PPC can apply to marketing and business development strategy in general. PPC forces us to consider the who, what, where, when, why and how of the audiences the we serve. 

These are the biggest levers that we can effective control in our PPC engine to influence how we target the right audiences. 

  • Location – Where our show.
  • Time – When our ads show.
  • Keyword – What people are searching.
  • Audience – Who we want to target.
  • Ads – How people meet us.
  • Website – How people engage with us
  • Tracking – How much can we understand.
  • Bidding – What are we willing to pay.

3.1a Keywords

The keyword is the core targeting mechanism of search advertising campaigns. The beautiful thing about search is that our customers are literally typing what they want in a little box. Keywords are great because they tend to explicitly highlight intent. 

Two tools that I recommend for keyword research are Google Trends and the keyword planner. I use this to track the popularity and growth of a keyword over time. I also use these tools to brainstorm keyword ideas.

For the last few years in PPC, there’s been a heavy focus on controlling keyword match types, which allow advertisers to effectively limit or expand targeting of search intent. We’re heading towards an era of PPC where millions of signals drive every auction, so rather than limit intent by focusing on specific searches are queries (like using a general rod to fish in a lake), we’re better off expanding the targeting pool and using our tracking to feed more audience signals to our campaigns (like using a specialized net to fish in the ocean).

4 Tips for Keyword Reearch

  1. Do a Google search for your keywords to better understand the intent behind that search. Research all types of keywords as they relate to your industry: services, products, events, people, companies, questions. Generally, if there are ads on the search engine results page, then that keyword query has loads of commercial intent.
  2. Look at trends for the last 5 years to get an idea of how keywords have increased/decreased over time. Also think about how language may have evolved during that time frame for your industry. It’s also interesting to see how trends are impact by major global events, like the World Cup for example.
  3. Look at the mobile traffic vs. desktop traffic split. Certain industries are heavily desktop driven, such as B2B. Others are mobile-first, like apps. Invest more in the website experience as appropriate for your industry.

3.1b Audiences

The Google Find Your Audience Tool also helps you to discover the type of audiences that might be interested in your product or service. Audiences also provide the targeting for several PPC campaign types (Display, Video, and Social), so this research has to be done eventually.

Because we can design our PPC to address our audiences personally, we segment our audiences by interest, demographics, location and intent. Doing this exercise regularly will help us reach new communities and continue to grow our brand.

Lastly, think about all of the stakeholders that we need engage with for our organization to function. Our employees, customers, partners, vendors and communities. We need to be conscious of ALL of the audiences that we influence.

6 Levels of Audience Segmentation

  1. First Party – People who’ve subscribed or purchased from us before.
  2. Remarketing – People who’ve interacted with our website and ad channels.
  3. In-Market – People who are in the market for our services and product.
  4. Affinity – People who are interested in certain topics, for example sports lovers or techies.
  5. Lifestage – People who are going through a significant change in life: Pregnant, graduated, moved, etc..
  6. Demographics – Age, Gender, Parental Status, Martial Status, etc…

3.2 Content

3.2a Website

Seek to inform, education and entertain your website visitors. In our experience, minimalist designs usually work best.

6 Tips for Running a Website:

  1. Be transparent about data collection and make your contact information easily accessible. Establish trust with your visitors by safeguarding their information.
  2. Visitors should understand what you do only after a few seconds of being on your website. Use headlines and descriptions that clearly describe your services. Leverage videos, audio, and images to highlight your unique selling points.
  3. Limit the amount of ads that you show to visitors and avoid spammy links at all costs. A disruptive website experience makes it hard for the visitor to focus on your unique selling points.
  4. Contact forms should be easy to find, easy to complete, and easy to submit. The same with cart checkout and payment processing. Why be snobbish, accept as many payment and login methods as you can safely integrate.
  5. Invest in a speedy website. Navigating a slow website is like being stuck in traffic. Much of the world is browsing from mobile, so design and page load should be mobile-first.
  6. Go for a clean, minimalist design. Navigating a website is like driving around a foreign city with no map or GPS. Avoid too many distracting elements. Start with a simple sitemap: home, about, services, contact, blog. Grow your website from there.

3.2b Creatives

Creative assets are the articles, images, videos that highlight your business, which includes ads. It’s important to develop a variety of these, so test multiple mediums and formats.

Ads on most PPC platforms start with headlines, descriptions, and/or images. The relationship between your ads and your website needs to be symbiotic. Your ads should prepare users for the website experience, and your website experience should address the statements made in your ads.

