PPC or Pay Per Click campaigns are a sure fire way of attracting traffic to your website almost instantaneously without the rigors of an SEO campaign that is required to bring your site on top of the SERPs. The most important thing to be aware of when it comes to a PPC campaign is understanding the rules to play the Adwords game.
Google’s policy of serving relevant ads in response to user queries coupled with complex factors like quality score can make Adwords a minefield for a novice or intermediate level practitioner so much so that a lot of money is coughed up to elicit a poor ROI (Return on Investment) or not the best bang for your buck in layman terms.
If you are in a position where you have set up PPC campaigns and they are not doing well, then you could use the following guidelines to fine tune their performace to achieve optimum results. Let us get cracking.
1) Relooking at Opportunities:
There is a good chance that you would have done keyword research relevant to your industry before setting up your PPC campaigns. If you are finding that your campaigns are not doing well, then you will have to do a more indepth keyword research and dig deeper to find the “money keywords” – keywords that have decent amount of traffic (ideally 1000 searches per day or more) and less competition (50,000 and below).
If your site has been in existence for some time with Analytics installed, then your Analytics account will provide you a wealth of information. You can look at the keywords that are bringing in organic traffic and you can use these as the seed keywords for your keyword research and build on the opportunities presented in your domain of business.
2) Targeting and Relevancy:
These are the two mantras you have to keep in mind when setting up a new campaign or reorgainising an existing campaign. If you have a group of keywords that are well related to each other and can be grouped into a relevant ad group targeting an underlying theme, that is the first step of achieving relevancy.
The ad copy for that ad group must reflect the same idea as the keywords themselves. When writing the ad copy, make sure you include the representative keyword in the title and include it once in the two lines that make up the ad copy description.
Always your ad must show a clear benefit and it should have a clarion call to action. If you do not ask users to take action, they probably never would. Do not waste precious ad copy space by using words like Click here.
If you are stating in your ad that your blue widget would do something, then make sure that the landing page which that ad leads to dwells at length and explains clearly that benefit. Never mislead users by staing something in the ad and having a landing page that is totally different. If you get all the above correct, then you are well on your way to improving relevancy and targeting which plays a huge part in the optimisation of the quality score.
If your current PPC campaigns are not doing well, then you must ensure the relevancy of keywords in the ad group. For example, if you are a builder and you build both industrial and residential buildings, you must have two distinct ad groups, one each for Residential Buildings and Industrial Buildings. Though they are both buildings, they are distinct types of construction and you must differentiate between them.
Try reorganising your campaign at the granular level and accord each and every distinct keyword the respect and value it deserves. Avoid lumping unrelated keywords together. You can bet that these keywords will be rejuvenated and gain a fresh lease of life and start performing really well.
3) PPC Landing Page
You have improved the targeting and relevancy of your PPC campaigns. The next important criterion is the landing page for the ads that display triggered by the keywords in your campaigns that match the searches made by users on Google.
The landing page plays a very important role in determining the quality score, a mystery component that is evaluated by the Google algorithm. Human nature is such that when something is shrouded in secrecy, the human mind tries to analyse it to the maximum possible extent.
I like to keep things simple. In my opinion, I do not worry about the quality score excessively. All that you need to do is get the targeting and relevancy spot on and the landing page near perfect. The quality score takes care of itself.
Ensure that your landing page is in total sync with the keywords and the ads that lead a user to it. Your landing page must contain the representative keyword in its title tag, meta description and h1 tag to start with.
Your copy must also include variations of the representative keyword (in other words, the other keywords contained in your ad group targeting this specific landing page) when defining the benefits of your product or service.
Sell the benefits of your product/service and keep features to a minimum. If your product/service is solving a problem, then go ahead and lay it out for the whole world to see. Users are looking for solutions to problems. When a great solution is found, a user automatically ends up a buyer.
Have clear calls to action and embed them as anchor text on the landing page. By highlighting the call to action as a clickable link, you are getting the user to focus on the blue underlined text and at the same time, you are able to gain value in terms of improving quality score for your keyword phrase by making it part of the anchor text.
The common belief is to have a tight sales funnel. I myself do not like to divert a user’s attention much when she lands on a landing page. I tend to remove the global site template from landing pages. The reason is two fold. It is possible to accurately track the user’s path from the moment they land on the landing page. The second reason is to minimise the user distraction.
You are paying for every user that lands on your optimised landing page. You want to capture their focus and lead them on through the sales funnel and this is achieved by making them take action (in our case, click the link) and take them to buy your product or sign up for your newsletter or whatever it may be on the following goal page.
Again, if you are getting a user to fill a form, please do not make the user sweat it out. Have a form with just 3 or 4 fields where you capture their name, email address, phone number and comments. Then call them or email them to prove you are a human operating a business and take your sales process to the next level.
If you sell products and have a shopping cart, please make it a simple and intuitive process for the user to go through the sales cycle. Have a clear call to action with a button saying Add to Cart or Buy Blue Widget. Do not make the user jump through too many hoops that would result in frustration and make her leave your site.
4) Analyzing Results:
Once you have reorganised your PPC campaign, it is vital to have an eye on the results as much as you can. If it is an existing campaign, you should get a clear sign of the trends in a week or so. If it is a brand new campaign, it will take atleast 3 months to get a clear picture.
Just as in real life, even your keywords are all not created the same. You will find a few keywords that are foot soldiers. They will bring in good load of visitors but not necessarily convert. You are going to have a few lynchpin keywords (royalty kind) which can convert like crazy. These are the superstars.
You will find dummies that just do not fire up.
If you find that certain keywords are not recording any clicks over 3 months, then there are two ways to look at it. Maybe they need to be checked for better targeting and relevancy. Else, there is no demand in the market for the product or service that the keywords in question represent.
Group them into a distinct ad group and see if they fire up. Wait for another couple of months. If nothing happens, pause them. Please do not delete them. You can read my earlier post titled Taking On An Existing PPC Campaign – Things To Be Aware Of  explaining the PPC account history.
5) Cutting down Costs:
This is not directly connected to the optimization of a PPC campaign but it is handy if you are not loaded with money. Adwords is Google’s revenue generating flagship. Click costs are only going up everyday. There is no way the CPCs (cost per click) are going to tank in future like the stock market. The best thing you can do is run your campaigns on Adwords for atleast 3 months.
You can easily pick out the winners at the expense of paying a “good” price as CPC even after using the above techniques for optimizing your PPC campaigns. After 3 months, start advertising on Yahoo Search Marketing and MSN Adcenter with the winning keywords. You are going to pay less than what you would pay on Adwords.
If you are happy with the response from these two big networks, you can either switch off the Adwords campaigns and concentrate on improving your site’s position on the organic SERPs. You can also have the luxury of paid traffic albeit at manageable budget levels.
Ravi Venkatesan (on Twitter ) is a senior SEO consultant at Netconcepts , an Auckland pay per click marketing company  offering both seo  and pay per click services to their customers in New Zealand and Australia.