Building a successful pay-per-click (PPC) campaign can sometimes be viewed as "sculpting" in the sense that you need to chip away at the parts that won't help you achieve your conversion goals until you are left with a strategy that works.
Now, as ever, profitable pay-per-click (PPC) campaign structures lie waiting somewhere on the other side of opaque customer intentions, challenging competition, and confusing interface quirks. Like writing the great American novel, PPC is hard. The chances of the average PPC manager outperforming tough competition in the auction are about on par with the likelihood that I'll write a novel as good as The Dead Zone.
In On Writing, Stephen King expresses his belief that a story is like a fossil, buried somewhere waiting to be found. You don't have to "create" it. If you search hard enough, King believes, you unearth it. Easy for him to say. But that does feel a little like PPC.
Other times PPC feels a bit more like sculpting, in the sense of the methodological rumination attributed to Michelangelo. When asked how he knows what to cut away, he supposedly said, "It's simple. I just remove everything that doesn't look like David."
You can get an awful lot of mileage out of that technique. Surgically removing the parts that won't achieve your conversion goals is a fantastic approach to simplifying daunting PPC problems.
The "sculpting" method is, arguably, uncomplicated and uncontroversial. If a certain query never, ever (or, hardly ever, if you prefer) converts for you and yet it is being mapped to a productive broad match keyword, it's really quite simple: you negative out that query.
To be sure, sculpting requires some subtlety; you don't literally have to cut away parts in all cases. Many times, maximum precision is achieved by, say, bidding 68 percent lower on a parameter.
Let's take an example of a particularly challenging and complex area of PPC - attempting to make display network ads perform to cost-per-action (CPA) targets - and go through how I recently sculpted my way toward the target. The keywords and line of business have been disguised to protect confidentiality.
Our goal is to generate bookings for "Chicago sightseeing tours." The CPA target is $100, slightly more relaxed than our target for search. We craft and place into rotation a mix of text and image ads, varying key elements of those ads with a testing purpose.
High five! We were able to hit our target of $100, exactly as hoped. For those who believe in share of voice and the like, it's possible that our various efforts in search, display, organic, and social are adding up to a whole that is greater than the measurable sum of the parts.
Did we get the volume we wanted from this initial display network launch? Not yet, but it's not bad. In the past month, the effort has driven a 4.2 percent increase in conversions, not counting unattributed conversions. To put it another way, that's now going to be viewed as an unwelcome drop in conversions if you shut that part of the account off. These are the types of small wins you need to eke out these days in mature accounts in a competitive marketplace. Worth the effort? Only if six or seven figures in new annual revenue matter to the business.
This method of building a response asset takes a lot of persistence and precision. "Spray and pray" is becoming more outdated with every passing day.
Image via Shutterstock.
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Goodman is founder and President of Toronto-based Page Zero Media, a full-service marketing agency founded in 2000. Page Zero focuses on paid search campaigns as well as a variety of custom digital marketing programs. Clients include Direct Energy, Canon, MIT, BLR, and a host of others. He is also co-founder of Traffick.com, an award-winning industry commentary site; author of Winning Results with Google AdWords (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed., 2008); and frequently quoted in the business press. In recent years he has acted as program chair for the SES Toronto conference and all told, has spoken or moderated at countless SES events since 2002. His spare time eccentricities include rollerblading without kneepads and naming his Japanese maples. Also in his spare time, he co-founded HomeStars, a consumer review site with aspirations to become "the TripAdvisor for home improvement." He lives in Toronto with his wife Carolyn.
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