PPC Campaign: How To Identify a Winning Formula (An Agency Experience)

Julia Olennikova

Feb 28, 20198 min read
PPC Campaign

PPC mistakes can prove costly, in the truest sense of the word. Knowing that any small action can lead to a boost — in sales or in cost per sale — is real pressure. For a PPC consultant or strategist, identifying whether a campaign is going to be a success or not seems a daunting challenge.

So, to determine how to conduct effective paid search online, we spoke to a agency who
regularly launches lots of PPC campaigns.

A couple of months ago, we presented the success story of UK agency, morphsites, who helped several clients to grow their traffic from zero and boost their customer base. Based on precious insights from Dan Drummond, Head of Paid Search, we figured out what you need to do to make a paid search campaign successful.

1. Explore the Niche Inside and Out

A new niche is like a new language you need to learn to be on the same page as the client. Fortunately, it takes a little less time. However, the cost of a mistake can be higher than mixing up kazoku and kaizoku, so let’s run through some important aspects to analyze for any campaign.

Note: This is important for an in-house PPC strategist too. Sometimes competitive research provides precious insights; you may find that you’re competing with your own retailers and partners or you may discover that a competitor is using your brand name in their ad copy.

To explore a niche thoroughly, you will need to do the following:

Understand the Budgets

We are planning to do PPC this year, and we have allocated $10k monthly for the campaigns.”

“This is the sort of thing we often hear from clients approaching a new agency. Chances are there is very little research behind these figures, especially if this is their first step into the world of PPC. That’s why we use Semrush right from the outset,” Dan Drummond explains. “Using Semrush, we can determine whether competitors are already utilising PPC and work out roughly what sort of budget they have. This allows us to get customers onside and provide valuable insights.”

Useful tip: Often the budgets provided by competitive research tools are underestimated. Keep in mind that the advertisers are probably spending more. There are three reasons for this:

  • Google confirms that 15% of all searches are completely new. So even when you are using Semrush, with its biggest keyword database in the world (9.4 bln keywords as of March 2019), it won’t contain all the queries.

  • Paid SERPs change much faster than organic ones, so it’s impossible for any tool to spot every ad from your competitor.

  • The ads are only analyzed at a national level. However, you can set up Position Tracking to see what’s happening in your locale.

Understand the Budgets on a Local Level

Competing at a national level makes sense for advertisers like Amazon or eBay (or anyone else with a similar budget), but this can be hard for those with a smaller budget. For those that need to compete nationally, it is helpful to explore how CPCs change across different regions and cities.

You can use the CPC Map tool to see where your region or multiple regions stand in terms of paid advertising costs:

Using your niche’s average CPC as a benchmark, it’s also possible to calculate how many potential clicks you’ll get within the budget provided.

Industry: Real Estate

State: Texas

Budget: $10,000 per month

Average CPC: $2.85

Expected monthly clicks: about 3500

Bonus: Based on historical data you can gain insights into how the campaign will perform in the near future.

Armed with all these figures, you will be able to determine if the budget is sufficient to meet the client’s goals. Or in cases where no expectations have been set, how many clicks it is possible to get.

Estimate the Search Potential

The next step is to analyze whether the volume of searches is sufficient to support a campaign.

Not all niches are created equal. The average search volume in the Home & Garden niche is 23x higher than for Internet & Telecom (US data):

Source: the CPC Map tool

The search volume can also depend on seasonality and general trends in the niche. Google Keyword Planner is a great keyword tool that provides a good historical overview. Even one high-volume relevant keyword is enough to gain some insights; better yet if you add more keywords to the scope to get more stats.

Let’s play a game: which of these graphs is related to each of these topics?

a. Cryptocurrency

b. Insurance

c. Brexit

Based on the trends, it is possible to predict if the interest toward a determined topic is stable or highly volatile. However, consider that for a keyword which is growing in popularity the CPC is also increasing, often disproportionately.

Useful tip: To evaluate search capacity properly, don’t limit yourself to just a couple of short-tail and long-tail queries containing the same words. Look for related keywords with both high and low-competition; you may find that the most popular queries aren’t those that first come to mind.

Our Keyword Magic Tool now has a new ‘Related’ tab that allows you to explore these terms and quickly get an estimate of the search demand.

2. Carry Out Proper Keyword Research

Once an agency or consultant needs more detail to build an extensive campaign, it is time to dig deeper into the niche.

