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Written by Caroline Cox on Jan 14 , 2022

From getting started to optimizing and testing, these expert tips will ensure your e-commerce ads are set up to stand out. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to create a proper e-commerce PPC marketing foundation
  • Ways to optimize, organize, and test your PPC campaigns
  • How to grow your success beyond Google Shopping campaigns
  • SEM tricks to create successful ads that convert

E-commerce spending broke holiday records in 2021, with U.S. consumers spending a record $204.5 billion online.

But surprisingly, just 17% of brands say they’re ahead of the curve or leading in the e-commerce space in their industry. 

What that tells us is that there’s a wealth of opportunity for your e-commerce company to rise above the ranks. One of the most effective ways to do just that: paid search (also called pay-per-click or PPC) campaigns.

Whether you’ve been doing e-commerce for years or have recently switched to a digital platform amid the pandemic, it’s always good to know what elements make up a successful search engine marketing (SEM) ad. 

Traditional search campaigns are powered by keywords. But with e-commerce ads, it’s all about the product feed.

Wondering how to get started with e-commerce campaigns? You’ve come to the right place. Let’s break down what steps to take when creating paid search ads for your e-commerce brand.

hawksem article: e-commerce ppc

How you get your products into GMC to create the feed mostly depends on how many products you have. (Image via Rawpixel)

1. Set up your Google Merchant Center account properly

It should come as no surprise that the right setup is key to creating successful e-commerce ads. But plenty of companies, whether they realize it or not, don’t have their accounts set up properly. 

This can lead to improper tracking and unnecessary steps. So, how do you ensure you’re starting off on the right foot?

Link your account via a shared email address

To begin, you need to create a free Google Merchant Center (GMC) account. It’s best to use the same email you use for programs like Google Ads and Google Analytics. That way, your accounts will all be linked together. 

From there, you can link your Google Ads account to GMC. It’s also a good idea to install “Ecommerce tracking” in your Google Analytics account for even more insight into performance metrics.

Choose a product data input method

Next, it’s time to get your products into the Google Merchant Center. A few things to consider when determining how to get your product data into GMC are:

  • Which e-commerce platform will you be leveraging?
  • How many products will you be uploading?
  • How many product variations with individual SKUs will you be uploading?
  • Do you have all the product details organized?

How you get your products into GMC to create the feed mostly depends on how many products you have. If you have a lot of products and are using a popular e-commerce platform such as Shopify or BigCommerce, you should be able to easily integrate this with GMC. 

This will help you map your product feed and submit the most updated info to GMC on a regular basis, ensuring your product data is always fresh. 

If you’ve got a smaller number of products, you can simply integrate manually via a Google spreadsheet. You can also manually add products one by one if you want to test out the platform first. 

Pro tip: If your product list is especially large, Google’s new file processor Centimani might be a great solution for you.

Optimize your Merchant Center settings

There are a lot of things in GMC settings that often get overlooked. One is enabling automatic updates. 

Google will crawl your page and find your most updated price and availability if you opt in to get automatic improvements. 

This is great if, for example, you run out of stock on a product, because it keeps you from running Google Ads to a page where your products aren’t available. However, if you have your site structured in a way that keeps Google from understanding your pricing, it’s probably best to turn off the automatic price updates.

Once you have everything in GMC, you’ll connect to your Google Ads account. In April 2020, Google announced that they’d run free listings on Google Shopping. This Shopping section is a lot like Amazon in that you can filter by things like price.

This means it’s more important than ever to get your GMC created with your products and prices because you’ll start getting an organic lift from being on the Shopping tab for free. This can be especially helpful for local SEO.

Pro tip: Even if your business doesn’t have the budget for new campaigns, we still recommend going into GMC and setting up a feed, because you’ll be eligible for free listings in the U.S. 

2. Stay on top of your product feed

Once your GMC account is set up, don’t fall into a set-it-and-forget-it mindset. 

Making sure your product feed is updated is just as crucial as proper setup. (The last thing you want is to have someone click on your ad and see that the item is out of stock or priced higher than advertised, right?)

Once you input products, they’ll remain active for 30 days. After that, those products will expire if you don’t update their info, meaning they won’t be eligible to show potential customers. 

You can update your products either by reprocessing your feed or setting up automatic processing on a daily or weekly basis, depending on how often your product inventory changes.

It’s also important to keep your prices updated. A 2021 GMC update increased the scrutiny on prices. Prices listed in your product data, on your landing pages, and at checkout must match. They’ll give you 28 days to resolve the mismatch before suspending your account.

hawksem: e-commerce PPC blog

Including prices in your ads can be a highly effective way to get more clicks than your competition. (Image via Rawpixel)

3. Set up your e-commerce ads campaign

It’s pretty easy to get started once you have GMC linked. It’s usually a good idea to start with a standard Shopping campaign. 

Smart Shopping is usually best fueled by having a solid foundation of account data. If you’re just getting started, you may want to run a manual cost-per-click (CPC) campaign first, then experiment with Smart Shopping or automated bidding down the road.

Get granular

The #1 way to set yourself up for campaign success is to get granular. That’s because the more specific a product search is, the higher the purchase intent is likely to be.

The more you segment out your products, the more targeted your PPC ads will be. It makes sense: someone searching for a specific brand, style, color, and size of running shoe is probably more motivated to buy than someone just searching with the term “running shoe.”

You can split products into separate campaigns and ad groups that can then be split further into product groups. If you have a small, manageable number of products, you can break everything out by single-product product groups.

An example: Let’s say your core products are sporting goods, but you also sell apparel as 20% of your business. It may be wise to put all of your apparel into a separate campaign to make sure you’re giving most of your budget to your core products. 

You can also divide in other ways, like by devices. Simply put a -100% bid adjustment to separate desktop and mobile. For your desktop campaign, you’d put in a -100% bid adjustment on mobile to show only on desktop, and vice versa.

You can separate out traffic based on how specific the search is by setting up campaign priorities and then using negative keywords to separate those searches. Google’s 2021 GMC updates include additional sizing attributes which may be helpful as well.

Pro tip: Google Shopping is unique in that it has a priority system — you can set low, medium, and high priority campaigns. If you have several Shopping campaigns, this system dictates which ones serve an ad first.

Include prices in your ads

Your GMC account isn’t the only place you want to make sure your prices are visible. Including prices in your ads can be a highly effective way to get more clicks than your competition. Not only can this help qualify your traffic to ensure you get the right clicks, but it doesn’t take up a ton of valuable ad real estate.

As HubSpot explains, “This saves your ad spend for those qualified leads who saw your prices, know what to expect, might not be scared away by price, and are much more likely to convert into a sale.” 

Even if they don’t end up buying your product or service, you’ll have a higher chance of snagging them through remarketing, since they already know what your pricing looks like.

Google recently added a “Deals” feed to the SERP page. When you’re running a promotion, sale, or have products with a recent price drop, consumers searching for deal- or sales-related listings will see your products. 

A look at how GMC has recently started reporting free clicks

A look at how GMC reports free clicks (via Google Merchant Center)

Remember to optimize

Without optimizing, your PPC campaign can only go so far. Optimizing will help you better manage your budget by putting more spend where you’re seeing more success. 

There are two major KPIs to consider when optimizing a Shopping campaign. If you’re on a manual bidding strategy, pay attention to conversion volume and the result of conversion value over cost. That will calculate a rough idea of your return on ad spend (ROAS).

Many e-commerce companies optimize their bids by starting low, then adjusting accordingly. The more data you gather, the more informed your decisions will be. 

After you’ve accrued some data, you can decrease bids on anything under your goal or average. You can also increase bids on items that are producing the most conversion value when compared to ad spend.

With Shopping, you can’t run a traditional experiment within Google Ads, but you can switch over for a time period and compare after a while. Automatic bidding strategies are powered by data, so the longer you run them, the better they should get. 

If you’re going to try Smart Shopping, it’s a good idea to pick a mix of high and low performers, then exclude those from your regular Shopping campaign. Don’t simply pick all your low performers from your regular Shopping campaign and put them in Smart Shopping. You want a mix to ensure you’re getting accurate results.

Other ways to optimize include:

  • Experiment with different ad types (like product listing ads vs. text ads)
  • Leverage ad extensions to give ads more context
  • Add pricing to ads for a competitive edge
  • Test different campaign structures and categories

Pro tip: We don’t recommend running the same products in your traditional and Smart Shopping campaigns. If you do, Smart Shopping will automatically take precedence.

A remarketing email from Uncommon Goods triggered by cart abandonment.

A remarketing email from Uncommon Goods triggered by cart abandonment.

Leverage dynamic remarketing

Ah, yes, remarketing – otherwise known as “those ads that follow you around the internet,” as your friends or family may describe them. But the fact remains that remarketing works, particularly for cart abandoners.

