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Reviewing your paid search marketing for 2012

Author's avatar By John Newton 09 Jan, 2012
Essential Essential topic

7 quick win ideas for your Google Adwords campaigns

At this time of year, search marketers are inundated with requests to push out new offers, react quickly to competitors’ promotions and, above all, maintain traffic levels and search engine visibility. However, January could be a great time for paid search marketers to beef up and fine-tune their Adwords campaigns in time for 2012 - I'll concentrate on quick wins for Google Adwords.

Here’s a list of housekeeping tasks and potential areas for expansion to investigate, once (if) the new year rush quietens down:

1. Run and review search query reports: If you have been pre-occupied with pushing out timely seasonal campaigns over Q4 then you may not have had time to review the actual searches that have triggered your ads.

If that sounds familiar, consider running a search query report. You may be surprised at the queries being entered, and by isolating frequently-repeated one, two or three-word phrases you can find new terms to test on exact and/or phrase match, and add any irrelevant, rogue stems to your negative keyword list. Although it’s thankless work, you will have an added edge on your competitors in the year ahead.

2. Review your competitive set. Christmas aside, diminished consumer demand over the last 36 months has been brutal for online and offline businesses, so don’t assume that your competitors from even six months ago are the same now. Use competitive research tools such as KeywordSpy, Spyfu or SEMRush to check who is active on your keywords, and even what creative changes they have made across the course of the year. You may find that some old rivals have fallen by the wayside, and possibly replaced by new entrants. Surprisingly few marketers seem to use these tools, instead relying on periodic manual scanning of the SERPs.

3. Revisit ad rotation settings. When first putting ad creative live, our search team always recommend choosing an even ad rotation between ad variations (‘rotate’) to allow for a fair and robust comparison between different ad creative; handy when you want to leverage the increased traffic during busy periods to aid with testing.

However, once a ‘champion’ ad has become apparent, and poorer performing creative paused or removed, it is easy to forget to go back into the relevant ad group and switch to either ‘optimise for clicks’ or ‘optimise for conversions’. This minor change can make a few percentage points difference in account efficiency, so it’s worth remembering.

4. Re-evaluate your content network activity. New clients occasionally relay experiences of getting their fingers burnt by the Google content network in the past. It’s almost nine years since Google launched their AdSense product, and the content network going into 2012 is a very different beast. YouTube TrueView video ads, interest-based targeting and re-marketing, +1 buttons in ads and the continual addition of new publishers means that the content network is worth a second look. Why not invest a few hours in finding out how the content network can increase your campaign’s reach in 2012?

5. Test mobile-specific campaigns. Google AdWords defaults to ‘Desktop and Mobile’ on AdWords campaigns, but the two audiences are very different and mobile now accounts for more than three per cent of UK paid search spend; and the gifting of smartphones and tablets during Christmas will have given the mobile audience another boost.

Mobile users are more likely to be information seekers, rather than converters, they are active at different times (our search team reports more activity around commuter time and evenings) and they tend to make a lot more local searches.

However, for those with a mobile-enabled site, mobile CPCs can be considerably cheaper than desktop-only ads and can, for certain sectors, provide a fantastic source of additional traffic. With 32% of UK adults using their mobile to access the web (Ofcom Q1 2011) you cannot afford to leave mobile to its own devices (excuse the pun) any longer.

6. Perform a match type review. Match types are keyword-level choices about how much freedom you will give Google in choosing when to show your ad. Making the right choice for your business really depends on the length, relevance or specificity of each key phrase in your campaign. Ecommerce retailers who are using broad match as part of their search activity will have amassed a lot of vital search query information during the busy Christmas trading period.

You can identify the specific key phrases that triggered your ads by running a search query report. This data can then be used to create new exact and phrase match keywords based on the best-converting broad match phrases, and provide a useful source of irrelevant stems for your keyword negatives list. The original broad match phrases can then be paused, or bids reduced. Keeping a tight rein on broad match spend is key to maintaining an efficient campaign throughout 2012.

7. Hive off your key spenders. End-of-year articles like this one frequently feature ‘most popular’ lists, and this same thought process can be applied to your paid search campaign.

Our Head of Paid Search & Affiliates, Amy Bott, recommends moving your highest-spending, top-converting keywords into their own campaign. This makes it much easier to see at a glance the keywords that are using up a significant proportion of your overall budget, and apply rules and strategies accordingly.

I hope these seven tasks help you to move into 2012 with a more efficient and better-performing campaign.

Author's avatar

By John Newton

John Newton (LinkedIn) is the Smart Insights commentator who writes on using Google Ads for improving paid search marketing and other search-related advice. John is Group Marketing Director at ClickThrough Marketing. He has been been working in marketing, both online and offline, for 15 years in companies which include Yahoo!, ITV and TNS Global. He has been worked in marketing roles, both online and offline, for companies including Yahoo!, ITV and TNS Global. He is interested in the creative application of common sense and a research-based approach to improve marketing results. John is also a CIM Chartered Marketer.

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