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Advanced PPC #7: 4 Elements of a Winning PPC Strategy


This webinar is over, but if you still have questions, please leave them here and we will address them!



Navah: Hey everybody, and welcome to SEMrush's live webinars series. You guys are all in for such a treat. We have Joel who's going to lead us through some amazing advanced techniques when it comes to PPC, that customer journey stage.

We have our fabulous guest panel, Amy and Luke. Joel actually started off in an agency called Quality Score. He since has transitioned to a brand new boutique agency called PPC Designs. Amy, the owner of Cultivate, is a fellow top PPC influencer. And then Luke is one of the rock stars out of Booster Box. 

Also, hi, my name is Navah. I'm from WordStream. We'll kick it off with Joel's presentation.

Joel: Okay. Well, I'm very happy to be here. The topic of this webinar is encompassing like many topics from a very high level. It has to do with the thought process behind how you decide the best ad copy. Also, which PPC channels you use and of those channels the types of target to use while considering who the people are that you're targeting, what they're interested in and what they're wanting.

Today what I'll talk about are the four elements for a winning PPC strategy. Strategy to me is really the difference between successfully driving traffic and driving successful traffic. I think it is critical that you strategize effectively and it sounds like a big promise.


But first, I'm going to talk about something about PPC. Now pay per click advertising is really revolutionary. I mean, marketing's been going on for a very, very long time. What's really different about PPC is that it gives you an element of control that no one's ever had before. 

It gives you control because you're able to measure your performance. You're able to measure your performance and also target people across many different channels. Each one of those channels gives you a tool. It gives you a tool in order to reach those individuals.

It's really groundbreaking in the aspect that anyone, no matter what size business they have, can compete with big players if they can do PPC better. 

What is a PPC Strategy?

So strategy, what is strategy? Like I said before, strategy is the difference between successfully driving traffic and driving successful traffic. Pay per click platforms, for example, Facebook. I mean, I think everyone's seen it; you make a post and then they say boost this post, they make a suggestion for it. Let's say you click okay and you boost that post. Few clicks later, you enter your credit card number.

What's happening right after that, you're successfully driving PPC traffic. You know what? That traffic probably won't be successful because you're missing one key component and that is strategy. 

I broke strategy down into these four different elements. The first is (1) knowing what the right tools are to (2) serve the best ad to (3) your audience or the audience that you feel that is best to target and then (4) have that ad lead them to the right destination on your website. These are the four elements and it is all encompassed by effective optimization.


Strategic PPC Audience Targeting

I'll start with understanding who your audience is. There are two points to it. The first is obvious, where they are, what their age is, their gender, parental status. Actually Google these days lets you target people based on parental status. Other tools such as Facebook ads, which is still PPC; Facebook's really big on who people are and who they know and what-not. 

I mean Facebook these days lets you even target people in the United States based on their political affiliation. Google is not there yet. But really what I want to talk to you about is the less obvious, which is understanding the state of mind of the user.

You see, I think everyone has bought things. You could, kind of break purchases down between something that is a long intelligent purchase, one you've been planning, one you've been thinking about, one you're actively procuring versus something that you weren't thinking about buying when you woke up that morning, but somehow something caught your attention and you ended up wanting to take action and purchase whatever it may be. 

That leads me to the decision making funnel. The decision making funnel is broken into four different sections. In order to want to buy something, you have to first be (1) aware of it. To have (2) interest in something, you have to (3) desire it. Finally, before wanting to take (4) action and buy it, you have to go through all the steps before. 

Now, for those of you who've understand the funnel analogy, you know that it's bigger on the top and tapers down to get smaller at the bottom. The reason for that is, is that there are many, many, many more people out there who don't know about what it is that you're selling, have never heard of it, who aren't desiring it. 

There's a lot of people who you can make your product known to versus the few that are ready to take action and buy. That leads to what is the tool that you're going to use to reach them? Now the most common PPC platforms are Google search or Bing search. That's very good for reaching people who know what they're looking for and ready to take action.