If you’re running Google Ads, you’re already paying for people to get to your website. But, as consumers ourselves, we know not everyone buys the first time they visit a site or product page. That’s where dynamic remarketing comes in.

While remarketing (also called retargeting) can be effective in various industries, it’s particularly useful for e-commerce ads. It can help you land more recurring sales, increase your campaign’s clickthrough rate (CTR), boost your ROI, and more. 

Dynamic remarketing is a great way to nurture your funnel. At its core, this method aims to show users specific products they’ve viewed on your site. If they look at running shoes, you then show them that exact pair of shoes as a Shopping ad while they browse other sites on the web. 

To set up dynamic remarketing, you generally have to add a bit of code to your site. This is powered by your GMC feed, so you have to make sure your account is set up and working if you want it to be successful.

A lot of people put things in their carts while shopping online, then don’t end up following through with the purchase. You can remarket these products to cart abandoners and, if you have the e-commerce settings set up correctly in Google Analytics, you should already have some audiences available.

For even more tips for achieving success with e-commerce search campaigns, check out our webinar recording, Getting Started with E-Commerce Search Ads.

two woman looking at e-commerce site on laptop

Google will allow your products to remain active for 30 days without new product info. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Test your ads consistently

If you want high-performing e-commerce ads, testing repeatedly is an important step.

You can A/B test elements like your imagery, verbiage, call to action (CTA), and more. After all, what works on your paid social media campaign might be a flop when it comes to SEM. See how a flat-lay image of an item on a white background performs against an image of a real-life scenario. 

You may think you know what your target audience wants, but the results could end up surprising you.

Looking for more help with your e-commerce ads? You’ve come to the right place. 

5. Think beyond Google

It makes sense that, when you think of paid search e-commerce ads, you automatically think of Google. And while it’s holding strong in its place as the top global search engine, it’s not the only one worth looking into. If you’re seeing success in Google and topping your impression share, why stop there?

You can easily carry your Shopping campaigns over to Bing, now rebranded to Microsoft Advertising. Along with the Bing search engine, this suite includes Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, and other sites. 

Bing has a user base that searches nearly 6 billion times a month in total. Depending on your e-commerce product, you could see less competition on Bing than on Google, and a potentially cheaper cost per click (CPC).

If you already have a Microsoft Ads account, it’s easy to get a merchant center account set up right from the ad platform. Microsoft will process this data just like Google. Once it reviews the product data, you can create a Shopping campaign within Microsoft or import a Shopping campaign from Google that’s already working well.

In Microsoft Ads, you can even import on a recurring basis. If you set up a recurring sync, you can optimize in one place and make sure it’s carried over easily, instead of having to manually optimize within each platform. You can even optimize based on the different platform behaviors if that proves advantageous.

Pro tip: Think Amazon Advertising isn’t related to PPC? Think again. Amazon operates as a search engine in many ways, with ad types and structures similar to traditional paid search campaigns. 

The takeaway

No matter the size of your brand or number of competitors, you’ve still got to work to make your PPC ads stand out. E-commerce ads can help take your sales to the next level.

By making sure your Google Merchant Center account is set up properly, keeping product info fresh, experimenting to see what works well, and considering leveraging both Google and Microsoft, you’ll be set on the path to more sales and a strong digital marketing strategy that can help your company continue to thrive.

This article has been updated and was originally published in June 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Nov 19 , 2021

Is a competitor showing up for your company name on the SERP? Here’s what to do.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What happens when a competitor uses your name in a Google ad
  • Advice for dealing with competitors using your company name
  • What to know about competitors bidding on your brand name
  • Expert insights into bidding on other business names

Seeing your competitor’s name on the search engine results page (SERP) is never a great feeling. 

But an even worse feeling? When a rival brand shows up after someone searches for your brand’s name.

So, are companies allowed to use another company’s name in their paid search ads? What about as keywords for bidding? We answer these questions and more below.

Can a competitor use my brand name in their ad?

The rules around company names and trademarks can be confusing. Let’s break it down. 

The basic answer is: yes. In the late 2000s, Google lifted its restrictions that prevented brands from bidding on a competitor’s branded keyword.

That means brands can use your brand name in their Google ads, as long as the name isn’t trademarked and the way they’re using it can’t be deemed “deceptive.” (Deception tactics include things like the company impersonating your brand.)

If your company’s name is trademarked, that may be a different story. Often, bigger companies trademark their names. If this is the case, then they’re the exclusive owners. Per Google guidelines, no other brands can use that name in their ad copy. 

An exception to this rule is if the company using it is a legitimate reseller, such as Zappos creating an ad for Nike sneakers. 

Pro tip: Bing also allows competitors to bid on your brand name. Their policy states that “as an advertiser, you are responsible for ensuring that your keywords and ad content, including trademarks and logos, do not infringe or violate the intellectual property rights of others.”

competitor brand name bidding on the SERP

An example of what it looks like when one brand bids on another’s name. (via Google)

What are the rules about competitors bidding on my brand name?

Competitors can buy your brand name as a keyword, even if it’s trademarked. By using your brand name as a keyword, their ad could potentially show up on the SERP when someone is searching for your specific company. 

Unfortunately, you can’t do much of anything about the competitor using your brand name or trademarks as a keyword. 

However, there are things you can do to remain competitive. For starters, ensure you’re bidding on your own brand name. This way, competitors aren’t stealing any extra traffic that should be going to you. This also allows you to take up more real estate in the SERPs if you’re showing a paid ad and appearing in the organic results. 

If a competitor is bidding on your brand name and you aren’t? Then their ad will show above your organic result, which isn’t what you want. You can also bid on their brand name — more on that below.

Pro tip: If you have an existing amicable relationship with a competitor, consider contacting them for a truce and agree to not bid on each other’s terms. There’s no guarantee they’ll agree, but if you’re worried about your budget, it’s worth a shot!

Why would a competitor bid on my company’s brand name?

The main reason companies bid on another’s brand name is to try to steal traffic away from the competition. They want to target those who are looking for a product or service like theirs. 

This is especially the case in areas where the product or service is not as well known, so people aren’t searching for the services as much. This leaves few options for keywords, so brands bid on their competitors. 

brand name bidding

Before you get heated, it’s important to realize that they might not actually be bidding on your brand. (Image via Rawpixel)

How do I choose which competitor brand names to bid on, if any?

If you’re going to try bidding on a competitor’s name, we advise making sure you’re picking the right competitors to bid on (or that your agency has picked the right ones, if you’re not doing your own marketing). 

There’s not much point in bidding on brands that aren’t stealing business away from you, such as big-name brands with significantly more offerings. 

You’ll also want to tailor the ad copy to differentiate your brand from that particular competitor. One way to do this is by highlighting your unique selling propositions. For instance, if that particular competitor brand has a similar but more expensive product or service, highlight your brand as being the more affordable option.

Have more questions about paid search or Google Ads? You’ve come to the right place.

What if I think a competitor is bending or breaking the rules around using my brand name?

Before you get heated, it’s important to realize that they might not actually be bidding on your brand. If your brand is “Sunrise Senior Living,” for example, the company could simply be bidding on “senior living.” That’s what will match in Google’s algorithm — not necessarily the “Sunrise” part. 

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do unless they’re using your trademarked term in their ad copy. If they are, you can submit a trademark complaint to Google

Aside from deciding to bid on their brand in return, another way to fight back would be to conduct keyword research (using tools like SpyFu or SEMrush) on what other keywords they’re using for search marketing efforts. 

In extreme cases, you could consider sending the company a cease and desist letter, though this will likely come at a cost and not guarantee the outcome you want.

semrush pricing SERP

just because a competitor is bidding on certain keywords, that doesn’t mean they’re the “right” keywords. (Image via Google)

Should I bid on my competitor’s brand name?

There’s no hard-and-fast answer to this. However, experience tells us that bidding on a competitor’s brand name shouldn’t be a top priority in your paid search strategy. 

If you have other keywords that are working well, it’s a better use of your ad spend to allocate your marketing budget toward those. 

If you have an excess budget, then you could try bidding on their brand as a keyword. We don’t suggest using another brand in your ad copy.

How can I use competitors bidding on my brand to my advantage?

If your products or services are similar enough, this could give you ideas for things to try on your own search marketing efforts. 

It’s also worth noting that, just because a competitor is bidding on certain keywords, that doesn’t mean they’re the “right” keywords. If a keyword doesn’t seem right to bid on for your business, don’t do it! (And maybe even add them to your campaign as negative keywords.) 

Consider reviewing their ad copy or strategy and taking inventory of what you uncover. How does yours compare? This is a great time to reflect on your own advertising efforts. 

Are you taking full advantage of Google’s ad offerings like ad extensions and sitelink extensions (if appropriate)? Ask yourself: If you were a consumer, would you click on your ad?

