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Written by Jane Serra on Feb 12

Get ahead of the competition by optimizing your Google Shopping Ads campaign

Here you’ll find:

  • How Google Shopping Ads works
  • How to target the right keywords
  • The reasons why adding negative keywords is crucial
  • Best practices for optimizing ad images
  • How Showcase Shopping ads can help your brand 

The Google Shopping Ads feature is one of the best ways to get your products noticed. You upload your featured products to the Google Merchant Center, splash in some keywords, and images of your products will start to pop up on a Google search along with their prices.

It may sound simple, but there are a handful of key things you need to know to bring in serious sales using this service. If you want to take your marketing game to the next level, consider these six must-know tips to make Google Shopping Ads work for you.

HawkSEM: 6 Must-Know Tips to Make Google Shopping Ads Work for You

Optimizing the information you submit to Google is the key to getting the best return on investment. (Image via Rawpixel)

How does Google Shopping Ads work?

Before we dive into the tips, Google Shopping Ads – formerly known as AdWords – is a paid search advertising service that is available for e-commerce businesses to use to attract new clients.

This service lets brands set up campaigns based on their budget. Your ad will appear in the search results page with your product, cost information, and product photo when a relevant keyword is used in a search.

This will give you a marketing edge because consumers will see your products at the top of the page. It can also benefit you by pushing competitors farther down the search results page. 

What do I need to know about Google Shopping Ads?

Optimizing the information you submit to Google is the key to getting the best return on investment. Let’s go over these 6 tips.

1. Optimize your data feed

When you log in to your Google Merchant account, you’ll want to ensure that your data feed has the necessary information for your product titles. Descriptions in the product title should include:

  • Brand name
  • Material type
  • Sizes
  • Color
  • Model number

Do some keyword research to make sure you’re using the best keywords in your title descriptions. You can use Google’s keyword tracking tools such as Google Search Console and AdWords Keyword Planner to help with this.

2. Target the right keywords

You’ll want to leverage the same keywords a consumer would type into the Google search bar. For example, if your company sells coconut oil, “coconut oil” as a keyword would be too broad to use. 

Instead, imagine the searcher is looking for more specific information about “coconut oil.” It’s best to use long-tail keywords like “best all-natural coconut oil” or “coconut oil for cooking.” Implementing long-tail keywords gives your product a better chance to reach the right audience.

Being specific is important because you don’t want to waste money serving ads to people who aren’t looking for your exact product. Your coconut oil could be used for cooking, for example, while someone is looking for coconut oil body lotion.

3. Add negative keywords

Adding negative keywords tells the search engine platform that you don’t want your ad to end up in a specific search. Let’s go back to the coconut oil example. 

Refined coconut oil goes through a lot of processing and can be used to make soaps, bath oils, or body moisturizers, while unrefined coconut oil is best for cooking. If you’re selling unrefined coconut oil for cooking, excellent negative keywords you’ll want to add would be “refined coconut oil” or “processed coconut oil.” 

4. Optimize your images

To grab a consumer’s attention, make sure you’re uploading high-quality images to associate with your products. Keep in mind that, per Google, your images need to be under 1024 kilobytes

To get the best images possible, consider using a DSLR camera. These are cameras that provide the most detail and are used by professionals.

 Also, make sure your products are clear with no distractions or busy backgrounds. The most popular look is the product with a white background. Use good lighting and make sure the product is the main focus. 

HawkSEM: 6 Must-Know Tips to Make Google Shopping Ads Work for You

If your products aren’t converting, you may want to consider moving them to a different ad group and lowering your bids. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Focus on your top-selling products

Putting your top-selling products in their own ad group will give you the best chance at finding the right audience. You can track your top-selling products by using Google Analytics. Make your bids are on the higher side for these items for maximum exposure.  

If your products aren’t converting, you may want to consider moving them to a different ad group and lowering your bids. This can help ensure you’re maximizing your marketing budget and not overspending.

