It’s easy for PPC managers to prepare for what might happen when they launch new campaigns if they have historical data on a PPC account; what’s harder is when you’re not sure what to expect.
Historical performance metrics like last-click conversions or sales, assisted conversions or sales, and website engagement metrics like time on site and number of pages viewed give us clues into what to expect when we launch new campaigns.
But what about new PPC accounts or new products or services where you have zero data to refer to and no benchmarks whatsoever?
Sure, we can draw upon some of the following resources:
- Previous knowledge and experience in the industry
- Industry reports for certain sectors
- Bid simulators via AdWords
… But as you may have experienced in the past, you can have two organizations in the same industry that perform on completely different ends of the spectrum due to landing page quality, pricing, and more. Armed with virtually no concrete data, we head into the unknown when we make new PPC accounts or product and service campaigns go live.
The good news is that there are several tactics you can have on hand ready to deploy after you launch in order to manage the budget like a pro. Here, I’ll share with you a real-world scenario along with five tips you can try the next time you find yourself in a similar situation.
The Background Story
A client of ours in the for-profit education sector wanted to launch a new offering via PPC. This client had a healthy monthly budget and a small location radius (10 miles).
We had some prior knowledge of the for-profit education space in the area of graduate and undergraduate program paid search, but this offering would focus on preschool programs within a department of a university that had never advertised before. So no historical data, no benchmarks.
Based on the fact that we had a decent budget and a small location radius, we figured $100 a day would be more than enough to hit our targets. But the reality was that before day one of advertising was even over, we had already spent $400. The volume was far greater than anticipated.
As soon as we were able to see the conversion data in AdWords, we had to act fast. We hit pause and started tweaking. Here’s how we handled it, and how you can, too…
5 Tips to Manage Budget on the Fly
1. Dig Into Google Analytics
Check on your campaign traffic engagement via Google Analytics; even with just a few hours or days of being live, you can often see which campaigns, ad groups, and keywords provide better engagement, and adjust from there.
2. Adjust Keyword Bids
This may seem like an obvious point, but it’s worth noting. If you’re like other PPC professionals when you launch new campaigns, you always start with a highly competitive bid right out of the gate.
However, in the instance that the budget goes wild in a way you weren’t prepared for, inching down those bids is a great first step to controlling costs. We’re not even talking anything drastic here – sometimes it’s just pennies. But over time, a few pennies per click multiplied by hundreds of clicks can make a big impact on budget.
The following shows a scenario in which we’ve been inching bids down. The total cost is higher in February from January, but that’s because we’re getting more clicks.
From January to February, we lowered the average cost per click by $0.05 and increased conversions. You can see the average position of the ads only varied slightly but the return was better.
3. Modify Match Types
If you think you’re casting too wide of a net, modify your match types right away to test the results. If budget is really tight, you can focus on exact match to see how the spend performs; this is also a nice option for new programs as it can mean excellent click-through rate.
If you find that exact match is a little too tight, I like going for modified broad before phrase match.
Image source: AdWords help files
Going back to our preschool PPC campaigns, we did just that. After one day of scaling back to exact match only, we found we weren’t spending enough, so we adjusted it to modified broad match.
Of course, managing negative keywords is also one of the first things you should consider to control budget.
4. Rethink Keyword Strategy
Consider changing your strategy once you have a little bit of data based on what’s happening with your keywords. Revisiting the preschool campaign scenario, we started out with various campaigns that focused on broad keywords like preschool, pre-K, and so on, because we weren’t sure if the long-tail terms would have enough volume.
Looking at one campaign for preschool, we included long-tail terms like “afternoon preschool,” “a.m. preschool,” “preschool classes,” and more:
In this campaign, it turned out “preschool” alone brought in too many unrelated searches, and although we typically like to take pre-emptive strikes by looking for negative keywords closely first, we couldn’t keep the traffic and ad spend under control, and therefore couldn’t justify keeping it live.
So we paused the preschool ad group and focused only on the long-tail keywords.
We did learn something valuable though via the data we had. We saw that many people were searching for “preschool” plus the city they live in. So, yes, you guessed it: we launched city + preschool campaigns.
5. Fine-Tune Location Settings
Think about your geo “hot spots.” Can you exclude certain locations right off the bat? Can you just focus on cities or even neighborhoods you know the bulk of your business is coming from?
Consider fine-tuning the radius of your ads to further manage budget. You can get pretty specific if you have the volume needed. (Note that Google says “that if you select a small radius, your ads might only show intermittently or not at all. That’s because small targets might not meet our targeting criteria.”)
For more on location targeting, check out my recent article here: “A Complete Guide for AdWords Location Targeting.”
Launching new PPC accounts or product and service lines with no historical PPC data takes a little courage and the know-how to oversee strategy once it’s live. With the steps outlined in this article, you now have tips you can apply to ensure you’re managing the PPC budget swiftly – and like a pro – when the time comes.