It’s A Trap! Avoid These 4 Pitfalls In Paid Search

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Search Marketers. PPC Legends. Remember the days when we were using Overture or GoTo’s bid management tool to advertise in search engines? No?

I’m dating myself, but what I recall from that time was the analog style of bidding. I’d enter my bid on a keyword (with no match type) and moments later observe some anonymous advertiser outbid my position. I’d up my bid only to be outbid again. It was war.

In retrospect, it was ridiculous because we had little insight into which keywords were actually the top performers. There was no such thing as keyword relevancy measured by click-through rate. We’d just import some keywords we thought were relevant (or received from the Overture’s Suggestion Tool), plugged in ad copy, and put our budgets on blast. The execution was simple and primitive compared to the bid platforms of today.

Today, we practically romanticize about the art of search marketing. We’re able to match search intent in a real-time auction with galvanizing ads and responsive landing pages. We utilize endless features and bid strategies that can be programmed and pushed through AdWords and Bing.

Yet, there can still be a great deal of complexity and over-complication in strategy and execution. While much has changed since the old days, what has remained constant in the last 15 years are the pitfalls or unforeseen risks that lead to wasted spend and poor campaign performance.

Here are a few to rethink…

1. Instead Of Budgeting By Store, Budget By Product Or Service

This is a common mistake for brands and franchises that have multiple retail locations within 30 miles of each other. In order to truly spend a budget for each store location, search marketers will have to structure multiple hyperlocal campaigns that become cumbersome to manage and ultimately prohibitive to maximizing reach and performance.

In fact, campaigns that are structured in this fashion often do not have enough budget to last throughout the day. This is especially true for campaigns with a limited daily budget trying to serve ads in a landscape where the average cost-per-click is more than $5.

Additionally, advertisers can find that their hyperlocal campaigns are bidding against each other for the same or similar keywords, resulting in wasted spend.

Dividing the budget this way would be like fishing with poles when you could be trawling with a net. It’s more effective to pool the budget, geo-target around the locations, and structure the campaign by brand, product or service

This will more easily allow the search engines to serve ad impressions where there is search demand. It also ensures the campaigns won’t overlap, you won’t be driving up your own cost-per-click and the budgets will last longer into the day and month. Furthermore, there will be few accounts and campaigns to manage. Here’s how it could look (go with the one on the right).

budget by location

2. Extension Overload

There are currently eleven different AdWords extensions available to advertisers, and they are massively important to the success of search campaigns.

This is because they enable advertisers to add multiple, relevant touchpoints that will increase the likelihood of matching the search intent of the user. (In fact, Google claims that the Ad Sitelinks extension lead to a 30% lift in click-through-rate for advertisers on average.)

Better ads mean higher click-through rates, which in turn improves the Quality Score on keywords and helps stabilize average cost-per-click. Seems great, right?

However, not all ad extensions will be aligned to the objectives of a search campaign, and some won’t even display if they are irrelevant to a search query or if campaigns are limited by budget.

Instead, it’s best to place a priority on the ad extensions that are aligned with the goals of the campaigns.

Some search marketers will take a brand and non-brand approach to using ad extensions. This generally means that, for brand keywords, advertisers will place priority on call extensions, location, sitelinks, and reviews. For non-brand, “mid to top of the funnel” keywords, priorities usually fall on sitelink extensions, callouts, reviews and ratings.

3. Don’t Go Dark With Ad Scheduling

When it comes to custom ad scheduling, advertises often fall into “over-optimization” mode in trying to control the times of the day or week their ads will display. This is certainly justified if budget is limited and hours of operation are a factor; but instead of turning off the ads, consider turning on different ad messaging during closed store hours.

Another more popular approach is to employ negative or positive bid adjustments around the hours or days that you expect lower or higher search volume and conversions. This way, instead of going dark, you can tell the search engine you are willing to pay less or remain neutral during historically low performing times of the day or week and pay more during better performing times.

4. Indefinitely Rotate To Your Grave

Seriously, go check your ad rotation settings and make sure they are NOT set to “rotate indefinitely.” The only reason advertisers use this setting is if they want to prolong an A/B test or ensure promotional, time-sensitive messaging is displayed as often as other ads in their ad groups.

ad rotation indefinitely

Leaving this setting on indefinitely means that lower performing ads will show as often as high-performing ads – which means you’re damaging your average click-through rate and wasting impressions and spend!

If this setting is on and you don’t have a specific reason for it, it is a mistake! Flip it to optimize for clicks or conversions. And if you want to A/B test ad copy, choose rotate evenly for 90 days; then optimize.

Final Thoughts

Bid management platforms like AdWords, Bing Ads, Marin, DoubleClick or Kenshoo continue to evolve, making it easier for advertisers to program bid strategies that can react in real time and lead to better results.

However, many search marketers still struggle with targeting on a hyperlocal level – or they get caught up in trying anything new to gain an edge in a competitive landscape, ultimately losing sight of goals and damaging campaign performance.

Avoiding these pitfalls involves following best practices in campaign structure and geo-targeting, knowing which ad extensions are right for your brand, not over-optimizing your ad schedules, and keep running logs of tests and campaign changes to ensure you don’t forget what’s off or on.

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