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Written by Caroline Cox on Jan 19 , 2021

Yes, your PPC campaign should have negative keywords here’s why.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What defines a negative keyword
  • How negative keywords differ from standard keywords
  • Tips for building a negative keyword list
  • Best practices for these keyword types

Like noodles for spaghetti, sunshine for plants, and gin for martinis, keywords are an essential part of pay-per-click (PPC) campaign success. The trick lies in understanding how best to deal with them so that everything runs smoothly.

Maybe your paid search campaign brings in a ton of leads, but the conversion rate is low, meaning you’re spending precious ad dollars on unqualified clicks. Even with an otherwise stellar PPC strategy, ignoring negative keywords could waste a huge chunk of your budget. 

That’s because you could be getting clicks meant for similar-sounding, but ultimately unrelated keywords. We’ve seen upwards of 90% in wasted ad spend when clients don’t include any negative keywords in their account.

If you feel confident that you’ve selected the right keywords that are hyper-focused on your audience, that’s great! But if you’re not also leveraging negative keywords, you may be missing out on making your PPC campaigns as targeted as they can be.

Want to make sure you know all the benefits of negative keywords for PPC? Then let’s dive in.

What are negative keywords?

Taking advantage of negative keywords can do wonders for eliminating window shoppers and bad leads. According to Google, a negative keyword (also known as a negative match) is a keyword type “that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase.”

Meaning: if someone searches for a phrase including a term you’ve deemed a negative keyword, your ads won’t show up. 

HawkSEM: How Negative Keywords Benefit Your PPC Campaigns

When you’re mining your reports for keywords to exclude, you want to include their variations as well. (Image via Unsplash)

Negative keywords vs. standard keywords

Keyword targeting helps ensure your paid search ad is tailored to your audience. When you pay for each individual click, you want as many clicks as possible to be from qualified leads. Negative keywords work the same way, just in the opposite direction.

When you add negative keywords, ad platforms (such as Google or Microsoft Advertising) know that you don’t want your ad to appear for searches containing those words.

If your company makes salsa, for instance, then you may want “salsa” to be one of your keywords. But if someone searches online for “salsa dancing” or “salsa lessons,” they’re probably not looking for your product. By adding these as negative keywords, you can filter out people searching with these terms and save money on bad leads.

Pro tip: Negative keywords only apply to the first 16 words in a search query. So, when it comes to especially long queries, negative keywords after the 16th word won’t trigger the filter and your ad may still appear.

How to build your negative keyword list

It’s a good idea to conduct your negative keyword research the same way you conduct your standard keyword research, specifically before and during a campaign launch.

There are some terms — like “address,” “free,” and “login” — that you’ll probably want to select right off the bat. Google suggests using your search term reports to look for terms that only seem relevant. Are there any that clearly stand out as negative keywords? Add those to your list.

However, before using search term reports, start by thinking about the types of businesses, products, or services that your brand could be mistaken for (like the salsa example above). Then, brainstorm the search terms that might be used to describe them.

Want to take your PPC to the next level this year? We can help.

The different types of negative keywords

As with standard keywords, there are various types of negative keywords. For PPC campaigns, negative keywords can be:

  • Broad match – Keywords that don’t have surrounding punctuation (there’s no negative broad match modifier match type)
  • Exact match – If the search contains the exact negative keyword you’ve specified, the ad won’t appear
  • Phrase match – Your ad won’t come up if the exact keyword terms, in that order, are searched

But that doesn’t mean they function in all the same ways. As of the past few years, we’ve seen that “exact match” doesn’t always mean exact for standard keywords. It does, however, when it comes to negative ones. 

Google explains that the main difference between these two types is that you need to include variations of these keywords if you want to exclude them. These variations can include:

  • Synonyms
  • Singular or plural versions
  • Misspellings
  • Any other close variations

When you mine reports for keywords to exclude, it’s wise to exclude their variations as well.

Pro tip: When you enter your keywords into Google Ads, you can add them at both the ad group and campaign level. For negative keywords, you generally want to apply them to the campaign level, not just the ad group level, so other keywords can exclude that term.

HawkSEM: How Negative Keywords Benefit Your PPC Campaigns

Regularly go into your ads account, head to “search terms” in your Keywords tab, and mark any keywords you see that stand out as being irrelevant. (Image via Unsplash)

Adjust your negative keyword list as needed

Just like your standard keyword list, your negative list shouldn’t remain stagnant. You should consistently recheck and optimize it to make sure your PPC ads are as targeted as possible.

How often you go over your list will depend on various factors, including your campaigns and bandwidth. No matter what “consistent” means for you and your team, make a recurring reminder to go into your ads account and head to “search terms” in your Keywords tab to mark any keywords you see that stand out as irrelevant.

Pro tip: When it comes to symbols, Google allows for ampersands (&), accent marks (á), and asterisks (*) in your negative keywords. As such, keywords with and without these symbols will be considered two different negative keywords — think Beyonce as a different keyword than Beyoncé or “black & white” vs. “black and white.”

The takeaway

As you can see, there are many potential benefits to adding negative keywords to your PPC campaigns. Not only does this help weed out those who aren’t in the market for your product or service, but it saves you money because you only pay for clicks that will (hopefully) become customers.

While you don’t want to overdo it on the keyword exclusions, with a bit of brainstorming and some campaign tweaks, you can be sure that your PPC campaign won’t attract the wrong crowd.

This article has been updated and was originally published in January 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 Sam Yadegar on Jan 4 , 2021

Companies all over the world have to adjust to the new reality — which could mean rethinking current search engine marketing (SEM) strategies.

Here you’ll learn:

  • What Google has in store for search in 2021
  • Which new tools could enhance your SEM
  • The latest standout SEM trends
  • Tips for adjusting your campaigns in the new year

For most businesses, 2020 was a doozy. Between unpredictable sales and changes in customer behavior, many are still working on getting back to normal — the “new normal,” that is.

Meanwhile, the SEM landscape continues changing faster than you can flip calendar pages. Whether you’ve already finalized your marketing plans for 2021 or are scrambling to make it happen now, this is a great time to make sure your paid search plans are set up for success in the new year.

Below, we offer some ways to do just that.

1. Keep Google’s novelties in mind

Despite pandemic news and a holiday season unlike any other, Google continued updating its algorithms and policies. (Case in point: Their December 2020 core update.) 

Here are three planned Google updates that could have a significant impact on your marketing tactics and budget in 2021:

Mobile-first indexing

In March 2021, Google will fully switch to mobile-first indexing. This means that the search engine will look primarily at the information from the mobile version of your website when determining ranking. If you haven’t taken the steps to ensure your site is as mobile-friendly as possible, let this be the push you need to do so.

