10 Best Practices for Paid Search (Part 2)

Web Marketing Paid SearchIn Part 1 of this two part series we focused on higher level, more strategic SEM best practices. Now it’s time to turn our attention to 5 key tactical must-do’s.

1. Dayparting and Weekparting:

Each of us gets some shut-eye every day, but the internet never goes to sleep. Similarly, while most of us take a break from work each week, the concept of weekends doesn’t exist for the world wide web.  Which means, clicks on your paid search ads are eligible for display 24/7.  So, why is this a big deal? The intentions of users who search and click on your ads may be very different depending upon the day and time they click, and so too is their engagement once they land on your site.

Related: 10 Best Practices for Paid Search (Part 1)

Regardless of how you measure performance, it’s unlikely that click traffic performs uniformly across all hours of every day. Some paid search advertisers perform far better during the weekend than they do on week days, and vice versa. Some thrive on traffic that comes in during the lunch hour, while others find success after midnight. Sometimes the results make sense, but often times they are counter intuitive. For example, as you would expect, at Business.com we see significantly better conversion rates during business hours, when business decision makers are looking to acquire knowledge, products and services to grow their businesses. Conversely, and counter intuitively, home improvement lead gen sites perform worse over the weekend, when you would normally expect homeowners to be more inclined to convert. So, don’t assume results will follow logic. Use data to inform your dayparting and weekparting decisions.

So, what are dayparting and weekparting and how do they work? Google and Yahoo/Bing enable paid search advertisers to adjust their keyword bids based upon the day of week and hour of day. If you want to, you can employ different bids every hour of every day of the week.  Take Away: While the bid adjustment methodology differs across the engines, you basically set a % increase or percent decrease relative to your current/baseline bids that you want Google or Yahoo/Bing to apply against your campaigns (Tweet This!). You can even schedule ads to turn off completely.

2. Making Sense of the Google Network

When you advertise through Google AdWords, you have the ability to place your ad on over a million web sites, or just one. The Google Network is comprised of  both search-oriented sites (the Search Network) and display-oriented sites (the Display Network). The difference between the two – Search vs Display – is simple: the Search Network consists of Google Search and Google’s Search Partners. AOL.com and Ask.com are examples of the latter. Display is everything else – blogs, content oriented sites, etc., – where your ads are eligible to be displayed when they are deemed by Google to be relevant to the overall topic of the page. For example, if you are on the NFL page on CBSsports.com, you will see a Google powered banner or text ad module that is relevant to “football” and/or “the NFL.”

There are three main things to keep in mind when setting up and managing your campaigns across Google Search, Google’s Search Partners and Google’s Display Network (Tweet This!):

  1. They are opt-in: you can pick and choose which to participate in
  2. They perform differently: conversion rates are normally highest for Google Search, then Google’s Search Network, and lowest for Google’s Display Network; average CPCs tend to follow suit (ie you will pay more for traffic that comes from Google Search than from the Google Display Network)
  3. You should optimize them independently of each other: regardless of how you structure your campaigns, make sure to do so in a manner that allows you to track the performance of the 3 options separately. This will allow you to independently adjust your bids, ad copy and keyword sets.

3. Negative Keywords:

If you aren’t employing negative keywords, you are losing money needlessly (Tweet This!). Negative keywords prevent your ads from showing up for queries that Google and Yahoo/Bing would otherwise consider your ad relevant. This is only pertinent for Broad and Phrase match types (if you only use Exact match – which I don’t recommend – move on to best practice point 4). Here are some basic examples:

Phrase match for the keyword “Rolex Watches”: if you are a jewelry retailer and haven’t added the term “fake” or “fake Rolex” to your ad group related to Rolex Watches, your ad is eligible to be shown when a user queries “fake rolex watches”.

Broad match for the keyword “decks”: if you are a home improvement pro that builds, stains or repairs decks, your ad is eligible to be displayed when a user searches for the term “skate board”. Why? Because a “deck” is a component of a skate board, and the search engines use broad match on attributes associated with the bidded keyword. So, in this example, adding “skateboard” as a negative will eliminate the possibility that your ad will display for “skateboard” queries. On the flip side, if you are selling skateboards, consider adding negatives such as “staining a deck”, “deck contractors”, etc.

Negatives are crucial to the performance of any campaign, so I encourage you to invest time into learning more about them here.

Related: Essential Negative Keywords for Almost Any Marketing Campaign

4. Keyword Builds/Expansion:

We just discussed the importance of restricting keywords. Equally important is the perpetual time investment in expanding your keyword set. Whether your product/service/offering is growing, changing or stagnant (but especially in the case of the first two), you absolutely have to be adding and testing keywords on a frequent basis.  There are free keyword build tools (within Google’s paid search interfaces) and paid options (none that I recommend). Within Google, the tool is called Keyword Planner, or Search Query Reports (for both Google and Bing).

5. Budgets – Are They Necessary:

I’m going to argue “Yes”… and “No”.

Yes: when launching a new campaign, very best practice is to set a daily budget limit. This limits your exposure if the campaign doesn’t perform as hoped.

No: overall, if you aren’t paying by credit card and aren’t held to a gross margin % (gross profit / revenue) or ROI target, you should NEVER set a budget for your search campaigns. If you are on invoice terms with Google, Yahoo/Bing, or Business.com, you’re playing with house money. Your budget should be whatever brings in the highest gross profit (revenue minus cost). Which of the following results would your select, assuming you are not held to gross margin or ROI constraints? (Tweet This!)

Option Revenue Cost Gross Profit Gross Margin
1 $100 $60 $40 40%
2 $200 $110 $90 45%
3 $1,000 $650 $350 35%
  • Option 1 offers the lowest out of pocket expense
  • Option 2 offers the highest Gross Margin
  • Option 3 offers the biggest bang to the bottom line, despite having the lowest gross margin. In this example, if your budget were limited to $200 or less, you would have left at least $260 in gross profit on the table. At Business.com, we spend money on paid search until the marginal return on a dollar spent turns negative (ie until an incremental $1 spent generates $.99 in revenue).

Good luck with your paid search efforts! I look forward to your feedback and advancing the discussion.

Andrew Rogers

Andrew Rogers

Author's Website: http://www.business.com

Author's Social Links: Author Twitter Profile Link

Andrew holds the position of President & COO at Business.com. A 14 year veteran of the internet, Andrew has held senior positions at leading brands such as Yahoo!, Priceline and HomeAdvisor. Immediately prior to joining Business.com in January, 2012, Andrew co-founded Craftsy.com, the fasted growing hobbyist site on the web.

Andrew holds a B.A from Dartmouth College and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

In his spare time, Andrew serves a personal valet and chauffeur for his 4 kids.

View Comments

One Response to 10 Best Practices for Paid Search (Part 2)

  1. Thomas Li says:

    Some fine points Andrew. Thanks for the article.

    One of the great benefits of digital marketing is that you know exactly what your advertising dollars are earning you. If you combine this with setting clear goals, you will always know exactly where you stand.

    I’m interpreting your items in the second article (items 6-10) as things you must execute to achieve profitable campaigns. These are the day to day tasks that will expand and optimize your account. Conversely, the first five items are the foundation that will allow you to better execute items 6-10.

    Something else I might add is that SEM needs constant attention. I like to check on performance throughout the day to make sure that our ads are running. Especially if you are testing new features, we have learned from experience that twice a day or even hourly check-ins into the relevant campaigns might be necessary. For quick, high-level check ins, sort campaigns or accounts by descending spend to get a basic overview.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>