#PPCFright2014 Day 3 – The Art (and Danger) Of Trick-Or-Treating

Welcome to Day 3 of #PPCFright2014! Today’s post is about a very important topic: Trick-or-Treating. Of course you should never trick or treat alone, so this is a group post! A big costume hat tip goes out to John Lee, Michelle Morehouse and Robert Brady for their contributions!

I know what you’re thinking, “Trick-or-treating doesn’t sound very scary…” but we’re all adults here and there’s no shame in admitting fear, so I’ll go ahead and call out the elephant in the room.  The scary thing about trick-or-treating is that not all houses pass out good candy.  It’s true.  You can spend a lot of time putting together the perfect costume and prospecting the neighborhood,I Got a Rock only to come home with a bag full of apples, carrots and candy corn.  The struggle is real.  Now, that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with apples, carrots, or candy corn but it probably isn’t the return on investment that you were hoping for.

So how do you get the good stuff? Well, you have to be strategic and creative.  The same could be said for PPC.

Choose Your Houses Wisely

When trick-or-treating, it’s pretty easy to tell where the candy can be found: just look for the porch lights.   With PPC, it isn’t quite that easy.  If everyone in-market for our products just left their light on, we’d all be in door-to-door sales!

So, how do we decide where to PPC trick-or-treat?  Of course we love AdWords and Bing Ads for paid search but also for remarketing, Shopping/PLAs, and a variety of display options – depending on the campaign goals.  We’ve also had great success with social ads across Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. On top of that, there are some great display and mobile options for different niches and goals.  At the end of the day, the channels we select really depend on what we are looking for: sour candy or chocolate? Form fills or calls? Transactions or downloads?

It also helps to know what your fellow trick-or-treaters are doing. We recommend doing a competitive analysis to look for opportunities to expand your reach. It isn’t a bad thing if you’re headed in a direction that no one else is going, in fact it might mean that you’re ahead of the gang. However, if you notice that all of your peers are headed toward a house (or channel, tactic, or platform) that you haven’t tried, it might be worth a second look. It also helps to know how invested your competition is.  Are you the guy trick-or-treating in your regular clothes, amongst a crowd of meticulous do-it-yourself costume awesomeness? Maybe it’s time to commit to the cause.

Low Hanging Fruit Candy

Even after you’ve determined which houses have candy, you still don’t know for sure what the ratio of good candy to bad candy will be. You might have some ideas, either from past experience, or just a general understanding. (Old Mrs. Johnson down the street always hands out raisins and in-app targeting isn’t for everyone. Those are just widely accepted truths.)

To try to better control the ratio of good candy to bad candy, or even worse – no candy, here are a few settings and features that we consider ‘quick wins’:

  • Negative keyword lists
  • Remarketing Lists, YouTube/Google Analytics Audience Imports
  • Ad Extensions in all flavors! (call, callout, location, sitelinks, review, retail)
  • Search Partners (Both Bing and Google!)
  • Manual CPC Bidding. Sometimes Optimize for Conversion hits the spot, too.
  • Google Ad Builder
  • Shopping/PLAs
  • Facebook Custom Audiences & Lookalike Audiences
  • Facebook Ads Optimized CPM Bids
  • Bid Modifiers
  • Flexible Bid Strategies
  • Accelerated Delivery

There aren’t many things that we’re 100% against, because no two accounts are alike and something that might not work for me might be great for you. That being said, our experiences have led us to almost completely avoid the following:

  • AdWords Express Accounts
  • Optimized Ad Rotation Settings
  • Search Network With Display Select
  • Maximize For Clicks Bid Settings
  • Targeting mobile apps on the display network, unless the client is very specifically relevant.

Minimize The Bad Candy

Unfortunately, when you trick-or-treat, you’re bound to get some bad candy.  It comes with the territory.  PPC is similar, in that even the best lead-gen campaigns will bring in some leads that don’t convert to sales.  The best e-commerce campaigns will still bring in some traffic that doesn’t make a purchase.  Inevitably, you’ll get some tricks with your treats.

The key is to minimize the amount of bad candy.  Here’s how:

  • Gather data. What worked well in the past? Is there a way to streamline the things that are working?
  • Look for efficiencies. You wouldn’t walk a mile to visit one house when there are 30 houses within the same distance in the other direction. Likewise, don’t let one or a few mediocre keywords absorb all of the campaign budget in lieu of several more efficient terms.
  • Utilize the available tools. We love our Editors, Excel, and bid management platforms to help us make analyses and quick changes.
  • Use your brain. If the house looks shady, or the candy doesn’t look right, something is probably wrong.

Load Up On the Good Candy

The most important part of PPC trick-or-treating, is determining where the good candy is and how you can maximize inputs.  In other words, efficiently scaling leads and making time to look for new sources.

Here’s what we recommend:

  • Expand your reach! If you only visit one or two houses, you’re missing out on a lot of candy.
  • Be relevant. You don’t want to show up to a Pirates of The Carribean costume wearing a Tigger costume.  Likewise, you need to ensure that your ads are relevant to your searchers and that you’re always testing.
  • Leverage a variety of tactics to keep prospects engaged. Use remarketing and RLSA to stay with consumers throughout the buying cycle.
  • Continually look for new channels, terms, and tactics to test and expand.

Hopefully these tips have helped! Do you have a tip you’d like to share? Post it in the comments!  Stay tuned for Day 4 of The Thirteen Days of Fright #PPCFright2014!