You’ll find lots of PPC implementation articles out and about the web. What I hope to do here is provide the highlights for you in one place—to keep you from having to piece together all of the tasks on your own. The bulk of the discussion is on campaign structure, because that’s where novices tend to make mistakes.
If you haven’t yet read our PPC Marketing Strategy roadmap, please take a look now. Your chances of success are much higher when you have a clear sense of what you need to accomplish before launching your online advertising. Also, note that this article is based on Google AdWords, since that is the best known platform for search ads.
1. Outline your campaigns
Since this article is titled “PPC for Beginners,” here’s a quick description of campaign structure for newbies. AdWords accounts are structured with campaigns, ad groups and ads. Campaigns contain ad groups. Ad groups contain ads and keywords. AdWords campaigns have several setup options when “all features” are enabled during setup. You’ll need to understand these so you can structure your campaigns properly.
Daily budgets are set at the campaign level. You can specify your maximum cost-per-click at the ad group level or at the keyword level. Note that you can also set up a shared budget to govern multiple campaigns. This is useful if you know what you can spend in total, but you aren’t sure how to split up that total among your different campaigns.
You will also specify geotargeting and network at the campaign level. Geotargeting defines how your ads will be displayed relative to the searcher’s location or location-based query, like “St. Louis digital marketing.” If you have a brick-and-mortar retail store, you need to specify that your ads will only show to searchers within driving distance.
The network refers to search or display. Search ads show up on Google search results pages. Display ads show up on other websites. You can set up a campaign that targets both, but I’d recommend against it. The hybrid search and display campaigns do not give you full access to the display targeting options. And, since you’re just starting out, it’s better to work out the kinks with one network before you move to the next. Other options at the campaign level include language and ad scheduling. Examples of how options impact your campaign structure
- Say you offer three different types of services, such as SEO, SEM and social media management. You have a set budget to market each. You’d need a distinct campaign for each of these, rather than one campaign with three different ad groups.
- You have a retail store and a website. You’d like to provide different messaging and/or offers to people who are near your store vs. people who are not near your store. You’d set up a campaign for “in store proximity” and a separate one for “out of store proximity.”
- You want to run search and display ads. Put these in separate campaigns to avoid having to split them up later.
- You are in Miami and half of your customers speak Spanish. You can set up a Spanish campaign and, separately, an English campaign.
- Ad Scheduling. You are an online retailer and you want to run flash sales online. You can set up a flash sale campaign and schedule the ads to show only when your flash sale is available. A separate campaign would hold your regular ads that run when no flash sale is live.
Other considerations for PPC campaign structure
Google recommends you look at your website to structure campaigns. For example, if you sell products online, you might define campaigns by product categories. This isn’t a bad idea, assuming your website is organized logically.
You can also think about organizing campaigns by the customer’s intent. It’s common to have product-specific campaigns and then more general campaigns. The product-specific campaigns will target people looking for your product.
The general campaign might target people looking for information about companies that do what you do. Take a few minutes to document what your campaigns might look like. If I were Tony Horton talking you through a P90X workout session, this is where I’d say, “if you’re tired, take a breather. Go grab some water.” This stuff is tedious, I know. But doing it right saves you money. So take a break if you need to, and come back with a fresh set of eyes.
2. Categorize campaigns
Before jumping into keyword research, look at the campaigns you’ve defined and break each one up into subcategories. Here are two examples: An auto dealer might have campaigns for general dealer searches, new cars, used cars and possibly service. Ad groups in the general dealer campaign might target “branded” searches, which contain the dealer’s name, and unbranded searches, like “Toyota dealer in St. Louis.” The new car campaign might have ad groups for each car model. You get the idea.
A mortgage broker might have a campaign for residential loans and another for general broker searches. The residential loan campaigns could be broken down into new home mortgages and refinancing. Or a campaign for mortgage brokers might be further categorized into the cities you serve, such as “mortgage brokers St. Louis” and “mortgage brokers University City.”
3. Check campaign objectives
If you’re a visual person, write your subcategories on post-it notes and group them under your campaign ideas. Now go back to your defined goals (see the PPC strategy article) and make sure you haven’t veered off course. Remove campaigns or subcategories that aren’t tied directly to your goal.
4. Use Google Keyword Planner
Now, finally, you can log in to your AdWords account. You’re going to research keywords using Google’s Keyword Planner. Find the Tools dropdown at the top and click on Keyword Planner. Use the first form on the left to search for keyword ideas, one subcategory at a time. Pay attention to the geographic targeting. The default is the U.S., but you should narrow this down if sale transactions happen at your physical location.
5. Identify keyword targets
Google tries to make this process easier on you by grouping keywords into potential ad groups. Compare these suggested ad groups with your subcategories. Look at the keywords within each suggested ad group.
6. Prioritize keyword targets
Based on what you’ve already documented, what you know about your business and the information from Google’s Keyword Planner, make a shortlist of high priority ad groups and the keywords that go within them.