Core Web Vitals

In May 2021, Google will put new emphasis on page experience through the implementation of Core Web Vitals. With this rollout, some parameters will become significant ranking signals, such as:

  • Page loading time – loading time must be under 2.5 seconds.
  • Interactivity – the website should respond to the user’s actions in under 100 milliseconds.
  • Visual stability – the website should maintain a cumulative layout shift of less than 0.1.

Core Web Vitals means marketers will need to pay special attention to improving user experience (UX) on websites to match Google’s requirements. (However, because UX is already a priority for most brands, this shouldn’t be too big of a change-up.)

Third-party cookie phase-out

In January 2020, Google announced its plans to phase out third-party cookies (which have been used in marketing to track, monitor and analyze a site visitor’s behavior) on Chrome by 2022. It’s a move to quell growing online privacy concerns, with cookies slated to be replaced by “browser-based tools and techniques aimed at balancing personalization and privacy,” according to Marketing Land. 

This could affect your marketing strategies if you leverage advanced retargeting or remarketing tactics. The good news is that you have an entire year to learn how to pivot from relying on third-party cookies.

hawksem: sem campaigns 2020 article

As far as content types go, you can’t get much better than articles and other materials that aim to educate your audience. (Image via Unsplash)

2. Get familiar with Google Analytics 4

Google is constantly perfecting its tools. One prime example of this is its new and improved analysis platform, Google Analytics 4. Launched in October 2020, this machine learning-driven program can help you get more nuanced insights into customers’ behavior.

New features also include the ability to track users across different platforms, improve audience segmentation in Google Ads, and much more. Exploring this new opportunity as soon as possible can help you gain a competitive edge and streamline your 2021 SEM campaign.

3. Beef up your educational content

As far as content types go, you can’t get much better than articles and other materials that aim to educate your audience. People love this kind of content because it provides a service and (ideally) helps them solve a problem or glean new information without having to make a purchase. 

With millions of people changing up their employment status in 2020, the need for educational content is on the rise. In fact, consumers are 131% more likely to buy a product after reading educational content, according to a recent study.

This content is a great incentive to include on a landing page in exchange for a user’s contact info. The time and money you invest in the educational content right now can bring impressive results in the future.

4. Explore paid social advertising

When the pandemic moved millions of people to fully working, shopping, and seeking entertainment online in 2020, the number of active users across social media platforms increased dramatically.

The proof is in the data. Instagram now has over 1 billion monthly active users (that’s up from 500 million in 2019). Meanwhile, TikTok has more than 650 million monthly active users (up from 500 million in 2019).

Because of this, 2021 could be a great time to invest in paid social strategies. Social media ads are generally more affordable than other digital ad types, making them a smart diversification tactic. Depending on where your target audience is most active, you could explore ads on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest

hawksem: sem campaign article 2021

Right now, many people are rethinking their values, habits, and where they invest their time. (Image via Rawpixel)

5. Reevaluate your SEM campaign budget

Since the demand for products shifted more towards essential goods in 2020, it may be a good idea to reevaluate your PPC campaign budget as things go on the upswing. 

A good plan of action: Single out the highest performing ads and keywords, then channel more of your PPC budget to support them. To pace your campaign spend better, you may consider such settings as lifetime spend or monthly spend limits instead of daily budgets.

6. Keep a handle on security

A crisis can create fertile ground for all kinds of fraudulent activity. Criminals across the globe create malware and use names of famous brands to offer fake discounts while phishing for sensitive information. 

Almost 200,000 coronavirus-related cyber-attacks occurred every week in 2020. Protect your information (and that of your customer’s) with tactics like:

  • Monitoring your log files for crawl errors to reveal if spambots are trying to access your website
  • Implementing Single Sign-On (SSO) technology for user authentication
  • Checking to see if the website is secured with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate
  • Reviewing all your SEO add-ons and plugins for security, stability, and updates

The takeaway

There’s no arguing that 2020 was a chaotic year across the globe. But amid a crisis, there are almost always lessons to be learned. 

The last year taught many of us new aspects of flexibility, adaptability, and survival. In 2021, the pandemic is still likely to affect some of your marketing efforts. Thankfully, this time, you can be much more prepared. By thoughtfully preparing now, you can streamline your 2021 SEM campaigns for whatever comes next. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in June 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 Nov 18 , 2020

Let’s dive into what lead scoring is, how it works, and the ways it benefits your digital marketing program. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • What lead scoring is
  • Ways it benefits your PPC
  • Tips to set up lead scoring
  • How it can improve paid search ROI

For most marketing initiatives, it takes a mix of time and multiple steps to achieve real results. But it’s also true that the less time it takes to start seeing success, the better and more quickly you can optimize and improve. 

That’s where lead scoring comes in. Essentially, lead scoring is the process of grading leads to gauge their potential value for your business by assigning them scores based on a variety of factors.

For B2B and lead generation search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns in particular, experienced industry pros will tell you it’s crucial to know the value of the leads being generated. Plus, when you’re dealing with a high volume of leads, manually sorting through them can be time-consuming.

HawkSEM blog: PPC lead scoring

it’s key to be thoughtful about your sales funnel and the actions leads take that qualify them as interested vs. intent to buy. (Image via Unsplash)

How does lead scoring work?

A lead scoring system assigns values to leads and then ranks them against one another. For this process, you can give scores based on various attributes and actions. This allows you to focus on leads that will generate the maximum revenue for your business with the least amount of effort — and in less time.

Scoring leads helps you better understand how certain keywords impact your conversions and, ultimately, the success of your pay-per-click (PPC) campaign overall.

It works by assigning points based on actions a prospect takes, such as requesting a consultation or downloading a piece of content. Once a lead achieves a certain score, they can be considered a “hot lead.” From there, they can be potentially routed to sales to nurture them down the sales funnel.

Simply put by BigCommerce, “the top benefits of companies that use lead scoring are a more measurable return on investment (ROI), an increased conversion rate, and higher sales productivity and effectiveness.”

How do I set up lead scoring?

Getting more than a couple of leads per week? Then it’s probably best to leverage a tool like Google Analytics to help you track keyword conversions. You or your marketing agency can connect this application to your customer relationship management (CRM) tool or Marketing Automation Platform (MAP). This will allow you to begin scoring leads based on behaviors and actions the new contact or prospect has taken.

As Salesforce explains, setting up lead scoring improperly can result in “poor conversion rates and sales funnel dropouts, or customers who stop considering your company for the product or service they want to buy.” That’s why it’s key to be thoughtful about your sales funnel and the actions leads take that qualify them as interested vs. intent to buy.

What factors should be taken into account with lead scoring?

