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A beginners guide to PPC search advertising

Man searching with Google

What are search ads?

In their simplest form, search ads are the results in search engines that are promoting a product or service based on what you’ve searched. However, below the surface, there are much more complicated forces at play!

When we dig a little deeper, we can see a battle between man and machine, David vs Goliath, Luke vs Anakin. The power that is search engine owners are already on a track that will never be derailed. With only expert PPC guru’s to control the marketing budget of millions of businesses and prevent the machines from full automation! How do us mere mortals do this I hear you ask? Keep reading and the path shall be laid before you.

Let us start with pay-per-click (PPC). All adverts are shown when specific ‘keywords’ are typed into search engines. These adverts are then placed into a silent auction where the business who is willing to pay the most for that keyword would normally come out on top. If a user then ‘clicks’ on that advert, that business is charged for that click.

Which keywords should you be picking?

There are many keywords that you’ll likely want to pick, and depending on how much budget you have available to you to run these ads, you may be lucky enough to bid on everything! Or you may want to be more select in the keywords you’re picking to maximise your return on investment. When we think about keywords for Search Ads, we often first think about ‘intent’.

Understanding user intent is the first step in ensuring we’re never wasting budget on terms that may never make money (unless brand consideration or awareness is your objective). An example you may use is searching for a brand, or searching for a specific product sold by that brand:

Broad, low intent: Types of whiskey

Specific, high intent: Single malt scotch whiskey 12 years

Using the above example, we can maybe see here that showing an advert for the more specific, high intent search term (keyword) is likely to yield you an actual sale in your whiskey shop. But the more broad, low intent term is much less likely. High intent terms do tend to be more expensive to bid on, but that’s because they have proven to return better results.

Search Volumes

So we understand now, based on user intent what strategy we may be focused on. So let us now look at search volumes. We can understand search volumes based on historical data using keyword planners. Keyword planners will also give us an understanding of competition, cost-per-click (CPC) and monthly trends.

Broad, low intent keywords tend to have a much larger search volume. Whereas people tend to search for specific, high intent keywords much less frequently.

Types Of Keyword

Man Planning and Researching

Do we want to spend a lot of time working out every single keyword? Possibly, if we want to only use a specific set of keywords. But we should also consider how we can capture more keywords without limiting who is searching for them. So how do we do that? There are types of ‘modifiers’ we can use to help us capture a wider audience whilst limiting variations of keywords. What are these?

Broad Match: No control over who sees the keyword, all variations, lengths and synonyms. Used to explore lots more keywords that maybe you hadn’t thought of.
Example: ‘Women’s hats’ can return: ‘ladies hats’, ‘buy ladies hats’, ‘ladies cycle helmets’

[Exact]: Can only contain the exact keyword or close variant in the order it’s listed. This can include abbreviations, misspellings and plural versions.
Example: [womens hats] can return: ‘womens hats’, ‘hats for women’, or ‘woman hats’

“Phrase Match”:  Can include any variation of the meaning of the keyword.
Example: “car servicing near me” can return: ‘Car service garages’, or  ‘garages that service cars’.

Negative Keywords

There may be occasions when you want your keywords to not show with certain variations. Adding negative keywords are as important as adding regular keywords.

 It’s important that you think about what negative keywords you want to add before starting any new campaigns, but you may also want to keep a close eye on terms that users may be searching for that you haven’t thought about that may be affecting your conversion rates.

Here are some examples of when you might want to use negative keywords:

Competitors: You’re an ecommerce website owner selling tins of paint in any colour imaginable. You want all the search terms related to colour without having to list every colour under the sun as a keyword. You want to stop people searching for competitor brands seeing your ads.

Irrelevant Products: You’re an ecommerce website owner selling tins of pain in any colour except white. It may be a lot easier to use ‘white’ as a negative keyword rather than listing every colour you do sell as a regular keyword.

Quality Score

Quality score.. What is this? This is the measurement search engines use to determine relevance of your ad copy and landing page are to the keyword searched. Imagine searching one thing, ads for something else appearing and the landing page is different again.

Quality score is a reward or a punishment for ensuring that you stay relevant. With rewards being as much as 50% off your CPC’s, and punishments being up to a 400% increase in your CPC’s.

Search engines don’t tell us exactly what is required to get a 10/10 quality score, but here are some best practices to keeping relevancy high:

1 – Spread categories of keywords into ad groups that can have their own copy.

Example: Campaign: Paint. Ad Group 1: Gloss. Ad Group 2: Matt 

2 – Have a specific landing page for each keyword category.

3 – Make sure ad copy is completely utilised to ensure keywords are in headlines and descriptions. Also try to add your business USP’s and trust factors to increase click-through-rate.

Landing Pages

Landing pages are the pages that you direct users to when they click on your ads.

These pages need to be relevant to the keywords you’re going to be targeting. For example, if your keywords are ‘flat roofing’, ‘replacement tiled roofing’ and ‘roof insulation’ then you would want a dedicated landing page for each of these products rather than a single page covering all three.

Landing pages should have clear, relevant content on them that explains the product. It should also be accompanied by clear call to actions and trust elements such as reviews, testimonials and multiple ways to contact.

It is worth mentioning here that creating new landing pages for keywords that may look similar are a great way to keep CPC’s low, and improve on quality score. For example, ‘replacement tiled roofing’ and ‘quote for replacing roof tiles’. Content on these pages can be similar, but should be made more around getting a quote and fitting rather than general information on the product.

Account Structure

It’s now time to start thinking about how we structure the ads account. We have our keywords and landing pages ready. So what makes a good account structure so important?

You can manage budget at campaign level

  1. It is likely that the campaigns that are providing you with the most sales, leads or other objectives you’ll want to keep investing into.
  2. You don’t want higher costing products or services absorbing money away from those that are cheaper with a higher yield.
  3. You may want to invest more into products you’re specifically trying to push.

Locations controlled at campaign level

  1. If you’re running multiple showrooms, field sales teams or retail outlets, you may want to have campaigns that are only shown in set locations.
  2. What if you’re introducing a new product and want to test campaign performance before showing spending money on the full search volume.

Keywords match ad copy

  1. Relevancy. If you have a multitude of keywords in a single campaign or a single ad group, you lose the control over which ad copy is shown.

So what does a good account structure look like? As a starting point, we want to be breaking down the account to what may look something like this:

Ad Account

Ad Copy

As we’ve somewhat covered in the previous points, ad copy has to be relevant to the keyword the user has searched. But we don’t want it to all be about the keyword, we also want the copy to be eye capturing, clickable and informative.

That sounds great, but the problem is that though we can write the copy ourselves, and say pretty much anything we want, we are limited on space!

Here’s what we’re working with:

Headline 1, 2 & 3:  30 characters long each. Best to have a mixture of keyword, brand, call to action, location, USP or offer.

Description 1 & 2: 90 characters long each. Maybe contain more information on the product or service, a little about the company, any other information such as ‘Don’t miss out on our excellent spring sale, with free next day delivery.’

Final URL: No limit on characters. This is the URL for the landing page.

URL paths 1 & 2: 15 characters long each, this will be seen on the ad as the destination URL instead of the longer URL you may put in as the final URL.

Here are some examples of ad copy by some popular brands:

Trainers Search Keyword

Volvo XC90 Search Keyword

Gaming Laptop Search Keyword

So, there you have it, your beginner’s guide to PPC advertising. It’s a LOT to take in, but search advertising could be an important channel to driving your digital success.

If you’re looking for some advice on getting started with search advertising, upUgo are here to help!

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