6. Use Showcase Shopping ads

The standard option that most businesses use is Product Shopping ads. These are the ads that show up on the top of a search results page. They have a product photo, price, and star reviews all nicely packaged in a small box that consumers can easily click on. 

Another option is Showcase Shopping ads. Showcase Shopping ads give your audience a preview of what your brand is all about. This option lets you feature more than one product. It’s also ideal for broader keyword searches. For example, if you sell summer dresses, you can feature multiple dresses you sell in one ad for that keyword.

The takeaway

The tips we’ve mentioned above are crucial for making your Google Shopping Ads campaign successful. Paid search advertising like Google Shopping Ads help your audience find your products. By following the strategies of keyword targeting, using negative keywords, and image optimization, you’ll be on the right track of making your ads pay off.   

Want to find out how you can optimize your PPC campaigns even further? Let’s talk!

Jane Serra

Jane Serra

Jane Serra is the VP of Marketing at HawkSEM. She's an accomplished marketing executive with more than 12 years of experience leading digital marketing teams across demand generation, branding, events, content, and communications. When she's not strategizing, networking, and honing her craft, she enjoys traveling and scrolling Yelp for new restaurants to try.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Jan 9

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

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to define negative keywords
  • Tips for building a negative keyword list
  • How negative keywords stack up again standard keywords
  • Negative keyword best practices

Like noodles for spaghetti, sunshine for plants, and gin for martinis, keywords are an essential part of pay-per-click (PPC) campaign success.

Maybe you’ve got a paid search campaign that’s bringing in a ton of leads, but the conversion rate is low, meaning you’re spending precious ad dollars on unqualified clicks. We’ve seen upwards of 90% in wasted ad spend when clients don’t include any negative keywords in their account.

On the other hand, 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.

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. 

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

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

Using keyword targeting helps ensure your paid search ad is tailored to your audience. When you’re paying for each individual click, you want those who click your ad to be qualified leads. Negative keywords work the same way, just in the opposite direction.

When you add negative keywords, you’re telling the ad platform (such as Google or Bing) that you don’t want your ad to appear for certain searches. 

If your company makes tasty salsa, for instance, then you may want “salsa” to be one of your keywords. But if someone’s searching 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, thus saving you from spending money on bad leads. 

Pro tip: When it comes to queries with more than 10 words in them, negative keywords can’t be applied.

Building your negative keyword list

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

Search Engine Watch advises you to start the process by thinking about the types of businesses, products or services that your brand could be mistaken for (like our salsa example above). Next, brainstorm the search terms that might be used to describe those businesses.

There are some terms — like “address,” “free,” and “login” — that you’ll probably want to select as negative keywords right off the bat. After that, you can also refer to your SEO analytics and see what search terms are bringing visitors to your site. Are there any that clearly stand out as negative keywords? Add those to your list. 

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 punctuation around the words), exact match (if the search contains the exact negative keyword you’ve specified, the ad won’t show), or phrase match (meaning your ad won’t show 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, “exact match” doesn’t always mean exact for standard keywords. It does, however, when it comes to negative keywords. 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

This is why, when you’re mining reports for keywords to exclude, you want to exclude their variations as well.

Pro tip: When you’re entering 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 trigger 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 keyword list shouldn’t remain stagnant. You always want to be optimizing and iterating to make sure your PPC ads are as targeted as possible. 

How often you iterate on your list will depend on various factors, including your campaigns and bandwidth. No matter what “consistent” means for you and your team, it’s a good idea to 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.

The takeaway

For all the reasons above, it can be hugely beneficial to add 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 by helping you only pay for clicks that will (hopefully) become customers. 

With a bit of brainstorming and some campaign tweaks, you can be sure that your PPC campaign won’t attract the wrong crowd. 

