PPC has always been a challenge.
Competition continues to increase, ad platforms change faster than we can learn the new features, and profit gets squeezed.
We recently analyzed 30,000 PPC accounts to see what the highest performers all had in common. While the use of machine learning helped control parameters like bid and time-frame (to the tune of a 59% increase in clicks), there are lessons we can yield from the creative and copy of those ads.
Here, I’ll outline the techniques and trends you should adopt in your paid media throughout 2018. While these lessons are in the context of SEM, you can apply these principles to other paid media channels.
1. Ad Extensions Capture SERP Real Estate
With Google shaking up how the SERPs are laid out, it’s becoming harder to attract attention through PPC.
You need to capture as much visual “real estate” as possible. Optimize your ad copy to generate more attention and eyeballs. Use ad extensions to stand out from your competitors.
Ad extensions include various elements. Here’s an example of an ad when we search for “buy red wine:”
The ad includes extensions for more granular keywords (“french red wine,” “mixed cases” etc.) as well as an address, phone number and opening times. Users have multiple actions they can take.
Your ad must sit among the top results to qualify for ad extensions. The first step, then, is to audit your top performing ads and identify which are ranking high enough.
Once you’ve identified your top-performing ads, you can apply extensions. To create a new ad extension, head over to your campaign and click “Ad extensions” on the left-hand menu:
On the next page, click the “Extensions” tab followed by “Create Ad Extensions:”
You’ll be provided with a list of ad extensions to use in your ads. These include:
- Sitelink extension: Additional links to other, relevant pages on your website.
- Callout extension: Allows you to include detailed information about your offers, such as free delivery and limited offers.
- Structured snippet: Highlights specific elements of your offering. Includes a header (e.g. “shoe size”) and list of values (“6,” 7,” “8,” etc.)
- Location extension: Attach your business address to your ad copy, including address and business name.
We’ll cover other extensions when we explore specialized ads for mobile. For now, let’s focus on sitelinks. These allow you to include other links to relevant pages on your website, just like the red wine example above.
Choose “Sitelink extension” from the list. This will take you to the sitelink wizard:
Let’s break down each element and what you should include:
- Sitelink text acts as the “anchor text” for your sitelink
- Description line 1 and 2 provide additional information on the link
- Final URL is the URL the link will take the user to
Fill in this information and then hit “save.” You’ve just set up your very first ad extension. It’s that easy!
Add additional sitelinks and apply them to relevant ads. This click data can help you to optimize the copy and creative of other ads in the same category.
Experiment with callouts, location, and other snippets. Use what’s relevant to your product and business and capture as much attention on the SERPs as possible.
2. Specialized Ads for Mobile Devices
We’ve covered ad extensions that are effective for desktop devices. But what about mobile?
You shouldn’t need convincing about the importance of mobile optimization by now. But to drive the point home, 61.9% of all paid SERP clicks came from smartphones in Q3 of 2017.
Mobile behavior differs from desktop. You need to optimize and segment your ads by device to generate the best results. Like desktop ads, a lot of this comes down to owning “visual real estate.”
But the most critical element of mobile PPC ads is to provide users with the right action. Depending on your business type, users may be looking for an immediate need. If you run a coffee shop, for example, they may be looking for your location or a place to find an item on their shopping list.
Let’s start with the Message extension. As illustrated by Strong Automotive below, users can communicate with your brand directly over SMS:
Open AdWords and head over to Extensions. Click the blue “plus” button and select “Message extension:”
Let’s run through each variable and what you need to include:
- Add to: Select the campaign or ad group you wish to add an extension. For better segmentation, I recommend applying this to the ad group level.
- Phone number: Select your country and enter the cell number where your users will reach you.
- Extension text: This will act as your call-to-action. Use copywriting principles to persuade users to act and reduce friction (e.g. “text us for free”).
- Business name: Needed for when users text you
- Message text: Enter a pre-populated message. Use copy that’s relevant to your offering and the action you wish users to take.
Set variables such as scheduling under the advanced options tab. Click “Save” and apply the extension to your ads.
You can also give users the option to call you directly from the SERP. To do this, create a new “Call extension.” Like the Message extension, you’ll need to add your phone number so users can reach you. The call-to-action will look like this:
Finally, ensure you generate conversions from these ads by optimizing your landing pages. Not only should they be optimized for mobile devices, but user action should reflect their behavior.
Consider using Facebook Messenger instead of lead forms. This way, users need only push a button to connect with you. And they’ll receive their lead magnet/offer instantly via Messenger, where most users have notifications enabled.
From here, nurture them along your sales funnel. Capture their email address and measure purchase behavior to increase LTV.
3. Segment Ads by Keywords
While this is a common technique, not many marketers execute it effectively.
