Guest Blog Post: PPC Doesn’t Suck. You’re Just Doing It Wrong.

By Larry Kim
CEO of MobileMonkey, Founder & former CTO, WordStream

There’s nothing wrong with paid search.

In fact, it’s a massive opportunity when done right. If you aren’t seeing success in AdWords or other PPC channels, you’re doing it wrong.

Isn’t that presumptuous of me? I know, I know…you’ve read all the advice, you’re doing what you’ve been told, you’re TRYING, and it just doesn’t work. PPC is broken. It doesn’t work for everyone. It sucks!

Wrong. Paid search is incredibly effective – but as our research shows, most marketers simply aren’t putting in the effort to reap the rewards. The average small business is sinking $1,200 a month into PPC – but wasting 25% of their ad spend. Further, more than 50% of small businesses are optimizing their account only once per quarter. Once every three months! With that level of effort going into it, you can’t expect positive results.

Sorry, but the “problem” with paid search really is you.

Once you come to terms with that, we can move on and discover ways to turn your sinking ship around.

1. Pull the Lead Out and Get Moving

Your ads aren’t going to write and test themselves. Remember that PPC is a live auction; your competitors are constantly trying to outdo you. Yet we found that a measly 1% of small businesses optimize their account at least once a week. You read that right. Ninety-nine percent of small business advertisers are letting their account sit and go stale for weeks at a time!

The opportunity here for advertisers willing to get in there on a regular basis and do the work is huge. Ideally, you should be spending at least 20 minutes each week optimizing your account. Given that the average SMB account includes just 2 campaigns, 9 ad groups and 18 text ads, this shouldn’t be anything like “unmanageable.”

2. Get Smart About Your Keyword Strategy

This is another area you need to commit to and stay on top of. Focusing on your most targeted and cost-effective terms often means testing many long-tail keyword terms, which typically offer less competition, a lower CPC and more qualified clicks.

Remember to also tap into negative keywords, to reduce wasted spend on low-converting keywords.

3. Get Relevant

Do your CTRs and Quality Scores suck? The average AdWords Quality Score is just 5…out of a possible 10. Again, when everyone is falling down around you, it’s a great time to pick yourself up and run past them. Quality Score impacts your costs per click and conversion, as demonstrated below:

While high Quality Scores can result in huge CPC savings and lower costs per action, the converse is also true – low Quality Scores can mean your CPC is increased by up to 400%, with up to 64% higher CPAs. Better keyword data, effective keyword grouping and highly relevant ads are the keys to boosting your Quality Scores.

4. Deliver on Your Promise with High Quality, Optimized Landing Pages

Over 25% of SMB PPC accounts send all of their traffic to just one landing page. Even worse, 20% of small business advertisers send all of their paid search traffic straight to their homepage. I’m sorry, but if you’re doing this, you are completely sucking at PPC.

The other big issue here is that less than half of you have conversion tracking installed. How can you have a complete picture of your paid search success (or lack thereof) if you aren’t even doing the absolute minimum required to understand your performance?!

5. Follow Best Practices

I know, I know…it’s a tired old refrain. Best practices are boring and everyone’s already following them, right? Nope. Let’s look at call extensions, for example. We know that using them can increase your CTR by at least 10%, yet 19 in 20 SMB accounts don’t have them set up. How about mobile-preferred ads?  Less than 20% of AdWords accounts have set them up.

And there you have it. PPC isn’t the problem. Most small businesses simply aren’t putting their time, effort and knowledge to good use when it comes to paid search. PPC is not a magic bullet. It’s an investment in the success of your business. And it needs to be treated as such!

Larry Kim founded WordStream in 2007, bootstrapping the company by providing internet consulting services while funding and managing a team of engineers and marketers to develop and sell software for search engine marketing automation. Today, Larry serves as company CTO and is a contributor to both the product and marketing teams. In his spare time, Larry practices photography. You can follow Larry on Twitter and Google+.

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