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

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 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 Dec 17

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

Here, you’ll find:

  • How search results affect customer acquisition
  • The organic efforts that can help acquire new leads
  • Effective paid marketing strategies for your business
  • How to ensure your site is set up for optimal acquisition

Marketing pros who aren’t new to the game likely know all about the customer journey. It’s comprised of the stages we base our content, campaigns, and gameplans 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 going from a generated lead to a converted 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.

HawkSEM: 6 Ways to Leverage Digital Marketing for Customer Acquisition

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 services and other products.

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 your website be more easily recognized by search engines. 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 marketing
  • Internal links and external links (to authoritative sites)
  • A site map
  • Meta descriptions
  • Images with alt tags

Ensuring your site is optimized for search engines won’t automatically get you in the first position (or even the first page) on 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 resource 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 spread the word about new business offerings or updates, increase your exposure, and even help you go viral (in the 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 should take advantage of the audience targeting tools most of these platforms have in place, so you can get your content delivered straight to those who need to see it most. Paid social is a great way to meet people where they are in a way that’s nearly seamless.

HawkSEM: 6 Ways to Leverage Digital Marketing for Customer Acquisition

When done right, remarketing is one of the best 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 visits your site without making a purchase 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. The most successful remarketing campaigns aren’t one size fits all, of course — a brand-new site visitor shouldn’t be remarketed the same way as a returning visitor. When done right, it’s one of the best ways to get past visitors back to your site. Bonus: it’s one of the most cost-effective ad strategies around.

5. Content marketing

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

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • 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 content you create, the more industry topics you can cover, and the more likely you are to be found on SERPs by those in search of what you have to offer.

You can even take things a step further by partnering with another brand on a piece of content, such as an infographic, webinar, or guest blog. This expands your reach, helps you build a professional network, and boosts your credibility as a reliable source.

6. Email newsletters

As Digital Marketing Institute reports, you’re six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than from a tweet. Newsletters can be a powerful acquisition channel if you follow a few key strategies. The most successful newsletters:

  • Include only 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 you’re doing 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.

HawkSEM: 6 Ways to Leverage Digital Marketing for Customer Acquisition

You’re six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than from a tweet. (Image via Unsplash)

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.

We know a thing or two about successful digital marketing here at HawkSEM. Wondering how we can take your ROI to the next level? Let’s talk.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 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 22

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads are a highly effective tool for getting your business in front of the right people, at the right time.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What PPC marketing is
  • How to properly manage a PPC campaign
  • What makes PPC ads successful
  • The latest PPC stats

Ah, the ever-changing algorithm. Many a marketer wishes they knew the magic words to instantly land them at the top of search engine results, but we all know it’s not nearly that simple.

And that’s too bad, because we also know that approximately three-fourths of users don’t read past the first page of search results. That’s where pay-per-click (PPC) ads come in.

Also referred to as paid search marketing, PPC marketing falls under the category of search engine marketing. PPC ads are the hyperlinked results at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) above the organic, search engine optimized (SEO) results. They look similar to the organic results, except with a little green box denoting “ad” next to it.

The good news: According to a survey by Clutch, 75% of people say paid search ads make it easier to find the info they’re searching for online.

PPC can be a highly effective tool in your digital marketing arsenal, whether your industry is SaaS, financial services, higher education, insurance, or anything in between. It can help connect you with potential clients through eye-catching copy that provides context and a hyperlink taking them straight to a targeted landing page on your site.

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

PPC ads look similar to organic search results, except with a little box denoting “ad” next to it.

What is PPC marketing?

Paid search and PPC are defined as a type of online advertising that allows marketers to have their brand’s display ads show up on in the sponsored results section of a SERP. And because of the pay-per-click nature of these ads, you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad.

Getting the clicks — that’s the tricky part. To create the most effective PPC campaigns, you want your ads to appear in front of the right audience searching for the right keywords that makes sense for your product or service.

From there, you place your bid to say how much you think a click is worth. When your ad shows up and gets clicked on, you’re charged a fee (that can vary greatly depending on industry, competition, keywords, quality score, and more).

