PPC Warfare: Get Out of the Trenches & Gain a New Strategic Perspective

toy-soldiers-blue-redGetting lost in the trenches of PPC warfare is a common but dangerous hazard. Sometimes you need to take a step back and review the battleground from afar. In other words, extract yourself from keyword-level analysis and take-in the bigger picture.

Even the most battle-hardened PPC manager can hit the wall. They may be at a strategic crossroads on how to expand a highly-optimized campaign. They may feel exhausted after slugging it out with a campaign that has been suffering from sub-par performance.

For those folks who are in the trenches, or perhaps feeling a bit aimless, here is a list of motivational and rejuvenating tactics that can get you back on track.

Look Beyond Yesterday or Last Week

Recent performance can lie. Or at least your current stats may not be entirely indicative of the account’s direction.

Continuously analyzing yesterday, last week, or even the past month doesn’t provide the entire picture. Remember to conduct a long-view analysis as well. Look at your most recent quarter performance as well as the previous six months.

Look for trends regarding click-through rate (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC), conversion rates, and other core metrics. You may be surprised what you find. You may be doing better than you thought – or worse.

Compare the Years

Where was the account this time last year? Is your performance better or worse? Sure, the entire PPC landscape can change in a year (it can change in a day!), but looking at annual data can help you in a few interesting ways:

  • Establish benchmark goals: Review your performance peaks and valleys from last year. You should aim to accentuate your highest conversion timeframes, and mitigate the low-tide periods. You should have month-over-month goals, as well as year-over-year goals and they should be aligned with seasonal patterns.
  • Expose strengths and weaknesses: You may find that specific keyword set worked better last year. Conduct additional analysis to understand what is different: have you changed the targeting for these terms, or have users changed the way they search for your product/service?
  • Reveal search pattern behavior: You should use Google Trends or another forecasting tool to determine if search is down overall for your core terms or your entire industry.

Don’t confine your analysis within your AdWords or adCenter account. Look through your analytics data as well. Look for shifts in traffic sources and audience engagement.

Reviewing revenue stats, profit margin and conversion rates is mission critical, but don’t neglect to look at changes in bounce rate, time on site, visit duration, and other metrics that can indicate a swing in user behavior or a change on the website that is deterring people from deeper engagement.

Find Your Day of Infamy

If after studying the long-view trends, as well as annual trends, and you’re still unsure what next step to take, you should review the most recent quarter performance – but don’t look for trends.

Look for the day or week where the campaign/account took a downturn. Try to determine what changed. Why did performance start to slip?

Relive the Past

Within AdWords and adCenter you can review the change history of your account. Once you have determined the day of infamy (a marked difference in performance), then you should review the historical changes of your account.

Perhaps there was a change made that inadvertently affected your performance negatively. The most common campaign changes that fall into this category include:

  • Negative keyword implementation: When you launched a specific negative keyword it may have made sense at the time, but perhaps this has stopped mission-critical terms from appearing properly.
  • Bidding strategy adjustment: The campaign-level bidding strategy may have shifted. Bids may have been increased or decreased. Or the bidding option may have changed (from CPC to CPA).
  • New campaign launch: New search or display campaigns may inadvertently syphon traffic from an older, established campaign.
  • Campaign settings adjustment: Sometimes settings can are altered accidently and this can have a huge impact on performance.

As you’re looking back, keep in mind that you may have not made the change that impacted your campaign. AdWords and adCenter make changes to ad serving all the time. These changes can be related to keyword match types, display network updates, or ad rotation.

Keeping your day of infamy in mind, review these helpful resources to see if there was an algorithmic shift during your target timeframe:

Look to the Future

Through this process you should have a different perspective on your PPC account. You should have a stronger grasp on your recent performance and a deeper comprehension of your seasonal trends. You should understand the external (platform level) and internal changes (account optimization) that may have affected your performance.

Now, you can look to the future.

Hopefully, pulling yourself out of the keyword-level trenches will help with innovation and motivation, and for this specific PPC battle, you will emerge victorious.

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