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Best Practices for Creating Paid Search Campaigns

by: Teresa Schmidt

Copywriter / Content Strategist

Taking the mystery out of paid search will empower you to make better marketing decisions. Plus, you’ll be equipped to partner with your agencies in creating more effective campaigns.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind when working with this very powerful advertising channel.

That Magic Potion Called Paid Search

Google’s auction-based, pay-per-click model has been attracting marketers from the beginning, and for good reason—it's very effective. A well-executed ad attracts web searchers and delivers them right to your landing page.

But paid search is capable of more than just driving visitors to your site. Its two main advantages are precise targeting and immediate conversions. Let’s look at them more closely.

1. Paid search allows for precise targeting, down to:

  • Location
  • Time of day
  • Device type
  • Demographic
  • Specific search terms

When your ads are targeted this precisely, you can reach your best-fit customers without over-stretching your budget.

2. Paid search enables immediate conversions.

From the moment a campaign starts, your ad will be appear within the organic search results for your keyword, and incoming traffic begins. You can then use all the available measurement tools, such as A/B testing and keyword comparisons, to track performance and gather data on actual prospects—so you can make real-time adjustments, like pruning out low-performing headlines and keywords. Tying ad performance directly to site activity lets you optimize in measurable ways and make better campaign decisions.

5 Phases of Paid Search Campaigns

Like any marketing endeavor, a paid search campaign will be more successful with some planning, analysis, and thoughtful action. A typical campaign consists of five phases.

creation phase

Phase 1: Strategy & Goal Setting

When planning your campaign, try to focus on whom you’re trying to reach and when you want to reach them. The idea is to be as specific as possible, so for the “when,” you might want to think in terms of time of day, as well as where your audience is on the patient or customer journey. Are they unfamiliar with the treatment or already on it? Do they need information on the product’s safety or dosing?

Set some goals for the campaign. Again, specificity is key. A few examples of specific, measurable goals are:

  • Increase the amount of HCPs visiting the efficacy page by 25%.
  • Increase engaged patient traffic (spending 2 minutes plus on specific pages) by 30%.
  • Deliver 1300 Mechanism of Action video views per week.
  • Appear on page 1 search results for everyone searching "hypertension treatment options."

Phase 2: Research & Keyword Definition

Creating a paid search campaign is a process that begins with some pretty important questions:

  1. What search terms should we be targeting?
  2. What search terms do our competitors rank for?
  3. Why is our site not ranking well for specific terms?
  4. Are there technical reasons for not ranking well?
  5. Where should we develop content in order to gain organic search traffic?

You can find out where your competitors stand in search term ranking with readily available tools. Finding out why your site isn't ranking well for the terms you want to “own” might require more digging into how your content is structured and coded.

Two scenarios illustrate this last point:

  1. You may have valuable content for a search term (e.g., “hypertension treatment”) that should boost your ranking for that term, but it’s not properly coded, so the search engines are not crawling it.
  2. You haven’t yet invested in creating good, indexable content.

Both issues are easily solved: the former by asking a few questions, and the latter by either creating better content, or buying traffic and keywords with paid search. When it comes to search-based traffic, it really comes down to build (create good content) or buy (paid search ads). While creating and indexing content takes some effort, time and money, it can really pay off in the long run. When your organic search results improve, you’ll see repeating traffic grow, without paying for it over and over again. Bonus!

Keyword Definition: Art or Science?

Defining keywords can reach the level of deep science most of us don’t need to worry about. But with these basic guidelines, you’ll be well-versed to ensure your campaigns contain the right keywords.

First, segment keywords into three groups:

  1. Explicit keywords – these are words that directly describe your product, and tend to have the highest search volume, such as:
    • Hypertension treatment
    • Once-a-day hypertension treatment
    • Pill for hypertension
  2. Problem keywords – describe the problem that your product solves. Examples include:
    • How do you treat hypertension?
    • How do I save money on my prescription for hypertension?
  3. Product keywords – are a direct match for your brand, such as:
    • Capsulon
    • Once-a-Day Capsulon
    • Capsulon Efficacy

It makes sense to buy your brand keywords (because your competitors might be), but for the rest, think about how people search—and that’s usually for those explicit terms or the problem they’re trying to solve. Then, consider strategies to recombine everything into target keyword lists you can choose from and test.

The Beauty of the Longtail

When you’re buying keywords, keep longtails in mind. Longtail keywords are like hidden superpowers. Not only do they generally cost less because of fewer competitors, but they also match up with searches from your best-fit customers, who are closer to making purchasing decisions.

creation phase

In this chart, you can see that the higher the search frequency for a given word phrase, the higher the cost. Shorter word phrases, such as “hypertension,” would be at the high end of both scales, because the competition to own that phrase is quite high. As you go toward the more descriptive phrases, such as “hypertension medication clinical outcomes,” the search frequency declines, as does your cost. And someone at this stage of a search would make a more likely customer. Another bonus!

One more tip on keywords: take a look at what your competitors are doing, and see if there are any gaps you can fill. Search terms like “hypertension treatment options” or “hypertension treatment side effects” to see whose ads come up, where they’re focusing their efforts, and where any gaps exist. Tools for this specific exercise are available, as well.