PPC vs. paid social ads

Social media advertising is a great way to meet your target audience where they are while also subverting pesky platform algorithms that can keep your content from showing up in feeds.

But unlike PPC ads, you pay a flat rate for the ad space — rates don’t change depending on impressions or engagement. This often translates into social ads being more expensive than PPC.

PPC vs. display ads

Display ads are ads that show up on almost every revenue-generating site across the web. These are the ads you see on the top, side, or bottom of website you visit, a mobile app you use, or a video you watch.

Display ads are known for their high visibility rates. Ads created via the Google Display Network reportedly reach more than 90% of people on the Internet. Because of their prevalence, display ads often don’t have as high of a click-through rate (CTR) as PPC ads.

Most often, these ad types are used for branding, so you stay top of mind after someone visits your site, in conjunction with your PPC efforts.

What are the components of a PPC ad?

Let’s start with Google PPC ads. These can contain:

  • 1-3 headlines
  • A display URL
  • A description up to 90 characters long
  • Ad extensions
HawkSEM - PPC marketing

Google allows up to three headlines in a PPC ad.

Headlines

Recently, Google upped the ante by allowing up to three headlines in a PPC ad, separated by a “|” or pipe symbol. Your headlines are where you have the opportunity to catch someone’s attention and highlight a product or service while being direct about what you offer.

When brainstorming PPC ad headlines, consider elements like:

  • Including keywords
  • Highlighting a common problem and/or solution
  • Getting as close to character limits as possible
  • Asking questions
  • Using concise, to-the-point language

Display URL

Your display URL can be your site’s homepage or a simple, clean URL that relates to the keywords and ad copy (such as hawksem.com/ppc). This clean display URL is simply what appears to users within your ad.

Ideally, though, the URL links to a targeted landing page on your site. The landing page should closely match with the look, feel, and verbiage of the ad, with a clearly defined CTA so the person knows what action to take next.

For example, if HawkSEM was creating a PPC ad that offered a free PPC audit, the display URL could be something like hawksem.com/free-ppc-audit. This way the offer is clearly matched with the ad itself. The link might then route to a more complex URL like hawksem.com/ppc-audit/?utm_source=ppc&utm_medium=google-ads&utm_campaign=ppc-audit for tracking purposes.

Descriptions

You’ve got a limited number of characters to work with for your PPC ad’s description — make them count! Your description should speak specifically to your target audience, highlight benefits for them (vs. just talking about how great your offering is), and have a strong call to action (CTA).

Descriptions are most effective when they’re tangible, i.e. offering “25% off” instead of simply saying “we’re the best!” Plus, Google now allows for 2 descriptions, doubling your character count to 180.

Ad extensions

Ad extensions are no-cost additional lines of text that can help improve your CTR by adding more info and context to your ad (as well as more real estate on the SERP). As Google explains, ad extensions can include:

  • More text
  • Call buttons
  • Location info
  • Additional links to your website
  • Star ratings

Your extensions aren’t guaranteed to show up with your ad, but if your ranking is high enough and the extension is likely to improve performance, it will.

Suspect your PPC program might be broken? We’ve got a guide for that.

What are Microsoft Advertising PPC ads?

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

Microsoft Advertising PPC ads (formerly known as Bing ads) function and look similar to Google Ads.

Microsoft Advertising PPC ads (formerly known as Bing ads) function and look similar to Google Ads. They feature the “ad” box next to the result, and include a headline, URL, and description. As you can see above, some ads include additional links and descriptions as well.

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

Shopping ads are more visual, often leading to a higher CTR than plain-text ads.

What are shopping PPC ads?

For e-commerce brands and those who sell products online, shopping ads can be a great way to get someone to “add to cart.” Shopping ads are more visual, often leading to a higher CTR than plain-text ads.