People are expressing a very active intent when they're opening up their web browser and they're looking for something. 

Display advertising, on the other hand, and also, let's say native advertising, Taboola or Outbrain or Facebook advertising, puts ads in the face with people who aren't actively looking for something. Those are tools that you might want to use more if you're trying to reach people who don't yet know what they want. 

Let's say your product isn't known yet but it's super interesting. If that's the case then it's better to reach a very, very, very wide audience and get that message out there and then bring them into your sales funnel and bring them down to want to take action. Video advertising, by the way, works very, very well for that, such as on YouTube among others. 

When someone desires you, they are ready to take action. There are searching for that emergency locksmith. They're searching for flights to London. They know what they want. Okay.


If they are actively researching products, display advertising might work, such as GDN or what-not. Because on the Google display network, it could go both ways. It can be for people who don't know what they want yet to people who are willing to take action because there are some websites you could advertise on that are very specific. 

Writing Effective Ad Copy

When you write search ads, by the way, you want to experiment with things that are reflecting what they may or may not be thinking. For example. if someone if you're advertising for flights to London or if you're writing ads for that emergency locksmith, experiment with the lowest price versus “we'll be there in 10 minutes”.

By the way, you always want to have a clear call to action in that search ad and also, get actually straight into the point with little fluff. Oftentimes I find people who do PPC and they always want to experiment with very cute ads. They try to be funny. 

People have no attention online. It's not that they're dumb, it's just that there's so much information out there. They want it served to them right away. Don't try to make them think about what's in the ad. Just have it be short and to the point with a simple language as possible.

Once they click on that ad, your landing page should have a headline that reflects what they're looking for. Also, show an image of what they're looking for. Short sales copy, a clear call to action, and also some element of sorts to show credibility to the vendor, such as five star Trustpilot ratings. These are things that help relax anxiety of the user because let's face it, they don't know who you are there's going to be some anxiety before they pull out their credit card and give it to you. 

But, when your audience is not yet interested in what you have to offer, they're on the top of the decision making funnel. You then need to turn awareness into action. You need to educate these people about your product. They are targeted more by who they are if they fit a certain demographic.

Display, video, social PPC, and content marketing such as Taboola and Outbrain are great for reaching people who don't know what they want, although you can make them interested, so you need to educate them. The right message to reach these people is one that entices them to click, not sell necessarily.

You want to educate them about some sort of solution to a problem they have. If you're selling a product that solves, I don't know, insomnia after a long flight or jet lag, let's say the headline of the ad should be about a solution for that problem.


A winning ad isn't going to say “50% off on this product”. They don't even want to know what the product is yet. You have to first say, "Hey, guess what? You got this problem. Here's an ad that is reflecting a solution to the problem." 

By the way, you want to tone down the graphics. A lot of times with display ads and also Facebook as well, people overdo with imagery and graphics and that kind of takes away from the message. 

Always have a clear call to action that might say, click here to learn more. Click here to watch the video and so on. 

If you're advertising a product that people don't know what they want, you need to invest more in good sales copy. Quality copy. Video sales letters often help in order to make them interested and want it. The offer and price shouldn't be as apparent.


Oftentimes the regular rule we have is to kind of have a very apparent call to action from above the fold all the way down. I've actually found that when advertising to users that don't necessarily know what they want, they click on that ad because they're interested in hearing about their problem and if the first thing they see is the call to action with the price they might bounce. 

They might automatically be turned off. Now, by the way, I'm not saying be scammy and kind of try to hide that you're selling something. I mean that's not necessarily ethical and it's also against policy. Like Google won't allow it, Facebook either. You'll get your ads banned very quickly. 

But you might want to have it, the call to action and price below the fold. Let them read what it is that you're offering. Let them get interested in that video that you're selling and that video that's showing what your product is, and then once they're interested and they scroll down, then the price might look more appealing to them. 

