Best practices for managing paid search

TL;DR:

  • When businesses start spending on paid search before they understand the nuances of this channel, they can quickly spend themselves into trouble.
  • Most paid search campaigns are priced according to a pay-per-click (PPC) model, which means businesses pay for ads when they drive clicks. Prices are based on competitive bidding for certain keywords.
  • The most common destination for paid search is Google, making it easy to set up and launch your very own paid search campaign (although other search platforms, such as Bing, are also worthy options to consider).

Paid search marketing may rank among the longest-standing online marketing channels, but don’t assume that its age translates to simplicity. Although paid search has a long history, this marketing channel can be costly without proper campaign development and management.

When businesses start spending on paid search before they understand the nuances of this channel, they can quickly spend themselves into trouble. Here’s a look at the basics of paid search marketing, along with some tools and best practices that can help you optimize your campaign management.

What is paid search marketing?

If you’re familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), which aims to maximize visibility through organic search results, then think of paid search as the other half of your search marketing strategy. Paid search marketing is the practice of purchasing ad space on relevant search engine results pages (SERPs).

Paid search encompasses several formats, including:

  • Traditional search listings
  • Display ads
  • Mobile ads
  • Social media ads
  • Native ads
  • Google Shopping ads

Most paid search campaigns are priced according to a pay-per-click model (PPC), which means businesses pay for ads when they drive clicks. Prices are based on competitive bidding for certain keywords — the more competition you face for a keyword, the more you’ll have to pay per successful referral click.

How to create a paid search marketing campaign

Paid search campaigns are created, launched, and managed through the search platform on which you’re running your campaign. The most common destination for paid search is Google, which makes it easy to set up and launch your very own paid search campaign — although other search platforms, particularly Bing, may offer great value in their own right and might be worth considering.

The basic steps for setting up a campaign are as follows:

  1. Open up your Google Ads account. Or create a new one, if necessary.
  2. Select “New Campaign” and choose your goal. The goal you choose will determine the specific campaign types and features that will maximize your performance.
  3. Choose your campaign type. If you’ve selected a goal in the prior step, you will be shown campaign options that best suit that goal. Otherwise, you can choose from the following:
    • Search
    • Display
    • Video
    • Shopping
    • Discovery
    • App
    • Local
    • Smart
  4. Choose your settings and set up your ad groups for your campaign. The specific decisions you make at this step will be dictated by the type of campaign you choose.
  5. Create your ad. Again, the elements you will need to account for will vary depending on the type of ad you’ve selected. For a text-based search ad, for example, your ad should include headline text, description text, and other settings and features, along with a destination URL. A shopping ad would require product photos, a product description, and other relevant information.
  6. Launch your campaign. Once you’ve saved the ad, set your budget and launch your campaign.
  7. Monitor your results. Use Google Analytics to track campaign performance, including your ROI.

Best tools for managing a paid search campaign

The Google Ads platform — or whichever search platform you choose — has built-in analytics and tools that will help drive better results for your paid search campaigns. But additional tools can provide features that push performance even higher.

Among these recommended tools are the following:

  • Google Ads Editor: This is a crucial tool for building and managing paid search campaigns through Google’s advertising platform.
  • Google Ads Performance Grader: This simple grading tool evaluates your ad and identifies opportunities to improve the ad — and, ultimately, its performance.
  • Google Ads Keyword Planner: Want to reach the right audience and optimize your paid search spending? Keyword Planner will help you identify the best keywords to target through your campaigns.
  • CallRail: From its ability to track inbound paid search referrals to the powerful tools that help you identify new keyword opportunities and improve your search engine marketing strategy, CallRail fills a crucial gap in your marketing data.
  • SEMrush PPC Advertising Toolkit: This tool helps you plan, analyze, and improve any paid search campaigns running on Google’s network.
  • CallRail’s PPC budget worksheet: Balancing the costs of paid search against your potential ROI is important when you’re trying to create new value for your business. Our PPC budget worksheet can help you plan out your spending and expected return.

Best practices for better paid search performance

As you gain experience with paid search marketing, your business will gain insights that enhance your overall strategy and improve your campaign performance. But you can accelerate the learning curve by implementing these best practices right from the start:

  • Target long-tail keywords. Broad keywords tend to come at a high price. Long-tail keywords can help you reduce keyword competition and overall bid cost while potentially improving audience relevance.
  • Borrow strategies from your competitors. If you notice that your competitors are targeting certain keywords — or even using paid promotion to display their ads at the top of searches for your brand — you might benefit from matching their moves. SEMrush and Ahrefs are two popular tools for performing competitor analysis.
  • Always test. A/B testing and experimentation can help you identify which elements are working best in your campaigns and what you can improve. If you aren’t testing, you aren’t laying a foundation to improve on. Google Ads offers campaign experiment tools that can be used to conduct A/B tests and refine your ad strategy.
  • Don’t use the same visual assets for mobile and desktop campaigns. What works best on mobile rarely works best on desktops, and vice versa. A little extra effort that goes into creating unique assets will make a difference in your performance.
  • Tap into your buyer personas to see which ad channels offer the best access. Between Google, Bing, and other search networks, your audience may be easier to target through one network over the other. If your audience is online and active through LinkedIn, for example, why waste money on Facebook’s ad network? An analysis of your buyer personas can help you identify the best opportunities to reach your target audience.
  • Experiment with search engines beyond Google. Bing ads, for example, may offer better value for certain campaigns because of reduced keyword competition or greater success in reaching a target audience.
  • Use supplemental tools to identify new paid search targeting opportunities. Through CallRail’s Call Highlights, for example, you can use conversations with inbound callers to automatically identify potential keywords to incorporate into your keyword list.

Get the best bang for your buck

Whether you’re promoting your agency or helping your clients drive better outcomes, paid search is a prime opportunity to drive referrals to your business. But success depends on your attention to detail when you’re building and managing PPC campaigns.

Find out how CallRail can support your paid search strategy — sign up for a free trial today.

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