This is the eighth in a series of interviews we’re conducting with AdWords advertisers who got unusually high scores using our AdWords Performance Grader. We’re reaching out to high scorers to find out what strategies contribute to their strong AdWords performance. For more in this series, see:
Tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been using AdWords? Are you an Agency or an Advertiser? What is your primary goal for AdWords marketing?
At Quarry, I’m responsible for both digital and traditional media strategy, including PPC advertising. I’ve been using AdWords since 2005. A lot has changed since then, and the tools available have become better and more numerous. Because I work at an agency, our goals change depending on the client and campaign – and defining those goals and what success looks like in each situation is key to producing meaningful results. Two of the goals we work with most often are to increase website traffic, and to generate leads.
There are tons of metrics in AdWords – What are your top 3 key performance metrics in AdWords and why?
My top three:
Can you describe your AdWords management strategy? How do you set your campaign objectives, and how do you know what’s realistic or not?
We have conversations with the client to understand what they’re hoping to achieve through a PPC campaign. Often we’ll recommend a key objective or two based on the keyword research, allocated budget and our knowledge of their business. And we also have clients who come to us with predetermined objectives, so it’s our job to ask the right questions, make sure the goal is reasonable, and build a campaign around it.
The approach tends to be different for each client, but I ask the same set of questions and follow a similar process in determining what to recommend in each situation. Budget is a big factor in determining what we can realistically hope to achieve – share of voice is important – sometimes we need to recommend a narrower keyword focus or fewer targeted regions in order to be successful. Once we’ve determined the basics (budget, region, audience), a key step is to figure out which networks and devices we’ll target. If our client doesn’t have a mobile-enabled site, there’s no point in targeting mobile devices. If we decide to include the display network, I need to do separate keyword and placement research and consider different campaign structure than if we’re running a search network only campaign.
In addition to keyword research, I try to find out what competitors are doing, what differentiates our client from them, and who our audience really is. I need to break through any preconceived notions of who the audience is and what matters to them – for example, just because we use a specific term to refer to the product, does our audience? Those sorts of questions should come up during the research phase.
Campaign structure is obviously important, and it’s something I keep in mind early – your keywords (and networks, if you’re using both) need to drive that structure. It’s a lot harder to retrofit structure into a campaign at the last minute during set up in AdWords.
It’s also essential to keep in mind that PPC is always a work-in-progress. There are times that we’ve had a campaign running, and realized that users just aren’t willing to convert post-click despite optimizations that should have helped, then it’s figuring out what else we need to do and if there are alternatives – in one case we’d asked for users to buy an expensive product online, although we knew almost all sales were occurring offline, so we re-grouped and came up with a different conversion point (a coupon) and saw success quickly.
Describe your AdWords management workflow. When you’re doing your account optimization work, how do you decide what to do next in your account? How do you prioritize your work?
At Quarry, we work with clients who have highly engineered products and services – they have long purchase cycles and are in niche industries. Because of this, our campaigns often have many keywords with low search volumes and it takes longer to get enough data to meaningfully evaluate our results.
The first thing I do when working on campaign optimization is take a look to see if there are any notable changes that I need to pay attention to – CTR, conversion rate, CPC, ad position. And if so, review what optimizations I most recently made that caused the change, and see if I can I mirror it elsewhere in the campaign. I try to compare several different date ranges (including the same time period last year, if available) to make sure it’s not just a potential seasonal change.
I review the ‘search terms’ report often and add negative keywords based on that report. It’s one of the quickest ways to improve campaign relevancy.
My workflow does change depending on which client campaign I’m working on. It’s easy to be distracted by the available data and the possibilities in AdWords, so I try to focus on smaller methodical changes. I don’t change everything at once. For instance, I may choose to focus on changes to ad text and ad testing one week and see how that impacts our results before making changes to CPCs the next.
Any advice or tips for AdWords marketers that didn’t score as well as you?
What did you think about the categories we included in the AdWords Grader – were they fair? Anything missing?
I was really impressed with everything that the AdWords Grader took into account in evaluating campaign performance. I expected something that brushed the surface of our account setup and performance – but instead I got a really comprehensive report that took into account a lot of factors that are important to a campaign’s performance but don’t get a lot of press. In particular, including account activity, long-tail keywords and impression share made me feel that the “grade” was meaningful beyond the standard metrics (QS, CTR and ad optimization) that I’d anticipated would be included.
The diagnostics were really in-depth, and I’ve actually used them as a benchmark for my optimization efforts. Although I scored highly, there were still lots of areas for improvement, and the report gave me insight on areas that I needed to focus on. I’m not sure that there’s anything missing – with the inclusion of the best practices it seems like you guys thought of everything!
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