In the world of search engine marketing (SEM), a growing number of marketers are turning to PPC campaigns. That’s how Google has significantly grown its advertising revenue every year. In 2021, Google’s advertising revenue accounted for 81% of Alphabet’s overall sales.
Price-per-click or PPC campaigns lead to nearly guaranteed ad placement in the search engine result pages. Well-run PPC campaigns help you generate leads. And if your ads tool is tightly integrated with your CRM, you can use insights from your ads’ data to nurture leads across their buying journey.
In this post, you’ll learn what a successful campaign entails and the best practices for optimizing your PPC campaigns.
What is PPC Campaign?
A PPC campaign is a search engine marketing strategy where you create an ad that targets certain keywords and pay for it by the click. Marketers often build these campaigns using platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Ads.
So, how can you win a PPC campaign? Start by crafting the right strategy and learning the management missteps you’ll want to avoid.
How to Build a PPC Campaign Strategy
Determine your PPC campaign structure.
Identify, build, and refine your campaign’s landing pages.
Create a keyword strategy based on your research.
Create ads based on insights from the steps above.
Share your campaign plan with stakeholders.
Remember: Poor PPC campaign management is costly and delivers poor lead generation results.
Here are a few ways marketers go wrong with PPC campaign management:
Building one basic campaign without using Google Ads’ Ad Groups tool.
Coming up with keywords by relying on gut feeling instead of doing research.
Using unengaging landing pages, or a homepage that generates no leads for the campaign.
Creating campaigns, setting budget caps, and going live without informing internal or external stakeholders.
Building an excellent campaign structure can help you avoid these obstacles. Luckily, you can master this campaign structure with a detailed PPC template.
What is PPC management?
Pay-per-click or PPC management is managing and monitoring of a company’s pay-per-click ad spend and campaigns. Typically handled by marketing teams or a marketing agency, PPC management strategies entail using keywords to optimize results.
PPC Campaign Management Template
We’ve created a free PPC campaign management template. This template will help you and your clients to set up a full-funnel campaign structure that follows PPC best practices. Once you do that, you’ll be better positioned to maximize the return on your PPC investment. We broke the template into two sections: Ads Planner and Ads Results.
Ads Planner Template
In this section of the PPC template, you’ll record your ad campaign information. The first 3 columns contain your campaign name, keywords, and negative keywords (keywords you don’t want ads shown for).
Enter your ad variations in the next section. There’s room for multiple headlines, descriptions, and URL paths to help you keep track of your running ads.
Ads Results Template
This part of the PPC template allows you to track relevant campaign metrics. Use it to record your total ad cost and analyze the performance of impressions, conversions, cost-per-click information, and more.
Now that you’re familiar with the template’s components, let’s look at managing your PPC campaign.
How to Manage a PPC Campaign
PPC campaign templates also act as checklists that can help you manage your work.
Before we get started, here are two tips that’ll make using this template easy:
You’ll want to clear out the example data in the template. That includes placeholder keywords, campaign and AdGroup names, ads, and final URLs.
Be careful not to alter the variables in columns F, J, and N of the ads planner. They contain the number of characters required by Google Ads for headlines, descriptions, URL paths, and Final URLs.
Now, let’s dive into PPC campaign management.
Step 1: Choose your PPC campaign management tools and software.
There are several platforms for managing your PPC campaign. Pro tip: Start with one platform. This tactic works because it keeps your costs low in the initial stages of PPC planning.
Rather than paying for an external campaign management tool, you can natively manage your campaigns in the platform you use for running ads.
However, as you expand your strategy to include more sites, you’ll need a robust PPC campaign management software. This tool allows you to keep track of each platform, budget, and set of creatives in one place.
Here are some of our favorite tools for the job:
Marin Software: Integrates with Google and Facebook — two of the most popular PPC platforms.
SpyFu: Analyzes your competitor’s campaigns to help you build a well-rounded strategy.
Step 2: Understand PPC campaign structure.
Understanding PPC campaign structure is essential. Usually, some marketers set up an account, create an ad, direct the ad to their home page, pick some keywords, and hit go. This is a wrong PPC approach.
With Google Ads, you can create multiple campaigns. Your campaigns may contain several AdGroups. Each AdGroup may contain a few ads and multiple similar keywords.
Multiple campaigns allow you to set daily budget caps, day-parting, and select geo-targeted regions at the campaign level. If you’re bidding on generic and branded keywords, you’ll want to put these in separate campaigns. The parameters around these two types of keywords will likely be different.
As you’ll see below, your template reflects these best practices, providing cells for several campaigns, AdGroups, and ad variations within those AdGroups.