It may be a process of trial and error to figure out the best lead scoring metrics for your business. One best practice many businesses suggest is considering different score thresholds for different products or services, if you offer a variety.

You also may want to add negative score options to easily disqualify people like existing customers or job seekers.

You can also get more granular by weighing different pages and pieces of content differently. For example, a case study, white paper, or service page may be worth more points than a more evergreen guide or your homepage. 

How does lead scoring create a more ROI-driven PPC strategy?

An ROI-driven PPC strategy is one that has been developed to produce revenue. By being strategic and iterating based on what’s working and what’s not, you can be poised for seeing serious results.

Along with scoring leads, other important elements of launching an ROI-driven PPC strategy include:

  • doing customer research
  • writing strong ads
  • creating optimized landing pages
  • having eye-catching CTAs
  • leveraging ad extensions
  • targeting revenue-producing keywords
  • having consistent messaging from ad copy to landing page
  • tracking metrics

Implementing lead scoring can be an effective way to have your sales and marketing teams working together better and more efficiently. (Image via Unsplash)

Does lead scoring make sense for longer sales cycles?

We know that a longer sales cycle means it can take a longer time to see results. Lead scoring is still important for these campaign types. That’s because you need to understand the value of each lead along the sales cycle.

This falls under the low-hanging fruit theory of easy wins. By scoring leads, you’ll know which prospects are closer to a sale and which are further away. This info will help you better prioritize where to put your efforts as the cycle moves along.

How often should I revisit my lead scoring metrics?

Scoring leads is a great way to ensure your sales and marketing teams are aligned. With that in mind, it’s a good idea for marketing team members to periodically check in with the sales department to see which types of leads are closing most often. 

This will ensure that the lead scoring parameters you have in place are as accurate as possible. You want to have enough time to accrue significant data that you can analyze properly, so aiming to do one of these check-ins a few times a year is usually sufficient. 

The takeaway

Forget hot leads falling through the cracks or wasting time following up on unqualified or uninterested prospects. Implementing lead scoring can be an effective way to have your sales and marketing teams working together better and more efficiently. 

While it may take some tweaking to find the exact right method of lead scoring for your business, the time and investment are sure to be worth it once you see more leads becoming closed deals.  

This post has been updated and was originally published in August 2014.

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 Caroline Cox on Nov 6 , 2020

If you’re not currently using call tracking, here’s a guide to filling in this attribution gap.

Here, you’ll find:

  • An explanation of call tracking
  • A breakdown of various tracking tiers
  • How tracking can help optimize campaigns
  • The latest call-tracking updates

People want multiple options for connecting with companies. That’s why most businesses have a phone number, even if most marketing, communications, and customer service happens online. And it’s a wise choice, since phone calls convert at 10 to 15 times the rate of clicks, according to CallRail. 

The question is, are you taking full advantage of all that phone calls have to offer your business? As Marketing Land explains, “If your marketing strategy involves driving potential customers to the phone, you could be missing out on important attribution data as well as the best source of first-party customer data.” 

Basically, if you’re not tracking calls, you could be missing a key element in your conversion tracking. Here’s how to set up call tracking for your ads, and why you should.

call tracking for digital marketing

There are various solutions available when it comes to call-tracking options for your business. (Image via Unsplash)

What is call tracking?

Call tracking is the process of gathering information about the phone calls people make to your company. Basic tracking helps you make sure you’re attributing calls to your ads to help optimize campaigns. More advanced tracking allows you to accrue data that will tell you more about your prospects and customers. This includes their wants, pain points, frequently asked questions, and more. 

Phone calls can be a key part of your buyer’s journey. Call tracking serves to help bridge the gap between online and offline touchpoints, giving you a clearer picture of your prospects and customers.

Know your call-tracking options

There are various solutions available when it comes to call-tracking options for your business. You can choose from a variety of softwares and tiers depending on your budget and needs. 

Tier 1 tracking

The basic, standard level of call tracking is simply to track phone number clicks on your website. This allows you to properly attribute the click to your campaigns. You can set up this level of call tracking through Google Tag Manager. 

It will give you some basic data about calls to your existing phone number, such as when someone clicks the phone number on your website via their smartphone to call you. 

Tier 2 tracking

The next level involves implementing call tracking into your Google Ads campaigns. At this level, Google will assign you a forwarding phone number. If someone clicks on your ads, the number on your website will route to your Google forwarding number.

This level also offers more sophisticated call data. When you implement Google call tracking through Tag Manager, you can set parameters for what counts as a conversion, such as calls only over a certain amount of seconds. This way, you’re not counting irrelevant phone calls (like accidental clicks, spam clickers, and quickly unqualified leads) as conversions. 

Pro tip: While Google call tracking is free, the number you’re assigned won’t necessarily be permanently assigned to you. Further down the line, someone could call that number in search of your business and not be able to reach you. 

Tier 3 tracking

If your company has the means to invest in paid call-tracking services, there are a ton of benefits to be found. For one, you’ll be able to purchase a dedicated phone number that won’t be in danger of being changed. 

With call-tracking services, you pay for dedicated tracking phone numbers, including a ZIP code that matches your area. In terms of data, you’re able to record phone calls (the caller is given a heads up, of course). You can go back and listen to how customer service was handled and get more information about the callers. These services also allow you to capture customer contact information in the platforms

Top-tier call tracking can often tell you what caused the person to call, what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in, and it can even sync with other programs like Google Analytics, Salesforce, or your preferred customer relationship management (CRM) tool.

Pro tip: Think you’ve got tracking covered with your call center? While these centers track things like hold time and client satisfaction, proper call tracking can provide valuable data for marketers that can help optimize and improve campaigns. 

call tracking to enhance paid ads

With the rise of mobile search, it makes sense that a rise of Google call-only campaigns would follow suit. (Image via Unsplash)

How call tracking can improve your marketing

Gathering data is only half the battle. After all, what good is all that data if you don’t take the time to analyze and leverage it? Call tracking allows you to review calls and pinpoint patterns. What are some common issues customers seem to have? What products or services are they asking about most? It can also help you make these calls more efficient by allowing you to personalize and tailor the call experience.

This type of tracking can help maximize ROI by painting a more complete picture of what’s driving people to your business. According to Business2Community, “most marketers find immediate bang-for-the-buck by applying newly discovered call insights to optimize their marketing programs and media spend.”

The future of call tracking

In October 2020, Google began testing a new Google My Business featured dubbed “call history.” According to Search Engine Land, the feature was “designed to help businesses see and respond to missed calls coming from Google Search and Maps.” At the time, the option was voluntary and only available to a select group of U.S. businesses. 