Pro tip: If you decide to bid on competitor terms, avoid using dynamic keyword insertion. This is a feature that involves the searched keyword auto-populating as an ad’s headline. This will cause your competitor’s name to show up in your ad. It could be deemed deceptive, even if it’s unintentional.

The takeaway

We find that, in general, bidding on your competitor’s brand is typically not a great idea. You could also get lower quality scores for those keywords. 

That’s because Google can see you’re not the brand whose name you’re bidding on. Plus, it’ll likely cost you more to bid on those branded keywords because the brand isn’t your own.

In the long run, it’ll be better for your marketing plan to focus on your unique products or services, make sure user experience is top-notch, and use ads to highlight your selling propositions that make you stand out.

This article has been updated and was originally published in December 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Oct 27 , 2021

Managing your PPC campaign shouldn’t be what frightens you most this Halloween. Make sure these mistakes don’t come back to haunt you.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Common PPC problems even seasoned marketers run into
  • Actionable solutions to help you avoid these problems
  • Pro tips to boost your PPC campaign
  • Best practices to help you stick to your budget

Ghouls, monsters, zombies, and underperforming pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns — all pretty scary, right?

When it comes to paid search, it can be easy to spend your whole budget and still see underwhelming results. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Running a PPC campaign is like getting your first credit card. If used wisely, you’ll spend some money now and be rewarded for your good decisions later. 

But if you’re not especially thoughtful about your spending? You could be out of funds before you know it. 

While we can’t speak to your credit score, we can help you learn from the PPC mistakes of others without having to make these missteps yourself.

We’ve highlighted some common PPC problems, complete with solutions to help turn things around. Just beware: there’s spooky stuff ahead. 

three carved jack o lanterns

Don’t let Google’s reputation trick you into missing out on a great opportunity. (Image via Unsplash)

Problem #1: You don’t have a concise goal and strategy

You started a PPC campaign without a clear goal in mind. Without a specific target or timeframe, it’s difficult to track your progress or know how to measure success.

End goals are so important that Microsoft Advertising bases your campaign plan and recommendations on your goal. Plus, not having a goal can potentially make any strategy seem like it’s moving in the right direction.

Solution: Once you define your goal, you can create a plan for how to reach it. Define your audience as specifically as you can. Once you know your audience and strategy, you can choose better keywords and create stellar ad copy that gets your target audience to click. 

Problem #2: You’re not leveraging PPC beyond Google

Plenty of marketers get trapped in a Google-only mindset. But, as we’ve said before, Microsoft Advertising is a viable option for plenty of industries. 

Solution: Ads on Bing (Microsoft’s search engine) also run on the Yahoo! and AOL search networks. They have exclusive access to 66 million searchers who opt for the Microsoft search engine over Google, and over a third of their users are in the top quarter of earners. 

Don’t let Google’s reputation trick you into missing out on a great opportunity. Microsoft Advertising has a display network called the Audience Network that can be leveraged as well.

Problem #3: You’re not using negative keywords

You already know how essential keywords are in a campaign, but there are a few other things you need to be aware of to better make use of keywords.

One of the PPC problems many companies fall for is failing to use negative keywords in their strategy. 

Solution: Negative keywords are terms that you can use to tell Google which search terms you don’t want to show up in the results for. 

For example, if you’re selling luxury bedding, and “bedsheets” is your keyword, you wouldn’t want to appear in a search query like “what to do with old bedsheets?” Using negative keywords can help improve the relevancy of your ads and make sure the right people are seeing them.

Pro tip: Relatedly, don’t neglect your own branded keywords. Some companies will bid on the competition’s keywords to siphon off buyers looking for their brand. If your competition is bidding on your keywords and you aren’t, that could cost you.

Problem #4: You’re not taking advantage of available resources

Paid search platforms often have various features and tools to make managing your account easier. The trick is knowing what they are. 

Solution: Google has ad scripts that help you automate many important but tedious tasks. They can analyze your ads, send budget alerts, and assist with bid management.

Google also allows you to schedule your ads to run during certain times of the day. There are often windows of heightened conversion when your target audience will be most likely to see your ads. 

Ad extensions are another great resource. You can spotlight prices, location, site link, or features. They make the ads larger and more engaging. Ad extensions are free and can do wonders for your clickthrough rate (CTR). 

Problem #5: You don’t have a consistent message

Throughout all the content you create (including ads and landing pages), your tone, message, and branding should be consistent. If people get different messages from your ads and landing pages, they may end up confused about who you are and what you offer. 

Do your keywords match what you’re selling? Do they match the keywords on your landing page? If not, visitors may be unsure about whether your business is what they’re looking for and bounce from your page.

Solution: To avoid PPC problems like this, it’s wise to repeat your ad copy on your landing page to keep visitors on track. 

Other best practices include having a similar design across all of your platforms and offerings, and keeping the tone and voice consistent throughout.

skeletons and neon lights

Leveraging tools to make your job easier is a win, but they work best when paired with a hands-on approach — no bones about it. (Image via Unsplash)

Need more help with your PPC? That’s why we’re here.

Problem #6: You’re driving traffic, but not conversions

You’ve decided on the copy, finalized the design, organized your campaigns, and launched your ads. Now, you’re seeing traffic numbers go up — that’s great! But conversions are another story.

Traffic is one thing, but if you’re not getting conversions, something is amiss. So, what gives? It may be a matter of where you’re sending that traffic on your site.

Solution: Create optimized landing pages. If your ads send leads to your homepage, you’re not making the best use of your traffic. As we’ve said before, quality traffic can lead to more conversions, sales, and a better-performing digital marketing strategy. 

When people click your ads and land on your homepage, it’s not always clear where they should go or what they should do next.

By sending this traffic to optimized landing pages instead, you can deliver a minimalist visual experience with a clear message that makes it easy for your leads to know exactly what action they should take. You can even tailor these various landing pages to different audience segments and speak directly to them.

Use specific language about the next step a visitor to your site should take — aka the call to action (CTA). The CTA could ask them to do something like sign up for your email list, schedule a consultation, fill out a form, or give you a call.

Problem #7: Your leads aren’t qualified

Sure, it’s great to have a large influx of leads coming your way. But if the bulk of your leads aren’t qualified, you’re using up time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. 

By not taking advantage of all of the keyword and targeting strategies at your disposal (like using too many overly broad keywords and not leveraging negative keywords), you risk running into PPC problems like having a high volume of leads that don’t actually translate into sales.

Solution: It may be time to look into the audiences you’re currently targeting. Where are they in your buyer’s journey?

By targeting your prospects who are further down the funnel and closer to the decision-making stage, you can create hyper-focused campaigns that’ll increase your odds of converting them.

It’s important not to focus solely on bottom-of-funnel prospects though. Every stage of the funnel will have different ideal tactics and serve a different purpose in the customer journey. It’s vital not to laser-focus on one stage at the detriment of all others.

Also, look into single keyword ad groups (SKAGs). Experts define SKAGs as ad groups designed with a one-to-one relationship between the root keyword and the ad. These groups can include multiple variations and long-tail keywords. 

By creating ads that match your keywords closely, you can pull more detailed reports and become that much more likely to attract qualified leads. 

Problem #8: Your PPC program relies too heavily on automation

Automated marketing can be great for time-saving and repetitive manual tasks. But being too hands-off with your PPC program can have drawbacks.

This can result in underperformance and a lack of understanding about what’s going right and what needs attention. When you opt for the “set it and forget it” model, you risk wasted ad spend and losing control of the whole operation.

Solution: At its core, marketing is about connecting with people. Because of this, it’s essential that you keep the human element at the center of any marketing strategy or initiative if you want to see long-term success.

Once your PPC campaign is up and running, you may be tempted to leave it alone, sit back, and let it do its job for a while. But the truth is, it’s a good idea to monitor its performance as often as possible. 

You’re paying for the ad daily, after all, so you want to make sure you’re spending your ad budget wisely.

Leveraging tools to make your job easier is a win, but they work best when paired with a hands-on approach — no bones about it. This means taking the time to understand your audience (in a way no algorithm can), revisiting your goals, and iterating when necessary. 

By continuing to test, track, and reconfigure your PPC program, you’ll land on the combination that works best for your company — with or without automation.

Pro tip: Split testing is a great way to see which campaigns and changes are more effective instead of running a bunch of ads without proper analysis, never knowing which one is more effective.

Problem #9: You’re not sticking to your budget

Another one of the PPC problems we often see is how easy it can be to go through your allotted budget in a snap. If your campaigns are bringing you a high volume of leads without resulting in substantial returns on investment (ROI), then there’s work to be done.

But, wait! Don’t throw more money into Google Ads to try to boost profits and fix your wasted ad spend issue just yet. You don’t necessarily need to modify your budget just because you’re consistently underspending and not hitting your goals. 

Solution: We’re all about money keywords — the keywords that bring you the most PPC ROI. By zooming in on the right data, you can get a better idea of your money keywords and the ones that can be scrapped.