Keep in mind that the final URL within an AdGroup will be the same regardless of the keyword or ad. You can create another AdGroup if you want to drive a keyword to a different landing page. If you want to get even more specific, create another campaign for that keyword.
Step 4: Build your keyword strategy.
Always select relevant keywords that apply to your landing page and offer. Relevant keywords are important because they increase the chance of visitors completing the form on your landing page.
You may want to rank for multiple keywords, but you shouldn’t do this with one landing page. Why? A landing page will have a focused message that addresses only a few keywords. If a keyword is irrelevant to a landing page, you’ll be wasting your ad budget, as visitors who search for and click the keyword won’t convert. In such a case, it’s better to create another offer and landing page that specifically addresses additional keywords.
Google Ads and Microsoft Ads allow you to create over one ad for each Ad Group (hence the “group” terminology).
After creating multiple ads, these platforms display the ad variations to your audience and note the variant with a higher clickthrough rate (CTR). This is called A/B testing. While running A/B tests is optional, taking advantage of it could improve your campaign performance and ROI.
Keep in mind that you have 30 characters for each ad headline, 30 characters for the display URL (the URL that’s displayed in the ad, not to be confused with the final URL), and 90 characters for each line of copy. If you’re using this template, you can easily keep track of these values.
When writing your ad, give special attention to your headline. The headline has the greatest influence on an ad’s CTR. Be sure to include a keyword in your headline to draw a user’s attention.
An even better practice is using dynamic keyword insertion. Plus, you’ll want to provide a cohesive experience for searchers — from seeing your ad in the search engine results to completing the form on your landing page. Everything should align with the goal of getting them to click through.
Finally, there’s the tricky matter of the display URL. You’re only allowed 30 characters here, but it’s unlikely that your final URL, the actual URL for your landing page, will be that short, especially after adding UTM parameters.
For this reason, search engines like Google allow you to create a display URL, which may not be an actual URL on your website. However, the domain in your display URL must be the same as the domain in your final URL. This allows users to know they’re in the right place when they click your ad and visit your landing page.
Step 6: Share the completed template with stakeholders.
Your completed template needs to align with stakeholders’ expectations and the elements of a productive PPC campaign.
If you’re a PPC campaign stakeholder, this template will help you with two things. First, the ads planner template gives you a bird’s-eye view of what the person running the ads is doing. Second, the ad results template shows how much you’re spending on PPC. With this, you can reallocate and swiftly modify your budget as you respond to changes in the marketplace.
How to Optimize Your PPC Campaign
PPC campaign management isn’t a one-time thing. You’ll need to adjust your methods continually for optimized results. Keep these factors in mind to maximize the performance of your PPC campaigns.
Ad platforms often use geographic targeting in PPC management. Therefore, you should always analyze the performance of your ads to identify the most profitable locations. Use this data to exclude underperforming locations, and add these locations to your negative keywords list.
For example, if you own a bike shop, targeting urban and densely populated areas may be better than targeting rural areas where most folks need a car to get around.
Performance by Device
Campaigns that are effective for desktop users may not perform so well with mobile users. Consider targeting each group separately, and note any differences in conversion rates.
If a campaign works better on mobile versus desktop, allocate funds towards your mobile efforts while you try a different campaign for desktop users. This way, you ensure you’re spending on campaigns that guarantee the highest ROI.
When running campaigns, every keyword you chose won’t prove useful. You’ll need to remove the low performers. These could be keywords that:
Remove these keywords and stick with those that are performing well. This allows you to get maximum value from your ad budget.
Examine Keyword Bids
When bidding for keywords, you’ll want to determine how much you can pay for each conversion and still make a profit. To do this, you’ll need Google Ads tools to optimize your bids, like:
Bid simulator: This allows you to see how higher or lower bids can affect your ad’s performance.
First-page bid estimates: This shows how much you likely need to bid to get your ads on the first page of Google search results.
After determining the maximum you can pay for a keyword, these tools will help you make the most of your budget.
Performance by Day and Time
Campaign performance will fluctuate depending on the time of day or day of the week. So, observe your campaigns. Note when they perform well and vice versa. If they aren’t performing during a specific timeframe, adjust your campaign so that you are only bidding on the most profitable times.
Now, let’s explore the platforms available for running your PPC campaigns.
PPC Campaign Management
Besides figuring out the ads that work best for your business, understanding where your audience spends most of their time online is key. That’s why you need to familiarize yourself with the different platforms available for running your PPC campaigns.
Let’s look at some of the most popular ad platforms, like Google, Microsoft (Bing), Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Google PPC Campaign Management
Google has been the dominant player in the search engine space for over 20 years, and it still produces some of the most innovative ad experiences in the market. Here’s a look at two of the most popular ways to serve ads on Google.