And with the rise of mobile search, it makes sense that a rise of Google call-only campaigns would follow suit. If you’re a business like a doctor’s office (or if you have a stellar customer service team trained to quickly solve problems), this ad type is worth exploring.

This way, you have the chance to catch someone’s attention and allow them to immediately connect with you, rather than risking them not finding what they’re looking for on your website.

The takeaway

In marketing, the more data you have, the better. If you’re not tracking phone calls on some level, you’re missing out on a key component of your conversion tracking. It’s the same idea behind tracking forms on your website. You want to track all ways people can contact you. 

The result: Improved customer service, better insights into why people aren’t converting via phone, help training employees, and a fuller picture of your buyer persona.

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 Nov 2 , 2020

Calculating a more accurate look at the revenue per lead for your search engine marketing (SEM) programs

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to determine the true value of your leads
  • The benefits of aligning sales and marketing strategies
  • The best results-driven reports to develop
  • Why a lead-scoring system is key

Put on your blue-light-blocking glasses, crack those knuckles, and fire up your calculator. It’s time to do some math.

Being able to calculate your pay-per-click strategy’s return on investment (or PPC ROI) is an important part of running any paid search marketing program. And knowing the true value of the leads you’re currently bringing in can help you make more informed strategy decisions. More than that, it can help you optimize your PPC efforts. As a result, you can generate more leads in the future — and who doesn’t want that? 

ppc lead value blog - hawksem

By connecting your marketing and sales strategies in a meaningful way, you can better leverage the power of the data you have. (Image via Unsplash)

Calculating revenue per lead, however, isn’t always as simple as dividing the cost per lead by the revenue earned per lead.

To find the true revenue per lead, you need to set up a system that connects high-quality leads to the dollar amount spent on each individual lead. Luckily, you don’t have to rely only on intuition and estimations. 

By connecting your marketing and sales strategies in a meaningful way, you can better leverage the power of the data you have.

Where to begin

At face value, the formula for calculating revenue per lead is fairly simple:

Total revenue generated ÷ Total number of leads = Average revenue per lead

However, finding the average returns isn’t necessarily a long-term recipe for success. You need to be able to factor in PPC site traffic and customer relationship management (CRM) data as well. This will allow you to see which leads in the CRM are high-valued opportunities or closed sales.

You also want to decide how to measure quality leads. Ideally, you want to attract those who move through the funnel quickly and/or convert for the highest customer lifetime value (LTV).

Alternatively, some experts recommend this formula for calculating return on ad spend (ROAS):

Total revenue generated by ads ÷ cost of ad spend = ROAS

It’s worth noting that calculating PPC ROI in this way isn’t a one-size-fits-all method. For example, if you sell high-end software or services, your sales cycle may be anywhere from six months to two years. This means that just getting a handful of sign-ups or registrations per month can be sufficient. The potential revenue from those leads would cover the entire SEM program cost.

But you don’t want to necessarily go all-in on whatever strategy brought those leads in just yet. That’s because the data set is too small to be able to measure confidently.

Get all of your variables in place

For a more accurate look at lead value, it’s a good idea to develop a lead scoring system with robust CRM and keyword tracking technology. You can do this either in-house or with a PPC agency. This way, it’ll be easier to connect specific paid search site visitors with sales and lead value.

You can track “big data” as well as input subjective data about personal experiences with the lead for added context. By tracking which customers stood out as exceptionally good leads throughout the sales cycle, you can connect each with corresponding PPC site traffic data and see what patterns emerge.

If a specific keyword or ad group drove the highest value sales, it might be worth allocating more of your budget there. Alternatively, if your highest LTV is coming from desktop PPC leads, shift more budget to desktop over mobile campaigns.

Build your reports

The next step is to develop PPC ROI reports that focus on what you care about: real results. If you don’t already, it’s a good idea to start tracking data year-over-year as well as monthly. Instead of only relying on statistics or intuition, this lets you combine the science and the art of effective digital marketing to drive more ROI.

Oftentimes, marketers don’t properly connect revenue earned to cost per lead. Looking at the average ROI for any given PPC campaign is not the best way to derive meaningful insights.

For PPC ROI, seasoned experts know it’s best to use a results-driven approach and work backward instead of using a “guess-and-check” approach.

ppc lead value blog - hawksem

Putting a system in place that allows you to connect leads and actual sales values with your PPC strategy helps you properly calculate the cost per lead. (Image via Unsplash)

Get solutions to common PPC problems with Our Ultimate Guide to Problem-Solving for Your PPC Program and Getting the ROI You Deserve.

Calculate anticipated ROI before anticipated site traffic

Judging your generic site traffic from PPC campaigns can have some pitfalls. To improve your bidding strategy, you want to work backward here as well by scoring leads and using “money keywords” for results-oriented PPC campaigns.

When you take measures to get highly qualified leads from the first click, you connect marketing strategy with sales strategy in a way that is more cohesive and aligned.

Get the final results and know your cost per lead

Putting a system in place that allows you to connect leads and actual sales values with your PPC strategy helps you properly calculate the cost per lead. Return to the simple equation of:

Total revenue generated ÷ Total number of leads = Average revenue per lead

The takeaway

By taking a scientific approach to calculating revenue (with an appropriate amount of anecdotal evidence based on recent experiences with clients), you can feel confident that you have a handle on your true lead value.

Need more PPC guidance? That’s what we’re here for.

This post was originally published in August 2014 and was updated in November 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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Written by Sam Yadegar on Oct 21 , 2020

An unoptimized PPC campaign could be worse than not running ads at all.

Here you’ll find:

  • Common pay-per-click (PPC) myths
  • The truth behind these myths 
  • The benefits of monitoring and optimizing ads
  • How SEO plays into PPC success

We know PPC is a key component to most digital marketing programs. Not only can it help increase web traffic, but it allows you to target your audience at a time when they’re seeking your products or services. 

Because of the popularity of PPC (or paid search), there’s a wealth of information swirling around about best practices and getting started. But, depending on the source and age of the content, you shouldn’t always believe what you read. 

As times change and technology shifts, some PPC practices become outdated. What’s worse, following some obsolete suggestions about paid ads can end up costing you. 

Want to make sure you can separate fact from fiction when it comes to PPC? You’re in luck: we’ve busted 8 common PPC myths to ensure you’re on the right track. 

PPC myths blog

Being in the top spot on the search engine results page (SERP) is great for visibility, but it’s not always the best for conversion rates. (Image via Unsplash)

PPC Myth #1: You should run PPC campaign on autopilot to save time

Truth: While it’s easy to see the appeal of the “set it and forget it” strategy, this will not only cost you more money, but could cost you qualified leads. 

