Plan Before You Build: Essential PPC Planning Tips

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The planning process is one of the most essential steps in setting up a high performing and optimized paid search campaign. Often over looked or rushed through, many PPC account mangers do not follow a common planning template when creating a new account. This can lead to missed opportunities, over spending or a complete waste of your valuable time.

With proper planning prior to the launch of your PPC campaign, you can set yourself up with a goal oriented account, backed up with analytics that is ready to be tested. The following four steps, can help you plan and implement a PPC campaign that will provide you with an optimal return on your investment.

Step One: Setting and Understanding Your Goals

Taking some time to figure out what you are attempting to accomplish will allow you to create actionable items to reach those goals. Understanding your timeline, current PPC/SEO efforts and measuring/analytics can help you set clear and measureable goals.

Understanding how you will measure your campaigns success is a critical step. What specific metrics will be your KPI’s? (Key Performance Indicators) This will depend on your business model. For ecommerce companies metrics like total transactions, avg. revenue per sale and profit could be possible KPI’s. For a news website or blog KPI’s such as a newsletter sign up or total pageviews may be items you would like to keep an eye one.

Once you have figured out your KPI’s set benchmarks that you would like your campaign to reach. Make sure these are quantifiable so they can easily be compared to the data collected in your analytics.

Step Two: Analytics

Tracking the performance of your PPC campaign is essential to monitor and improve your account. While interfaces like Adwords, Yahoo SEM and MSN Ad Center offer decent reporting features right off the bat it is important to take advantage of the complete functionality available. For example, in Adwords you have the ability to set up goals and assign dollar values to them or you can implement ecommerce tracking across your website. This will allow you enhance your reporting capabilities and equate ad spend to revenue – which can help you fine tune your account and make decisions based on thorough data.

If you use Omniture, Google Analytics or another analytics software you can easily include your paid search campaigns into your data set by linking your accounts. This can help when you are attempting to look at overall data or make a decision based on more than one traffic source.

Step Three: Research

Often the most time consuming step in the planning process, the research phase is quite essential. During this step you will research your market, understand what your competitors are searching for and look at how your competitors are running their paid search campaigns.

In this step you need to begin research potential keywords to use in your campaign. This can be done by researching your organic analytics data and seeing what keywords drive high volume, converting traffic to your site. You can also use tool like Google Keyword Tool or if you have a wealth of experience within the industry, begin creating keywords yourself. Remember to think of it from your customers perspective and how they would search, not how you would search. Once this list is populated, examining the search volume and potential cost can help you calculate your potential budget.

Another important part of the planning process is researching your competitors. Examining what keywords they are bidding on, where they rank and the structure and content of their ads can provide you with valuable information. You will want to take notice of the ads your competitors are using so you can use similar ads during your ad testing period.

Using a tool like Google Social Search and using some of the keywords you have already stumbled upon can provide you with current buzz words or popular searched terms that are currently being mentioned across multiple social media outlets. Chances are if the terms is showing up quite often in these real time updates, it could be a profitable keyword to use in your PPC campaign.

Step Four: Landing Page Optimization

The final step of the planning process is to evaluate and if need be, build a landing page. Landing pages play a role in Google’s Quality Score Algorithm so making sure the user lands on a relevant page is important. Your ad copy should match up with the message on your landing page and the landing page should have a strong call to action. When a user reaches your page the actions to purchase your product or service should be clearly visible and intuitive. If your campaigns spreads across multiple products or services you will want to create separate landing pages for your various products.

If possible, setting up split testing and running and comparing multiple landing pages can be extremely beneficial. If you do not have the resources to do so, checking out a site like can help you understand what others have done to optimize their sites for conversions.

Once completing these four steps you should be ready to begin building out the structure of your account. The information gathered during this planning process will help you create a SEM marketing program that can reach the goals you set in Step One and ultimately make your business more profitable.

Interested in helping your business reach its potential? Contact Front Street Consulting, a Philadelphia SEM Company, at

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