Phase 3: Campaign Creation

Once goals are set, research is complete, and keywords are identified, it’s time to create your campaign. Consider these ideas:

  1. Create multiple ads in each ad group, so you can run A/B tests and continue to optimize. For example, you might do six different versions of ad copy for a group of efficacy ads. Or, three ads about convenience. Conduct tests to see which produce the best results, and prune out underperformers.
  2. Ensure that you have well-designed landing pages with content that clearly pays off campaign creative. This ties into Google’s Quality Score, which we’ll cover in more detail below.
  3. Think about ad extension formats (site links and extended site links), which may cost more, but achieve higher click-throughs.
  4. Carefully monitor campaigns for the first eight hours or so. You may see a strong response, which is great. And you may discover behaviors you weren’t at all expecting. The immediacy of paid search offers the opportunity to adjust tactics right away.

Best Practices for Ad Creation

For better search campaign results, follow these best practices for ad creation:

  • Create simple, but enticing ads: Highlight your key differentiators whenever possible.
  • Use a strong call-to action (CTA): Pay attention to your CTA. It should entice searchers to click on your ad, and tell them exactly what to do when they get to the landing page. Use specific, succinct phrases like “sign up,” “learn more,” or “get help paying.”
  • Include a keyword in your ad text: When you do, the keyword will be in bold text, to help draw the searcher’s attention, while demonstrating that your ad matches their search.
  • Choose the best destination URL: Be sure the visitor clicks through to the specific page containing the product or information described in the ad—otherwise, you could lose them.
  • Test multiple ads in each group: Experiment with CTAs and offers to see which prove to be most effective for achieving your business goals.

Phase 4: Campaign Optimization

After you launch ads, test different elements and track results, you’ll be ready to create more effective ads and reduce your overall campaign spend.

Here are five key areas to optimize:

  1. Bidding optimization
  2. Ad testing
  3. Keyword refinement (pruning out low performers, particularly expensive ones)
  4. Quality Score optimization (see below)
  5. Trend optimization (based on day of week or time of day, such as early morning, if that's when most of your audience is typically online)

What Makes Quality Score So Critical?

Did you know that Quality Score is the most important metric in the AdWords ecosystem? And that higher scores generally lead to lower costs and better ad position? All true! Quality Score determines things like:

  • Actual cost per click (CPC)
  • Ad position
  • AdRank
  • Whether your ad will appear at all (ad auction eligibility)

The highest AdRank is guaranteed the best position at the lowest cost—so you can see the value of increasing your Quality Score on each campaign. After all, who wants to pay more for clicks or rank lower on an AdWord auction than they have to?

Just What is Quality Score, Anyway?

Google has always been concerned about delivering on searchers’ expectations, so they developed their search engine to rank pages according to relevance. In the meantime, so many advertisers were vying for position that they needed to develop a system to replace the original, where the highest-paying ad received top rank—regardless of relevance or quality. And the Quality Score was born.

Here’s how Quality Score comes into play when a web searcher enters a keyword or phrase:

  1. Every ad containing the search terms is entered into an auction.
  2. The algorithm examines factors such as:
    • The bid, with higher bidders ranking higher.
    • The ad’s expected Click-Through-Rate, based on historical clicks and impressions.
    • The URL’s past Click-Through-Rate, also based on historical clicks and impressions.
    • Ad relevance, to ensure users are seeing ads that match their search.
    • Landing page experience—is it actually relevant to the search term, transparent, and easy to navigate?
    • Geographic performance: how successful have you been in your targeted region?
    • Targeted devices, based on how your ads have performed on desktop, laptops, mobile devices and tablets.
  3. After all that analysis, Google calculates an AdRank.

When creating your ads, consider how they will perform against the others competing for the same keywords. It’s a good idea to pay particular attention to your mobile performance, since Google penalizes sites that don’t support it.

A Key Quality Score Takeaway

Following best practices for campaign creation is paramount, but remember that bidding and content strategies are just as important. You can have the best ads out there, but without the whole package, you might be paying more than you have to, ranking poorly and ultimately seeing fewer quality visitors than you could be.

Phase 5: Reporting

Reporting tells you what you need to know to improve the next iteration of your campaign. To get the best information, websites targeted in paid search should be properly tagged, so audience behaviors like actions, engagements and key content views can be directly tied to campaigns and specific creative executions.

Focus on the following metrics:

  1. Acquisition
    • Paid search traffic volume and trends
    • Percentage increase in search traffic
    • Number of keywords driving to the site
  2. Behavior
    • Bounce rate
    • Time on site
    • Pages per visit
    • Percentage of new users
    • Loyalty (visit count)
  3. Outcomes
    • Total conversions (a user accomplishing a pre-defined, important task on your site)
    • Conversion rate from paid search
    • Cost per acquisition

Each of these metrics is valuable, but conversion outcomes will tell you exactly which ads led to specific events, whether your objective was to have visitors register or simply learn something valuable.

Ready to Dive Deeper?

Now that we’ve explored a few mysteries of paid search, you may be ready to dive a little deeper. Here are some excellent resources that will further enlighten you.

Let’s talk.

embrace@toolhouse.com | (360) 676-9275