Although paid search is typically associated with quick wins and guaranteed conversions there is still an element of doing things right (the first time) from a long term sustainability approach that needs to be followed. Designing paid search programs for sustainability takes time and patience but it is well worth the effort. In doing so you are building efficiency into your program, setting yourself up to pay a lower average cost per click, and helping grow your business. Otherwise, not designing paid search for sustainability affects all paid search programs, frustrates parties involved, and fails to move the industry forward.
And finding the right instructions for designing paid search for sustainability is not hard to come by. Google makes it painfully clear how to design and manage paid search programs to ensure that you are paying the lowest possible amount for a click. And I would say that 95% of Google’s advice and policies are valid. I know that Google and the other platforms are in this business to make money, but I also know that Google and the others will reward you, over time, for doing the right things when it comes to well planned and designed paid search programs.
Paid Search Design for Sustainability
So how does one go about designing a paid search program for sustainability? First, I want to clarify that we are discussing mostly pre-click and traffic related tactics of a paid search program. Obviously, there are post-click analytics that influence pre-click actions. Also, from a systems thinking perspective, there is a broader scope of how a paid search program fits into the mix with other online marketing channels, but for now let us just focus on the task at hand - paid search design for sustainability.
1. Plan. And plan again. Based on the problem solving process P-D-C-A (plan-do-check-act) made popular by W. Edwards Deming, planning is the most important and critical step. If starting from scratch, map out your campaign structure by using something as simple as your website navigation or site-map. For more advanced planning, use mental model or affinity diagram methods. While mapping out your campaign structure, think about what you have to offer and how it provides a solution for your customers.
2. Campaign naming. This is often over looked, but assuming you are running a paid search program on multiple platforms, you will want to name your campaigns and ad groups accordingly. This does not tie into Quality Score directly, but it does help when managing and reporting on the program performance. For example, if you are running a paid search program in Google, MSN, and Facebook and you have the same campaigns with the same name in each account, third party tools may roll-up all three campaigns into one view. Naming your campaigns and ad groups specific to the engine in which they live reduces the time wasted in guess work and work-arounds to solve the problem otherwise.
3. Develop highly targeted keyword sets. Once you have thoroughly mapped out your campaign structure, you should now have a foundation to bucket your keywords in a way that each ad group is unique. Beyond advanced match type tactics, each ad group should contain keywords highly relevant to each other. The number of keywords in an ad group is irrelevant. At a certain point you will know when enough is enough.
4. Create relevant and persuasive ad ad creative text. Text within an ad creative should in some way reflect the keywords being targeted. When possible make sure that at least one keyword (phrase) in your ad group is in the ad creative title and in the body of the ad. Three to four ad creatives is recommended unless you are multivariate testing.
5. Landing page relevancy. Technically, the landing page comes into play post-click, but it is a component of a paid search program that ties into Quality Score. Just as keywords and ad creatives are required to be relevant to each other, the landing page also is required to be relevant to the preceding components. Landing pages should be as relevant as possible to what the ad creative messaging is about.
6. Negative keywords. Use them and use them deliberately. At a minimum they should be used at the campaign level and when required they should be added at the ad group level.
7. Search Queries. This is really what it’s all about – matching your keywords to the search queries users are actually typing. If you are not analyzing search queries for keyword expansion and negative keyword implementation, you are missing out on conversion and cost reduction opportunities.
This is not an exhaustive list of paid search design for sustainability tactics, but it is a good starting point. Besides aligning your program with Quality Score requirements, following these steps has implications outside of the components of a paid search program. When you do this part right, you have more time to analyze the post-click data. You will also spend less time reorganizing mega lists of keywords from one ad group to multiple ad groups and spend more time ad creative testing. Following the Quality Score requirements and designing for sustainability also allows for more accurate bid testing.
Overall, if you do things right and design for sustainability there is less time being spent on the things that do not add value and your program has much better chance of out lasting the competition while continuing to maximize its return.
Matt LeVeque is the Founder & President of SEM Science Consulting, LLC and Senior Member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ).