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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As times change and technology shifts, some PPC practices become outdated.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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Jun 5 , 2020

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

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to create a proper PPC ad foundation
  • Tips for keeping campaigns organized
  • Ways to optimize your e-commerce PPC ads
  • What to test when it comes to your campaigns

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

Let’s break down the must-haves when it comes to creating paid search ads for your e-commerce brand.

hawksem article: e-commerce ppc

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

1. Set a good foundation 

It should come as no surprise that proper setup is key to creating successful e-commerce PPC ads. But that doesn’t mean that plenty of companies, whether they realize it or not, don’t have their accounts set up properly — which can lead to improper tracking and unnecessary steps. So, how do you ensure you’re starting off on the right foot?

To begin, you need to create a free Google Merchant Center (GMC) account. It’s best to use the same email you also use for programs like Google Ads and Google Analytics. That way, your accounts will all be linked together. From there, you can link your Google Ads account to GMC. It’s also a good idea to install “Ecommerce tracking” in your Google Analytics account for even more insight into performance metrics.

2. Stay on top of your product feed

How you get your products into GMC to create the feed mostly depends on how many products you have. If you have a large amount, you can integrate your e-commerce platform with the merchant center. If you have fewer products, you can integrate manually via a Google spreadsheet or even add products one by one. 

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

Once you input products, they’ll remain active for 30 days. After that, those products will expire if you don’t update their info. You can update your products either by reprocessing your feed or setting up automatic processing on a daily or weekly basis, depending on how often your product inventory changes.

3. Get granular

Why is getting granular so important? Because the more specific a product search is, the higher the purchase intent, most likely. Therefore, the more you segment out your products, the more targeted your PPC ads will be. 

If you have a small number of products, each product can be in its own product group. Otherwise, you can split your campaign into ad groups, and then split those into product groups from there. 

You can also divide in other ways, like by devices. Simply put a -100% bid adjustment to separate desktop and mobile. For your desktop campaign, you’d put in a -100% bid adjustment on mobile to show only on desktop, and vice versa. You can also separate out traffic based on how specific the search is. You can do this by setting up campaign priorities and then using negative keywords to separate those searches.

hawksem: e-commerce PPC blog

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

4. Remember to optimize

Without optimizing, your PPC campaign can only go so far. Optimizing will help you better manage your budget by putting more spend where you’re seeing more success. Many e-commerce companies optimize their bids by starting low, then adjusting accordingly. The more data you gather, the more informed your decisions will be.

Other ways to optimize include:

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

5. Consider including prices in ads

Speaking of pricing, including prices in your ads can be a highly effective way to get more clicks than your competition. Not only is this another way to qualify your traffic to ensure you get the right clicks, but it doesn’t take up a ton of valuable ad real estate.

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

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

6. Test your ads — consistently

If you’ve read our past articles, we might sound like a broken record when we talk about the benefits of testing. But it can’t be denied that, if you want high-performing e-commerce PPC ads, testing repeatedly is an important step.

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

Pro tip: The best testing comes with an open mind. You may think you know what your target audience wants, but the results could end up surprising you.

7. Leverage remarketing

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

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

As we’ve mentioned before, setting up e-commerce remarketing often requires adding certain code to your site and making sure your GMC account is set up and running properly.

hawksem: e-commerce ppc ads

Amazon operates like a search engine in many ways, with ad types and structures similar to traditional paid search campaigns. (Image via Rawpixel)

8. Think outside of Google

It makes sense that, when you think of e-commerce PPC, you automatically think of Google. And while it’s holding strong in its place as the top global search engine, it’s not the only one worth looking into.

Microsoft’s search engine Bing has a user base that searches nearly 6 billion times a month total. Its own ad platform, Microsoft Ads, encompasses advertising on Bing as well as Yahoo and AOL.

Depending on your e-commerce product, you could see less competition on Bing that you’d see on Google, and a potentially cheaper cost per click (CPC). Not only that, but Microsoft Ads has a simple process for exporting existing Google Ads campaigns into its own platform, making it easy for you to leverage both. 

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

The takeaway

Whether your e-commerce business has tons of competition or not, you’ve still got to work to make your PPC ads stand out.

Use the tips above when creating, optimizing, and testing your paid search campaigns to keep your digital marketing strategy going strong. 

