Advertisers Assemble: How to PPC Like an Avenger

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After nearly a dozen years working in the digital marketing and, more specifically, the pay-per-click marketing field, I have learned that there are numerous ways to implement and run a successful PPC campaign. No two advertisers are likely to go about their business in the exact same way. While there are certainly best practices, there really is no “right” way to do it. In that way, PPC advertisers are a lot like Marvel’s Avengers: We have a goal (save the planet, attract new business) and the tools necessary to reach our goal (super powers, Bing/Google), but everyone has their own ideas on how best to get to that goal. With that in mind, here are a few ideas that both advertisers and Avengers alike can get behind.

Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail

“… if you want to stay ahead of me … you need to keep both eyes open.” – Nick Fury

No initiative can be completely successful without proper planning and implementation. This was true of S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury with the Avengers Initiative, and it is just as true when getting started with a pay-per-click campaign. While we as digital marketers don’t have a special agent like Phil Coulson we can send out to handle all the legwork for us, we do still access to something that can help: the keyword planner. Available on both Google and Bing, the keyword planner is an essential tool to use when planning out a PPC campaign. It assists you in coming up with keyword ideas, as well as forecasting the results your keywords and campaign settings can achieve. This is essential when planning for budgeting, bidding, and targeting. Whether putting together a team to protect Earth or implementing a PPC account to grow you or your client’s business, planning is the first step to victory.

Budget within Your Means

“Don’t do anything I would do, and definitely don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. There’s a little grey area there and that’s where you operate.” – Tony Stark (Iron Man)

Budgeting is crucial when starting on any project. If you have the wealth of billionaire playboy and mechanical genius Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) behind you, you can certainly afford to keep tinkering and experimenting until you find what works. For most digital marketers and PPC advertisers, however, that is not a luxury we or our clients can afford. Once you know from the planning stage how much you can spend, the next step is to determine how much you should spend. Factors such as marketing budget, goals, and marketplace competition are what should determine your initial budget. Once you have your budget in place and your Mark 1 campaign(s) starts to succeed and bring in new business, you can start to expand your budget and begin working on Mark 2 (and beyond).

Be Precise When Targeting

“You want me to slow him down sir? Or are you sending in more guys for him to beat up?” – Hawkeye

When it comes to hitting targets, no Avenger does it better than Hawkeye. While not blessed with superpowers like many of his Avenger teammates, Hawkeye uses precision and accuracy to make an impact in the fight to protect Earth. Much like Hawkeye, a successful PPC campaign will be focused and precisely targeted to strike the right person, at the right time, and in the right place. By using location targeting, keyword match types, ad scheduling, and device targeting, you can ensure your ads show to users making searches related to the desired action for your business, in a location relevant to your business, at a time your business can serve them, and all delivered on the medium best suited for driving home that desired action to your business. A highly focused and targeted campaign can help to ensure your budget isn’t wasted on irrelevant traffic, a tactic that, like Hawkeye, just can’t miss.

Use Negatives as a Shield

“All they want is to live their lives in peace. And that’s not gonna happen today. But we can do our best to protect them. And we can get the job done.” – Captain America

Captain America is the original Avenger, a bastion of good and a protector of truth, justice, and the American way. To accomplish this, he utilizes his trusty shield in battle as both a weapon and for defending himself. In the PPC world, the closest thing marketers have to Cap’s vibranium shield is negative keywords. Negative keywords block unwanted and irrelevant searches from triggering ads and wasting ad spend on clicks that wouldn’t generate any business for us or our clients. Whether you are taking a precision approach with phrase and exact match keywords like Hawkeye or using broad match to capture everything and let a Norse god (Loki, perhaps?) sort it out, negative keywords are an essential building block to any PPC campaign.

Hammer Home Your Message

“I choose to run towards my problems, and not away from them. Because that’s what heroes do.” – Thor

Getting your point across and hammering home ideas to get people to take action is critical, regardless of if you are saving the world or trying to generate business from a PPC campaign. This comes naturally to the mighty Thor Odinson, the Asgardian Avenger and god of thunder who takes the concept even further by making his points with a literal hammer. While we can’t do that in the realm of PPC, we can cater our messaging to drive users to taking a desired action through ad copy and extensions. By combining keyword-rich ads and compelling calls to action with ad extensions that really showcase what your business is all about (and help take up that oh-so-important space above the fold), advertisers can channel their inner Thor to catch lightning in a bottle and convince users that your business is the right one for them.