First, check out your PPC performance over the last 3-4 months (as long as your current strategy has been in place at least that long).

Go into your Google Ads account in the Keywords tab. Next, identify all the keywords that haven’t produced any conversions during those months (you can organize this info in a spreadsheet or PivotTable) and dump them. 

(It’s worth noting here that branded keywords are a different story, as these can help boost your quality score, even if they don’t result in conversions.)

It’s not all about clicks and traffic, both of which may decrease after you eliminate those keywords. Look at which ones are driving the best customer lifetime value (CLV), then put as much of your budget as you can towards your money keywords. 

Ads further down the page can still have great CTRs and conversion rates, and will end up costing you less in the long run. 

Pro tip: Not hitting your budget? Try increasing your cost-per-click (CPC) bid limit and expanding your audience location. By creating a simple budget tracker that includes your overall budget, average spend rates, and actual monthly spend rates, you can get a grasp on where you are and where you want to be. 

The takeaway

Your paid search strategy shouldn’t be a mystery, and it shouldn’t feel like you’re simply throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks.  

By identifying your PPC problems and arming yourself with the right information and solutions, you can turn a broken program into a high-performing strategy that yields big results and impressive ROI. 

Get solutions to even more PPC problems here: Our Ultimate Guide to Problem-Solving for Your PPC Program and Getting the ROI You Deserve.

This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2019.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Oct 6 , 2021

When it comes to measuring the success of your pay-per-click (PPC) program, these are the top metrics to monitor. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • Ways to determine your specific PPC goals
  • How your goals relate to your KPIs
  • Tips for evaluating your business’s definition of success
  • Common KPIs used to measure PPC campaigns

Are you measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) for your marketing campaigns? 

If you’re unsure how your campaigns are really performing or you’re struggling to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns, it may be time to revisit your KPIs.

KPIs give your business an effective, measurable way to track your campaigns’ progress and performance. In the case of a PPC campaign, you want to be sure that you’re seeing a reasonable return on your overall investment. 

By establishing PPC KPIs, you can create goals in Google Analytics that connect with your Google Ads. This way, you’ll have visibility into campaign performance and can begin sourcing accurate data right from the start. 

If you haven’t yet determined what you’re trying to accomplish with your campaign, here are some factors to consider.

hawksem blog: PPC KPIs

When you’re first deciding on goals, consider your past marketing successes as well as what you want this specific campaign to accomplish. (Image via Unsplash)

What is your PPC campaign trying to accomplish?

Typically, the goal of a PPC campaign is to raise awareness of your brand and to encourage customers to click through the ad to your website over your competitors’. 

Your PPC campaign may focus on a specific stage of the buyer’s journey or encompass specific keywords that are related to your product or service. 

When determining what KPIs to track, make sure you’ve clearly defined what you’re trying to accomplish with the campaign. 

For example, if you’re creating a top-of-funnel campaign to raise brand awareness or spread information about a new product or solution, you may want to focus on direct clicks more than conversions. 

What does “success” look like for your marketing program?

Every industry — and every brand within those industries — has a different measure of success. A brand that has a significant marketing budget, for example, may have higher goals and be willing to spend more on a campaign. 

If you sell high-dollar products or services or see a significant customer lifetime value (CLV), you may be able to spend more to acquire a single customer than if you’re a small business with relatively low-price items or a lower CLV.

When you’re first deciding on goals, consider your past marketing achievements as well as what you want this specific campaign to accomplish. 

Ideally, you want to boost ROI through new sales. But if your goals are more focused on raising brand awareness or bringing customers to your website, you may not see that kind of return in the early stages of your campaign. 

You also don’t have to start with your final goal, as Search Engine Journal explains. You can start by raising awareness or building your email list in the hopes that the end result over time will be more sales.  

Common KPIs to help track PPC campaigns

Looking at common PPC KPIs used to measure a campaign can give you a better idea of what to focus on when evaluating your campaign. 

There are some platform-specific KPIs, like followers on social media, then there are more general, universal ones. No matter what platform you’re on, you may want to consider:

Clickthrough rate (CTR)

CTR measures how many people clicked on your ad after seeing it. You can assess clickthrough rate by taking the total number of impressions (the number of times the ad was seen) and dividing it by the number of clicks it received. 

For a view to qualify as an impression, the consumer doesn’t have to take any action or interact with the ad. 

However, the clickthrough rate can give you a better idea about what percentage of people you can expect to click through an ad based on the number of times it’s been seen. 

Cost per click

The cost per click determines how much it costs you when someone clicks on your ad. In the competitive digital ad space, particularly when it comes to specific, high-volume keywords, you may pay more per click than you would in the case of lower-frequency keywords. 

However, those higher costs may be well worth it when you end up with a better overall return on your investment for critical keywords than you do for low-volume keywords. 

people in a meeting about ppc kpis

Keep a close eye on your conversion rate as you consider the performance of your campaign. (Image via Unsplash)

Cost per conversion

As customers click through your ad, some of them will explore your site, join your mailing list, or even make a purchase. How much does it cost to convert customers through those ads? 

Your cost per conversion will naturally be higher than your cost-per-click rate. 

Not every customer who clicks through your ad will choose to convert, whether that means joining your list or making a purchase from your business. 

Notice that your cost per conversion is higher on a specific type of campaign, or based on specific keywords? You may want to consider revisiting those keywords or the elements of your campaign. 

This way, you can potentially create a more effective campaign that has a higher return on your investment. 

Need more help getting your PPC program off the ground? Let’s make it happen.

Conversion rate

Not only do you want to know the cost per conversion, but it’s also important to know how many prospects actually convert. 

If you notice your conversion rate decreasing — that is, that people are clicking through the ad, but not choosing to make a purchase from your business or to sign up for your mailing list — consider why. 

Is your campaign focusing on the wrong keywords? Does your landing page fail to deliver the information customers need, or not provide them with an effective call to action? Keep a close eye on your conversion rate as you consider the performance of your campaign. 

Pro tip: Quality Score is another KPI worth looking into. While this score is determined by Google, it’s based on factors like your expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience. A higher quality score means you could rank higher while spending less. 

The takeaway

The last thing you want is to pour money into a PPC program without a clear goal in mind. 

Having key performance indicators helps you measure success and better pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in your campaigns.

By knowing what PPC KPIs are most important to your brand, you can build a solid plan to help ensure your goals are met.

This article has been updated and was originally published in July 2020.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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Written by Caroline Cox on Aug 20 , 2021

Get expert tips for creating successful healthcare PPC marketing campaigns in this highly regulated industry.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How healthcare marketers can leverage paid search
  • Regulations for healthcare-related ads
  • The latest data surrounding healthcare pay-per-click (PPC) ads
  • Tips for standing out from industry competition

Marketers experienced in the healthcare space know that it can be, in a word, finicky — even when there’s not a pandemic.

For that, you can thank Google’s core algorithm updates in recent years. At times, these updates have thrown the industry into near-chaos, with some sites losing nearly all of their traffic while others see huge growths. 

Because of this unpredictability, it makes sense that marketers would turn to healthcare PPC. Not only does paid search allow for audience targeting, but it can help you get to the top of the search engine results page (SERP) more quickly than relying on SEO and organic rankings alone. 

Google Trends shows health-related searches nearly doubled across the U.S. between December 2019 and March 2020 (we’re guessing COVID-19 had something to do with that). And back in 2020, NewsCred predicted that voice searches for healthcare topics would continue to rise as smart speakers enter more than half of U.S. homes by 2022.

Add to that the Moz data showing the #1 positioned organic search results are now further down the page than the worst-case scenario positioning in 2013, and it’s clear paid search can be more beneficial than ever.

For best practices when it comes to healthcare PPC, read on.

group of healthcare workers walking down a hallway

Read over the ad guidelines so you can make sure you’re not spending time on a campaign that’ll end up getting rejected or pulled. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Understand the healthcare paid search regulations

Because healthcare is such a highly regulated industry, it makes sense that paid search guidelines would be, too. Luckily, both Google and Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads) have published clear parameters when it comes to this kind of ad content.

For example, Google only allows pharmaceutical manufacturers to advertise in Canada, New Zealand, and the United States (over-the-counter meds have a much longer list). 

Additionally, they now prohibit pharmaceutical manufacturers from promoting prescription opioid painkillers or targeting locations where they aren’t licensed. You can use the handy drop-down menu to see which types of PPC ads are allowed in each country.

Google’s healthcare paid search ad policies include regulations related to:

  • Restricted drug terms
  • Unapproved substances
  • Unauthorized pharmacies
  • Speculative and experimental medical treatments
  • Clinical trial recruitment
  • Addiction services

It’s also good to be aware of Google’s “health in personalized advertising” limitation on personal health content. Even if you comply with its healthcare guidelines, Google can limit how often your ads appear based on what your company aims to treat. 

