On paper, PPC advertising looks like an unbeatable proposition.
Every day, Google, Amazon and Bing respond to billions of search requests, many from people who are actively searching for things they want to purchase. All you have to do is place an advert somewhere near the top of the page and you have a reasonable chance of making a sale.
Sadly, in business nothing is ever that simple. The problem is that consumers consider a number of factors before making a purchase, so getting them to visit your web site is just one step in the process of converting them into customers.
Those of us who will have worked in traditional, bricks and mortar shops will know what I mean. Some people will walk through the door, buy and item and leave, whilst others will explore for several minutes and leave without making any purchases at all. They might even do this several times before making a purchase.
Similar things happen when you use PPC advertising, except you have to pay for every visitor that enters your store, whether they buy something or not. The end result being that the economics of PPC are very important.
For example, if you spend £100 to get 100 people to visit your online store, only three of whom place orders for a total value of £100 then your campaign is not operating profitably. On the other hand, if you spend £100 to get 100 people to visit your online store and five of them spend £1000 in total, then you have found a cost-effective way to grow your business.
You need to know what you are doing to make PPC work well.
Five Steps to Success
The key to running successful long term PPC campaigns starts by acknowledging that there is no magic bullet you can metaphorically fire at the problem. You have to do a number of different things consistently to achieve success.
1. Measure everything
First and foremost, you need to be able to measure the returns you are generating on your investment. The most commonly used tool for this is Google Analytics, which is able to record how visitors arrive at your website and record what they do.
Platforms like Google Ads enable you to organise your PPC ads into campaigns, which can be tracked independently in Analytics. It is essential to do this, because some of your campaigns are going to make money and some are going to lose money. Unless you know which is which, you do not know which to invest in and which to pull.
The most commonly used metrics are:
- Average price you pay for each visit - the cost per click (CPC)
- Number of sales you make per 100 visits – the conversion rate
- Average sales value
- Average gross margin per sale
If you can calculate what these are for each campaign, then you can adjust your spending – promoting pages and products that convert well and reducing promotion of products that do not sell well.
Another factor you need to consider is the integrity of your data. You cannot assume that the people clicking on your ads are, well, people. There are plenty of black hat actors out there who are happy to use bots to burn other people’s ad budgets for their own personal gain.
If your advertising budget is more than modest, then using a platform like Beacon can offer insight into how much of your advertising spend is being wasted on bots and generate actionable reports. Some advertising platforms provide features that enable you to mitigate the problem. Other platforms do not, but at least if you know the scale of the issue you can see how much of your budget is being wasted.
2. Target the right kind of customer
It is important to remember that, although PPC systems are technically sophisticated, the normal rules of marketing apply. That means you only want to promote your products to the people most likely to buy them.
Systems like Google Ads provide some useful tools to help with this. For example, you can limit adverts to be displayed in specific countries or areas. You can bias your spending in favour of certain types of demographics, including people that can be identified as having previously visited your website, or exhibiting behaviour that suggests they have an interest in your products and services.
What that means in reality is telling the system to pay a bit more for certain types of users than others.
3. Engage them with relevant content
When visitors land, you need to make sure they stay a while. That means the page they land on needs to be relevant to what they are searching for. The best way of achieving this is to build confidence by communicating directly, clearly and with continuity.
Imagine watching a movie where every time the characters spoke to each other, their conversations seemed disconnected. Or when the camera angle changed in a scene, the colour of the actors’ clothes changed. It would quickly undermine the integrity of the story and, if it happened too frequently, would probably cause you to leave the theatre.
It is essential that whatever control the advertising system provides in terms of words, images, styles, colours and branding is used in conjunction with the landing page to provide a seamless passage to the answers they are seeking.
4. Give them reasons to buy from you
One of the biggest challenges of all is that visitors can arrive on your site, find the product they want and still go buy from somewhere else. There are a myriad of reasons why this happens, but let’s focus on the most important ones.
Your product offer needs to be in the right ballpark. People do not always buy from the cheapest supplier (for reasons I will explain in a second), but they are unlikely to purchase a product that is over-priced, where delivery costs seem unduly expensive.
Trust is a big factor in any transaction. Someone who is not aware of your business has no reasons to trust you. If you are an established business, there will be something about you that your regular customers value and causes them to come back for more. Make sure everyone knows what this is and use social proof, such as reviews, awards and testimonials to drill the point home.
5. Keep your eyes on the ball
If you follow some of the above tips and learn the advertising systems well there is a good chance that you will be able to build successful PPC campaigns.
At this point, it is worth remembering what Churchill once said, "Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts."
Perhaps the context of his observation was a bit more challenging than running PPC advertising campaigns, but the sentiment holds true.
The online marketing world is constantly changing, and search advertising is a zero-sum game. Although your customers might be set in their ways, when your competitors realise that your business is performing well at their expense, they will react. Unless you keep eyes on your analytics and regularly review and reconfigure your campaigns, they will find a way back into the game.
Phil and Mark