Give Your Campaigns a Split Personality

“You should know that there is a flip side to this too.” – Bruce Banner (The Hulk)

When mild-mannered scientist Bruce Banner is calm and in control, he helps the Avengers by using his intellect to help them solve problems. But when he gets angry? Well, then he turns into the Hulk, a giant, preternaturally strong green monster who smashes everything in sight, usually to help his Avenger comrades (but not always). Regardless, each side of Dr. Banner serves a function for the Avengers, albeit in different ways, and this can also be applied to PPC campaigns. Splitting your campaigns by topic, device, or targeting can allow you to achieve greater overall control of where your budget is being used and increase your chances of success. For instance, you might have two campaigns with the same set of keywords, but target one using broader match types and the display network on only desktop computers and target the other with phrase and exact match keywords only on mobile devices. The former will yell out, “Hulk smash!” as it increases your branding presence, while the latter will quietly work to get you smarter traffic and qualified leads. Both campaigns, while the same at the root, are achieving their goals… and all without the need for any gamma radiation.

Let the Robots Lend a Hand

“You set the terms. You can change them.” – Vision

Potentially the most powerful Avenger is Vision, an android created by the evil Ultron (more on him later) who defied his creator and used his powers for the good of humanity. Because of his origin and lack of humanity, the Avengers were initially hesitant to trust their robotic counterpart, but he ended up becoming an essential member of the team. Likewise, PPC advertisers have a number of automated and AI tools at their disposal to help run their campaigns. Rules, scripts, and APIs can help you automate certain tasks (i.e. raising a bid to reach a certain position), control budgets, send out e-mail alerts, organize accounts, and even give you fully customizable reporting at scale.

If You’re Not “Spying,” You’re Not Trying

“Let’s finish the job.” – Black Widow

Like Hawkeye, Black Widow is an Avenger who makes up for her lack of powers with cunning and guile. Raised from birth to become the ultimate spy, Black Widow might be the deadliest of the group, and certainly can be counted on to finish a job when called upon. The PPC equivalent of Black Widow is the remarketing campaign, a display-based campaign that targets users who have already shown interest in your business. While remarketing is not really spying, seeing an ad for that item you just left in your shopping cart on another website can certainly make it feel like someone’s watching. Feelings of being watched aside, the relevance and persistence of remarketing makes it a great tool for bringing back users who may have been on the fence about your business and getting them to take the desired action.

Don’t Be a Villain

“I know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right, yet to fail nonetheless. It’s frightening.” – Thanos

Finally, here are a few tips on some things not to do with your PPC accounts and campaigns, following mistakes that were made by some of the Avengers’ greatest foes.

  • Keep your goals realistic. Thor’s half-brother Loki set out to take over Asgard, Earth, and basically any other realm he visited. This kind of overreaching did not work out in his favor, nor will it work out for advertisers who don’t keep their goals realistic. If you are expecting to be able to have minimal cost per click, high conversions, and top positions on all searches, you are likely to be disappointed. Balance is the key to getting the most out of PPC.
  • Don’t rely on AI to do all the work. When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner created the super robot Ultron, they expected him to replace the need for the Avengers. Instead, Ultron ran amok and tried to destroy humanity. While that kind of extreme consequence won’t befall any PPC marketers, relying solely on scripts, APIs, or rules to manage your PPC campaigns can still be a recipe for disaster. Even though the AI will only do what you have asked, human oversight is still a necessity to ensure what the AI is doing is actually good for your account.
  • Random destruction will not make your account thrive. If you are an eternal being like Thanos, you might be able to convince yourself that randomly destroying half of the life in the universe with the snap of your fingers is a good idea. You might also be in love with Death, which is a whole other problem. With a PPC campaign, you might want to be a bit more deliberate in your approach. Yes, it is good to cycle out ad copy and pause or remove keywords and other elements of your campaign from time to time. That being said, if you did that randomly, your account would end up fairly messy, so it is far more practical to base the removal of PPC elements on actual performance.

Face Front, True PPCers

In closing, you don’t have to possess awesome powers to implement and maintain a quality pay-per-click account, but there are certainly takeaways from Earth’s mightiest heroes that can help you on the way. We at PaperStreet utilize these strategies on a daily basis, and we are dedicated to helping our clients succeed in the same manner the Avengers are dedicated to protecting Earth from outside threats. If you are looking for someone to give you that same level of dedication, feel free to learn more about our PPC services. Excelsior!

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