Some brands think a campaign simply consists of selecting keywords, creating ads, setting a budget, and letting it run. But we’re filing this under “PPC myths,” since putting a PPC campaign on autopilot often isn’t the way to get the most bang for your buck. Rather, your PPC management should follow the same advice that applies to most things in life: the more effort you put in, the more you get out of it. 

Setting up an effective PPC campaign is a detail-oriented process that requires consistent monitoring and testing. This is why some businesses opt to hire a PPC expert to manage their campaigns and achieve the best results. 

PPC Myth #2: Top placement means higher conversions

Truth: Being in the top spot on the search engine results page (SERP) is great for visibility, but it’s not always the best for conversion rates. That’s because the #1 spot not only grabs those ready to purchase but also those searchers who may be in the researching stage of the buying process. 

Because of this, you may end up spending more money to keep the top placement than you’re getting in return on ad spend (ROAS). 

It’s also important to remember that a company with a larger budget may be able to outbid you for the coveted top position. Testing different ad positions (and types) is the only way to determine which one strikes the best balance of cost vs. value in your target market and in terms of your goals. 

Pro tip: If you notice a low click-to-conversion ratio when monitoring your paid ads, dig deeper to determine what the cause might be (such as an irrelevant landing page or broken link).

PPC Myth #3: You should use generic keywords for a wider reach

Truth: While dumping a bunch of general industry keywords into your PPC account may help get your ad in front of more people, it won’t provide you with the most qualified traffic or help increase your bottom line. 

In reality, adding a ton of generic keywords will deplete your budget super-fast without the desired results. Instead, it’s best to rank for the most relevant keywords that your target audience uses when typing into the search box to generate a much better return on your paid ad investment. 

Pro tip: Use geo-targeting and a mix of short-tailed and long-tailed keywords to reach a variety of buyers within your service area. 

PPC Myth #4: PPC is best as a short-term strategy

Truth: Some business owners mistakenly believe they only need to employ PPC to promote specific sales or limited-time offers. But using paid ads only as a short-term strategy can be detrimental to its overall effectiveness. 

While PPC helps generate website traffic relatively quickly, having continually running ads will yield you the highest ROI. Also, the data gathered from those clicking on your ad can be beneficial for optimizing your ads and for retargeting campaigns later. 

blog - PPC myths

Some advertisers see better conversions and ROI results with search engine sites outside of Google because there’s less competition. (Image via Rawpixel)

PPC Myth #5: You can quickly improve rankings by increasing your PPC budget

Truth: Of course, it helps to have a sizable budget you can put towards PPC bids — but it’s certainly not everything. There are other key factors you need to take into account when it comes to a campaign’s relevance to improve your rankings, such as:

  • Quality score
  • Targeting
  • Ad copy
  • Extensions

Paying attention to your quality score can help to improve your rankings because the higher the score, the more Google or other search engine ad platforms see your ads as relevant for the search intent. 

When you notice a lower score, it should be a red flag to take a closer look at your ads and see how you can improve the targeting or message of the campaign. Even without a large budget, you can create an effective PPC strategy. 

PPC Myth #6: Stick to Google for your PPC campaigns

Truth: One of the biggest PPC myths is that Google is the only search engine you need to invest in when advertising. While Google is the most widely used search engine by consumers, other search engines, such as Microsoft’s Bing and Verizon’s Yahoo!, are also worth exploring.

Although the number of searches on these make up a smaller percentage, they still see a significant number of users that would seem silly to ignore altogether (especially when these platforms make it relatively easy to export existing Google ads). 

Some advertisers even see better conversions and ROI results with these sites than with Google because there’s less competition. 

PPC Myth # 7: Don’t bother with PPC if you have high organic rankings

Truth: Both SEO and PPC are powerful cornerstones for any well-rounded digital marketing plan. Staying on top of your website’s SEO so you can rank well in organic searches is greatly beneficial, but paid ads can work alongside this organic reach to increase your overall branding efforts and grow your website traffic as a whole. 

PPC campaigns can help you reach your target audience and expand your exposure by allowing your brand to show up for competitive, highly sought-after keywords that you may have trouble ranking for organically. In this way, both organic traffic and paid ads are essential to ensuring your business is reaching the right people at the right time. 

PPC Myth # 8: Any marketer can manage a PPC campaign

Truth: While some teams may be able to handle PPC on their own, others simply don’t have the time or resources to properly dedicate to it. If you or someone on your team doesn’t have time to focus on your PPC account at least on a weekly basis, it may be best to call in an experienced agency to manage your account. 

Besides the time commitment, there are constant changes to monitor and best practices to follow. Hiring professionals who have extensive experience and stay current on new features and updates will help successfully grow your traffic and revenue while giving you hours of time back. 

The takeaway

With an industry that changes as rapidly as digital marketing, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of myths surrounding the best practices, tips, and tactics to follow.

Once you determine what makes a paid search campaign and overall program successful, you can better weed out the PPC myths from the facts. 

Need more help creating a myth-free PPC campaign? Get in touch.

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 Aug 17 , 2020

Saving time on your marketing campaigns is always a win. Luckily, there are Google Ads shortcuts that will streamline your process and boost campaign efficiency. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • Reasons for using Ads shortcuts
  • Helpful Google features to simplify your work
  • Ways to access and use these time-saving tools
  • Expert advice to stay ahead of the competition

Google Ads is one of the most effective and nuanced PPC platforms in the market. Its comprehensive approach means that there are hundreds of sections to work on. 

When it comes to ad upkeep, common tasks include text optimization, bid management, keyword research, and reporting. These alone — not to mention analysis and other formalities — can take up a good chunk of your time.

Of course, it’s crucial to put plenty of time and effort into your campaigns for optimized ads. But leveraging a few shortcuts that exist within the platform allows you to work smarter, not harder, to get the results you want to achieve. 

Here are some Google Ads shortcuts that’ll save you time without sacrificing quality. 

google shortcuts

Usually, accounts are managed by multiple people over their lifespans, particularly for accounts that have been around for years. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Delete keyword clutter

Keywords have always been an integral part of digital marketing. The strategy a few years ago was to come up for every keyword term and all their variations. Google’s Phrase and Exact policies at the time made aspects like plurals and misspellings necessary.

Since then, Google’s Phrase and Exact policies have changed. Nowadays, such variations in keyword phrases are achieved by matching close variants. This means that you no longer need thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of keywords to stay ahead of the competition. Google recommends doing away with these variations under the “Opportunities” section of your account. 

Keep up with the changes by removing duplicate keywords. Luckily, you don’t have to search for every keyword term. Simply use Google Ads Editor to define duplicate keywords and identify them in seconds. You’ll find this feature under the “Tools” category, and you have many options when it comes to how you define duplicate keywords.  