Effective PPC Campaign Optimization

Now finally, I'll get to the last point and that encompasses everything which is effective optimization. See, I believe in running PPC campaigns and taking advantage of everything that this new medium gives you. 

With the statistics you get, you're able to know what the value is or the traffic that you're receiving. No matter what your channel is, whether you're targeting who are on the top of your decision making funnel or the bottom, the goal there is to spend less for the traffic than you're making from the traffic.

If it's difficult to measure because they're the very top of the funnel and it takes a week or two or a month before they actually sell, doesn't matter. I mean it's going to be harder a little bit, but you at least need to find a way to get a very educated guess and it's not impossible. 

That way when you run your campaigns, you can then go to your CFO, your boss, or if it's your own business, you then feel comfortable with opening up budgets. You're getting as much as that traffic as you can because you know that for every penny you put in you get more out of it. That is all determined by your ROI.


I'm going to break that ROI into these three factors that determine it. One is the value of the sale. The second is the conversion rate. By conversion rate I mean the percentage of people who click that actually buy. The third is the price of the click, cost per click.

I'll give you a simple formula. Your ROI is your sales value multiplied by your conversion rate divided by your cost per click. Those are the three main factors. When you're driving traffic, whether it be to users in the top of the decision making funnel or the bottom, as long as you have a value of that sale or that conversion, you can lower those costs per clicks through effective A/B testing. 

The reason is, with pay per click advertising, you are actually paying per click. However, platforms such as Google isn't selling clicks. Their limited resource, their commodity is the ad impression. Think about it, you're paying per click, but what they're giving you, what you're buying is the impression. There's some sort of disconnect there. 

Well, Google makes up for that disconnect. What they do is they greatly reward any advertiser that is able to get more clicks by showing better ads to the right user.

If you're able to do that, better than your advertising competition, you'll pay less for that same traffic. You'll pay less for that higher position. Effective A/B testing on ads, increasing the CTR, making your CTR higher than your advertising competitors will help. 

In addition to that, you can also increase your value per visitor with effective sales funnel optimization, A/B testing. Once you start running your PPC campaigns right away, working on optimizing those ads; that'll bring down your cost per click. 

Optimize your landing pages and sales funnel all these A/B testing and that will also increase your value per click. Of course, you can also increase value per visitor with more effective targeting. 

Before I was talking about writing better ads to users, but in addition to that, you can increase your relative CTR, your CTR compared to your competitors, by showing better ads to users with better targeting. By not targeting things that are not as relevant. The reality is you launch your first PPC campaigns: it is very rare that they're profitable from the start.

Initially, the budget that you're putting into your campaigns to me is the budget that it takes in order to optimize. You want to start out by benchmarking your performance. You want to start driving some traffic, maybe let's say 10% of the total budget you're willing to lose to invest in these campaigns. 

Once the campaigns get up and running, you're losing money and you're buying data. You're buying data till the point where you're able to increase the trend by lowering those costs per clicks, increase the conversion rates, and eventually, you're going to find that you're breaking even.

From here, by the way, you continue, your ROI is positive. You're making money, you're growing, you're then optimizing for profit. But once you get to this point, you get past where you just continue the trend you get past to where it's an expense and you reach the point where PPC becomes an asset. It could be consistent, it might not be depending on the industry. Depending on how volatile it is. There are some things that are seasonal, others not.

Takeaways on a Winning PPC Strategy

Once you reach a point where you're able to consistently put less than and then you get out, you've kind of made it. To conclude, I'd like to give you some takeaways. 

The first thing you should understand is who your potential customers are and how well they know the product that you're trying to sell. Are they looking for it? Do they know about it? If so, searches might be a good way to start. If they don't, you need to maybe consider other forms of advertising that put your message in their face based on who they are, if they're your target audience or not. 

Then work very hard on your sales copy in order to educate them and make them desire what you're offering. This is going to dictate the type of message that you use. It's going to dictate your landing page copy.

