Be a Smart Client, and Make Your PPC Agency Work Harder

Your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns may be currently managed by an agency, and what they report to you may look OK. But although you’re happy and trust them, it doesn’t mean that you should be completely hands off from the project, while continuing to invest tons of money. No one has an unlimited budget, and even if you do, you want every penny you invest to work hard for your business. In my experience, the typical campaign performance overview report generated by agencies, showing the total media cost, impressions, conversions, etc., doesn’t really give you true insights into what is going on with your campaigns.

Here are five things you should ask your agency about your campaigns:

1. Keyword-Based Performance Report

Have you seen a list of all keywords in each campaign and ad group? AdWords and other paid campaign platforms produce keyword-based performance reports showing individual keyword data such as match type, cost, impressions, clicks, click-through-rate (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC), and conversions.

You can set one of three match types for each keyword: broad, phrase, and exact match. If it’s a one-word or two-word phrase and set as broad match, chances are it shows up in many unrelated searches, lowering your quality score with a low click-through-rate. On the other hand, if you set phrases with three or more words as exact match, you may be limiting the opportunity so much that your ad may rarely show up in the search results. See more information here about the match types here.

You can also see the quality score for each keyword based on the relevancy between the keyword and the landing page content, as well as the keyword performance. The idea is that you’ll have to pay more for the same keyword click, if your keyword score is low. If you are aware of the relevance disconnect, you can make changes to the landing page.

2. Ad-Based Performance Report

Oftentimes, bad campaign performance isn’t the keywords’ fault, and by editing the specific ad copy, you may be able to improve the performance. The ad report shows the data, such as cost, impressions, clicks, etc., as well as the ad copy and landing page for each ad.

Different ads should be written for each ad group based on the keywords in the group, and the landing page content as well as the conversion goal. A good campaign should run a couple of ads at a time for each group, testing the message that works best based on data such as click-through-rate and conversion rate. If you see similar messages across the campaign and ad groups, you should ask your agency to try different ad copy. Each ad group can have up to six different ads, so try different copy and see which connects with searchers.

3. Negative Keyword List for Each Campaign and Ad Group

A list of negative keywords can be set for each campaign and ad group. The campaigns can run without entering any negative keywords, but your campaign should have them. A negative keyword list is one of the best tools that you can use to make your campaign efficient, and save you from wasting money. It is not uncommon to have two to five times more negative words than actual campaign words.

For example, let’s say one of your keywords is “women’s handbag.” If you don’t sell leather bags or bags in green, set “leather” and “green” as negative keywords so that your ads won’t show up when people search for “women’s leather handbag” or “green women’s handbag.”

4. Search Query Report

You can get some popular search query ideas from keyword tools, but you don’t know if that’s what people really used when they clicked on your ad. The search query report gives you exactly what people used as keywords when they clicked on your ads. This data is very helpful in figuring out the best match type for a keyword, and what additional negative keywords should be added to the list.

Sometimes, a keyword with good click-through-rate doesn’t convert so well. It may be because a landing page isn’t responding to what they are looking for. The search query data will tell you if you need to add negative keywords such as “green” and “leather” to your campaign.

5. Access to Your Campaign Account

Not many agencies give you the access to campaign management tools, even with the view-only access level, but ask anyway. If you currently have access, check “change history” to see what’s been done to your campaign by the agency. There, you can see every single change made to keywords, ad copy, negative keywords, and campaign structure. This is a great way to monitor what your agency is actually doing for you and how often.

If your contract doesn’t require the above information to be shared with you, add these specific reports to the contract next time you renew it.

While you don’t need to manage the campaigns yourself and don’t need to become a PPC expert, it’s good to know how to read the above reports so that you can ask smart questions of your agency rather than just receiving bi-weekly or monthly reports, and filing them away hoping you’re performing the best you can.

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