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

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 Jun 3 , 2020

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 find:

  • How SEM has changed in 2020
  • Ideas for adjusting your campaign
  • New industry trends and developments
  • Common campaign mistakes to avoid

The good news: with so much uncertainty about the future right now, search engine marketing is still worth leveraging. By making just a few tweaks, you can set up your SEM campaigns to succeed, no matter if the business climate is rocky or smooth sailing.

Changes to consider

Before adjusting your SEM strategy, you need to pinpoint what has changed about your target audience’s psychology and behavior, if anything.

  • Lower purchasing power – many consumers are experiencing a decrease in income and a shift in priorities, so purchasing power is dropping
  • Higher learning potential – with more time available, people are doing more research online, looking for educational materials, taking courses, and watching webinars
  • Demand for better digital interaction – consumers are spending more time at home and demand more convenience from remote service providers
  • Change of focus – consumers are shifting their focus to products of prime necessity
  • Remote operation – the majority of companies are moving their business online, increasing digital sales, and providing remote support
  • Lower costs – due to the decrease in demand, the cost per click (CPC) for paid search ads has dropped
hawksem: sem campaigns 2020 article

Be it your next blog article or an Instagram ad, you need to remove the filler. (Image via Unsplash)

What hasn’t changed is the need to promote your products and services. Experts say it’s OK to market your business during these times, as long as you lead with empathy, transparency, and with your customers’ current needs in mind. 

Since search engine marketing is an ongoing process, stopping it today may mean starting from scratch tomorrow. Adapting your promotional tactics to the new pain points and needs of the target audience is the key to your company’s success for the rest of 2020 and beyond.

1. Focus on content clarity

Be it your next blog article or an Instagram ad, you need to remove the filler. In 2020, consumers are spending more time online, which often means being bombarded by a ton of information. Because of this, they’re becoming more and more experienced in telling valuable information apart from thinly-veiled sales content.  

Google is also adjusting its algorithms to the new reality (as of its May 2020 core update) trying to focus on clarity. Here are some ways you can keep in the search engine’s good graces:

  • Focus on the readability of your content
  • Keep anything related to traveling or large gatherings out of your content
  • Don’t make any promises or wild predictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Focus on what you offer and how you follow through for your customers
  • Adjust your CTAs according to the latest developments (i.e. “visit our store” and “let’s meet” are rarely relevant these days)

2. Reevaluate your SEM campaign budget

Since the demand for products has shifted more towards essential goods in 2020, it may be a good idea to reevaluate your PPC campaign budget. With the average CPC dropping by 50% across the board, it’s an excellent time to redirect the budget to top performing SEM campaigns.

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.

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 pivoting how they do their jobs (if they were lucky enough to keep them), 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.

The time and money you invest in the educational content right now can bring impressive results in the future.

4. Capitalize on your knowledge base

Is your knowledge base sitting idle, aimed solely at customer support? The year 2020 is an excellent time to take full advantage of it for SEO

Here are some ideas for how to capitalize on this resource:

  • Turn your FAQ documentation into separate educational blogs
  • Link to your knowledge base to improve your internal linking efforts (link to it in “ticket received/closed” responses as well)
  • Study your customers’ behavioral patterns by checking which information they access most frequently, then create content based on those findings
  • Use the knowledge base to establish yourself as an authority in your industry

Put your knowledge base content in a nice wrapper (like a readable structure with entertainment elements and personalized touches). Then, use it on your website, social media, and for guest posting.

hawksem: sem campaign article 2020

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

5. Improve security

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

To date, almost 200,000 coronavirus-related cyber-attacks occur every week. 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 SSL
  • Reviewing all your SEO add-ons and plugins for security, stability, and updates

6. Inspire your customers

Right now, many people are rethinking their values, habits, and where they invest their time. This is an excellent opportunity to inspire them to try something new. Create inspirational content for your website and PPC ad campaigns as a creative way to highlight products you may have had a hard time promoting in the past.

For example, you can take full advantage of an Instagram paid ads campaign to show how you can improve your customers’ lives during these trying times. Such an approach can turn into an efficient SEM campaign after the pandemic subsides as well.

7. Discover more paid social platforms

It’s likely that your target audience is spending more time online. Meanwhile, advertising costs are dropping. It’s the perfect environment for exploring new paid social platforms

These ad types are often on the more affordable side when it comes to digital ads. Social media ads also seamlessly fit into feeds in a way that lets you meet your prospects where they already are. 

If you’ve been advertising on Facebook and LinkedIn, it’s time to look at Instagram and Pinterest and vice versa. You can direct your attention to YouTube in-video ad placement as well.

The takeaway

The companies that survive through hardships aren’t the ones who say “we’re not going to change how we do things.” Rather, they work to think outside of the box, adapt to changing dynamics, and pivot their strategies in creative ways. 

This is the motto for a high-quality 2020 SEM campaign. By rethinking your audience’s needs and adjusting to the new demands, you can set your brand up to survive any crisis — and gain valuable experience to capitalize on in 2021 and beyond.

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 May 26 , 2020

Tried-and-tested PPC strategies to attract more (qualified) leads into your pipeline

Here you’ll learn:

  • Why quality is more important than quantity for PPC lead generation
  • How to generate high-quality leads
  • Ways to adjust your campaign for lead generation
  • Tips for cutting PPC marketing costs

When it comes to PPC lead generation, the more you invest in your paid search campaigns, the more leads you’re likely to see. The tricky part is that, in PPC lead generation, quantity isn’t equal to quality.

The good news? With the right approach, you can achieve your lead generation goals, attract the right kinds of leads, and enjoy a healthy campaign ROI. Read on to find out how.

hawksem: ppc lead generation

Look closely at how your target audience is searching for what you have to offer. (Image via Rawpixel)

PPC leads: quality vs. quantity

“Over the past month, we’ve generated 15,000 leads.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? But if only 100 of them convert, then you’ve got thousands of leads with very low ROI to show for it. 

Leads with a high conversion potential are harder to obtain. To get them, you’ve got to avoid those who:

  • Window-shop without an intent to buy
  • Click to get a free gift in exchange for contact information (and share fake details)
  • Are bored and click for fun
  • Think they’ll be getting something else due to poor ad copy

Meanwhile, even a low-quality lead can gain potential with a well-structured PPC campaign. Let’s look into the most important tips to help you tweak your approach.

1. Create customized landing pages

Your PPC ads are only as effective as the pages they lead to. Each ad should take the potential client to a landing page that provides exactly what your ad promised.

For example, a “Get a free e-book” call to action (CTA) should lead directly to a page where the user can download the content (with or without filling out a short form). If they have to make additional clicks, these people are likely to leave the website, upping your bounce rate.

Google may even punish you for leading clients to a different page from what you promised in the ad. Search engines consider this practice deceptive and may lower your Quality Score, increasing the ad price.

2. Practice target audience segmentation

If you set up your PPC campaigns to target each product or service separately, you may not be getting as many high-quality leads as possible. Look closely at how your target audience is searching for what you have to offer.

From there, you can divide your offering into as many groups as possible. Instead of segmenting by products, you have the option of segmenting by:

  • Industry
  • Sub-categories
  • Features
  • Benefits
  • Geographic locations

For example, you provide managed IT services in LA:

  • Industry: Managed IT services
  • Sub-category: Managed security, managed cloud infrastructure, managed SaaS, managed communication services
  • Features: antivirus software maintenance, hardware management, disaster recovery plan, software inventory management, quick response IT assistance
  • Benefit: high-quality IT services, quick response managed IT, low-cost managed IT services
  • Geographical location: Managed IT services in LA, remote managed IT services in LA

When you segment the audience according to the above plan, you may have an easier time setting up the campaign, using the right keywords, writing ad copy, and creating specific landing pages.

3. Fine-tune your ad copy

The quality of your PPC campaign hinges on the effectiveness of your ad copy. Along with writing catchy, clear sentences and an actionable CTA, it’s crucial to keep the user’s intent top of mind.

Which stage of the buyer’s journey is your targeted audience in? For example, if they’re at the awareness stage, leading them to product-oriented pages might not do much good. You have to create ad copy aimed at getting their attention through an offer they’ll find valuable.

When writing the text itself, these are some elements to keep in mind:

  • Always address the potential client directly (use “you” and “your”)
  • Leverage emotional triggers
  • Use exact numbers (feature statistics, show product’s price, advertise a sale)
  • Make use of the entire space offered by Google Ads — don’t leave any blank spaces
  • Show what makes your offer unique

And, of course, A/B test your ad design to see which one resonates most.

hawksem: ppc lead gen

There are five main keyword types you can explore for your PPC campaign. (Image via Rawpixel)

4. Focus on your “money” keywords

Keywords are the pillars of your PPC campaign. So, after segmenting your audience, you can dive into the keyword search.

Tools like SpyFu and UberSuggest exist to help you gather a list of relevant keywords while keeping the competition’s efforts in mind. You can arrange your keywords using SEMrush’s PPC Keyword Tool.

The keyword types to explore for your PPC campaign include:

  • Brand keywords — include brand names 
  • High-intent keywords — specific keywords for buyers at the bottom of the funnel
  • Low-intent keywords — to help expand your reach and increase brand awareness
  • Long-tail keywords — low-cost and low-competition keywords 
  • Competitive keywords — high-volume keywords used by many companies in your industry

Make sure to create a list of negative keywords too. You can filter them out by using the Search Term Report and determining which keywords are generating irrelevant clicks. By putting them on the negative keyword list, you can improve the quality of your leads while cutting campaign costs. (Win-win!)

5. Track your campaign

Your PPC campaign needs regular tweaking to ensure it’s as optimized as possible. Track your efforts to keep a pulse on what needs changing. You can get an idea of what works and what doesn’t by following the key PPC marketing KPIs:

  • Impressions — how many times your ads appeared in search results
  • Clicks — how many times users clicked your ad
  • Click-through rate (CTR) — the percentage of users who clicked the ad (Clicks divided by Impressions)
  • Average position — a position in which your ads appeared on the search engine results page
  • Conversions — how many leads who clicked the ad followed the CTA within a certain window of time
  • Quality Score — an indicator of your ad, keyword, and landing page relevance to the user
  • Cost per conversion — how much you spend to obtain a new client
  • Bounce rate — people who clicked but left without following the CTA

By linking your Google Ads account to Google Analytics, you can obtain valuable insight into your lead generation efforts.

The takeaway

Your PPC campaign should be geared toward generating high-quality leads. With the right approach to ad design, keyword search, analytics, and segmentation, you can achieve the desired conversions and enjoy an impressive ROI.

PPC lead generation may seem straightforward until you dig deeper into its nuances. Need help figuring them out? 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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on May 21 , 2020

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

Here, you’ll find:

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

The best place to launch your digital marketing efforts is where your campaign attracts a massive audience — no surprise there. And, according to a 2019 report, Google led the list of the most popular search engines, commanding more than 62% of the American market share. 

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

hawksem: google ads updates 2020

In March 2020, Google introduced more optimization score features to give marketers a better experience. (Image via Unsplash)

The benefits of Google Ads

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

Being a pay-per-click (PPC) marketing strategy, you choose the maximum bid amount you wish to pay for each click on your ad. Your placement improves with your bid amount.

Since its inception in 2000 as Google Adwords, Google Ads has undergone many iterations and changes. Here are a few of the latest Google Ads updates that marketers should know about in 2020.

1.  Improved features in the mobile app

The Google Ads mobile app allows users to review their marketing campaigns in real-time, evaluate recommendations, and take prompt action to optimize performance. In March 2020, Google introduced more optimization score features to give marketers a better experience.

Optimization score allows you to prioritize recommendations so you can identify the most impactful ones and put them into motion. You can view your Google Ads account and optimization scores at a glance on the overview page. To give priority to the actions that best drive performance, campaigns with high-impact recommendations come first on the screen.

HawkSEM: Google Ads 2020

You can view your Google Ads optimization score from your mobile device. (via Google)

You can also create and edit ads right on your smartphone. Choose to receive notifications about changes in optimization scores by opting in on the Settings page. The app notifies you in real-time whenever your scores fall. Once you open the message, the system leads you to the recommendations page where you get guidance on how to raise your optimization score and improve performance.

You may have seen dark-mode options cropping up in your phone updates and your social media profiles. The new Google Ads app also has this option, which you can turn on in the settings page for more visual comfort. It’s an excellent addition when you’re working in a dark or low-light environment.

2.  Website link in call ads

Call volume management can be challenging for businesses with limited personnel. Another feature that Google has added to call ads (formerly call-only-ads) is an optional link to your website.

google call ads

How call ads look on the SERP. (via Google)

The verification URL you add to your call ads only verifies your business details and phone number. Clicking the headline on your call ads initiates calls to your business. If you want ads that allow prospects to call and open your site, you can provide a Final URL. This URL is a secondary web address on your call ad that takes your audience to the webpage you choose.

Call ads increase your online visibility by making it easier for users to open your website. If a customer doesn’t want to call your business but wants to learn more about it online, all they need to do is click the ‘Visit website’ link in your call ad.

hawksem blog: google ads updates 2020

Google Trends is a fascinating feature that allows you to view the topics people are searching online, as well trending topics, trends over time, and more. (Image via Rawpixel)

3.  The smart-bidding process

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

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

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

4.  Google Trends for a dynamic environment

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

For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an influx of millions of office workers now working from home. For some, this has made it harder to keep up with the needs of consumers.

hawksem: google trends 2020

A look at the Google Trends results for “at home yoga” in the past 90 days. (via Google Trends)

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

5.  Seamless interactions on YouTube

Currently, YouTube has more than two billion users, making it a priceless video platform for marketing. Google (which owns YouTube) has launched a feature that allows viewers to interact with businesses without having to exit the platform.

Here’s how it works: A potential customer views your ad and clicks on the call to action (CTA). Then, a drop-down menu with actionable items appears. It could be telling the audience more about your business, like the physical location, contact information, and so on.

hawksem article: google on mobile

Google processes about 40,000 searches per second, making it a prime marketing ground for paid ads. (Image via Rawpixel)

6.  Lead form extensions

When it comes to marketing priorities, lead generation is usually at the top of the list. As part of your Google Ads campaign, you can include a new or existing lead form to generate more leads for your business. 

Lead forms have three primary benefits — they:

  • generate leads and boost sales
  • attract and engage visitors to help you create new remarketing lists
  • direct prospects into the marketing funnel via the form, leading to more conversions

When a Google user clicks the CTA of a Google ad, a lead form that carries their Google account details pops out. They can then submit the form, bridging the gap between your business and potential customers.

The takeaway

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

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

Need more help with your Google Ads campaigns? 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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on May 5 , 2020

In the competitive paid search landscape, “set it and forget it” just won’t cut it.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What a PPC audit is
  • How a PPC audit can improve your paid search
  • Experts tips for conducting PPC audits
  • How often you should audit your PPC program

We know there are the moving parts that come with running successful paid search campaigns. Sometimes, it can feel like balancing spinning plates while trying to ride a unicycle, Cirque du Soleil-style. Add that to all the other tasks on your to-do list, and the set-it-and-forget-it strategy starts to look appealing.

But the best, most profitable PPC campaign you can run is one that you’re consistently analyzing, testing, and improving. That’s where a PPC audit comes in. Here, Jordan Fultz, one of our esteemed SEM managers, breaks down the ins and outs of PPC audits — and why they’re worth your time.

HawkSEM: PPC audits

It’s easy to let PPC audits fall to the back-burner when you’re juggling multiple projects, but they’re one of the most effective ways to assess your PPC efforts. (Image via Unsplash)

What is a PPC audit?

A PPC audit is a detailed look into your PPC account to assess performance, strengths, weaknesses, and what could be tweaked for better results. Whether your account is a rousing success or underperforming, it’s worth conducting a PPC audit. 

It’s easy to let PPC audits fall to the back-burner when you’re juggling multiple projects. But they’re one of the most effective ways to find things in your paid search efforts you may have missed. This is particularly true if you’ve been working with the same account for a long period of time.

Why you should conduct a PPC audit

Multiple elements and settings go into a paid search campaign. That means they all deserve consideration and a closer look when you’re strategizing. It’s easy for subtle settings to function under the radar — even for experienced account managers. 

While it may sound painstaking to analyze each element, it’s key to ensuring your PPC is as high-performing as possible and you’re not wasting spend. After all, what business wouldn’t want to cut spend while increasing revenue? Getting granular with settings is how you do it. Questioning your PPC ad settings can help you consider how you can better aim your ads to searchers when it matters most. 

Pro tip: While quick wins will likely be found during these audits, the process as a whole is a long-term investment that should be honed and repeated for best results.

What a PPC audit can tell you about your brand

An audit can quickly reveal whether your PPC efforts have been working together in tandem toward a common goal or are simply a mishmash of individual campaigns operating in silos. Audits will reveal how much work your business has put into crafting your overall paid search strategy. 

