Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and Google AdWords have been around for several years. Indeed, many of us have accounts initially established — either by ourselves or someone we inherited the account from — years ago. During this time, the industry has progressed and matured, and your knowledge about PPC and your business may have likewise become more sophisticated. Accordingly, advertisers should take the opportunity to reorganize their accounts for improved performance from time to time.
Having completed PPC advertising audits for numerous clients, one of the first steps I take is a review of the account set-up and performance to consider how best to reorganize the account structure. Each business is different, but some important concepts apply to all. While there is certainly no one, “right” way to reorganize, use these concepts as a lens through which to view your data and consider changes as you move forward.
1. Understanding Profit Goals
It is difficult to be successful if you don’t know your profit goals. For search marketing, this could be your cost per acquisition (CPA) or something similar. Even if you had no specific CPA benchmark when you launched your campaign, you should have some idea of a realistic range now that it has been running for a while.
As you restructure, ask yourself these questions: Am I happy with current performance? Am I profitable? Which campaigns make money? Are all my sales/leads of equal value? Should I have different CPAs for different campaigns based on revenue? Talk to your CFO for ideas on what a profitable goal is, or use the averages from current campaigns as a benchmark, and try to improve from there. Understanding your CPA is essential to account restructuring.
2. Improving Tracking
Most of us track campaign performance and should have lots of data for the next steps of analysis. If not, center your plan for restructuring around your tracking system. A robust and insightful tracking system is arguably the most important part of campaign planning.
Since you are restructuring, consider whether you should choose an entirely new metric (or add other metrics) for tracking and performance. Maybe you only count the number of orders, but now you also want to collect and report the associated revenue to start making decisions based on revenue-per-dollar spent by campaign. Maybe you only consider online leads, but now you also want to capture data from phone calls. There are always opportunities to optimize the tracking process and improve how you record and analyze campaign CPA data. As you improve your testing and tracking, you will have new and better data, providing for more powerful data analysis — and that’s where results come from.
3. Reassessing Segmentation
Most of us loosely use the term “customer segment” to mean any grouping of keywords with shared characteristics. You were probably thinking of some sort of segmentation scheme when you first designed your account, either in campaigns or ad groups. Now that you have data, you might see that some keywords don’t perform as well as others, perhaps needing their own campaigns to become successful.
Let’s say you have an online shoe store, with campaigns in segments like “running shoes,” “leather shoes”, “formal shoes,” etc. Looking at AdWords keyword and search query reports, together with Google Analytics data, review the data to decide if the existing segments and campaign structure are adequate or if you need additional/fewer campaigns. Examine each cluster of similar keywords for conversion data, of course, but also for secondary metrics like registrations, bounce rate, average order size, repeat business, etc. For example, let’s say that you notice that most “running shoe” keywords perform in a similar way, but key terms that include “free” have a lower average order size than other segments, no matter the category. You may decide to separate out all “free” terms, putting them in different campaigns, perhaps going to different landing pages with lower bids, special offers, discounted products, etc. As you restructure, reconsider how you’ve grouped your keywords and change your marketing mix to reflect the value of those groups.
Since segmentation is such an important restructuring concept, here’s another example, this time for a B2B site where online drives leads and calls, but deals are closed over the phone weeks or months later. A common belief among such B2B shops using paid search is that not all leads are of the same value. If this is the case, you may want to give each campaign a different CPA goal based on the actual value of that traffic. Talk to the sales team directly. Show them the most popular keyword terms and how you think they perform by segment, and ask them how they think those terms help or hurt lead quality.
Use the data you get from analytics and the sales team as you restructure the account. For instance, if one keyword type drives high-value leads and another drives low-value leads, place those leads in different campaigns or ad groups. Not only can you choose to change keyword bids based on the value of the lead, but you can also change the percentage of your budget for each campaign type. For example, send low-value traffic to landing pages with online forms but no phone number — you will still capture online leads, but the sales team won’t be distracted by low-value calls and can focus their time on high-value customers.
Segmentation, which is closely related to testing, can be as simple or complex as you want it to be, but it is a crucial concept in achieving better performance and increasing the number of customers over time.
4. Revising Testing And Budget
Testing and budget are interrelated considerations when reorganizing an account. “How much budget do I need?” is a common question in PPC advertising. The answer depends on the CPCs for the targeted keywords, the number of searches for those keywords, and how much of that traffic you want to test and capture. A typical application of this concept occurs when a company wants to test many segments of keywords, but lacks the budget to capture enough data to make testing and optimization feasible. If you have a small budget, but are in a big market, you may be in this situation. For example, if you have a $5,000 budget, and want to test 10 campaigns over a month-long timeframe, your daily budget is about $17 per campaign per day. If your average CPC is $3, you’ll get about 5-6 clicks a day per campaign, which can be painfully slow to watch on a daily basis. Remember that most of your testing is done at a campaign/ad group/ad/keyword/landing page level, so that at 5-6 clicks a day for an entire campaign, you’re getting 0-3 clicks per day per element (per ad, per keyword, etc.). If you need several clicks to get a lead or a sale, you may have to wait weeks or months before you have enough data to know which elements perform best.
Clearly, low budgets and/or complicated testing plans can hinder data collection and analysis. You can’t test everything, so you might want to keep your account structure narrow in terms of the number of campaigns to test, and focus budget into fewer campaigns to help your data rate and decision-making. Plan for reasonable complexity, with just enough detail to help segment results, but narrow enough segmentation to acquire data at a reasonable rate.
5. Reconsidering Geography
Geography is an important consideration in most account planning, as geographic targeting and account structure are closely related. Geo-targeting is not necessarily more important than other characteristics, but since it is set at the campaign level, it is an early consideration in account planning. If you’re targeting US traffic only, you may want to focus the complexity of your account structure around other metrics. On the other hand, if you sell only to certain regions in the US, you may need to set up your account structure around the various geos you’re targeting (or excluding).
You can also divide international targets into campaigns by country or by region. Once set, you can use the campaign structure to isolate each geographic region, with separate metrics and reporting, and then set separate bids, daily budgets, time of day preferences for when the ads are shown, etc.
6. Adjusting Reporting
Since you’re overhauling your account structure, the data is going to change. In fact, you may be adding a new — or adjusted — CPA. You may have changed reporting metrics, added new ones, or used segmentation to divide your account into high- and low-value campaigns. You may have added new campaigns or ad groups or simplified your account structure. All of these changes should be reflected in a revised reporting process, which may include new reports. There could be a new distribution list for reports, or this may be a ripe opportunity to reeducate the company about search, how it’s being measured, and how the reporting can help them. Take advantage of the opportunity to ensure reporting reflects the new reality.
Many more ways exist to inspect PPC performance and countless tweaks to account structure that can improve campaign results. Some important concepts not even touched upon include content targeting, the role of creative and ad testing, day of week analysis, as well as many others. Each concept will be more or less important, depending on your type of business and how sophisticated your campaigns are. I recommend that you think through each concept, as well as any other unique considerations related to your business, and get started on a more efficient and thoughtful account structure. You will most certainly do this your own way — it is such a unique process that you will have to — but the factors discussed should help prioritize your objectives as you set out to reorganize and improve results.