2. Customize your ads

In a way, repetition is necessary for successful marketing (see: the effectiveness of remarketing). The idea is to keep your brand and products in the spotlight perpetually so they stay top of mind with your target audience. 

Some types of ads require systemic repetition. For example, running a timed promotion with a limited number of days to go may require you to update your ads every day until the promotion runs out. While this is necessary, it’s also a bit of a time-waster.

Google’s Ad Customizer will save you effort and update your ads in real-time with impressive precision and quality. This feature requires you to specify standard attributes about your campaign, including factors such as:

  • Start and end dates
  • Target demographics
  • Schedules
  • And more

The Customizer will then use a refined code to implement these parameters at the set times.

3. Use notations

Maybe you have one single person who handles anything and everything pertaining to your Google Ads account. But, usually, organizations’ accounts are managed by multiple people over their lifespans, particularly for accounts that have been around for years.  

Depending on how experienced and organized your team (or the agency you’ve tasked to handle your ads) is, it can be difficult to keep everyone on the same page. This is especially true when you factor in employee turnover. Many account managers who have been in this situation often find themselves wishing for guidance from past account managers. Fortunately, this is possible using notation.

Google recommends you make notes as you manage your ad campaigns. This will help keep your ads organized, since you can visit your notes and track activity. It also makes it easier for account managers who come after to catch up and tailor their marketing campaigns to fit in with past parameters for continuity, including streamlining metrics and performance analysis.

You can add notes via the “Campaign” and “Ad Group View” tabs. Look for the link to performance metrics and click on the option to “Add Note.” Your notes will be stored and can be easily accessible on the reports by account managers who come after you.

hidden shortcut

Take some time to explore the features available to your marketing account and exploit ways of leveraging them. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Test faster using creative Ad Variation

Testing and streamlining ad creation is necessary for every marketing campaign’s organization and success. But doing it manually can be time-consuming. The quicker, easier, and more efficient way? Using Google’s Ad Variation feature.

The Ad Variation feature enables you to automatically streamline ad creation and test the subsequent ads based on your precise parameters. For example, you can split the percentage of your target audience whichever way you choose (this is not an option using Google’s auto-optimization). 

All you have to do is set and specify your desired parameters and fill in the details, including the type of ads you’re making and which campaigns they affect. The Ads Variation feature is available under the “Drafts & Experiments” section. Hover over this section until the “+” sign appears, and click on it to access this feature.

5. Take advantage of the right tools and automation

Google is consistently improving its marketing and advertising features. A huge chunk of these efforts involve automation and making the work easier using specialized tools. For example, Google’s updated scripts can automate the time-consuming task of reporting.

While automation can make life easier, it’s worth noting that you shouldn’t automate everything in your campaigns. After all, robots can’t compete with the expertise and experience of a human.

As far as Google Ads shortcuts go, take some time to explore the automated features available to your marketing account and the different ways of leveraging them. And if it all feels overwhelming? Consider consulting a professional for guidance.

The takeaway

It’s wise to keep up with Google’s updates, as they often include upgrades to its features that make the platform quicker and more efficient. 

Many marketers waste precious hours working on the technical aspects of their marketing campaigns. But with Google Ads shortcuts, you can explore easier and quicker ways to work on the technicalities and put your time to better use elsewhere.

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

 

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 Aug 7 , 2020

Maximize your online reach with Bing and capture traffic you might miss with Google.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The benefits of advertising on both Google and Microsoft’s Bing
  • How the Microsoft Ads platform compares to Google Ads
  • How to create top-quality ads for Bing
  • The importance of checking your Quality Score

Many businesses raise an eyebrow when first introduced to the idea of using Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads) to attract new customers. But you might be surprised to learn that all that the Bing search engine has to offer. 

A recent ComScore report from 2019 found that 126 million unique users were behind around 6 billion Bing searches in March of that year alone. If you want to capture the millions of users out there who use Bing, it’s necessary to explore Microsoft Advertising in addition to Google Ads.

Bing homepage

To make your job easier, Bing Ads allows you to import Google Ads campaigns seamlessly. (Image via Bing)

Microsoft Advertising vs. Google Ads

Of course, there are plenty of similarities to be found between Google Ads and Microsoft Ads, which show up on the Bing search engine. They’re both used to push highly relevant ads to users, with the goal of using targeted marketing to help attract more high-quality leads who are more likely to make a purchase. However, there are also a few key differences to keep in mind.

One notable difference is that, while Google Ads has a balanced network of both PPC  (or paid search) and display ads, Bing has a much more limited display ad network that’s relegated to Microsoft-owned products including Windows operating systems, Outlook, Microsoft Edge, and Xbox.

You may also find that each platform uses different language to describe their functions and metrics. For example, Google tends to use cost per acquisition (CPA) along with the cost of conversion, while Microsoft Ads only uses the term CPA. 

Using both platforms can provide a noticeable boost to your marketing campaigns. However, it’s important to know how to use Microsoft Ads properly if you want to make the most of it and effectively supplement your Google Ads campaign. Below, we’ve laid out some best practices to help you create winning ads that attract the ideal customer on Bing. 

1. Make sure all high-performing Google Ads campaigns are imported to Microsoft Ads

To make your job easier, Microsoft Advertising allows you to import Google Ads campaigns seamlessly. Simply use the import feature to bring your campaigns over to Microsoft’s ad platform. 

While you can test your most successful Google Ads campaigns using Bing, keep in mind that things may look and work a little differently when creating your ads on Microsoft. Knowing the subtle differences when importing can help you transition from one platform to the other and use both to your advantage.

Bing SERP

A smaller budget could take you much farther on Bing than it would with Google. (Image via Bing)

2. Create high-quality copy and images for your ads

You should always optimize your ads for people, not search engines. Keywords are important, but you’re ultimately creating ads to appeal directly to your target audience. With this goal in mind, try to:

  • Use on-brand colors that attract attention
  • Highlight a certain element of your product, service, or brand in your images
  • Create ads using high-quality images without degradation or pixelation
  • Use images of people without accompanying text or logos
  • Keep your ads clean and simple without overwhelming the user
  • Avoid long ad headlines and stick to concise, easy-to-read phrases

3. Start broad and specify your audience based on the results

To pinpoint the ideal audience, it’s a good idea to begin with a broad ad campaign that targets as many users as possible without going over your available budget. From there, you can begin to narrow down your audience based on the demographics and other traits of users that are likely to click on your ads. 

In the process, you can create more valuable ads that target the people who are most likely to be interested in your product or service offerings.

