Fast food is woven into the fabric of modern America. As a society built on convenience and efficiency, we often find ourselves settling for a quick burger comprised of preservatives and manufactured within the confines of a beef assembly line. Though the thought of a thorough, home-cooked meal may make our mouths water, we often fall into the trap of empty promises and the convenient appeal fast food provides. Though our bodies yearn for a nutritious, fulfilling experience every time we pull up to the table, our meals are productized and manufactured. Pay-per-click advertising is dealt with in a very similar way these days.
You may be asking why, as a digital marketing professional, would I share a nugget of philosophy on food and society. Well, in a rapidly changing search-marketing environment, similar sentiments apply to digital marketing tactics. In case you weren’t aware, paid search engine marketing is a revolutionary avenue in advertising. Never before has there been an interactive platform giving you every tool you need to manage keywords, ad copy and how you want to be found by potential customers in real time.
You can even set parameters for how a successful customer conversion is defined throughout your campaigns. But pay-per-click initiatives take time and strategy, and the complexity of a good strategy can be daunting and time consuming. This need for insight and strategy in the marketplace allows firms like Digital Solutions to create targeted campaigns based on years of expertise, but it also gives way the “fast-food” commoditization of paid advertising campaigns: namely, automated pay-per-click software and processes. From bid management platforms and third-party reporting tools, to “proprietary” or “one of a kind” pay-per-click management software, businesses taking the plunge into digital advertising seek many ways to better streamline their PPC advertising processes. While these avenues can be useful in portions of your paid advertising efforts, let’s face it: running a custom campaign, evolving match types and keywords, and monitoring progress often takes a herculean effort, not a fast-food mentality.
There are several ways your automated PPC process may be a greasy gut bomb, instead of a juicy, seared, medium-rare steak:
When configuring and Adwords campaign, it’s vital to think about what you hope to accomplish. While setting up ad groups and selecting keywords, you need to make sure they are relevant, specific, clear and targeted to the audience you hope to reach. Executing keyword research with your project goals in mind will allow you to select keywords, negative keywords and match types that are likeliest to deliver the results you’re looking for. That is precisely where the element of human touch research comes into play. Research often times means more than just which keywords get the most impressions or clicks. This is not to say tools like SEMrush or Spyfu or Raven Tools don’t have value; they just cannot dictate how to run your campaign form start to finish. Often times, keyword research requires personal analysis, market trends, cost-per-acquisition data, and intangible pieces beyond just broad-line cost-per-click and impression data. A good campaign also takes into account behavior of the ultimate variable: human customers on the other end of a click. Within the industry of pay-per-click management, technology has not yet reached the human capacity to take all variable data and make insightful decisions on the front end of creating a campaign. Typically automated pay-per-click software takes into account a snapshot of historical data, creates broad match strategies around it, and then is off and running to garner the most impressions. This may not be a wise way to spend your valuable clicks.
In my career, I’ve run into several online marketing firms that tote transparent and custom reporting beyond what the search engines already provide for their customers. This always sets off a red flag in my mind, because my first thought is that the data is being manipulated somehow. Google specifically gives you a robust dashboard with cutting-edge analytical tools down to the precise conversion. When a firm or software claims to have more in-depth reporting, more transparency, or more efficient means of delivering data than the actual source of data, it often proves too good to be true. This is less of an automation problem and more of an unnecessary middle step paying customer should not need to deal with. A good outsourced firm or internal advertising manager will be able to dive deep into the analytics already provided by the search engines to analyze return on investment and ongoing strategies.
SMART “GAMBLES” AND STRATEGY ITERATION
When it comes to a refined PPC strategy as a campaign runs, data is king. Collecting data, identifying peak times and valid markets, playing with ad copy, and various other factors play into leveraging information well through your paid campaigns. Often times, getting the best bang for your buck means multivariate, guess-and-check gambles. You may have fringe keywords or markets that are low cost-per-click, low volume, but yield a high return on investment. While automatic pay-per-click software and other automated processes can often streamline much of this process, getting in deep, doing the leg work to identify those “gambles,” and paying attention to detail as your strategy evolves are elements that cannot be replicated by artificial intelligence interpreting data on your behalf. No one knows your business and your goals like you do. That should reflect in your overall strategy, even as it evolves. Sometimes, the human element is your greatest strength in a campaign’s success.
AD COPY AND CREATIVITY
Having limited text space and options for ad extensions means you have a small window of opportunity to make an impression on your potential customer. Once again, testing certain copy and extensions will yield the best results. But when an automated process takes this aspect, it can leave business owners with a headache. Take a look at two different searches – one done on Google and another done on Yahoo. Both searches are for local contracted services in the Denver and Seattle markets. Notice anything peculiar about the highlighted ads for different customers?
Do you notice the lack of creativity in the ad copy? How about the similar call to action featured for each? Undoubtedly, these local advertisers decided to partner with a company that utilized automated pay-per-click software. As you can tell, the software process most likely formulated the same strategies, both in ad copy and keyword focus, for each of these customers. When a possible consumer is searching for local services like the above pictures illustrate, they’re going to differentiate the leaders and the followers within a given query. When the taglines, call to actions, and tone of the ad copy are almost identical to other adjacent ad spots, the clicks and conversions will go elsewhere. This highlights the danger of partnering with a company reliant on automated pay-per-click software and processes. Relating it back to the fast food analogy, the firm using these techniques is productizing their PPC efforts like cheap burgers.
ATTITUDE CREATED BY PAY-PER-CLICK SOFTWARE
Lastly, the most detrimental part of relying on automated pay-per-click software or processes for your campaigns is the sloth-like attitude that develops from not taking an active interest in it. Much like our diet, unhealthy choices breed complacency, which leads to more unhealthy choices. The same is true for handling a paid advertising campaign. If you allow the software or platform to “just run,” you ultimately set yourself up for missed opportunities. PPC advertising, like any search engine function, is an ever-changing environment. Whether you do it yourself or select a firm to partner with, taking a daily interest is still part of the process.
As you ponder what direction to go in terms of pay-per-click advertising, continue to think about it in terms of food you’re putting in your body. There will always be convenient, productized, ready-to-eat options for you to spend your money on. They may be cheaper, they may save you time, and they may even seem quite appealing. But in the end, having a well-crafted feast will be a far more satisfying experience. Whether you make yourself a home-cooked meal or have a professional chef prepare a hearty morsel, one thing’s for sure: you will never regret choosing it over a fast food option.