For example, an audiologist may be limited because Google considers hearing loss a chronic condition. 

2. Get familiar with LegitScript

Microsoft states that their policy on pharmaceutical products in particular “varies by market.” As such, those advertising drug or alcohol addiction services (rehab facilities, group therapy, and halfway houses, for example) must be certified by a company called LegitScript first.

LegitScript can take a while to get approved and should be done before the campaign is built out. This approval needs to be done if there’s any prescriptions on your site or addiction services. 

For example, any mention of Botox will cause your site to get flagged if you don’t have LegitScript approval, even if you aren’t targeting Botox in your keywords. This is common for businesses such as medical spas. 

Some industries have regulations about using words like “best” and “will” — think: copy such as “the best healthcare” and “we will cure your pain.” Google won’t necessarily flag this, but it could cause problems for the client. That’s why we say it’s best practice to avoid it. 

A Microsoft Advertising healthcare ad verbiage example

A Microsoft Advertising verbiage example

Microsoft’s healthcare paid search ad policies include regulations related to:

  • Invasive treatments and cosmetic surgery
  • Weight loss
  • Pharmacy and prescription-only medicine
  • Non-prescription medications and health supplements
  • Family planning

No matter which part of the healthcare umbrella your company falls under, it’s a good idea to read over these guidelines. This way, you can make sure you’re not spending time on a campaign that’ll end up getting rejected or pulled. 

Pro tip: Currently, Google classifies CBD under the “Unapproved pharmaceuticals and supplements” category. Thus, any mention of it on your site will get it flagged and/or disapproved. 

3. Be easily reachable

This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised to see how many companies (across multiple industries) make it difficult to get in touch with them. What’s a lead to do? In this case, they’ll likely keep scrolling to find a brand with a phone number, live chat, or address more readily available.

Setting up a call extension and location extension on your ad is a great first step. It’s also wise to include your contact info on each website page as well as your landing pages and even your social media profiles. This makes it easier for people to reach out to you quickly, no matter where they land. 

Pro tip: If one of your main goals is to drive people to your location, don’t forget about correctly setting up your Google My Business profile. This can help increase local customer engagement across Google Maps and searches. 

4. Focus on E-A-T

Yes, this is an SEO term. But the idea behind it can be quite beneficial when it comes to healthcare PPC as well. (If you’re not familiar, E-A-T stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.) 

E-A-T was first introduced in 2015 via a Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines document that explained how the search engine gauges website quality. It was brought up again in 2018 when these guidelines expanded to also include content authors. 

With the stiff competition — plus a focus on hard data and proven science — that comes with the healthcare industry, keeping E-A-T in mind when you’re creating ad copy and landing page content can be what sets your brand apart from the rest. 

5. Keep your message simple

Picture it: You’re frantically searching for the meaning of certain symptoms or the nearest urgent care facility. You’re probably not in the mood for quirky headlines or sensationalist claims.

The most effective healthcare paid search messaging is clear and direct. Your ad will have the best shot at cutting through the clutter by speaking your audience’s language and being concise about what you’re offering. Sometimes a simple question, such as “Looking for a speedy urgent care center in Atlanta?” is all it takes. 

Straightforward ad copy from Mommy’s Bliss, a company that sells wellness products for moms and babies

Straightforward ad copy from Mommy’s Bliss, a company that sells wellness products for moms and babies (via Google)

While ad copy should be simple, we suggest your landing pages be as thorough as possible. With landing pages, you’ve already cleared the hurdle of getting someone to click your ad. Now, you need to provide them with as much info as possible so they can feel confident and informed before moving forward and following your call to action (CTA).

Landing pages should be client focused and directly respond to what the person is trying to fix or research. 

Many healthcare providers want to direct to pages that are general or highlight a specific doctor or team to build trust. And, while it’s important to be reputable, advertising is meant to meet the needs of the customer — not the medical professional’s ego. 

Pro tip: Make sure to include an easy CTA on the landing page to generate leads. 

6. Be thoughtful about keywords

Keywords are one of the most important aspects of paid search campaigns. That’s why it’s key to build ads around the terms and phrases your prospects are using during their search. 

Depending on which part of the industry your company falls under, this could include things like:

  • The specific product or service you offer
  • The issue or condition your product or service addresses
  • Major symptoms that your product or service deals with
  • Your target audience
  • Company information (i.e. name, location, contact information)

If you go too generic with your keywords, you risk getting lost in the shuffle. Take things a step further by keeping in mind what questions prospects might be typing into search boxes, and what their concerns might be (such as cost or location). 

The more specific and targeted you can be within your budget, the better. You can even leverage negative keywords to keep unqualified clicks at bay. (Learn more about the ins and outs of keyword research here.)

7. Know how to speak to your audience

A successful ad will speak to the user, but not in a ‘buy now’ sense. A common misstep many brands are having to walk back now is talking in a “marketing voice.” 

Google may penalize sites that suggest users need to buy a certain product or claim that someone needs to call a company immediately if they’re showing certain signs. This, perhaps rightfully, forces marketers to think more like users. The result: brands with copy that includes actual facts — with the authority to back them up — are more likely to be the ones that see the most success.

Healthcare searches can potentially be a matter of life and death, but that doesn’t mean you should adopt a fear-based approach. Instead, consider things like question-based ad copy and even multimedia. 

healthcare working talking to a patient

Getting proper, accurate health information to people is arguably more important than ever. (Image via Rawpixel)

8. Don’t forget about mobile

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: not being mobile friendly can have serious adverse effects on your digital marketing program. Small Biz Trends reports that 60% of consumers interested in healthcare ads visit the company’s website, and 53% of searches come from smartphones.

You can check to see that all of your landing pages are rendering properly on mobile using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. You can even take things a step further by testing out mobile-specific ads and making mobile bid adjustments as needed. 

The takeaway

Yes, things like masks, hand-washing, and staying healthy are still top of mind for many of us. Because of that, getting proper, accurate health information to people is arguably more important than ever.  

There’s a huge opportunity for those in the industry when it comes to healthcare paid search. At its root, healthcare searches are about people and their families wanting to get well and stay well. It’s a topic that’s personal and important, no matter the demographic.

Being concise and direct with your ad copy will do wonders to help you cut through the clutter — and competition. As long as you’re thorough, honest, and follow the proper guidelines, you can be sure your healthcare PPC is slated to succeed.

Looking for more insight on creating strong healthcare paid search campaigns? We’d love to chat.

This post has been updated and was originally published in November 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jul 28 , 2021

Digital marketing can get you in front of potential customers — the right strategy can get them to convert.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How search results affect customer acquisition
  • Organic ways to acquire new leads
  • Effective paid marketing strategies
  • How to set your website up for optimal acquisition

Marketing pros who aren’t new to the game likely know all about the customer journey. It comprises the stages we base our content, campaigns, and plans on: awareness, consideration, and decision. (With delight as the bonus step.) And the customer journey is a crucial element when it comes to acquisition.

Customer acquisition is the process of converting a generated lead into a customer. It’s basically the whole funnel (or journey) combined. At the end of the day, marketing is about attracting new customers, and keeping customer acquisition top of mind is how marketers can make that happen.

While there’s no one way to pinpoint and acquire qualified leads that are sure to become customers, there are a handful of digital marketing strategies you can implement with customer acquisition in mind. Here, we’ve mapped out six of our favorites.

line of people outside from aerial view

Companies that use paid search for successful customer acquisition know it’s not only about the ad. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Paid search

Also known as pay per click (PPC), paid search is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies when it comes to customer acquisition. That’s because it allows companies to target their specific audience with the right keywords at the right time.

Paid search ads appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) on sites like Google and Bing. If someone’s searching for “women’s black cycling shoes,” for example, and you’re an e-commerce brand selling cycling products (including women’s black cycling shoes), you want your targeted ad to be the one they see. The same goes for brands selling other products and services.

The companies that use paid search for successful customer acquisition know it’s not only about the ad, though. Rather, it’s crucial to pair eye-catching, appealing ad copy with an optimized landing page that boasts consistent verbiage, clean design, and a clear call to action (CTA).

2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

Along with a paid search strategy, having a solid SEO strategy helps search engines more easily recognize your website. This helps improve your rankings and, ideally, grow your reach for better customer acquisition.

Proper SEO on your site means having elements including:

  • Unique title tags on your pages
  • High-quality content 
  • Internal links and external links (to authoritative sites)
  • A sitemap
  • Meta descriptions
  • Images with alt tags

Ensuring your site is optimized for search engines won’t guarantee that you’ll get in the first position (or even on the first page) of the SERPs. The search algorithm that determines the best content for each search query is constantly changing, and the details about how search engines determine the best content to show searchers isn’t always clear.

However, by keeping your site up to date, easy to navigate, and educational for prospects and clients, you can position your brand as a thought leader and your site as a valuable source of information.