4. Make the most of your budget

Even if you’ve maxed out your Google Ads budget, you can still tailor your budget to help you perform well on Bing. Thanks largely to the lighter competition you’ll find on Bing, you could discover that a smaller budget takes you much farther on the platform than it would with Google.

You’re also likely to find less expensive CPAs with Microsoft Ads while targeting potentially millions of daily search engine users.

5. Know your target audience on Bing

You might find that your Bing audience is different from your Google audience. If so, you should tailor your campaign audiences accordingly. Bing’s demographic tends to include older users who aren’t as quick to go to Google if Bing is their default search engine. 

While you may think this means your audience is potentially less tech savvy, know that many of these users have accumulated more wealth and are willing to spend more money online than their younger counterparts. The fact that your audience on Bing is likely different from your Google audience only further emphasizes the importance of using both.

Microsoft Advertising

Using a combination of Bing Ads and Google Ads can help you find better paid search success and maximize your business’s overall reach online. (Image via Microsoft Advertising)

6. Make use of the UET tag

Microsoft Ads enables you to set up customized event and conversion actions using Universal Event Tracking (UET). With the help of this tool, you can create custom audiences as people perform certain actions. 

For example, you might create an audience that spends a certain amount of time on landing pages or visits only a few other pages before leaving your website after clicking on an ad. With a better understanding of user behavior through UET tags, you can cater campaigns to specific individuals to improve your campaigns’ overall performance.

7. Keep an eye on your Quality Score

One key component of a successful Bing campaign is page or domain authority, which will help gauge the authoritativeness and popularity of a website. You can use Bing’s Quality Score metric to determine how much influence your website has on the search engine, which can help you determine your ads’ competitiveness. 

The Quality Score ranges from 1 to 10, with the best score being 10. If you notice that your Quality Score is suffering, try to adjust your ads by:

  • Conducting more keyword research
  • Ensuring your published content is always high-quality
  • Optimizing your landing pages
  • Checking your ad group targeting

The takeaway

Using a combination of Microsoft Ads and Google Ads can help you find better paid search success and maximize your business’s overall reach online. 

Using these best practices, taking the time to develop high-quality ad campaigns, and understanding your target audience on Bing can help you craft ads that are highly effective, no matter the search engine. 

Want to get the most from your PPC campaigns with Bing and other opportunities? Connect with us today.

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 Jul 21 , 2020

How Google is helping nonprofits spread the word about their cause

Here, you’ll find:

  • How paid search marketing helps nonprofits
  • How Google Ad Grants works
  • Effective strategies for managing your campaigns
  • Expert PPC tools and tips to help you along the way

Nonprofit organizations make the world go round. These groups spend time, resources and money to further important causes and help those in need. But the most successful nonprofits know it’s equally important to invest in marketing to spread the word about their own organization to increase awareness and grow their donor base. 

When it comes to marketing, paid search (also called pay-per-click or PPC) is one of the most effective tactics used today. By following paid search best practices, having strong SEO, and leveraging an ad tool called Google Ad Grants, nonprofits can position their campaigns for maximum conversion. 

How paid search marketing benefits nonprofits

Many nonprofits limit their digital marketing strategy to just maintaining their website. Some also post organically on social media and send out regular newsletters. And sure, these tactics can be effective for engaging donors, showcasing your mission and cause, and running your campaigns. But without more of a digital presence, it’s difficult to expand your organization beyond those who already know about you. 

That’s where paid search comes in. These campaigns can do wonders to increase your donor base and spread your vision to a wider audience. Nonprofit paid search is the digital marketing tool that can take your organization to the next level. 

hawksem blog: nonprofit paid search

When Google approves your nonprofit, your nonprofit’s Google Ads account is allowed to spend up to $10,000 per month. (Image via Unsplash)

Making nonprofit paid search more affordable

We get it: Nonprofits have to be especially mindful when it comes to the cost of paid search ads. Luckily, a tool called Google Ad Grants can help. 

This tool allows eligible nonprofit organizations to spend $10,000 per month to advertise on Google’s search engine at no cost to the organization. Yes, you read that right: Google could give you a free $10,000 to spend on Google ads each month!

How it works

When Google approves your nonprofit, your nonprofit’s Google Ads account is allowed to spend up to $10,000 per month. The maximum cost per click (CPC) is set at $2. 

Once you hit your $10,000 advertisement limit, your ads automatically stop until the end of the month. The ads automatically continue to run again when the next cycle begins. This way, there’s no need to worry about going over your monthly cap and spending extra budget.

How to qualify for Google Ad Grants

Google’s acceptance for nonprofits depends on meeting the following criteria:

  • Must be a valid 501(c) nonprofit
  • Needs to have a functional website with enough quality content that clearly illustrates the nonprofit’s mission and purpose
  • Must be headquartered in the U.S. or anyone of Google’s eligible countries

The biggest hurdle to being awarded a Google Grant is the application process. It includes a writing section where you must specify how you will use the grant, the ads you intend to create, and why your nonprofit deserves the grant money.

The application process is no easy feat — it can take four to six hours to complete. And, of course, not all applications will be accepted. If rejected, you may have to wait months before you’re eligible to reapply.

Maintaining your Google Grant

If your application is accepted, you must maintain the following criteria to keep it:

  • Link your ads to only one website
  • Avoid linking pages where the majority of hyperlinks are to other websites
  • Must log in at least once per month
  • Must update ads at least once every 90 days
  • Only promote events, products, or services where 100% of the proceeds are going directly towards your cause
hawksem: nonprofit paid search blog

What makes Google Ad Grants particularly useful is its ability to set locations, keywords, and demographics to help you reach the exact audience that resonates most with your cause. (Image via Unsplash)

How Google Ad Grants can boost your paid search efforts

A large network user base

Google currently holds nearly 92% of the internet search engine market share worldwide. This makes it the most influential marketing and advertising platform on the planet. Google’s incredibly large user network base can spread your cause quickly, leading to up to 5,000 new monthly visitors to your website for free.

The ability to connect you with your target audience

With all those monthly users and activity, Google also has an incredibly diverse audience. What makes Google Ad Grants particularly useful is its ability to set locations, keywords, and demographics to help you reach the exact audience that resonates most with your cause.

An increase in your online visibility

If your nonprofit is relatively new or not ranking from keywords relevant to your cause, Google Ad Grants helps your organization get closer to the top of keyword search results. Being placed at the top of Google search results increases organic traffic and awareness for your cause. 

Even if your nonprofit is already ranking well in search queries, Google search ads allow you to show up multiple times on a page, which maximizes the chance a casual visitor clicks to your website.

How to manage your Google Grant

Although it’s possible to manage your Google Grant on your own, it requires a decent amount of time and dedication to have a noticeable impact on your nonprofit.