A common practice in the PPC world is to target 20 or more keywords in each ad group. The problem with this is it’s hard to create relevant copy for every keyword in an ad group.
This lowers your quality score, resulting in a lower CTR and less traffic to your landing pages.
To remedy this, create an ad group for each of your target keywords. Keyword segmented ad groups will increase your ad relevance, meaning a higher CTR, more traffic, and a lower CPC.
“Ad variations in ad sets can help a lot with keeping costs down. Instead of targeting one massive audience with one ad that may or may not be very good, break your audience down. Target different segments of your audience with different, more tailored ads.”
Start on a small scale, focusing on your highest performing keywords. Use Google Analytics to identify those with a high conversion rate but low CTR:
Identify your top performing keywords and create separate ad groups for them. When adding keywords, be sure to add all three match types:
Next, you’ll need to create compelling copy for each keyword.
To do this, include your keywords in Headline 1 and the display URL. Include benefits and features of your offering in Headline 2, using the description field to expand on them with a call-to-action.
This is the exact approach that Audi used to increase CTR by 22% while slashing CPA of leads in half. In short, a 106% increase in generated leads.
They did this by taking just a handful of top performing keywords and applying them to their ad groups. They focused on broad keywords to maximize their efforts.
So, it’s one thing to generate a boost in traffic using these techniques. But how do you yield an increase in leads like Audi?
Of course, the design and copy of your landing pages are what will persuade a visitor to begin the customer journey. One way to supercharge these efforts is to use dynamic text replacement (DTR).
Using DTR, you can swap selected copy on your landing page to match the content and intent of what your users are searching. Not only does this improve your quality score but will dramatically increase your conversions.
As Andrew Medal puts it, it’s all about understanding your audience:
“Now that you have the tools, you’ll need to understand the goal: getting your audience’s attention. A great place to start with this is with buyer personas, if your brand has developed them. If not, they’re an excellent first exercise!”
Start by placing your target keyword in the headline. Doing this will reiterate to the user that they’re in the right place, and make for a more seamless journey.
But don’t just stop there. Amend areas of your copy to focus on the features and benefits that matter most to people searching for these keywords.
To apply DTR, Unbounce comes with this feature out of the box. You can reduce the time it takes to build keyword- and campaign-specific landing pages by creating a universal template. Then it’s just a matter of amending the copy to match.
As Andrew says, understand what causes your audience to search for your brand (and products). “Why do they want what you sell? When do they want it? How often do they purchase it?”
From here, measure your results and watch those conversions soar.
4. Couple Geotargeting With Customer Segmentation
The desires and needs of your customers will vary across different territories and cultures.
If you’re selling a product worldwide, your customer’s motivations for buying will vary from place-to-place.
To get the most out of your international advertising efforts, use geographical segmentation. Prioritize your PPC optimization efforts by identifying the proverbial “low hanging fruit.”
Look at your current customers and visitors. Which cities, countries and regions are they visiting from? Which of these territories have the highest conversion rates?
You can do this using customer development, surveying your list of buyers to find out where they live. Or, you can look at your data in Google Analytics.
In GA, head to Audience > Geo > Location. You’ll see a snapshot overview of where your visitors are coming from:
The report is at a basic level. But you’ll also see the conversion rates for each location. Dig deeper by country, state, and city to identify where your most engaged and loyal customers are. Use segmentation to get more granular insights such as LTV.
Like keyword segmentation, you can tailor your ad targeting towards these locations. As you go through the campaign wizard, you’ll be prompted to choose target locations:
If your offering is location-based, increase CTR by including it in your headline and display URL. You must also remember to exclude these locations from your broader campaigns to avoid duplication.
Geographic segmentation doesn’t stop at traffic. You must then convert that traffic into subscribers, leads, or sales.
If you’re selling internationally, consider translating your copy for your highest performing territories:
Consider matching the user’s local currency to the pricing in your copy. Keep things lean and apply localized currencies to specific landing pages before scaling up across the rest of your website.
Depending on your business type, you could offer different products, services or experiences depending on the users’ location. Take Groupon for example – the offers you see depend on the city you’re browsing from:
When applying this, test the effect it has at each stage of the funnel. Does this help or hinder the discovery process? Conversion and ROI metrics should always be your guiding light when answering these questions.
Finally, consider matching imagery and design to the user’s location. A dark, cozy color scheme may be aesthetically appealing in one country, but completely off-putting on the other side of the world.
Tell us, how are you looking to attract more clicks and conversions in 2018? Do you think more marketers will prioritize SEM? Let’s chat in the comments below.
About the Author: Chandal Nolasco da Silva is Content Director of Acquisio, a performance media solution that helps digital marketers use the power of machine learning to optimize their advertising results.