3. Social media

When it comes to social media, you’ve got the option to leverage both organic and paid avenues. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that each path can be leveraged in the same way or achieve the same results.

Let’s start with organic social media. The practice of regularly creating social media posts can help spread the word about new business offerings or updates, increase your exposure, and even help you go viral (in a good way, ideally).

While organic social posts likely won’t directly result in customer acquisition, they can aid in brand awareness, content sharing, and allow you to highlight the fun side of your brand.

Paid social, on the other hand, can be a powerful tool if wielded properly. When choosing which platforms to advertise on, you should first consider your target audience and the platforms they use most.

From there, you can take advantage of the audience targeting tools most of these platforms have in place to get your content delivered straight to those who need to see it most. 

group of millennials on their laptops laughing

When done right, remarketing one of the best and most cost-effective ways to get past visitors back to your site. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Remarketing

As we’ve touched on before, remarketing can benefit your business in numerous ways. Not only does it keep you top of mind when someone takes an action like visiting your site, or requesting a consultation or demo, but it allows you to hyper-focus your ads and ups your chances of turning a lead into a conversion.

Remarketing (also called retargeting) works by leveraging display ads to connect your business with people who have already visited your site or mobile app. When done right, it’s one of the best and most cost-effective ways to get past visitors back to your site. 

Of course, the most successful retargeting campaigns aren’t one size fits all. A brand-new site visitor shouldn’t be remarketed the same way as a returning visitor. 

Data transparency changes and the eventual demise of third-party cookies are going to force some changes in digital marketing, particularly for remarketing ads. But there’s no need to panic: Marketers have adapted to massive changes for decades. And while more solutions will become apparent as the process unfolds, focusing on attracting new prospects is one way to keep your lead pipeline flowing.

Looking for more ways to increase your customer acquisition? Let’s talk.

5. Content marketing

When people hear the phrase “content marketing,” they may automatically think of blogs. And while blogging is a great medium for businesses when it comes to customer acquisition, content can encompass much more.

Examples of valuable content include:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos and webinars
  • Guides and e-books
  • Infographics
  • Checklists
  • Downloadable templates
  • Product descriptions
  • Case studies

No matter the content you create, you want to make sure it’s accurate, helpful, and targeted. The more deliverables you create, the more industry topics you can cover, and the more likely you are to be found in organic search results by those seeking what you have to offer.

Pro tip: You can take things a step further by partnering with another brand (with a similar audience but not a competitor) on something like an infographic, webinar, or guest blog. This expands your reach, helps build your professional network, and boosts your brand’s credibility.

two people meeting at a coffeeshop

Include social share links as well as forwarding options in your email newsletter to make sharing a breeze. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Email newsletters

Email newsletters can be a powerful acquisition channel if you follow a few key strategies. As Campaign Monitor reports, you’re six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than from a tweet. 

The most successful newsletters:

  • Include one main CTA
  • Offer a tactical takeaway (like a pro tip, discount, or statistic)
  • Feature an attention-grabbing subject line
  • Have an easy-to-read template
  • Are optimized for mobile

When you’re looking to build your non-client subscriber list, get creative! You can add exit-intent pop-ups to your site, or include a subscription box in your site’s footer. Offline, you can give people the option to sign up if your brand is posted up in a booth at an industry conference or networking event — a particularly effective strategy if it’s part of a giveaway or contest.

Pro tip: Let your readers help you spread the word! Include social share links as well as forwarding options in your email newsletter to make sharing a breeze. Due to the psychology of social proof, peer-recommended content is more likely to be trusted.

The takeaway

Customers are the bread and butter of any business, and digital marketing is one of the most direct ways to connect with your desired prospects.

By knowing your audience, meeting them where they are, and analyzing the data behind your campaigns, you’ll have the tools you need to not only attract more customers, but keep them loyal and happy as well.

This post has been updated and was originally published in December 2019.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on May 28 , 2021

It’s vital to spend your hard-earned digital marketing budget on channels that bring you the best ROI. That’s why knowing the latest Google Ads updates is key.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Reasons to invest in Google Ads
  • How the paid search platform works
  • The latest Google Ads updates
  • Expert tips for leveraging the platform successfully

The best place to launch your digital marketing efforts is where your campaign attracts a massive audience — no surprise there. And, according to a 2021 report, Google led the list of the most popular search engines, commanding more than 88% of the American market share. 

Paid advertisements often come hyperlinked at the top of search engine result pages (SERPs). Sure, you can work to rank organically for a given search term through SEO strategies — and you should. But not only can Google Ads help you get higher up in search results more quickly in the form of pay-per-click (PPC) ads, but it helps you stay competitive against others in your industry. 

The benefits of Google Ads

You probably know how Google Ads works: It shows your online advertisement to prospective customers who may be interested in your business. You place bids on keywords and search terms and secure the top slots of SERPs if you win.

As part of a PPC marketing strategy, you choose the maximum bid amount you wish to pay for each click on your ad. Your placement improves with your bid amount.

Since its inception in 2000 as Google Adwords, Google Ads has undergone many iterations and changes. Here are a few of the latest Google Ads updates that marketers should know about in 2021.

hawksem: google ads updates 2021

In early 2021, Google announced that it was “making it easier to reach the right customers on Search.” (Image via Unsplash)

1.  Privacy-minded updates

We’re calling it now: Privacy will be a hot topic for marketers this year. In some ways, it already is, thanks to Apple’s latest iOS update and Google’s new FLoC tracking technology. 

As Search Engine Land reports, Google announced privacy-focused changes for its Analytics and enhanced conversion features during a May 2021 livestream. Part of 2020’s Google Analytics 4 rollout included closing measurement gaps and enhanced customer behavioral analytics data. Now, they’re taking things even further with advanced machine learning to behavioral reports in Google Analytics.

With third-party cookies on their way out, enhanced conversion aims to use first-party and consented data to fill in users’ insight gaps, particularly across multiple devices.

2.  Changes to phrase match and broad match modifier

In early 2021, Google announced that it was “making it easier to reach the right customers on Search” through updates to its phrase match and broad match modifier keyword types. 

Now, “broad match modifier” will be phased out, and this traffic will instead fall under the “phrase match” umbrella. The rollout began in April 2021 and will be complete for all languages by July. 

The search engine notes that these changes won’t impact exact match, broad match, and negative keyword match types. They also recommend only using exact, phrase, or broad match when adding new keywords moving forward. 

3.  The smart-bidding process

Google’s smart bidding aims to make marketing more manageable. The advertiser provides Google Ads with a budget, and Google algorithms get the best conversion value out of it. The intention is to maximize the total ROI of the campaigns.

Google algorithms find the opportunities that you might never spot, even if it’s promoting a low-priced product on your list. This approach is excellent for well-funded PPC campaigns that are already converting at a high rate.

In May 2021, Google announced new Google Ads smart bidding features. These enhancements aim to help marketers better manage bid strategies and drive more performance, according to experts

The new features include top signals for Target ROAS and max conversions, new opportunities on the Recommendations page, target impression share simulators, and manager account level seasonality adjustments.

Pro tip: Automation is great, but keep in mind that a “set it and forget it” mindset can only take you so far. The most effective paid search campaigns involve consistent analyzing, testing, and optimizing that can only come from experienced digital marketing pros.

hawksem: google ads updates 2021

< A look at the Google Trends results for "at home yoga" over a 90-day period. (via Google Trends)[/caption]

4.  Google Trends for a dynamic environment

The digital marketing landscape changes rapidly and often, which can affect your business. Google Trends is a fascinating feature that allows you to view the topics people are searching online, as well trending topics, trends over time, and more.

Need more help with your Google Ads campaigns? That’s what we’re here for.

Google Trends can provide insights into what is popular with your audience so you can modify your marketing efforts to match their expectations. If they’re searching for a business that offers home delivery, for instance, you can consider adding this service or something similar, like a pickup option.

[caption id="attachment_8833" align="aligncenter" width="715"] google ads lead form Google now allows users to submit lead forms as soon as they click your search ad rather than having to route to a landing page. (Image via Google)

5.  Drive more leads via search ads

With the rising trend of m-commerce and more brands moving their operations online than ever before because of the pandemic, the vast majority of shopping happens online.

With that in mind, Google has made it easier for businesses to capture leads through their search ads. Now, rather than sending users to a landing page, you can serve up a lead form as soon as someone taps the headline of your ad.

To activate this feature, simply go into your campaign and select the setting option. Once the form is submitted, the person can then decide if they want to head to your site or go back to the search engine results page (SERP). 

The takeaway

Google processes about 40,000 searches per second, making it a prime marketing ground for paid ads. The beauty (and sometimes frustration) of Google Ads is that it keeps on evolving, giving you new and innovative ways to capture the attention of searchers. 

Considering the authority of the search engine, staying on top of the latest Google Ads updates can only mean good things for your PPC program.

