Why does it seem like a paid search launch has as many moving parts as launching a space shuttle? To make sure that everything gets taken care of, I adhere to a five step launch process when building a new paid search program.
This process makes it easier to divide and conquer developing each part of the program, and it always results in more tightly aligned content.
Here are the five steps to follow when launching a new paid search program:
- Establish Goals
- Develop a Creative Outline
- Generate the Creative Assets
- Structure the Assets
- Have Someone Else Check for Errors
1. Establish Goals
Sure, mentioning this step is beating a dead horse, but I am including it anyway because I still see programs that do not have clear goals. Your goals need to map to business objectives.
If your business objective is to license software to a list of 400 large target companies, then your goals will be very different than if your objective is to maximize revenue from online purchases. The old practice of running paid search just to get more traffic to your site falls under the mistake of not aligning goals to business objectives.
There are several other common mistakes made in setting goals, but I won’t go into them in this article. I like to follow the SMART acronym of setting goals and Wikipedia has a great review of setting SMART goals.
2. Develop A Creative Outline
This step is skipped most frequently in the launch process. Building an outline of creative assets before actually building out any of the assets is essential. It significantly decreases the possibility of bidding on keywords that don’t align to your product, and it makes it easier to divide and conquer when it comes time to start developing the content.
A creative outline contains broad information about each part of the customer’s path. For example, it might contain several “keyword buckets” or different types of keywords that could be searched for that relate to your product. It would also contain ad copy examples for several of those buckets.
Also, it would at least contain mocks of the landing pages of where people will go once they click on the ads. The advantage of mocking up the whole path rather than building out each part individually is that it gives you a more holistic view of your customer’s path, and will allow you to align all of your creative assets.
Something to watch out for is that often SEMs spend a great deal of time modeling their keyword list, when the real bottleneck is with the landing pages.
Even if you develop a killer keyword list with compelling ad copy, if you do not have a relevant landing page then customers will not convert. Seeing these landing page gaps early in the launch process should give you plenty of time to adjust your strategy or build the necessary pages by the time you are ready to launch.
3. Generate The Creative Assets
People frequently ask me whether they should develop ad copy, or generate their keyword lists first when building a new program. When people ask me this question it is a sure sign that they have skipped the previous step.
Once an outline has been developed that includes all parts of the marketing path, then it doesn’t really matter which assets are developed first. They just need to be done with enough time to structure your account and QA before launch.
As a matter of fact, having an outline makes it possible to work on all of the creative assets simultaneously. If everyone has the outline in hand, then the ad copy can be shipped off to the editorial team while the Web development team works on the landing pages and the marketer expands the keywords.
4. Structure The Assets
Structuring an account starts with your naming conventions. Not having a standard naming convention across all of the accounts that you manage is a rookie mistake. Once you do have a naming convention in place, structuring your account becomes very straightforward.
For example, we use the following naming convention for our campaigns:
Country|Program|Budget Segment|Tier|Campaign Theme|Engine|Language|Network
This naming convention contains the dimensions that we use to differentiate the parts of our account. All that needs to be done is to identify what dimension we are targeting for this program, build the campaign names, and then plug in the creative assets that have been developed.
One general rule that I use when establishing an account structure is to try to have the fewest number of campaigns possible. Having fewer campaigns with more ad groups reduces the total number of entities that you have in your account.
For example, if you have 1 campaign with 4 ad groups, then you have 5 total entities. If you split those same ad groups into 2 campaigns, then you end up with 6 total entities (2 campaigns, 4 ad groups).
This difference might seem minor on a small scale, but it can cause major bloat in a larger program. You should only create a new campaign if it is absolutely necessary because of targeting, or budget requirements.
5. Have Someone Else Check For Errors
This step might sound too obvious to mention, but the fact is that it does not always happen. There are so many different targeting settings and potential grammar errors in paid search, and there are almost always small mistakes committed in the process. I know that after I have been in the weeds building a new account for several days, my brain seems to hide my errors from me and I and need someone else to review my account.
Having a standardized and coherent structure within your accounts makes it much easier for other people to review your work even if they are not familiar with that specific program.
For example, your search engine reps may not be familiar with the new program, but they can be a great resource in checking for editorial issues, or incorrect settings within your account.
A failed paid search launch may not be as terrible as a failed space shuttle launch, but it can still have drastic effects for your marketing efforts. This launch process helps me to rest easier during a launch, and it guides everyone involved to develop the most effective paid search program.
*Image from “Endeavour STS-118 Blastoff” at Fotopedia.com. Used under Creative Commons license.
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