Once you have all these things down, you want to follow it up with effective optimization to increase ROI. You want to lower your cost per click with effective A/B testing and refine your targeting. 

You want to improve visitor value by increasing conversion rates. Also, you want to improve visitor value and CTR with better targeted traffic. By the way, also some businesses out there could also improve their value per visitor by increasing the value of the sale. That's also something else that could be optimized with some companies. The more they sell, the lower their costs are. 

Then you're going to end up working with a real solid PPC strategy. From here I will start the Q&A.


How Important is Click-Through Rate in PPC?

Navah: One of the questions that actually came up, that I found really interesting, is how much stock should we really put in click-through rate? Is click-through rate the end all be all metric for this, for success? 

Joel: I love that question because it is the end-all metric for success. What I'm saying that look, in order for you to be successful in PPC, you have to first make the PPC platform successful. 

If your click-through rate isn't sufficient, if you're not engaging users well, then it doesn't matter how good your sales copy is. It doesn't matter how good your product is, you will not win with PPC. Now we do have a problem with understanding what a good click rate is. If you're doing display advertising, you get reports on let's say relative CTR.

But I think a really good way to go is like with Google Ads, you're running search campaigns, they report to you on how good you good or bad your quality score is based on users engaged. If it's not enough, then before working on the product or whatnot, work on your ads or work your targeting. 

Because if you're not able to win in that area, you won't win at all. I'm saying if your click-through rate is horrible, you absolutely will not fly with PPC.

Navah: All right, Amy, what do you think?

Amy: I love that question because I don't think that click-through rate is the end all be all. I do think it's important. I see it as a health metric more than a KPI, but there are instances where you could have a really high click-through rate and it's possible that you're not getting the right audience and therefore having a high click-through rate doesn't really mean anything. 

An instance of this is like using dynamic insertion in your ads. Sometimes that works really well, boost your click-through rate, then you get more volume, you have more traffic volume. If your conversion rate holds, you have more conversion volume. That should always be the goal with the click-through rate.

But there are other times where dynamic insertion isn't used well and it does boost the click-through rate, but then the conversion rate doesn't hold because it's not the right traffic and they thought that you were selling something that you weren't. 

I view click-through rate as a health metric in looking at it is something that you should always be working on continually improving, but focusing mostly on what does that ultimate conversion volume and return on ad spend look like. 

Ultimately, I think Joel and I agree when it comes to the importance of trying to optimize click-through rate, getting all of that relevant traffic that you can in order to drive as much conversion volume, lead volume in sales as you can.

Joel: I'm just saying that if you don't pass that little milestone, if you don't win in that area, it's like you will never run. It doesn't make a difference. It doesn't matter how good your product is or whatnot. I mean maybe it's not everything, but if you don't succeed there, you won't succeed with the rest.

Amy: Yeah, and I think it's a lot of it is setting the right expectations in your ad copy too because it can be really tempting to try to drive up the click-through rate. But for some, like especially in B2B situation, sometimes qualifying that person that's going to click is important so that you're not paying for a click.

If it's going to be especially an expensive click, you don't necessarily want to pay for that click to drive them through for them to find out on the landing page that they're not qualified. It really depends on your situation, but ultimately is still is an important metric that you should continually work on. But just not at the expense of what I would consider to be your primary KPIs.

Navah: When I look at the click-through rate without looking at conversion rate, I feel like I'm only getting half of the story. If I have a really good click-through rate and a really terrible conversion rate, kind of going back to what Amy was saying, I probably I'm setting myself up to get a lot of leads that are never going to be a good fit. 

But yeah, I also tend to look at impression share. So, my potential for profit. Because yeah, if I can't have at least 75% impression share, I am probably going to put myself in a position where all spend is waste. Because I can't afford enough clicks in my day to get anything, the value out of my campaign.