Shopping ads are automated based on data you send to the search engines. That’s why it’s crucial to fully optimize the product pages on your website. To set up your product to be included in the results feed, you’ve got to format your product information to be compatible with the Shopping feed’s ad platform.

Once you submit your product data to the search engine in the proper format, you’ll be primed to show up on the SERP’s ad section. The approval process can take 24-72 hours. Merchant centers for Google and Bing have their own breakdowns to ensure you’re following the proper steps.

What are some stats on PPC marketing?

  • One-third (33%) of respondents in a Clutch survey said they click on a paid search ad because it directly answers their search query.
  • The first PPC ad spaces were reportedly created in 1996 by Planet Oasis and Google as a research project at Stanford University.
  • Microsoft’s search network Bing attracts 116 million unique desktop searchers a year.
  • Between 40 and 60 billion Google searches take place each month in the U.S.
  • In 2018, Google ad spending grew by 23%.
  • Bing users spend 35% more online when shopping from their desktop computers than average internet searchers.
  • People are most likely to click on text paid search ads (49%) vs. shopping or product listing ads (31%) and video ads (16%).
  • Sponsored ads account for 2 out of 3 clicks on the first page of Google results.

What are the benefits of creating PPC marketing ads?

With PPC marketing ads, you don’t have to fight against the algorithm to show up at the top of a SERP listing. These ads put your business in front of the right people at the right time — when they’re searching for something similar to have you have to offer.

Gone are the days of buying ads and crossing your fingers that they’re seen by enough interested people to be worth their price. By using keyword planner tools to target your audience by preference, region, and more — only paying for the clicks you actually get — you have much greater chances of turning that click into a successful conversion.

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

It’s up to you to determine the amount you’re willing to pay when someone clicks your ad. Essentially, you’re deciding how much each click is worth.

How does bidding work?

You likely know how auctions work — there’s an item (or, in this case, a rank placement), and different people try to outbid each other to be the one who scores.

That’s how PPC bidding works, more or less. When someone enters a query into their chosen search engine, there’s an auction. The built-in algorithm picks what they determine as the most relevant paid and organic search results, and that’s what the user sees.

It’s up to you to determine the amount you’re willing to pay when someone clicks your ad. Essentially, you’re deciding how much each click is worth. What makes this tricky is that, unlike in a public auction, you don’t know how much your competitors are bidding on each keyword compared to yours.

If another advertiser outbids you, their ad is the one that’ll get shown. If you bid too high, you may get more clicks, but you can also go through your budget in a snap. To find the happy medium, it takes time and attention, whether that means you, a team member, or a digital marketing agency.

Keep an eye on your click volume and the types of clicks you’re getting — are they qualified leads or are they junk? These insights will help you modify both your bidding and your ad content accordingly.

What is a quality score?

Along with your bid, your quality score also factors into your ad ranking. Google decides on your overall quality score (on a scale from 1, which is not great, to 10, which is excellent).

This can be viewed in the keywords section of your Google Ads account. The better your quality score, the more you’ll rise through the ranks of results and the better cost-per-click (CPC) rate you’re likely to get.

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

Your PPC ad’s ranking at the top of a SERP depends on factors like the keywords you’re bidding on, the competition for those keywords, your bid amount, and your quality score.

What affects an ad’s ranking?

Your PPC marketing ad’s ranking at the top of a SERP depends on a few factors. These include which keywords you’re bidding on, the amount of competition for those keywords, the amount of your bid, and your quality score.

The formula looks something like this:

The ad ranked below you
———————————- + $0.01 = actual CPC
Your quality score

The higher your ranking, the greater your chances are of getting a click — pretty simple. If you want to up your ranking without increasing your spending, make sure your ads are compelling, accurate, and in line with the hyper-focused landing pages connected to them.

You also want to be mindful of who you’re targeting, when you’re targeting them, and where you’re targeting (from region to the search engine itself).

What is PPC lead scoring?