Discover Which Keywords are Really Vital to the Business

Agencies often find that clients want to rank for keywords they think are vital to their business, but their perspectives are not always correct. After consulting Semrush for keyword search volumes, morphsites’ PPC strategists can demonstrate to customers which keywords are actually valuable to their business and key goals.

Keywords That Meet CPC / Search Volume Criteria

You want to remove the most generic keywords from your list because the competition would be unreasonably high, but you can still use the seed keywords to find the real gems that will help you meet your goals. Here is how to do this in the Keyword Magic tool:

Refine the search by indicating the “comfortable” CPC and search volume. The ‘Com.’ filter stands for competitive density in search results. If you want to avoid extremely competitive keywords, you can also play with this value (0 is the lowest, 1 is the highest):

Competitors’ Keywords

With the Keyword Gap tool, you can gather up to 5 websites from your niche and identify the keywords they are bidding on. This information will give you insights into what is working for them, which keywords they find valuable, and which keywords you may have missed:

Competitors’ Organic Keywords

If you are not ranking on the first page for a keyword your competitor is, a great option is to use PPC to compete in the SERP. Many think that “ranking organically is always better and I would rather invest in SEO.” And while it is true that organic CTRs are still higher than paid, the trend is showing that Google is doing its best to take the clicks from organic results and make paid ads more prominent:

Identifying the keywords you are not ranking for in the Top 10, manually or with Semrush, will help you gain some valuable ideas for marketing. These are the keywords Graigs Farm is ranking better for (organically) than Coombe Farm Organic in the UK. These keywords provide insights for PPC, SEO, content ideation, social media, and more:

Bonus: You Can Influence Business Decisions with PPC Data

A PPC strategist can even identify opportunities for expanding a product range. The example of Coombe Farm Organic, an organic online meat store and a morphsites client, demonstrates this.

In the beginning, the website was selling a simple selection of organic beef and pork, about 20 products in total. Today they sell over 350 organic products, with some of these products being inspired by effective keyword research.

One product example is 'organic bone broth' — a keyword that brought Coombe Farm a lot of traffic due to little market competition. If we look at the trend graph, we see that this was a real catch; in early 2018, the competition level was just 0.36.

3. Make Sure the Landing Pages Are Up to Par

Dan Drummond explains that crafting a brilliant PPC campaign is only worthwhile if you have
an appropriate converting landing page to direct traffic to. Creating a cool landing page is an art in itself; there are many aspects to look at, from visuals to CTA to mobile-friendliness. But in a nutshell, there are four fundamental things to keep in mind from a PPC perspective:

Load Speed

Faster landing pages deliver better ROI. Every second it takes your landing page to load (on mobile) leads to a 20% conversion drop. Load speed is also a landing page factor for Google Ads, which means you will be losing money (and rankings) because of poor technical performance.

You can analyze a particular landing page in Google Analytics under ‘Behaviour -> Site Speed -> Page Timings”.

If you have a Site Audit project set up in Semrush, it will also warn you about slow-loading pages:

CTA Button

Forgetting to put a CTA button on a landing page happens, but we want to mention the importance of matching the action to visitor expectations and expressing clearly what they will get by clicking it. The trick here is to add a bit more value than expected — entice them to click and potentially convert.

Netflix could just use the simple “Join” or “Join Now” CTA, but instead, they went a bit further, and the first thing the viewer sees is that they can get a free month of service; the risk is reduced, and the incentive is appealing.

Device Compatibility

Unless you are running a campaign strictly targeting desktop users, device compatibility is crucial (and you will need to deal with different browsers anyway). The number one thing to check when adding a CTA, a live chat, a web form, or anything else to a webpage or a landing page is the compatibility for browsers and devices. Every person that clicks on your ad needs to be lead to a functional webpage.

Conversion Tracking

A campaign is never perfect the first time it is run, and that is understandable. But if you are not tracking what happens on your website, how do you know what you should change? Conversion tracking is essential when you are analyzing which keywords are leading to sales and which ones are wasting your budget.

The Google Ads help section has detailed instructions on how to check the conversion tracking tag implementation on your website.

What ingredient would you add to the formula?

There is no sure-fire way to know the campaign is perfect before you actually launch it. However, if you are now about to hit the ‘Enable’ button in your Ads account and you have ticked all the boxes in the checklist above, your chances of success are quite high. But if you think there is any vital aspect missing, let us know in the comments!
Author Photo
Head of Marketing for Agency Solutions at Semrush. Migrated from journalism to digital marketing and je ne regrette rien.