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When Should You Outsource Your Pay-Per-Click Campaigns?
If you are a one-person show, you have to balance everything for your site — from writing content, doing backend and technical work, research, promotions, advertising, and just about everything else that goes along with being a self-employed webmaster. Managing pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns is just one of the many things that falls under the webmaster umbrella. Even small companies doing everything themselves often do not have anyone devoted solely to handling the company’s pay-per-click account.
Unfortunately, when webmasters are not able to devote the amount of time to their PPC campaigns as is really needed, overspending or loss of conversions will occur.
If you are a webmaster, consider the following things and decide whether it might be time to outsource your pay-per-click campaigns or reassure yourself that you are handling them just fine yourself.
When was the last time you checked your campaigns?
If you are running campaigns with small budgets, this isn’t a huge issue. But ideally you should be checking in on your main campaigns at least once a week, so you can adjust bids if any new advertisers are bidding on the keywords or if others have dropped out. Gone are the days when you could set your campaigns then let them run for a year with no adjustments.
How competitive are your keywords?
Are you the only bidder on your most important keywords? Or are there dozens of other advertisers all vying for the top positions? If you are the only bidder, you usually don’t need to actively manage those campaigns, but you do need to notice fairly quickly when new advertisers come on the scene and react to their bids and positioning. And if you need to keep a competitive spot in paid search for your best keywords, you will need to do a lot more daily hand holding in your PPC accounts in order to ensure that your positioning is maintained.
Are you being impacted by quality scores?
Have you been hit with an infamous $5 or $10 per click minimum? Are you are being impacted by quality scores and/or have poor landing page quality and haven’t been able to overcome the situation? Or are your quality scores high and impact has been minimal to your bottom line?
Are you tracking incoming clicks?
If you have a visitor landing on your homepage via pay-per-click from Google AdWords, do you know exactly what keyword sent that visitor? Or do you just merely know it was Google that sent it? You should be using dynamic keyword insertion for all your campaigns so that you know what keywords sent traffic to your site, how often, and can spot trends related to keyword searches.
How are your conversions?
If you are doing PPC, you should know exactly which keywords, not just which campaigns, are converting better than others, which is why tracking those incoming keywords is so important. Without knowing the specific incoming keywords, you can’t determine conversions on a keyword by keyword basis. And yes, conversion rate, not click-through rate (CTR), is your most important PPC metric because keywords with the highest click-through rate could actually be the ones that convert the worst. Some keywords will perform wonderfully for you while seemingly similar keywords will be nothing more than a money pit for your PPC budget, and even the most seasoned PPC expert can be surprised at which keywords for individual sites convert the best and which convert the least.
Which PPC engines work for you?
Speaking of conversions, you should also know which engines convert better or worse for you amongst the big three. Is Google the highest budget spend and the best converting? Or is Microsoft the best converting even though it has the lowest ad spend? Knowing which PPC source has the best converting traffic for your particular site can help you adjust where your ad spend is going to ensure the best conversions and highest profit margin.
Keeping up with the new features
Did you know that the AdWords Conversion Optimizer just came out of beta and they dropped the requirements for advertisers to use it? Or that Yahoo! is testing images next to sponsored listings, apparently without those advertisers being in the know? Or that Microsoft adCenter just released a keyword tool? If you are active in the online community and have a lot of sites in your RSS reader, you can keep relatively up to date on what is new and what issues are of concern for advertisers. But these kinds of things can impact some campaigns, especially ones regarding quality scores, outages, and other problems.
Houston, we have a problem
If your pay-per-click account ran into problems, do you have someone you can contact personally at each of the major pay-per-click companies you are using? When you have an account rep, you can get answers to questions quickly and get problems resolved much faster than going the “contact us” route. However, unless you have a large ad spend, these contacts can be hard to come by.
New advertising formats
Yahoo! and Google often test new styles of advertising or ad units for advertisers. Unfortunately, they often test them out with a select group of advertisers or have some sort of learning curve in order to provide the ad formats required. Do you want to experiment with video ads? Or get into a beta that is only open to a select group of advertisers? If this is something you want, you will need to know how to create new ad formats or have someone who can do them, as well as being able to get into any betas as needed. Your own AdWords contacts are your best bet for getting into any betas.
What is your comfort level on click fraud issues?
Would you notice if one AdSense publisher began sending a large amount of non-converting traffic? Or would you be oblivious to it until you received a mysterious email from Google or Yahoo! that some of your ad money had been refunded to your account? What about the (usually harder to detect) issue of a competitor clicking on your ads? There are many third-party solutions to the click fraud issue, but sometimes it takes detailed analysis along with a healthy dose of intuition that something isn’t quite right to spot cases of click fraud.
Where is your time better spent?
From a bottom line perspective, is it more profitable for you to spend the time creating new products, writing new content, or networking than it is for you to manage your PPC campaigns? It is worth considering the fact that just because you know how to do the PPC end of things doesn’t mean that it is best for you to do it yourself when you can be bringing in more revenue in other ways.
These factors are all things worth considering when looking at outsourcing your PPC campaigns and deciding whether you should continue managing them yourself. If it is something you are considering, Christine Churchill of Key Relevance is presenting a free webcast Thursday, January 17th, at Search Engine Land’s sister-site Search Marketing Now, to talk over many of these issues, including what to consider and how to select a PPC management company or application, and the pros and cons of each.
Jennifer Slegg is a search marketing consultant & contextual advertising expert, as well as a frequent speaker at industry conferences. She writes about all things contextual advertising related on her blog JenSense.com and writes about pay per click, content, blogging and SEO at JenniferSlegg.com
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.