Once approved, it’s up to you or your team to take time crafting compelling and optimized content targeted to your specific audience and demographic. Likewise, Google Ad Grants holds high standards for its advertisement content. For example, all nonprofits must have a clickthrough rate of at least 1% to continue qualifying for the grant.

The takeaway

There’s no doubt that Google Ad Grants is an incredible nonprofit paid search platform. While the barrier to entry isn’t exactly low, the potential payoff means it could be worth exploring if your nonprofit meets the criteria and has the resources to maintain strong paid search campaigns.

Need more help with your nonprofit’s paid search strategies? Let’s talk. 

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 Jul 1 , 2020

PPC marketing is a proven way to get fast results. But just like any other strategy, it needs regular tweaking, updating, and optimizing.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Why Google Ads isn’t the only pay-per-click (PPC) player in town
  • Why manual bidding is worth your attention
  • Ways to optimize your PPC ads in 2020
  • What Core Web Vitals are and why they matter

We like to say that digital marketing is part art, part science. Sure, there are guidelines and processes and steps, but without a heavy dose of creativity, your program isn’t likely to shine. 

Well-versed paid search marketers know this. They also know that experimentation, analysis, and optimization are key components to creating a PPC strategy that isn’t just successful, but lasting too. 

Behaviors, competitors, and algorithms change fast. To stay on top of your game, you have to catch on before someone else does. Let these PPC optimization strategies guide your paid search efforts for the rest of the year — and beyond.

1. Switch to manual bidding

No matter how stellar your PPC ads are, they won’t achieve proper results without the right bidding strategy. The tactic you choose for your bids depends on your campaign goals.

If you want to achieve the largest number of clicks according to the set budget, you can use the traditional automatic cost-per-click (CPC) bidding system.

However, allowing Google to do the job for you comes with a couple of downsides. One of them is lack of an easy way to adjust your campaign if it’s not performing properly. Manual bidding can fix this problem. This hands-on, more customized bidding approach:

  • Increases ad visibility
  • Lowers your cost per action (CPA)
  • Allows you to prioritize keywords that convert better

Switching from automatic to manual bidding is an advanced strategy that requires paying close attention to tactics such as:

  • Focus on one campaign at a time since the process can be time-consuming
  • Lower your bids for keywords that receive solid impressions but don’t generate sales
  • Increase bids for keywords that convert to increase the position of ads containing them and generate more conversions
  • Choose the default bid, which is close to the average CPC in your automatic campaigns

When you leverage manual bidding, it’s a good idea to run the manual campaign for a couple of weeks to see if it achieves the goal of lowering CPC and generating sales. If the process seems like too much, partnering with a well-rounded PPC agency might be the right solution for you. 

hawksem: ppc optimization blog

Creating an ad group that consists of people who have already visited your landing pages can be the key to improving your conversion rate. (Image via Unsplash)

2. Take advantage of remarketing

Research shows that only about 2% of potential customers convert on their first visit. Does that mean you’re wasting your money on PPC ads? Of course not. You just have to boost their success by pairing them with remarketing (or retargeting) campaigns.

This process involves using ads to follow potential clients who have already clicked your ads once or visited your site. Placing your ad in front of them serves as a tasteful reminder of the action they may have wanted to take on your website.

Google Ads allows you to segment your remarketing lists to show ads to visitors based on their needs and the landing page the initial PPC ad brought them to. Creating an ad group that consists of people who have already visited your landing pages can be the key to improving your conversion rate.

3. Explore Microsoft Ads

Google Ads is an unmistakable leader in the PPC marketing realm. But that doesn’t mean others in the space aren’t worth exploring. For some companies, using Microsoft Advertising can be just the solution they’ve been waiting for. What’s more, you could potentially see more success with Microsoft Ads, depending on your industry, as there’s often less competition on these platforms. 

But simply importing a campaign over from Google Ads and forgetting about it means missing highly useful tools other ad platforms have to offer. For example, Microsoft advertising has:  

  • Action extensions: add CTA buttons near your ad that link to the landing page of your choice
  • Review extensions: feature reviews from third-party sites below your ad
  • LinkedIn targeting: view the reactions of the LinkedIn audience to your ads for further adjustments
  • Competition insight: see how your visibility compares to competition, which shows up for the same search queries

4. Pay attention to Amazon Ads

Another PPC optimization opportunity is Amazon Ads. While the audience covered by Google, Microsoft, and Facebook Ads is huge, those who see your ad on those platforms aren’t necessarily in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey.

Amazon audiences, on the other hand, are geared toward spending money. People who visit this shopping giant are likely ready to buy, which increases your chances of conversion tremendously.

These are the types of sponsored Amazon ads at your disposal:

  • Products: keyword-targeted ads that allow you to promote a certain product
  • Brands: help promote the brand while including up to three products in the ad — the users are directed to the Stores page or custom landing page on Amazon
  • Display ads: send those who click to Amazon product detail pages, a custom landing page on Amazon, or an external website

Plus, you don’t need to sell your products on Amazon to take advantage of this advertising option. 

Pro tip: The average CPC on Amazon typically ranges between $0.02 and $3.

hawksem blog: ppc optimization

Core Web Vitals show how good of user experience you should aim to offer your visitors. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Take advantage of responsive search ads

After first appearing in 2019, Responsive Search Ads quickly gained tremendous popularity. That’s partly because these ads allow you to create four headlines and fifteen different descriptions for your ad. Google then tests various combinations of these elements and selects those that perform best depending on:

  • Keywords searched for
  • Devices used
  • Browsing behavior
  • And more

Responsive ads save time and money on A/B testing while allowing you to reach your target audience faster.

Want to learn more about optimizing your PPC campaign in 2020? Let’s talk.

6. Optimize your website

Your PPC campaign results can fall far below expectations if you don’t optimize your website to welcome your target audience once they arrive there. In 2021, Google has said they will consider Core Web Vitals when determining the ranking of your pages. These vitals include:

  • Loading performance: the page should load in under 2.5 seconds
  • Visual stability: the page’s elements shouldn’t move when the user is reading the text (it usually happens when a piece of media loads), forcing the visitor to search for their lost place
  • Interactivity: the time between the visitor taking action (like clicking a button or tab) and the website responding should be under 100 milliseconds

Core Web Vitals show how good of user experience you should aim to offer your visitors. Improving them won’t just improve search engine optimization efforts, but it’ll also help your PPC ad clickers actually convert.

The takeaway

PPC optimization is an ongoing process. And with multiple new options and updates happening every year, it’s nearly impossible to thrive without analyzing regularly so you can keep enhancing your strategies.

At the end of the day, the best PPC ads are clear, consistent, targeted to the right audience, and follow through on what they offer.

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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