In a typical B2B company, the job of managing pay per click campaigns is given to someone in the demand generation or business development team. For this person, managing PPC is at best a part time job, squeezed in around managing webinars, email campaigns, field events, whitepaper creation, and perhaps much more.
This challenge is getting worse as the "program-to-people" ratio at B2B companies continues to grow and marketers are asked to do more with less staff. In this environment, how can a busy demand generation manager find the time to manage their pay per click campaigns on an ongoing basis?
For some companies in this situation, it makes sense to outsource their pay per click campaign management to an agency that will be able to spend the time required to optimize their campaigns. This is especially true if the company’s monthly pay per click spending is high enough to attract an agency’s attention and they can find an agency that specializes in the unique challenges faced by B2B pay per click.
But for other companies, the right answer for a variety of reasons is to manage their pay per click campaigns in-house, as part of the overall demand generation strategy. How can those marketers find the time to optimize their B2B pay per click campaigns?
Establish a routine
I believe that with the right routines in place, a B2B marketer can optimize their pay per click demand generation campaigns in just four hours a week. By following my routines, you can be confident that your PPC campaigns are getting better over time AND that you have most of the week left over to attend to all the other parts of your job.
The other plus of these routines is that you will learn which parts of your campaigns need attention and which are performing well. Over time this will develop into the intuition and confidence to know when your campaigns need a little more attention, and when you can take a week or two off from checking in.
In order to follow the routines, I’m assuming that your campaigns are performing somewhat OK. Make sure that you are following the basic best practices of B2B pay per click marketing. For example, your ad groups should be tightly focused around a theme. Don’t mix multiple concepts together into the same group. If you have more than one concept in a group, split them out. Also, you should also be using targeted landing pages for each ad group. If you aren’t, you should be. See my prior article Four Steps to Better Business Leads From Search.
The other thing you need to get started is the right pay per click tool chest. At a minimum, make sure you are using some sort of conversion tracking. You may also want to invest in some pay per click software tools to help with bidding, keyword management and discovery, and perhaps landing page creation.
Routines to optimize B2B PPC in four hours a week
The routine breaks the week into 2 two-hour blocks, one focused on finding and improving your winners, the other on optimizing your poorly performing ad groups. In today’s column (Part 1), I’ll cover the first part, how to do even better with your winners. In Part 2, coming next month, I’ll give tips for finding and fixing common pay per click problems. It’s up to you whether you spread each block across two days or do both at the same time.
Part one – improve the winners (2 hours)
Begin by finding the areas where you are doing well. Although it’s not obvious, you can usually drive a bigger improvement in your overall results by putting more into your top performers than by spending time tweaking your poor performers.
Take a look at the performance statistics for one of your campaigns, and sort the results by descending number of Conversions. (For B2B advertisers, I recommend using the last 30 days of data, unless you have very high volumes.) These are the ad groups that are really driving your business. For each of these hot ad groups, here are some ways you can add more fuel to the fire.
Find New Keywords (60 min). Take the keywords in your winning groups that are performing well, and drill into them to find additional keywords. You can do this using Google’s Keyword Tool, or for more powerful capabilities, use the keyword management tool of your choice. Some tools can find and email new keywords to you automatically. Depending on what keywords are suggested, you will probably need to create new ad groups (and perhaps new landing pages) to get the best results from your new keywords.
Ad Testing (20 minutes). Get more rigorous about A/B testing on your ads. First, check to see which of your ads is performing best. Make that your "champion", get rid of any clear losers, and create new "challengers" that might beat the champion. This creates a continuous improvement process for your ads.
Two notes about ad testing. First, your ad serving should be set to rotate through the ads evenly so that you get fair results. Second, be careful not to over-test. This is especially true for B2B advertisers who may not have the same volumes as B2C companies. As a rule of thumb, you should have one ad for every 20 clicks your ad group gets per day. This will help ensure you get statistically valid results after about 1 week. You should always have a minimum of two ads, so if your ad groups gets less than 40 clicks a day you should wait longer to make decisions. (For example, if you get 10 clicks a day, then have two ads and pick your champion once a month.)
Landing Page Testing (20 minutes). Similarly, make sure you are continuously improving your landing pages through testing. Multivariate tools such as Google’s Website Optimizer are overkill for the needs of most B2B companies, especially since most B2B pay per click campaigns do not have the volumes of conversions required to get valid results from multivariate tests. Instead, good old-fashioned A/B testing will drive plenty of value for most B2B marketers. Try working on the landing pages for one ad group each week. Begin by creating a new Challenger by cloning your Champion landing page and changing something (e.g. the headline, the form, the offer, etc.). Next, create two copies of each text ad. Use the champion for the destination URL for one ad and the Challenger for the destination of the other. That way, you can easily see which landing page drives better conversions.
Bidding (20 min). Lastly, you can add fuel to top-performing groups by raising your bids, which should drive more traffic. Don’t over-use this tactic. Increasing bids is a "blunt-force" way to increase results – meaning it has its place, but it should be used only after you’ve followed the other steps. Also, it can be time-consuming to set and tune the bid for each word manually, so consider using bid management software to help you out.
Stay tuned for my column next month, "How To Optimize B2B Pay Per Click In Four Hours A Week, Part 2", in which I’ll share the routines for the other two hours each week. In the meantime, please comment to share any other tips you find useful.
Jon Miller is VP of Marketing for Marketo, a provider of affordable, easy-to use-marketing automation software that helps B2B marketing professionals drive revenue and improve accountability. Jon’s blog, Modern B2B Marketing, explores best practices in business marketing, ranging from pay-per-click management to lead nurturing to marketing accountability. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.