PPC for Beginners | Many Steps to Implement

You’ll find lots of PPC implementation articles out and about on the web. What I hope to do here is provide the highlights for you in one place to keep you from having to piece together all of the tasks on your own. The bulk of the discussion is on campaign structure because that’s where novices tend to make mistakes. Free downloads in this article:

  • PPC spreadsheet
  • Ad structure illustration

If you haven’t yet read our PPC Marketing Strategy roadmap, please take a look now. Your chances of success are much higher when you have a clear sense of what you need to accomplish before launching your online advertising. Also, note that this article is based on Google AdWords since that is the best-known platform for search ads.

Outline your campaigns: Since this article is titled “PPC for Beginners”, here’s a quick description of the campaign structure for newbies. AdWords accounts are structured with campaigns, ad groups and ads. Campaigns contain ad groups. Ad groups contain ads and keywords. AdWords campaigns have several setup options when “all features” are enabled during setup. You’ll need to understand these so you can structure your campaigns properly.

Daily budgets are set at the campaign level. You can specify your maximum cost-per-click at the ad group level or at the keyword level. Note that you can also set up a shared budget to govern multiple campaigns. This is useful if you know what you can spend in total, but aren’t sure how to split up that total among your different campaigns.

You will also specify geotargeting and network at the campaign level. Geotargeting defines how your ads will be displayed relative to the searcher’s location or location-based query. If you have a brick-and-mortar retail store, you need to specify that your ads will only show to searchers within driving distance.

The network refers to search or display. Search ads show up on Google search results pages. Display ads show up on other websites. You can set up a campaign that targets both, but I’d recommend against it. The hybrid search and display campaigns do not give you full access to the display targeting options. And, since you’re just starting out, it’s better to work out the kinks with one network before you move to the next.

Other options at the campaign level include language and ad scheduling. Say you offer three different types of services, such as SEO, SEM and social media management. You have a set budget to market each. You’d need a distinct campaign for each of these, rather than one campaign with three different ad groups. You have a retail store and a website. You’d like to provide different messaging and/or offers to people who are near your store vs. people who are not near your store. You’d set up a campaign for “in-store proximity” and a separate one for “out-of-store proximity”.

You want to run search and display ads. Put these in separate campaigns to avoid having to split them up later.
You are in Miami and half of your customers speak Spanish. You can set up a Spanish campaign and, separately, an English campaign.

You are an online retailer and you want to run flash sales online. You can set up a flash sale campaign and schedule the ads to show only when your flash sale is available. A separate campaign would hold your regular ads that run when no flash sale is live.

Other considerations for the PPC campaign structure. Google recommends you look at your website to structure campaigns. For example, if you sell products online, you might define campaigns by product categories. This isn’t a bad idea, assuming your website is organized logically.

You can also think about organizing campaigns by the customer’s intent. It’s common to have product-specific campaigns and then more general campaigns. The product-specific campaigns will target people looking for your product. The general campaign might target people looking for information about companies that do what you do.

Take a few minutes to document what your campaigns might look like. This stuff is tedious, I know. But doing it right saves you money. So take a break if you need to, and come back with a fresh set of eyes.

Categorize campaigns: Before jumping into keyword research, look at the campaigns you’ve defined and break each one up into subcategories. An auto dealer might have campaigned for general dealer searches, new cars, used cars and possibly service. The new car campaign might have ad groups for each car model. You get the idea. A mortgage broker might have a campaign for residential loans and another for general broker searches. The residential loan campaigns could be broken down into new home mortgages and refinancing.

Check campaign objectives: If you’re a visual person, write your subcategories on Post-it notes and group them under your campaign ideas. Now go back to your defined goals and make sure you haven’t veered off course. Remove campaigns or subcategories that aren’t tied directly to your goal.

Use Google Keyword Planner: Now, finally, you can log in to your AdWords account. You’re going to research keywords using Google’s Keyword Planner. Find the Tools dropdown at the top and click on Keyword Planner. Use the first form on the left to search for keyword ideas, one subcategory at a time. Pay attention to geographic targeting.

