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PPC Strategy

PPC strategy is formulated by addressing a number of issues in six areas: client business objectives; budget; intent; geography; performance; and testing. The following is a review of specific issues to consider — cover them all and you will have a rock solid AdWords bid strategy and a successful B2B or B2C campaign.

1. Business Objectives

  • Determine the primary goal of your PPC campaign. Is it to drive sales leads, generate e-commerce revenue, create brand awareness, etc.?
  • Specify the products and/or services to advertise.
  • Determine the overall budget available for the campaign — be sure to consider both ad spend and management fees.
  • If the budget is limited, and most are, determine the priority of products and services.
  • Any paid search strategy must generate ROI; therefore, establish the business metrics to evaluate results. Important items to define:
    • Cost-per-lead data for other online and offline marketing campaigns
    • Average value of a lead
    • Average value of a sale
    • Lead-to-sale percentage
    • ROI data by channel
    • Customer lifetime value
  • Account for any seasonal demand patterns of products and/or services in the campaign.
  • If you sell products online, decide if you are going to use product listing ads.
  • Review competitor PPC strategy and tactics to establish benchmarks.
  • Consider other industry knowledge that affects strategy, such as new customer needs or problems.
  • Define your geographic service areas.
  • Define offers and promotions to be used in the campaign.
  • Consider legal issues such as text usage restrictions, keyword usage restrictions, and copyright issues.

2. Budget

  • Determine how many keywords can be targeted, using average CPC data. You cannot spread a budget too thin, or your ads will go offline. In that event, it will take years to obtain performance data, and the data will be flawed due to inconsistent exposure.
  • Determine keyword match type. If your campaign budget is limited, using highly targeted, exact match keywords may be the winning strategy. With larger budgets, testing of broader match types may yield positive results.
  • Consider keyword intent. Again, with a low budget, including keywords with only the highest estimated conversion intent may be necessary. With larger budgets, campaigns should test more generalized keywords.
  • Consider ad scheduling. With a low budget, running ads during ideal days or times may not be possible. Larger budgets enable you to serve ads over a greater time period, allowing you to collect more meaningful data.
  • Consider location targets. A smaller budget may support ads only in one state, whereas a larger one can comfortably cover a region or the entire U.S.

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3. Intent

  • Can your keywords be grouped into different levels of conversion intent?
  • If so, with which groups will you start your campaign?
  • Can the campaign scale with these groups, or do you reach a ceiling?

4. Geography

  • Where are your customers and prospects located?
  • What areas can you service?
  • How are you going to target your campaign? Workable PPC options include international, national, regional, state, city, and/or zip code.
  • Do you need location-specific keywords, such as "Chicago carpet cleaning company"?

5. Performance

  • PPC develops over time, because historical data feeds all future PPC marketing strategy decisions. On a going-forward basis, you must review campaign performance to know which campaigns, ad groups, ads, and keywords to pause; which keywords should be grouped into more tightly defined ad groups; and which existing campaigns, ad groups, ads, and keywords need to be tested and/or modified for improvement.
  • If a keyword receives a lot of clicks but no conversions, it should be paused (assuming the ad and destination page are highly relevant).

6. Testing

  • Always determine the goals of testing! The most important goals are almost always:
    • Increase CTR (clickthrough rate)
    • Increase CVR (conversion rate)
    • Decrease CPA (cost per acquisition)
    • Increase ROAS (return on ad spend)
  • Decide what tests could be run on the campaign. Variables that can be tested include keywords, keyword match types, bid amounts, ad position, ad text, ad scheduling, search engines (Google and/or Bing), search partners and destination pages.
  • Decide what specific test will be run. In A/B split testing methodology, testing only one variable at a time is very important. If multiple variables are tested, there must be enough budget and clicks to support it and knowing which variable caused the change in results can be difficult to determine.
  • Decide the timing of the tests. Running the test long enough is important to get statistically meaningful results.
  • Discuss and agree on the creative changes to be made for the test.
  • Implement the test, analyze, see if there is enough data or clarity in results to declare a winner, and repeat the cycle with another variable.

Paid search strategy involves up-front and ongoing attention. Many PPC campaigns never realize their potential because companies fail to complete the last step in this six-step strategic process. Testing is all-important to every AdWords strategy, because no matter how carefully the first five steps are completed, user behavior is never 100% predictable. A campaign that appears to everyone as rock solid in theory can still fall short, and sometimes, campaigns scribbled out on a cocktail napkin generate terrific sales leads. But testing always leads to continuous campaign improvement — provided testing adheres to best practices and meaningful results can be collected. Make sure you budget accordingly and hire a PPC firm with documented testing expertise.

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