Getting Enough Data to Optimize Campaigns

One of the questions in the channel and I think this is a really reasonable question for all of us to address as experts is if they do not have a budget to throw at data acquisition, how do you get access to that traffic? How do you build those data sets when you don't have thousands to lose?

Joel: Forget if it's thousands, but no matter what, what I'm trying to say is, is that to me, my goal when I launch a new client or I get a new campaign is to get it to the point where they are confident based on the stats we're getting, that they are making more than they are spending. 

Now until they get to that point, their campaigns are going to be capped by budget. It doesn't matter if that budget is tens of thousands or that budget is hundreds. But until we get to that point, they're going to be capped by budget.

When they're capped by budget, their impression share is artificially low. What I'm saying is, is that to me, impression share, if you're losing impression share because you're capped by budget, all is showing is that you just haven't gotten to the point yet where you could just open it up. 

Now if you are losing impression share because of rank, then yeah, that's showing me room for potential. Because that means that if you're able to write better ads so that way you could rank higher or if you're able to prove your conversion rate so you can bid higher, then you have more room to grow.

Amy: When I think about launching a new account and not having much budget to start gathering the acquisition, I think that it's really important to know your audience and really think about just things that you innately know about your business and making sure that you're conveying that and that you're having these conversations with whoever's managing your advertising, whether it's you or if it's somebody else. 

Really understanding how people are searching for you, how people are finding you, and then really zeroing in on the highest intent terms and not trying to go for everything at once because that's going to give you a smaller data set that you can start collecting data on. 

Also looking at things like even before you've had a conversion, looking at things like time on site, looking at bounce rate, looking at how many pages people are clicking through to get an understanding of are those people engaged when they're on-site? Because if it seems like a high intent term but you're losing people right off the bat, then there may be optimizations that you need to make to your website.

One of the things that I see as a risk or a common issue is people start their account and they think of every possible keyword they can think of under the sun. Which starts with some really high intent things all the way out to these really broad general keywords. Then they have to cap their budget. Each keyword may spend one to $2 and it hasn't converted yet, but overall the account has spent $1,000 and that's a lot of money.

I would really try to focus in on being really specific about focusing on those high intent terms first, get those working and then start to layer up from there to try to get more data in a way that is not going to lose the farm, so to speak on your way to collecting that data.

Luke: When we're focusing on really expensive traffic at the bottom of the funnel, probably super high intent, maybe lower volume keywords, we're quickly going to reach that cap where we can't afford to spend more budget on these keywords or there aren't even any more people searching. However, when we go to the top of the funnel, we're going to need to think about the click-through rate in a slightly different way perhaps.

In your model there, Joel, when you were talking about how the (top of the funnel) traffic is super cheap, we can get loads of clicks. But if we were to try and link the value of those customers down to our actual important goal and this is going to be super true for your B2B campaigns, it’s going to be very, very difficult to see how that click-through rate relates to our bottom of the funnel, end of the day revenues. 

I think it's going to be interesting to look at how we can make you have quite a quick impact on a bottom of funnel campaign by optimizing towards CTR. I think it might take us more time to see the same impact on our return when we're focusing purely on top of funnel CTR.

Joel: The top of funnel takes a lot more time because well, it's a lot more data. If you're doing display or if you're targeting all these long tails, you have a lot to optimize for. Like Amy was saying earlier, if you're targeting these more direct words, you're able to focus budget and what you know to work better. 

Navah: That I think ties into this top of the funnel, lower-funnel conversation which is about micro-conversions. What is the value of sending micro-conversion goals to teach the Google, Bing, sort of advertising Facebook, about what we value so that we can leverage automated bidding and shouldn't we be leveraging automated bidding? That's kind of a separate question, but I'm really curious what you guys think about micro conversions in their place in an account.

Micro Conversions in Online Funnels

Amy: I love micro conversions. The way that I use them is I typically would map out similar to how Joel has, what that funnel would look like, what content belongs in each section of that funnel. Then I would track which people are doing those events so that I could see kind of where they were in the funnel and what kind of content we should serve them next. 

