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From The Experts: Enterprise-Level PPC Campaign Management
Last month, I wrote about a conference session I moderated on Building and Training In-house SEO Teams. And while that get-together was a blast, I didn’t really get my geek on until I was presenting on a panel on Enterprise Level Bid Management. The title was a bit of a misnomer, as we covered topics well beyond the scope of bid management. But the basic premise of the panel remained about how to tackle large scale paid search problems. Industrial Strength – I love it!
There were only three presenters on the panel, myself included, but there was a conspicuous depth of paid search experience, as I was the least experienced guy at the podium. My fellow panelist, Wister Walcott has been building enterprise search management tools for years and even co-founded a company that makes large-scale SEM tools. For his presentation, he focused primarily on non-bidding SEM challenges and their potential solutions.
Wister likened managing large PPC campaigns to painting the Golden Gate Bridge. For those non-Bay Area residents, the analogy is that the Golden Gate Bridge is always being painted. As soon as painting crews are ‘done’, they simply start over because there are always parts of the bridge that need painting.
So it is with managing large PPC campaigns, Wister says – your work is never done, and if you haven’t ‘painted’ parts of your campaigns in some time – because you’ve been working on other aspects – it’s already time to go back and revisit those areas you haven’t looked at in a while.
Wister focused on large, mature campaigns, and how to find new opportunities within them. Some high-level areas he suggested looking are creatives, campaign structure, negative keywords, budgeting, and – of course – bidding optimization. If you’ve got all that under control already, the next logical place to look is Landing Page Optimization.
One of the things I really liked about Wister’s presentation is the fact that he acknowledges that with large campaigns, most of the activity is about what I call ‘managing by exception’.
The point is that the campaigns themselves are running pretty well, generating revenue and profit, and what you’re really looking for are outliers – campaign elements that are secretly bogging down the performance of your campaigns – secretly, because they’re operating in otherwise healthy campaigns that mask the negative effects of these elements. Since Wister sees lots of large campaigns in action, he has a unique and accurate view of where these profit bandits live.
First off, Wister says, look for ad groups that don’t have any active ads in them. This is more common than you think, as ads sometimes go inactive without us noticing.
Then, look for large ad groups with low clickthrough rates (CTRs). If you find them, break them up into smaller ad groups where you can target keywords more closely with keyword rich ads that have a better chance of clicking against the keywords in smaller, more tightly knit ad groups.
In addition to ad group optimization, match type segregation can also yield increased profit through efficiency – separate your keywords into ad groups by match types, and use negative keywords to ensure that you’re separating the traffic. There is good content already published on how to do this, just do a search for ‘match type and negative keywords’ and you should be on your way.
Headroom analysis, as Wister puts it, involves identifying areas where there is a delta between your max CPC and actual CPC. The notion here is that you’re willing to spend more on a keyword but for some reason you can’t.
In this case, Wister suggests using that unspent ‘budget’ and investing in keywords that have lower ranking so you can drive additional traffic to those keywords. Finally, Wister reminds us that once you’ve done all these things, it’s time to start over at the beginning. See Golden Gate Bridge above.
Fellow columnist Brad Geddes, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a panel before, has his own consulting company and has seen a great deal of action in paid (and organic) search over the years. He brought some of that experience to bear when he dropped some good PPC knowledge on the audience in his presentation.
With a nod to the unique nature of large campaigns, he suggests using tools that lend efficiency to paid search management, because he understands the resource constraints at hand and has had to solve these challenges himself many times.
The more keywords you’re buying, in general, the more tools you can and will need to keep your day-to-day management, well… manageable. The happy truth, Brad says, is that big accounts throw off lots of data, and in this sense, they can actually be easier to manage than small accounts.
The notable exception to this is creative, which doesn’t seem to be very scalable in terms of the effort required to get incrementally positive results. Conveniently, Brad’s company, Certified Knowledge (CK), has some creative tools, and as well Brad mentions some third party services that provide crowd-sourced creative development – some even have performance-based pricing.
In addition to creative, Brad talked about some other areas where tools can be applied to large campaigns to gain efficiency. Negative keywords can be generated with third party tools, and some analytics packages can lend a hand as well. Brad says to pay attention to your ad group names, so you can easily filter through them and target areas where negatives are needed.
Finally, we all know that quality score is an important metric, and to address this in large campaigns CK has developed a quality score analyzer to help marketers target the right keywords for optimization. Oh yeah, one more tidbit from Brad. He recommends time management tools, again because of the resource constraints we all inevitably face. Specifically, Brad likes calendars as opposed to task lists. I agree!
As for me, I did my usual song and dance about how we manage paid search here at Yahoo!, Inc. I talked about valuation (of course!) and about how we deploy PPC campaigns using an agency or an in-house team, depending on the needs of the business and our resourcing constraints.
In this particular session, I did spend more time talking about the bidding algorithms we build for some of our businesses. Here’s a slide on that very topic:
The point here is that by segmenting our keyword portfolio, we can then address each segment separately according to its performance characteristics.
Head terms get one algorithm, body keywords another, and the tail is a different matter entirely. Ah, yes, the tail. Maybe I’ll devote a column just to that….Until then, Happy Searching!
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