One of the most popular types of Google Ads is the search ad. These ads appear at the top and bottom of the search results for specific keywords you bid on. The typical goal for running Google search ad campaigns is to drive traffic to a specific webpage — like a landing or product page.
Google Display Ads
If you’ve ever visited a website that advertised on the banner, sidebar, or footer of a web page, you’ve probably seen a Google display ad. These ads are typically visual, featuring colorful graphics, videos, and occasionally audio. Google display ads are helpful for retargeting customers who visited your website without taking your desired action.
Microsoft Ads (Formerly Bing Ads) PPC Campaign Management
Overall, Microsoft Ads works almost like Google Ads. However, there are a few distinctions that’ll help you get the most out of your PPC campaign.
The bulk of your PPC efforts will likely live in Google Ads. When you decide to bid on Microsoft Ads, avoid using your Google Ads keywords for your Microsoft Ads. Google and Bing are different search engines, meaning the search volume for your Google keywords may not be the same in Bing.
Bing’s keyword research and suggestion tool provide more accurate search volumes for your keywords. So, while you can use your keyword list from Google, use this tool to verify whether you should bid on the same keywords versus other variants with more traffic.
One upside of Microsoft Ads is the possibility of having lower CPC, which decreases your ad spend.
A WordStream test of both Google and Microsoft found that the average CPC of running ads on Microsoft was 33% lower. The implication? Bidding on Microsoft Ads is less competitive compared to Google, meaning you may likely spend less when paying for Microsoft Ads keywords. This may be especially true for specific industries, as you’ll see in this table:
Some of the most popular ads you can use for Facebook campaigns are:
With more users spending time on social media platforms’ story features, these ads are one way to reach your audience. Like personal stories, you can share story ads as a video with a link. You can also use a series of photos to explain your ad and entice your audience to take a specific action.
Keep in mind: You can only post stories for 24 hours. These ads are best used for promotions like time-limited offers.
Gamification is an innovative way to catch a lead’s attention. Facebook’s playable ads allow you to create a brief interactive version of a game or app so users can get a feel for your product.
You’ll want to keep the functionality simple so you don’t deter potential customers. And of course, make it fun.
If you’ve ever used Facebook’s messenger tool, you’ve probably seen an ad in your conversations. Messenger ads are useful because potential customers can decide to connect with your business directly from their messages.
If you have a customer service team that connects with people via chat, this is a great way to establish an instant connection. You can also send a lead to your site or a specific landing page from the ad.
People spend 26% more time viewing Twitter ads compared to other leading platforms. But while you may have an excellent chance of success with Twitter, your ads need to be catchy enough to stop someone mid-scroll. Some ads you can include in your Twitter campaigns are:
Regular and promoted tweets have only one difference. Regular tweets are free while you pay to promote tweets that’ll appear in your ideal audience’s feeds. This allows your business to convert users, or gain new followers. That can help build your brand’s awareness.
Twitter moments are several tweets that focus on a specific topic or event. Essentially, you want this collection of tweets to communicate a story to your audience. Moments include categories such as trending, sports, entertainment, and more. These are great for fun or trendy topics.
If you love seeing what’s trending on Twitter, you may want to experiment with promoting a trend for your target audience to interact with. This trend will be displayed in the timeline, the explore tab, and the “Trends for You” section.
Once someone clicks the promoted trend, they’ll see various search results for the specific trend and your brand’s promoted Tweet. If your business has identified an engaged Twitter audience, promoted trends may be your goldmine.
YouTube is one part of the Google Display Network with over 2.4 billion monthly users. This high number of users suggests that including YouTube in your ad campaign strategy makes sense. If your business can create ads that’ll interest your audience and keep them from hitting “skip” you’re already winning.
Since many people opt to skip ads on YouTube, advertisers have the option of creating non-skippable ads. If you think your creative is captivating enough to resonate with your target audience, this option may work.
Ensure you measure the results from your non-skippable ads to get the best use of your budget. If the results aren’t in your favor, revert to a skippable ad.
Video Discovery Ads (Formerly Known as In-display Ads)
Discovery ads are what users see in the search results. As the second largest search engine, people watch over 1 billion hours of YouTube videos daily. You’ll want those ads appearing in search results too.
These ads will include a thumbnail and a few lines of text as a description. Since many people prefer visuals over text, this is an opportunity to get your audience to view your video instead of reading a competitor’s text resource.
Start Your PPC Campaign Today
PPC management is all about researching, budgeting, testing, reporting, repeating what works, and ditching what produces no or less ROI. You don’t have to do it alone. With the right tools and instructions outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to implement a PPC campaign that yields results for your business.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.