Generating leads is one thing — but knowing the value of the leads being generated is another altogether. When you know the true value of the leads coming in through lead scoring, you can better prioritize and iterate your PPC marketing strategies. This helps you drive more of the kind of leads you want in the future.

You can determine your lead value by setting up a lead-scoring system that connects your quality leads to the amount spent on each lead.

ValueTrack parameters can be added to landing page URLs that gather info about who is clicking your ads. From there, you can pull this PPC marketing campaign data into your CRM to connect with lifetime value and lead score. This helps determine which campaigns are driving the best leads and value (and it’s part of ConversionIQ, our smart approach to marketing).

Armed with this info, you can better analyze your PPC campaigns and keywords to maximize your ROI.

How do you calculate PPC marketing ROI?

Put simply, you can calculate revenue per lead using the following formula:

Total Revenue Generated / Total Number of Leads = Average Revenue Per Lead

However, this doesn’t paint the whole picture. There are other factors at play as well, including your average sales cycle length, site traffic, customer relationship management (CRM) data, and lead scoring to determine your high-quality leads.

Ensure you’re properly measuring your PPC ROI by:

  • Setting up lead scoring
  • Tracking your leads and conversions properly
  • Adding in subjective data regarding experiences with the lead
  • Calculating anticipated ROI before anticipated site traffic

How can you optimize your search engine marketing (SEM) plan for PPC success?

You can have the best PPC ads around — but if the rest of your online presence is lackluster, you still risk those clicks turning into dead ends instead of closed deals.

Take another look at your SEM program. Are you leveraging the right keywords? Have you planned out your ROI goals? Is your site fully optimized? Being able to answer “yes” to all of these questions will give you and your team the peace of mind that you’re doing all you can when it comes to search engine marketing.

Plenty of companies make the mistake of letting conversion tracking fall by the wayside. Some set it up improperly, and some aren’t tracking this at all. Conversion tracking is crucial for giving you insight into performance while providing you with insightful data about customer actions.

A step-by-step plan for an ROI-driven PPC campaign

Think you’ve got the ROI-driven PPC thing down? Make sure you’re taking all of these steps when crafting your campaign:

  • Determine your campaign’s goals
  • Identify, prioritize, and categorize the right keywords for your campaign
  • Write out your ad copy
  • Set up your ads within your chosen ad platform
  • Determine the desired CTA
  • Make sure your landing pages are targeted, consistent, and optimized
  • Have tracking set up (properly! More than 70% of our PPC audits turn up incorrect or with improper tracking.)

How to find the right PPC agency for you

Whether you’re not seeing the PPC results you want or just don’t have the time and resources to manage it all, partnering with an agency can be hugely beneficial. (OK, so maybe we’re a little biased.)

When you’re vetting out the agencies you potentially want to work with, it’s a good idea to prepare by:

  • Having a list of goals and objectives
  • Deciding which services you need
  • Having a budget in mind
  • Determine your key performance indicators (KPIs)

Once you decide which agencies you want to actually connect with in-person or via phone, make sure you get an understanding of their fee structure, company culture, and communication style. You also want to make sure the team you’re working with is knowledgeable and experienced. (Think all PPC agencies are the same? Think again.)

The takeaway

PPC ads have proven to be a way to reach your targeted audience and turn search engine users into customers. Not only can paid search ads boost awareness of your brand by 80%, but they can expand your reach, bring you more traffic, and, ultimately, make you more money.

Ready to take your PPC game to the next level? Let’s chat.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 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 on Nov 18

Are your PPC efforts driving results?

There are plenty of potential reasons you’re not seeing the results you want, and it can be frustrating when the answers for how to fix the problems aren’t clear.

We get it. We want to help, so we created The Ultimate Guide to Problem-Solving for Your PPC Program and Getting the ROI You Deserve.

We’ve broken down 7 common PPC problems we’ve gleaned from years of experience in the digital marketing space. And because we’re problem solvers, not seekers, we went ahead and offered solutions to help you, too.