6 Tips for Developing Creative Assets

  1. Start by developing a variety of headlines and descriptions for each of our services and products. Write 30 and 90 character headlines, and 180 and 300 character descriptions. People should understand what we do in 2-5 sentences.
  2. Good ads sell services. Great ads sell solutions. Think about how headlines and descriptions can promote your unique selling points, results, and outcomes.
  3. Create content that addresses our customer funnel. What type of creative asset (i.e. mortgage calculator, pricing guide, demo video) will help inform or guide our stakeholders. What kind of content would be useful to customers as they compare vendors? What kind of content can help them better understand the nature of your services.
  4. Always think about where our content will appear to customers. The kind of conversations happening on LinkedIn are very different to the ones happening on Reddit. We need to be conscious of what we’re saying and how we say it when we post to these platform.
  5. Experience with various mediums: video, podcast, song, AR/VR, etc… Everyone processes information differently. You never know what channels will most resonate your messaging with certain audiences.
  6. Invest in high quality creative assets. They will more than pay their return on investment. Think of them like tattoos. Cheap, poor quality ones last forever and don’t look good.

Show-off your content on as many channels as you can comfortably manage. There are software tools and virtual assistants who can manage your posting schedule.

3 Thoughts When Promoting Your Content

  1. All of the websites, search engines, social networks or apps above offer some form of PPC advertising. Many of them let you create a free profile, meaning that you can at least start building organic visibility for your organization/brand.
  2. Reaching your audiences through different platforms and mediums is like mastering different languages. People use niche platforms for a reason. The tone and feel is more in-tune with what that audience prefers from a digital experience.
  3.  PPC can help reach a global audience of millions, potentially billions of people. Not only that, you can also have one-on-one conversations with each person that visits your website. Think about what this really means.

3.3 Automation

3.3a Value Based Bidding

Value-based bidding is the highest level of smart bidding maturity. Even with lead generation, the projected value of a lead or the actual value of a customer will feed your PPC engine with premium quality data fuel. Record as much conversion data as possible given your sales funnel then let the automation do the rest of the heavy lifting for you.

Conversions should ultimately align with business outcomes: calls, leads, sales, etc. We generally set a target cost per action (tCPA) that makes sense based on our business margins. The issue with tCPA bidding is that it doesn’t leave a big enough bidding window to adjust our CPCs up when the projected value of the lead increases. It also overpays for low value leads.

In easier language: if we’re willing to pay $50 a lead that’s worth $500, we should also be willing to pay $100 for a lead that’s worth $1000. tCPA bidding doesn’t adjust for this. tROAS bidding does.

Target return on ad spend (tROAS) bidding is very common for e-commerce PPC since most e-commerce websites take payment directly and can import revenue. Many e-commerce companies set ROI targets based on their product margins, and what they are willing to pay on a product cost per acquisition or average cart value basis.

For user acquisition campaigns, strive to to bid to lifetime value or average revenue per user. Control for conversion value by adjusting our tROAS bids or down, setting the stage for scalability.

5 Rules for Value Based Bidding

  1. The more aggressive the tROAS target (i.e. 1000% or $10-to-$1) the more volume. The more conservative the target (5000% of $50-to-1), the less volume. `Think about profitability AND think about volume when planning for growth. What would it mean to be a $50M company making $25M in profit (50% margins) vs a $200M company making $70M in profit (35% margins)
  2. Setting budgets – I only advocate for test budgets. If we can hit a profitable return on ad spend (ROAS) target — for example 1000% ROAS or $10 revenue for every $1 spent — then why put a limit on how much we can make. If you can scale your PPC campaigns with tROAS in mind, then spending $100k could potentially make you $1M using this framework and budgets become less important if your organization can support the growth.
  3. Of course there are other factors to consider, such as a company’s ability to fulfill or support that level of business growth. Our personal philosophy is that we shouldn’t compromise quality in exchange for growth.
  4. Always check the accuracy of your conversion tracking. The ability to import quality conversion value data back into our PPC engine is 99% of the journey. Invest in technology that can reliability integrated with the major PPC platforms.

3.3b Reporting

Automate campaign reporting using Data Studio. Learn the difference between clickstream metrics like impressions, clicks, CTR and bounce rate — and ROI driven key performance indicators (KPIs) like conversions, CPA, lifetime value, and return on ad spend.


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