Maximize PPC campaign returns

Published: April 14, 2008 in iMedia Connection

Has your PPC campaign maxed out in terms of ROI? Not to fear — you can continue to boost returns by following these suggestions.

As I trawled through my daily fix of industry emails yesterday, I was amused to see two articles in the same newsletter that, on face value, told significantly conflicting stories.

The first covered a MarketingSherpa survey under a doom and gloom headline announcing that 60 percent of large companies are cutting marketing budgets this year; the second covered the IAB’s latest UK ad spend survey that proudly reported that continuing growth in online ad spend will result in the internet overtaking TV as the biggest ad channel in Britain by the end of 2009.

Of course in reality both pieces were ostensibly saying the same thing, and it is nothing new: Online should weather the economic downturn better than traditional advertising channels. The reality will remain to be seen, but what is certain is that for some search engine marketers this perception presents something of a conundrum.

To the uninitiated, PPC presents the Holy Grail of marketing — a totally accountable, scalable and measurable ad channel. Accountable and measurable it certainly is, but 100 percent scalable it certainly is not.

Every PPC campaign will, at some point, reach a saturation point where the optimal keyword mix has been reached and where adding new terms actually starts to negatively impact CPA targets. Exactly where this saturation point is differs from campaign to campaign, and that’s where the science of PPC planning and buying comes in.

For search engine marketers, the question is what you do when you’ve reached that saturation point but are getting pressure to deliver more results from your boss or clients.

The answer is, first and foremost, to work on ad and landing page optimization. Any successful PPC campaign depends on constantly testing and retesting different ad copy and landing pages. This is arguably even more important in times of shaky economic conditions. Remember, as the economy changes, so too will the ways in which people think about making purchases, particularly for luxury or high ticket price items. Plan and optimize accordingly.

Secondly, consider integration. A number of surveys have revealed that integrating display with search can result in at times significant uplifts in clickthrough rates and conversions. Ensure you take a close look at campaign metrics immediately after any offline or online branding campaign has been pulled. Did the change have any impact on your conversions? Cross-media analytics, whilst more complicated to run, can help increase campaign effectiveness in the long run.

It is also important to remember that integration is equally applicable when it comes to traditional media. Running a TV campaign, for example, without a supporting PPC campaign may cause you to miss significant opportunities and not make the most of your media spend. This is particularly important today as Wi-Fi penetration continues to increase — your potential customers are more likely than ever to be searching for your brand or ad slogan online directly after seeing a TV spot.

Another area to consider is exploring other PPC networks to see if you can find more quality traffic to complement your existing campaigns. Adding new networks to your media schedule can offer incremental reach to your PPC campaigns, but be mindful of the trade-off between the time you invest in campaign management and the results you actually achieve.

As a rule of thumb, if you are working with smaller networks, it is worth choosing only those that have the in-house capability to handle much of the legwork for you in terms of campaign set-up and management.

Reaching saturation point in your PPC campaigns can happen regardless of what sector you operate in and regardless of the state of the economy. How you deal with the issue is what will give you the edge over your competition.

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