Identify keyword targets: Google tries to make this process easier on you by grouping keywords into potential ad groups. Compare these suggested ad groups with your subcategories. Look at the keywords within each suggested ad group.

Prioritize keyword targets: Based on what you’ve already documented, what you know about your business and the information from Google’s Keyword Planner, make a shortlist of high-priority ad groups and the keywords that go within them.

Check your website: At this point, you’ll want to take another look at your website. Verify that you have or will have landing pages that can support these keywords. As an example, an appropriate page for new home mortgages would not be your homepage. It would be a page with information specific to new home mortgages only, with the most important information prominently displayed at the top of the page. Document your URLs.

Test keyword targets: Now go to Google and search your keywords to see what comes up. The ads and organic listings should be businesses similar to yours. Pay attention to the text of the ads. What offers are they advertising? What value propositions do they communicate?

Write some ads: I always write ads out in a spreadsheet before I put them in AdWords. There’s a tab for this in the PPC spreadsheet. The components of a successful PPC ad are:

  • Compelling headline, relevant to the keyword
  • Value proposition or offer
  • Product or service accolade
  • The exact use of the keyword
  • Call to action

You will want to use the exact keyword in your ad text and on your landing page. Done right, this ultimately lowers your cost-per-click. Another key to success is writing more than one ad for each ad group. Google naturally tests them and serves up the one that performs better. And finally, you’ll need to pay attention to Google’s character limits. If you use our PPC spreadsheet, you can test out different versions of ad copy and it calculates whether your copy will fit within the limitations.

Too many keywords

Now you might look at your groupings of keywords and wonder how you’re supposed to get all those keywords in your ad text. For example, for SEO, Keyword Planner suggests an ad group called SEO Company. It includes these keywords among others: SEO company, SEO companies, SEO services companies, and SEO company reviews. First off, I would probably eliminate the last one from my list unless I actually had reviews on my website. But then if I chose to keep the rest, how would I use “company” and “companies” in the same ad?

I have two options: Break these keywords into separate ad groups. Focus on the one that looks more promising and watch the numbers. You may later decide to break out these keywords into different ad groups if the one you didn’t focus on is underperforming. I’m a fan of highly specific ad groups from the start, but that is not time-efficient. Waiting and watching how the numbers play out helps you focus your time on tasks that have the greatest impact.

Define site links and other extensions: Now you have campaigns, ad groups, keywords, URLs, and ads. The next step is to define pages on your website that are complimentary to your ads. These will be your site links, which appear underneath your ad copy when your ad is shown in the top positions. If your ad is about lease deals on new Honda accords, for example, a page about lease work would make a nice site link. Other commonly used extensions are phone numbers and locations. Use as many extensions as you can. Google will display them randomly when it’s most advantageous to do so.

Get the technical details in order:

The technical details to address before launching your PPC campaigns are:

  • Conversion tracking.
  • Linking Google Analytics to Google AdWords.
  • Setting up a Google Analytics dashboard that emails you daily.

If you have your Analytics linked to AdWords, you can create a dashboard in Google Analytics that sends you a nice PDF with some key AdWords metrics. You could also set up reporting through AdWords, but then you still have to click on a link and log in to AdWords to see the report. Metrics you’ll want to watch include CPC, CTR, impressions, bounce rate from PPC traffic and conversions from PPC.

Preview ads: AdWords will walk you through the process of setting up your campaigns, ad groups and ads. But there is one important step that AdWords doesn’t force you through ad preview. Once you turn your campaigns on, use the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool to see how things look in context. Do not do a live search in Google for your own ads. That impacts your click-through rate by generating impressions with no corresponding clicks. Lower click-through rates raise your costs.

Review Search Terms Report: Once your ads are live, review the search terms report weekly. This report tells you what terms triggered your ads. If you see terms that are irrelevant, add those keywords to your negative keywords for that ad group or campaign as appropriate. Do you feel ready to move from a PPC beginner to a PPC expert? If you use this guide and checklist to set up your first campaign, come back and let me know what challenges you faced along the way!