This guide covers:

  • 7 of the most common problems marketers experience with PPC
  • Actionable solutions to each of these issues
  • Fun PPC facts and stats from expert research

Claim Your Free PPC Guide

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Sam

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Oct 17

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

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to determine the true value of your leads
  • Why aligning sales strategies with marketing offers more accurate data
  • The best results-driven reports to develop
  • The importance of a lead-scoring system

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 PPC ROI is an important part of running a digital marketing program. As Capterra reports, their savviest vendors know just how much revenue a new customer means to them.

Knowing the true value of the leads you’re currently bringing in can help you in numerous ways. Most notably, it can inform decisions and shape pay-per-click (PPC) strategies. The result: You can generate more leads in the future. 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. These are the types you want to attract — those that move through the funnel quickly and/or convert for the highest LTV (lifetime value).

It’s worth noting that calculating PPC ROI 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, as the potential revenue from those leads would cover the entire SEM program cost.

However, you don’t want to necessarily go all-in on whatever strategy brought those leads in just yet, 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, you’ll want to develop a lead scoring system with robust CRM and keyword tracking technology either in-house or with an agency. This will make it easier to connect specific PPC site visitors with sales and lead value.

You can track big data as well as input subjective data regarding personal experiences with the lead. By tracking which clients or 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.

For example, 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 lifetime value (LTV) is coming from desktop PPC leads, shift more budget to desktop over mobile campaigns.

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 serious 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.

Seasoned experts know to use a results-driven approach and work backward instead of using a “guess-and-check” PPC ROI approach.

Calculate anticipated ROI before anticipated site traffic

Judging your generic site traffic from PPC campaigns can have numerous 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 makes sense.

Get the final results and know your cost per lead

Put a system in place that allows you to connect leads and actual sales values with your PPC strategy. That way, you can properly calculate the cost per lead. Return to the simple equation of Total Revenue Generated divided by Total Number of Leads. This offers a meaningful analysis of PPC ROI.

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

The team at HawkSEM has years of combined experience taking PPC campaigns to the next level. For more on how we can help you, simply request a consultation.

This post was originally published in August 2014 and was updated in October 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.

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Written by Sam on Oct 7

Not sure where to begin? This is for you!

Think all PPC agencies are the same? Think again.

A recent eMarketer survey found that companies leave agency partners for a variety of reasons that can be chalked up to misaligned expectations about anything from pricing and value (33%) to being unhappy with the strategy (%13) or needing different capabilities (14%).

Ensuring you’re on the same page from day 1 can make or break the relationship.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for PPC management, but the tips in this guide will help you hire the right agency for your unique business needs.

This guide covers:

  • Phase 1: How to prepare for your agency search
  • Phase 2: How to interview agencies with your goals in mind
  • Phase 3: Getting started with your new agency
  • Plus a handy checklist to leverage during your evaluation!

Claim Your Free Guide

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Sam

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard.

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Written by Caroline Cox on Sep 23

In marketing, as in sales, being able to save time wherever you can is a game-changer.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to track ROI from PPC
  • The best ROI tracking tools for PPC
  • Ways to increase year-over-year ROI results from PPC
  • How to generate ROI reports for PPC campaigns

For most marketing initiatives, there are multiple steps you have to take to see real results — from launching a campaign to closing a deal — but the fewer it takes to succeed, the better.

That’s where lead scoring comes in. For B2B and lead gen search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns, in particular, experienced industry pros will tell you it’s crucial to know the value of the leads that are being generated. And, especially when you’re dealing with a high volume of leads (which is a good problem to have!), sorting through them can be time-consuming.

HawkSEM blog: PPC lead scoring

Lead scoring helps you better understand how certain keywords impact your conversions and, ultimately, the success of your pay-per-click (PPC) campaign overall. (Image via Unsplash)

By setting up a lead scoring system, which essentially assigns values to leads and ranks them against one another, 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).

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

 

How do I track ROI from PPC?