This article has been updated and was originally published in May 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on May 10 , 2021

Quality Score helps search engines provide users with the best information — and it can save you money as an advertiser as well.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to define Quality Score
  • Where to go to find your own score
  • Tips for improving your score
  • How your score can save you money

As a savvy marketer, you know reaching high-level rankings in search engines is pretty much table stakes when it comes to your digital marketing strategy. Of course, there’s no quick trick to making this happen — even with paid search, there’s no guarantee you’ll make it to the top. 

But while it’s nearly impossible to predict what changes will be made next to these search algorithms, there’s one way to get insight into how Google views your site: Quality Score. The search engine defines Quality Score as “an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages.” The benefit? Higher quality ads can snag lower prices and better ad positions.

Each day, people conduct more than 4.9 billion searches on Google alone. With nearly 1.83 billion websites in the world vying for viewers’ attention, paid ad campaigns help set companies apart from the competition. While several factors contribute to the success of a paid ad campaign, Quality Score is one of the most important.

quality score

The Quality Score of PPC ads will dictate how much you need to bid on keywords to ensure an optimal position in search engine results. (Image via Unsplash)

What is Quality Score?

As we mentioned, Google uses Quality Score to rate the quality and relevance of keywords for pay-per-click (PPC) ads. The rating is meant to give advertisers a general idea of how significant their keywords are across all avenues they’re applied in. Google then uses this data to show more effective keywords to users each time an online search takes place. Your score is determined by three factors:

  • Expected clickthrough rate (CTR) – How your ads historically perform
  • Ad relevance – How closely your ads align with your keywords
  • Landing page experience – How relevant, useful, and user-friendly your content is

This information benefits advertisers because it helps determine what to optimize. You can see what keywords are driving search results and which words need to be re-evaluated. 

The effects of Quality Score

Advertisers care about Quality Score because it’s one of the most important factors used to determine how ads are ranked and what advertisers’ cost per click (CPC) will be. 

The score of PPC ads will dictate how much you need to bid on keywords to ensure an optimal position in search engine results. Basically, the better your score, the less you’ll have to pay for your ads to show up in your preferred position.

When people who see your ad click on it, Google views your ads as relevant because they are meeting the needs of potential customers. As a result, you earn higher ad rankings and a lower CPC. Therefore, by optimizing your score, you increase your return on investment (ROI).

Ready to take your digital marketing plan to the next level? We can help.

Determining Your Quality Score

Tracking your Quality Score allows you to assess your ad campaign performance and reconsider your budget allotment. To be able to do this, however, you must first identify your current score. 

To do this, log into your Google Ads account and create a new report under the Reports tab. Your report type will be Placement/Keyword Performance. There, under Advanced Settings, you’ll select Add or Remove Columns. 

Choose Keyword Quality Score Detail and then select your other report settings. Locate the Templates, Scheduling, and Email area and select Create Report. You’ll then be presented with your keywords’ Quality Score results. If you experience any difficulty, you can follow more detailed instructions in Google’s Help Center.

HawkSEM: How to Find Your Quality Score

Quality Score is an integral part of Google’s process when it comes to determining which ads to promote — and how to rank them. (Image via Unsplash)

4 Ways to Increase Your Quality Score

Quality Score determines where and how often your ads are shown. That’s why it’s important to work on boosting your rankings by continuing to improve your ads. Once you know where you stand in Google rankings, you can take the following steps to improve your score. 

Google doesn’t exactly lay out their specific formula for calculating Quality Score. However, recent findings published by Search Engine Land show that improving your CTR or the landing page has twice the impact as working on ad relevance. 

Here are four main ways you can work to boost your Quality Score:

1. Target your ad groups  

Increase the relevance of your ad by targeting your campaigns into clearly defined groups. Assign each group of ads its own set of related keywords to effectively target groups you want to reach. Avoid irrelevant keywords just for the sake of having them. In this case, you want quality over quantity.

2. Research keywords

Keywords are one of the most important factors in Quality Score success. Do your homework to determine how those words (and combinations) are performing and whether they’ll be effective for your campaign. Keyword research can reveal what keywords are being used, their importance to viewers, and how likely they are to drive traffic to your website.

3. Publish high-quality content

When writing ad copy, streamline the content so it focuses on one product or service. Not only will this help target a more specific audience, but it will likely yield better results. Readers want to digest easy-to-comprehend information. Ads with too many areas of focus or calls to action (CTAs) can be ineffective, resulting in someone bouncing or continuing to scroll without clicking. 

4. Regularly optimize your landing pages 

Your landing page is often a potential customer’s first impression of your business. Right away, it sends a message about your company. Quick loading time, relevant keywords, and clear, easy-to-read information can increase user engagement and earn you a higher Quality Score rating. 

The takeaway

Quality Score is an integral part of Google’s process when it comes to determining which ads to promote — and how to rank them. Tracking this info not only increases your chance at a higher ROI, but it can save you money in advertising costs.

Quality Score is a useful guideline to shed light on what’s working for you and can impact the way you develop your paid advertising campaigns to make them as effective and possible, resulting in a stronger strategy overall. And who wouldn’t want that?

This article has been updated and was originally published in April 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Apr 13 , 2021

Seasoned marketers know: not all keywords are created equal.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Differences between short-tail and long-tail keywords
  • How these two keyword types work together
  • Why using both offers the greatest chance at success
  • When to use each keyword type

The power of keywords for your SEM strategy doesn’t just depend on relevance. The type matters too.

Long-tail and short-tail keywords work toward achieving the same goal. However, they do it differently. Knowing the key differences between these two types can help you properly tweak your marketing strategy, cut costs, and get to the top of the SERPs. Let’s dive in.

long-tail vs. short-tail keywords

The competition to rank highly for short-tail keywords is often fierce. (Image via Unsplash)

Short-tail keywords

Short-tail keywords (also called “head terms” or “broad terms”) contain up to three words, such as:

  • Swimsuits
  • Red roses
  • Digital marketing services

When you think about your business, these terms are the first words that usually come to mind. They’re also the first terms to come to the consumer’s mind when they’re looking for something online.

Short-tail keywords can be the same for a variety of businesses. For “red roses,” this keyword could apply to a local flower shop, an e-commerce shop, a big-box chain store, the list goes on. That’s why the competition to rank highly for short-tail keywords is often fierce.

Short-tail keyword pros

  • Appeal to a wide target audience: excellent traffic driver for your website
  • Easy to determine: they don’t require an extensive target audience research or keyword search
  • Easy to use: can be used to create a great variety of easy-flowing content

Short-tail keyword cons

  • High competition: Everyone wants to drive significant traffic, avoid extensive keyword search, and write easy-flowing content — that’s why these keywords are costly to bid on
  • Wrong type of traffic: Short-tail keywords are more general — for example, “French tips” could apply to nail salons or those trying to learn the French language
  • Low conversion rates: Short-tail keywords can generate numerous clicks, but the number of people who convert is usually lower

Overall, short-tail keywords can generate a lot of traffic for your website, helping with brand awareness and improving rankings.

Long-tail keywords

Also called “narrow search terms,” these keywords are more specific than their short-tail partners — for example:

  • Swimsuits for toddler boys
  • Fresh red rose bouquets near me
  • Digital marketing services in Boston

By entering such a keyword, searchers are more likely to find what they’re looking for. Often, the more specific the search, the higher the likelihood of purchase intent. 

While you may not generate as much traffic with long-tail keywords as you would with short terms, more of your visitors are likely to convert.

Long-tail keyword pros

  • Low competition: Cost per click for long-tail keywords is usually much lower since you only compete against companies in a specific niche
  • Intent: People who use narrow search terms are usually closer to the bottom of the sales funnel than those who use short-tail keywords
  • Conversion rate: Searchers with high intent are more likely to convert

 Long-tail keyword cons

  • Specifics: It takes more time, research, and effort to identify long-tail keywords your target audience may be searching for — and sometimes, you could be bidding on an “empty” term
  • Content implementation: Unlike broad terms, long-tail keywords can be harder to use in your content organically

Overall, long-tail keywords are harder to identify and implement into your SEM campaign. However, they require a lower budget and provide a higher conversion rate, as Yoast explains.

Do you need short-tail keywords?

Long-tail keywords are generally cheaper, more specific, and have a higher conversion rate. More than 70% of all internet searches are made up of long-tail keywords.

So, why do you need short-tail keywords anyway?

While it’s possible to design a campaign based solely on long-tail keywords, working without narrow terms can be tough since you may not generate sufficient traffic. 

