Roadmaps move you from start to finish. But even before you pull out that map, you need to know where you’re going. PPC is no different. With PPC and most digital marketing efforts, your ability to succeed is greatly improved if you start by defining what success looks like. The mistake that many PPC marketing beginners make is failing to define what should happen after someone clicks on the ad.
Define what PPC success looks like
The first question to ask yourself is: what’s my purpose? Online advertising objectives fall into one of three general categories:
You need to get your name out there, establish yourself or your company as a thought leader or earn street cred.
You want to collect email addresses or phone numbers, sign people up for software demos, or otherwise fill your sales pipeline with prospects.
You have an ecommerce site and you want people who click on your ads to buy your stuff. You may want more than one of these things, but start with the one that makes the most sense.
Think about how people go about buying your product or service. Is the sales cycle really long? Do the successful players in your space have a strong foothold? These are signs, for example, that you may need to build up your awareness before you can effectively capture leads.
Once you define the objective, consider how you can document your success. Lead generation and sales are easy enough to measure, but brand awareness is more complicated. Here are some strategies you might use to measure changes in brand awareness.
Survey your target audience
This is the most direct approach, but it can be expensive if you are not in a small niche.
Measure brand mentions
Measure the velocity of brand mentions online with tools like Google Alerts and SocialMention.
Benchmark your site’s backlinks
An increase in backlinks from related online communities is one sign of increased awareness. Whichever strategy you choose, establish the benchmark by measuring it today. Then decide what level of improvement you’d like to see and in what time period. Be specific about it.
Think through the numbers
If your objective is sales or lead generation, make sure you know what your maximum cost per acquisition is. Said another way, how much can you afford to spend to gain a customer and still be profitable? Consider what you make in profit (not revenue) from your customers over time. Sales and leads don’t do you any good if you’re paying more for them than you can afford. For brand awareness campaigns, decide today what you’re willing to invest. Brand awareness is a long-term asset that should, in theory, pay for itself over time. But you’ll have to rely on your business sense and judgment to define the right budget.
Document your customer
Hopefully you have already created customer personas. If not, take a look at this buyer persona overview and do some extra research to create your own. Think about whether your personas are specific enough to represent the target of your PPC campaign — the online shopper who’s looking for [information, services, products]. Fill in the brackets with something related to the PPC objective you’ve already defined.
Add details to your personas if necessary and keep them handy. You’ll need them when it’s time to target your ads and write your ad copy.
Make your strategic PPC decisions
You have three main options for PPC ads: search ads, display ads and video ads. You can also run social ads on Facebook and Twitter, but I’m leaving those out of today’s conversation because they’re something of a different animal.
Search ads show up on the top and right side of search engine results pages. They are triggered by keywords and tend to be effective for generating leads and sales. Display ads show up on other websites and video ads show up on YouTube.
At the two extremes, you can bid for the lowest cost or you can bid for position. You’d bid for the lowest cost by setting a conservative maximum cost-per-click (CPC). This is the safe route, but then you’ll have to do some tweaking to get the right amount of traffic to your site. Bidding for position involves targeting the top one or two positions on the page. This will get you maximum exposure, and is the fastest way to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong in your campaigns.
Evaluate your website
You know your objective and you know your customer. Now take a look at your website. If your objective is to generate leads by encouraging people to sign up for a software demo, do you have a page that can support that?
An effective lead generation page contains all the information your target customer needs to submit their information. That information might include defining features and benefits of your software, a video testimonial from a happy customer and, of course, a very prominent form titled “schedule your demo today.”
Check out this lead generation page by Salesgenie for an example. It’s pretty clear what you’re supposed to do on this page, right? Don’t assume that your website is fine as is. The better your landing pages are, the more successful and efficient your PPC campaigns will be. If you don’t have appropriate landing pages or technical resources to help you, try a service like Unbounce. It will be well worth the investment.
The importance of having a plan
So look how far you’ve come! You’ve defined an objective, thought through the budget, gotten in touch with your customer, chosen ad type and bidding strategy, and evaluated your website.