PPC Keyword Management: Expanding, Contracting, Consistently Improving

on PPC September 16th, 2018

PPC Management

Though it can be an incredibly valuable marketing technique when done correctly, paid advertising can be intimidating, nuanced, and confusing.

I clearly remember my very first impression of paid search advertising; PPC struck me as the most rigid, unforgiving form of marketing that one only finds themselves practicing when they lack the creativity to practice any other technique.

Like being the last person picked for a game of kickball, I thought that being a paid search manager simply meant all the fun jobs were taken.

Keyword management PPC
PPC management can, at times, seem tedious and boring

Thankfully now, years later, I’ve come to witness that PPC is far more than simply a tedious maintenance of fragile campaigns. It’s a balanced combination of art and science; of creativity and control.

You’ll find that if you fail to leverage your campaigns with creativity, they’ll struggle to gain momentum, and you won’t be able to expand effectively.

On the flipside, if you don’t thoughtfully manage your campaigns, you’ll find it challenging to figure out what really works, often left wondering why your campaigns aren’t providing you the returns you expected and hope for.

If you’re wondering how to find that balance, you’ve come to the right place! In order for a PPC campaign to be as effective as it can be, you must create a healthy rhythm of push and pull.

Paid Search is not a Set and Forget Technique

Many modern companies are looking for a simple, one-size-fits-all solution to paid advertising. A framework they can set up, tweak a bit, make their own, then let rake in the dough for the rest of its self-sufficient existence. And I’ll be the first to admit, if that were the case, I’d be all over it all day and night.

But alas, paid marketing is not so simple. There are sufficient variables that make the PPC market innately volatile, and one could never create a solution so fool-proof that it could be entirely self-sufficient for more than a week or two.

The Key to Success: Don’t be Afraid to Fail

With that being said, there is still a bright side of this volatile nature. Because you have to be regularly improving and iterating your campaigns, you don’t have to make something perfect on your first try. A lot of times, you need to figure out what doesn’t work before you figure out what does.

Creating Your First Keyword Set

The first cornerstone of success in paid search management revolves around what keywords you are targeting and how you position yourself against the competition.

This first buildout is extra important because how you choose to build out your first batch of keywords can determine whether or not you get a head start on having a solid campaign maintenance rhythm.

Your first goal should be to build wide! Imagine this first batch of keywords is the block of wood you’ll be carving your campaigns out of. You will want excess in the beginning so you can test a bunch of keywords at the same time and refine your keywords from a larger group.

You can anticipate dedicating more budget in the first few months than you will after your keywords are refined, as your goal is to simply find out what works and what doesn’t.

Keyword Expansion

This is where your maintenance rhythm begins.

Nobody’s initial keyword research is ever perfect, and even if it somehow were, the volatile nature of the market would soon outmode the campaign within a few weeks. This is why you have to be constantly looking for new, creative ways to expand your campaigns.

You must be constantly looking into what people are searching, what you’re appearing for, what kinds of trends are currently moving, and how you can best position yourself against the competition.

This is where your creativity will play a vital role. If you want to keep a leg up on your competitors, you will need to think outside the box.

But I also must caution you to not get too carried away. Even if you’re expanding in a direction that you think is fantastic, it’s going to do nothing for you if searchers aren’t thinking the same way. Be creative to find new avenues to pursue, but don’t just jump feet-first into anything that looks appealing. Always make sure research backs up your decisions.

Keyword Reduction

Not every keyword you put into the campaign will be a banger (if every keyword is a banger, you probably only have like ten, so that’s a problem in itself), so in order to keep your campaigns sharp, you will always need to have a period of culling your keyword list to trim the fat.

The first step in keeping consistent in removing bad keywords is to first define what a bad keyword is for you. You need to set a standard that you can later hold keywords up to and decide if they are worth keeping around.

Your standard must be qualitative and measurable. Almost always, it’s a set of metrics like these:

  • Impressions
  • Click-through rate
  • Cost per click
  • Conversion rate
  • Cost per conversion

This will, of course, be different for each company. While a high-sale-value offer may be able to profit off a 2% conversion rate, another may be at a loss if the conversion rate drops below 6%.

You will need to do some experimenting to figure out a reasonable standard for lot of these metrics, but a good place to start is by figuring out how much you are willing to pay for a lead.

From there, you’ll be able do the math to figure out what the other metrics will need to be in order to maintain that cost per conversion.

This set of metrics cannot just be decided once then considered canon. You need to be constantly reevaluating them in order to be as precise and efficient as possible.

I guarantee that if you are paying attention, your metrics will be completely different six months down the line when compared to where you started, so don’t get too caught up in getting them right the first time. You’ll have plenty of time to make corrections.

Another thing to pay attention to when evaluating keywords to remove is what kind of sample size you are working with.

Don’t go making a decision to remove a keyword due to its low click-through rate if it only has 47 impressions, or if it’s only been up for 3 days. Even the time of year can affect how a keyword performs, so you may want to retry it during another season.

 

Why Do People Hire PPC Management Companies?

A lot of companies hire us to manage their paid advertising simply because they don’t want the headache of it.

And fair enough; most of the time, their time is better spent focusing on other areas of their business. If you don’t already have the know-how, and you’re not willing to dedicate your time to studying paid search, I wouldn’t recommend trying to.

If you are interested in exploring paid search, we’re willing to help you along in the process wherever we can! One good place to start is our eBook on running PPC campaigns with a desirable cost-per-lead. You can check that out below.