Lastly, if you avoid short-tail keywords altogether, it may take a while to achieve your specific marketing goals.

short and long-tail keywords

Before using long-tail keywords in your content, consider testing them with PPC ads. (Image via Unsplash)

How short-tail and long-tail keywords work together

An efficient SEM strategy involves a balanced use of both keyword types. Here are just a few ways these keyword types complement each other:

  • Short-tail keywords create a foundation for long-tail keywords. Without brainstorming for broad terms, it’s hard to identify efficient long-tail keywords. Narrow terms grow around broad terms.
  • When creating content, you can dilute long-tail keywords with broad terms. This helps you avoid keyword stuffing, which can get you penalized by search engines.
  • Short-tail keywords target the top of the sales funnel while long-tail keywords are working closer to the bottom.

Each keyword type contributes to achieving the final goals of your marketing strategy.

Pro tip: Don’t be fooled into thinking short-tail keywords always have higher search volumes. As Ahrefs points out, this isn’t always the case

How to find short-tail and long-tail keywords

Finding short-tail keywords is somewhat easier than discovering efficient narrow terms.  You can identify them by:

  • Brainstorming what terms might bring users to you
  • Analyzing your website and traffic
  • Seeing what works for the competition

Long-tail keyword research is more complicated since it’s hard to identify which phrases your target audience is likely to use. You can find long-tail keywords by:

  • Using Google suggestions and related searches
  • Wielding different keyword search tools like Moz and SEMrush
  • Analyzing which keywords work for your website
  • Browsing forums, boards, and social media groups to see what people are asking about
  • Looking at what your competition is doing

Pro tip: Before using long-tail keywords in your content, consider testing them with PPC ads.

When to use short-tail and long-tail keywords

In digital marketing, using short-tail and long-tail keywords simultaneously can help you achieve impressive results. Of course, the percentage of each keyword type in the strategy depends on factors like your goals and budget.

If your main goals are brand awareness and lead generation, you may want to add more broad terms to your tactics. If you’d like to shift the focus to higher conversions and cost efficiency, lean more toward long-tail keywords. And, as always, monitor the results so you can iterate and modify accordingly. 

The takeaway

Our experience tells us that both short-tail and long-tail keywords are important to the success of a well-rounded SEM strategy. While using them may achieve different goals and require different budgets, it’s hard to create a comprehensive marketing campaign without both.

By leveraging broad and narrow terms, you can get one step closer to improving your search engine rankings, bringing more traffic to your website, increasing brand awareness, driving sales, and boosting your bottom line.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Apr 6 , 2021

Don’t fall for these roadblocks on the path to PPC success.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The common PPC mistakes even seasoned marketers fall for
  • How to avoid these pitfalls in your own campaigns
  • What elements make up a successful PPC program
  • Why optimization, consistency, and proper targeting are key

Running a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign is like getting your first credit card. If used wisely, you’ll spend some money now and be rewarded for your good decisions later. 

On the other hand, if you’re careless or not especially thoughtful about your decisions, you could be out of funds before you know it. 

While we can’t speak to your credit score, we can help you learn from the PPC mistakes of others without having to make these missteps yourself.

Here are the top 9 most common PPC mistakes we’ve seen, along with tips for avoiding them.   

HawkSEM: PPC mistakes

Once you know your audience, you can choose better keywords and create stellar ad copy that gets your target audience to click. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Not having a concise goal and strategy

We don’t recommend starting a PPC campaign without a clear goal in mind. Without a specific target or timeframe, it’s difficult to track your progress or know how to measure success.

End goals are so important that Microsoft Advertising begins every campaign setup process by asking you what your goal is so they can offer helpful suggestions. Plus, not having a goal can potentially make any strategy seem like it’s moving in the right direction.

Once you define your goal, you can create a plan for how to reach it. Define your audience as specifically as you can. Once you know your audience and strategy, you can choose better keywords and create stellar ad copy that gets your target audience to click. 

2. Not realizing that PPC goes beyond Google

Plenty of marketers get trapped in a Google-only mindset. But, as we’ve said before, Microsoft Advertising is a viable option for plenty of industries. 

Ads on Bing (Microsoft’s search engine) also run on the Yahoo! and AOL search networks. They have exclusive access to 63 million searchers who opt for the Microsoft search engine over Google, and their users tend to spend more money too. Don’t let Google’s reputation trick you into missing out on that opportunity.

Pro tip: Microsoft Advertising has a display network called the Audience Network that can be leveraged as well.

3. Not geo-targeting

Even if you’re selling your product or service all over the country, geo-targeting can help your ads appeal to people on a more personal level. 

People are attracted to brands and ads that feel personalized and like they’re speaking to them. This goes for both local and national companies. Google will allow you to geo-target advertisements by state, so you can include the user’s home state in the header of your ad to grab their attention. 

Take it from the search engine itself: “Location targeting helps you focus your advertising on the areas where you’ll find the right customers, and restrict it in areas where you won’t,” explains Google. “This specific type of targeting could help increase your return on investment (ROI) as a result.”

4. Not using negative keywords

You already know how essential your keywords are in a campaign, but there are a few other things you need to be aware of to better make use of keywords.

One of the PPC mistakes many companies fall for is failing to use negative keywords in their strategy. Negative keywords are terms that you can use to tell Google which search terms you don’t want to show up in the results for. 

For example, if you’re selling luxury bedding, and “bedsheets” is your keyword, you wouldn’t want to appear in a search query like “what to do with old bedsheets?” Using negative keywords can help improve the relevancy of your ads and make sure the right people are seeing them.

Pro tip: Don’t neglect your own branded keywords. Some companies will bid on the competition’s keywords to siphon off buyers looking for their brand. If your competition is bidding on your keywords and you aren’t, that could be a costly mistake.

5. Not taking advantage of available resources

Paid search platforms often have various features and tools to make managing your account easier. The trick is knowing what they are. For example, Google has ad scripts that help you automate many important but tedious repeating tasks. They can analyze your ads, send budget alerts, and assist with bid management.

Google also allows you to schedule your ads to run during certain times of the day. There are often windows of heightened conversion when your target audience will be most likely to see your ads. 

Ad extensions are another great resource. You can spotlight prices, location, site link, or features by adding them. They make the ads larger and more engaging. Ad extensions are free and can do wonders for your clickthrough rate (CTR). 

confusing ppc mistakes

If people get different messages from your ads and landing pages, they may end up confused about who you are and what you offer. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Not optimizing your landing pages

Where do people get sent when they click on your ad? If they’re not taken to a specific and optimized landing page, they may be unsure of what to do next. 

An optimized landing page has specific language about the next step a visitor to your site should take — aka the call to action (CTA). The CTA could ask them to do something like sign up for your email list, schedule a consultation, fill out a form, or give you a call.

Make sure your landing page is written with clear, easy-to-understand messaging that matches the language in your ad, and that you have an explicit next step. Elements that make up a killer landing page include:

  • An eye-catching headline
  • An easy form
  • A mobile-friendly experience
  • A thoughtful design

7. Not having a consistent message

Let’s circle back to messaging. Throughout all the content you create (including ads and landing pages), your tone, message, and branding should be consistent. If people get different messages from your ads and landing pages, they may end up confused about who you are and what you offer. 

Do your keywords match what you’re selling? Do they match the keywords on your landing page? If not, visitors may be unsure about whether your business is what they’re looking for and bounce from your page. 

To remedy this, it’s wise to repeat your ad copy on your landing page to keep visitors on track. Other best practices include having a similar design across all of your platforms and offerings, and keeping the tone and voice consistent throughout.

Need more help with your PPC? That’s why we’re here.

8. “Setting and forgetting” your campaigns

Another one of the PPC mistakes we see over and over is thinking that you can simply set up a campaign and let it run on its own. Experience has shown us that these campaigns require consistent monitoring, analyzing, and updating to reach their goals. 

Building a PPC campaign is a lot of work, so once it’s up and running, you may be tempted to leave it alone, sit back, and let it do its job for a while. But the truth is, it’s a good idea to monitor its performance as often as possible. You’re paying for the ad daily, after all, so you want to make sure you’re spending your ad budget wisely.

Look at your key performance indicators (KPIs) and watch for things like:

  • Low CTR
  • A low number of conversions
  • Keywords that aren’t converting
  • Other strange behavior or problematic issues 

As your campaign matures, you can start to think about scaling it. Then, once the campaign has collected enough data, you can look into expanding your keyword lists, try new types of campaigns and bidding strategies, and set up additional campaigns.

9. Striving for first place

Everyone wants to be #1 when it comes to PPC advertising, but it may be difficult (not to mention unsustainable) to strive for the top spot in the long term. 

While being in a higher position on the search engine results page (SERP) will pretty much guarantee you more clicks and an increase in web traffic, this isn’t always a great strategy for your budget. 

Ads further down the page can still have great CTRs and conversion rates, and will end up costing you less in the long run. 

The takeaway

When it comes to creating PPC ads that work, you may need to use a little trial and error before landing on the formula that gets you the results you want for your business. 

Luckily, avoiding the PPC mistakes above can help you have a more efficient journey towards creating a great PPC campaign with impressive ROI. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in May 2020.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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