If you’re getting more than a couple of leads per week, it’s best to leverage a tool like Google Analytics to help you track keyword conversions. You or your marketing agency and connect this application to your CRM or Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) to include lead scoring based on behaviors and actions the new contact or prospect has taken.

Using software for this purpose will help you give value to your data while allowing you to zoom in on the keywords and campaigns that are most successful. This way, you can focus more of your efforts on revenue-producing PPC campaigns.

 

How do I launch an 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.

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

 

What if most leads aren’t converting to customers?

The biggest failure of PPC campaigns is not analyzing keywords and doing regular research to see which ones have a proven track record of producing results for your business. Beyond clicks, which keywords are driving the most revenue or lifetime value (LTV)? Focusing more on these “money keywords” can be the ticket to converting more conversations into actual sales.

Along with keyword monitoring, the formula you use to calculate your conversion goal when bidding for keywords should be based on the conversion rate you’re trying to achieve, rather than on the rate at which you’re looking to bid.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to achieve a 5:1 revenue-to-ad ratio. Knowing this, you should structure your campaign based on cost-per-acquisition (CPA) conversion goals. For successful ROI-driven PPC campaigns, it’s crucial that you know your goals and track pace to your goal along the way.

 

What are the best ROI tracking tools for PPC?

The most important thing you can do for your PPC campaigns is to pair a robust CRM or MAP (that includes lead scoring) with ValueTrack parameters, which are a type of URL parameter you can add to landing page URLs that collect info about those who click your ads. This allows you to analyze your PPC campaigns, target your money keywords, and develop real ROI-driven PPC campaigns.

Other trusted tools include Google Ads Editor, Google Keyword Planner, SpyFu, and SEMrush.

 

How do I track ROI from a PPC campaign with a complex, long sales cycle?

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 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. This info will help you better prioritize where to put your efforts as the cycle moves along.

 

How do I generate ROI reports for PPC campaigns?

Reporting is another place where PPC campaign tracking software is crucial to a thorough analysis. Putting tracking software in place lets you connect the dots with data between PPC traffic, CRM leads, and sales.

Quality ROI reports offer visibility into the PPC campaign, align goals with objectives, and give a big-picture overview of how a campaign is performing, so you’re not flying blind.

Why PPC Lead Scoring is Crucial to SEM Programs - HawkSEM blog

There are several different ways to calculate ROI for PPC. (Image via Unsplash)

How can I increase year-over-year ROI results from PPC?

In our years of experience, we’ve found that the best way to increase year-over-year ROI from your PPC campaigns is to track every campaign and analyze the results accordingly. When you home in on your money words and target your campaigns toward those keywords, while using lead scoring to prioritize your follow-ups, you can really start to see maximized profits.

It’s also important to monitor which ads are performing best, so you can put more resources into those better performing ads. By following this process, you can begin to pinpoint the PPC campaigns that work — and start to see all of your efforts pay off.

 

How do I measure the revenue generated per lead?

If you know what to look for, calculating ROI is a fairly straightforward process. The basic formula is calculated as:

Profit minus cost divided by cost: (Profit – Cost) / Cost

However, when it comes to calculating ROI for PPC, there are several different ways to do it. When advertisers talk about ROI from PPC, many are actually referring to return on ad spend (ROAS). This is a simple formula to calculate as well — it’s generally expressed as a percentage:

(PPC Profit – PPC Cost)/ PPC Cost x 100

Let’s say that you have $1,000 in sales from your PPC campaign. If you paid $500 against the PPC click costs, your ROAS would be 100%.

$1,000 profit – $500 cost = $500 / $500 cost = 1.0 = 100%

Lead scoring is a great tactic for a more efficient marketing process, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. But when you pair this strategy with smart keywords, consistent data tracking, and quality landing pages, you’re one step closer to boosting conversion rates and running a successful SEM program.

 

This post was originally published in August 2014 and was updated in September 2019.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 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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