Plan Your Paid Search Optimization Strategy Wisely

4/26/2011

- Gerard Tollefsen, Senior Client Strategist

No matter your experience in paid search marketing, or the years of knowledge you have with the product or service you offer, no one can create the perfect CPC campaign right out of the gate.  There are millions of people who use the internet everyday, and they all have unique search behavior to review, digest, and act upon the different marketing messages they see online.  This is not to suggest all CPC campaigns are created equal, because they are not.  There are Best Practices to follow when creating a paid search campaign and the campaign structure alone goes a long way to establishing the fundamentals of success.  However, the real value a professional paid search marketer brings to the table is how to analyze a campaign's performance and execute a plan to optimize for the best results possible.

One of the most important aspects to a successful CPC campaign is the ability to monitor and track performance.  You must have clearly defined goals for the campaign, whether it be increasing new leads for your sales team, boosting your newsletter subscription base, or simply growing your online sales.  Once you have these goals in place, you need to ensure you have a tool that can accurately report on these different campaign metrics.  Google Analytics (GA) is an excellent tool for this task because of the many layers you can peel back from your paid search campaign data to specifically identify top performing keywords and ad variations.

The final piece of the puzzle, and the most critical to your paid search campaign's growth, is the optimization process.  It is at this stage where you separate the contenders from the pretenders in paid search management.  Yes, Google provides a slew of online tips and tricks to optimize CPC campaigns but they are basically "cookie cutter" recommendations.  In order to successfully optimize a campaign, you must have a plan of action. In addition, you should develop a chronological order in which to test new ideas.  It is a fluid process that is largely dictated by the visitor engagement on your site from your paid search traffic.  Until you gain a large enough sample size to determine what is working and what is not, any optimization changes can be counter productive.  If you want to test new ad variations, this should not be done at the same time you make wholesale changes to your keywords.  How can you possibly attribute the positive or negative impact on the campaigns when both these changes are implemented at the same time?  Did you see an increase in overall traffic due to the keyword changes, or the fact your new ads were superior than your previous set of ads in gaining more clicks to your site?  When you run optimization tests concurrently, you diminish your ability to identify what works best.

Next time you are ready to implement optimization changes, think about the order in which you stagger the changes in the campaign.  Plan out when and how long you want to test new keywords.  Decide how long to run the test and have your second test ready to start shortly after the first test comes to a close.  If the second optimization strategy is to mix up ad variation, be sure that test kicks off after your keyword test is complete.  As you await your results from the ad variation test, you should have plenty of data from your first test so you can start planning your next move.  Remember, you need a decent sample size for these optimization changes to bear fruit, but once you gather enough data, you will be armed with the knowledge to effectively manage a paid search campaign that produces an improving marketing ROI to justify your hard work in managing the campaign.

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