You can see the long-term value of the people that have joined that audience. You can see how they progress through the funnel and if they ultimately result in a sale and that's going to tell you what your highest value micro conversions are. Then you can know which ones make sense to start to import into Google Ads. 

Because there is a risk, you don't want to just track every single micro conversion in Google Ads as a value if you don't have concrete evidence that it is resulting in value later. 

Joel: You just have to have strong indications as far as what's more valuable or not to kind of lead you in the right direction.

Luke: I'd like to add to that just quickly that micro conversions are a great way of getting data more cheaply, especially if you're running small accounts, especially if you're doing B2B. Micro conversions probably aren't going to help us when we've had one click per keyword, but maybe they can give us an indication. The micro-conversion won't tell us the true value of the keywords. 

But maybe as you were saying, Joel, it can give us a ballpark indication. It can give us an early warning sign that a keyword doesn't have any chance at all or that a Facebook audience is never going to work. We don't have to wait till we get our real conversion. We don't know exactly what the value is. Yeah, I'm now just agreeing with you even more.

Automated and Manual Bidding

Navah: Yup. We have time for probably one more really thoughtful discussion. I think automated bidding is a really good conversation. Smart bidding, automated bidding versus manual. What wins?

Amy: I use both. My favorite bidding strategies are manual bidding and target CPA. I typically find that max conversions...just has a much higher CPC which typically results in a higher CPA and I don't typically see that many more conversions from it. 

If I find that manual CPC is working really well and I have a good volume of conversions, I will A/B test against target CPA, see if that works and sometimes I switch over. Sometimes if something happens or especially for seasonal businesses, if the seasons are changing and things seem to be either slowing down or speeding up and target CPA doesn't seem to be kind of keeping pace with where the season should be; sometimes I'll switch it back manual CPC and that can help give it a little bump. 

I have tested other ones as well. I've used target impression share and have used max conversions as well. But I typically just don't find in an A/B test that they hold their own against the other two that I prefer.

Joel: What I find it's not about the industry, it's more about like how well targeted your campaigns are. Because look at the end of the day, whether it's manual bidding or using conversion optimizer, what matters is do you have data to effectively set that bid for that keyword or that target.

Luke: My two key criteria for doing automated bidding is firstly having enough data and secondly, having it all in Google Ads or Google Analytics, whichever conversion you're optimizing for.

Amy: Having the data is key, but also understanding the ultimate results of those data and what that is going to turn into offline is really important too. Depending on how well you understand the value of your micro conversions, it actually can make sense to incorporate them into your smart bidding strategy because the volume is typically so much higher. Having that much more data can help Google to try to drive more of that volume.

But it only works if you have a really solid understanding of what happens to those leads after they become leads. If you don't, then it's better just to bid on your ultimate goal, if you have a better sense of how that converts offline.

Luke: Well, I'd like to add say very quickly trusting conversions also requires trust in your attribution model.

You can trust in your conversions if you trust that where that conversion came from is actually where that conversion came from. When we're talking about conversions attributed to brands in a last-click model in a search campaign, is that the only ads that helped bring in that conversion? 

We often see on B2B, maybe some of those clicks we got from our top of funnel campaign, maybe loads of people clicked, they never converted at the time, but then they come back later on. What is the value of that sort of funnel campaign? This is something I think we need to understand as marketers. There's no perfect solution right now.

Navah: Thank you guys so much for taking the time to invest in yourselves and your PPC campaigns. 

Luke: I know anyone working in PPC has probably spent some time going down to the tiniest details of what was the conversion rate for this micro conversion yesterday for this keyword. 

It's good to take it a step back and put it into perspective. I think that this is something that helps tie together the impact of CTR on an account and also which bidding model we should be using. I think it'll help us tie that together.

Navah: All right guys, thank you so much for taking the time. This has been another SEMrush Webinar, bringing together the experts in digital marketing to you. Cheers guys. Bye.