Audits can also reveal how well paid search ads are being deployed according to plan. Even well-designed strategies don’t always follow the planned steps to a T. Corrections may be needed for settings and processes. You might also discover that your paid search data doesn’t completely sync up with your sales data and assumptions, such as increased demand for historically underperforming products or services. 

Lately, COVID-19 has caused many shifts in supply and demand. Thus, weekly audits of search terms and product groups have been especially key. Let this time serve as a reminder that there will always be unpredictable market shifts. PPC audits allow you to see what’s changing so adaptations can be easily implemented.

HawkSEM: PPC audits

During a PPC audit, it’s a good idea to go through every tab, view, and setting in your paid search accounts. (Image via Unsplash)

How to conduct a PPC audit

Audits begin with financial assessments that look at how well your PPC efforts are stacking up against your business goals. Once you have a snapshot, you can then dig into the settings and data to see what opportunities there might be moving forward. Every setting — from the account to the keyword — should be analyzed.

It’s a good idea to go through every tab, view, and setting in your paid search accounts, and to set up your columns so you can see relevant settings all at once.

For larger accounts, once your columns are set up in Google Ads, you can export the data to a spreadsheet to see how many campaigns are:

  • running with automated or manual bidding strategies
  • running with limited budgets
  • targeting different locations
  • and more

Google Ads’ Reports feature will be useful, especially when analyzing a shopping campaign’s product groups (particularly when using custom labels). You should also be analyzing ad copy and landing pages. E-commerce sites are particularly vulnerable to landing pages becoming forwarded or discontinued as products are added and sell out. These businesses in particular need to develop processes for auditing landing pages. 

Conversion actions should also be a primary concern during an audit. You can reference Google Analytics to see what kind of time lag is expected from ad click to conversion. New site visitors will likely behave differently from returning visitors, so you can start to get an idea of how audiences and interest segments will be useful for targeting, observation, or bid modification in Google Ads. Basically, everything should be questioned, tested, and recorded.

How often you should conduct a PPC audit

Generally speaking, planning for a quarterly PPC audit is a good place to start. But your specific frequency will depend on a few factors — namely:

  • your business needs
  • the age of your PPC account
  • the size of your team
  • the rate at which things are changing for your business

Once you go through the process a few times and get a feel for what you want out of your audits, you can then develop your own schedule that meets your needs. After a few quarterly audits, you may find your business needs them more or less frequently.

What steps you should take after your PPC audit

Once your PPC audit is complete, it’s time to dig into the results. Circle up with your team to discuss each finding. This is also the time to address any other questions, concerns, and ideas relating to your PPC initiatives. 

If you’ve performed your audit well, you’ll have plenty to review — even if your accounts have years of strategic iterating behind them. PPC audits aren’t just about looking for weaknesses in your strategy. They’re also a great opportunity to see where (and how) you can improve your PPC, and what parts are working well. 

HawkSEM: PPC audit

Nobody feels good after spending months on PPC efforts just to realize optimizations have been made based on misleading data. (Image via Unsplash)

PPC audit advice from an SEM agency expert:

Make sure your conversion actions are set up properly so you know you’re not double-counting conversions. Look at every single conversion setting, then ask yourself (or your team) if it should be changed. 

Nobody feels good after spending months on PPC efforts just to realize optimizations have been made based on misleading data. No matter your business, it’s key to focus on increasing revenue with paid search. Lock in the best conversion goals for improving the bottom line. 

As a secondary benefit, you’ll be able to test and trust automated bid strategies that rely on conversion actions to optimize themselves. Make sure you set them up for success so you can free up your paid search team’s time with a strategy-driven account suited to automated bid strategies.

The takeaway

 Tunnel vision is a common ailment of paid search teams that are fighting in the proverbial trenches every day. Because of that, fresh eyes can help identify opportunities and threats. 

If your paid search team has writer’s block or is too busy to develop new strategies and ideas, consider bringing in other teams or outside consultants to audit accounts. It’s a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it — there’s always more that can be done or tested. 

But don’t let auditing give your paid search team the impression that they’re not trusted. Audits should be seen as positive, helpful exercises. They’re meant to serve as honest assessments of what’s being done and what can be improved.

Fun fact: At HawkSEM, PPC audits are one of our specialties — see what we mean by requesting a free 10-point PPC analysis today.

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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