8 Basic Steps to Setting Up Your First PPC Ad Campaign

By September 7, 2012PPC

In recent years Google and Microsoft, the two dominating players in digital advertising, have been investing Setting-up-first-PPC-ad-campaigntime into refining their paid search (PPC, CPC, CPA, etc.) alrgorithms and outfitting their proprietary AdWords and AdCenter advertising platforms with additional bells and whistles. While the tools have been evolving, they have simultaneously increased in complexity and user-friendliness. That said, with so much change to process, it is no wonder that so often we get asked by clients how we would go about setting up and running a successful PPC ad campaign.  Despite the rapid pace of innovation, the basic rules of the game have not changed.

There are some differences in strategy and approach between paid search advertisers, but there are some basic best practices that most of us PPC geeks can agree on. In this blog post we lay out the 8 key steps to setting up, launching and running a successful PPC advertising campaign.


1) Dividing key phrases into ad groups of similar key phrases

When you set up your first PPC campaign you will first need to create an AdWords account or, if you’re advertising on Bing and Yahoo!, youradCenter account.  No matter which way you go, as a first step you will be asked to set up a campaign with at least one ad group. The problem is, many users add all of their keywords and phrases to that one ad group (one ad) which often leads to ads containing unrelated keywords and phrases.  

You need to divide your keyphrases into ad groups of very similar keyphrases that relate closely together. However, adding too many keywords can and will negatively affect your AdWords quality scores as well as relevant searches.  A good rule of thumb is 25 keywords per ad group.

Once you come up with these groups of keywords for each ad group, it will be easy to create a relevant ad that has text and a landing page that matches your keyphrases. This will also result in being rewarded with a higher quality score and a higher click through rate or CTR (% of clicks on an ad).

A high quality score means your site will have a better position in Google results, and high click through rate means that you will pay a lower cost per click.

2) Research keywords to avoid bidding high competition and generic ones

Often when companies are trying to expand their reach to be found on as many search engines a possible they bid on generic phrases (for example: city names).  Another common mistake is choosing “broad match” in “phrase match” type.  The problem with selecting “broad match” is that the search results will include any result that has your phrase within it (for example: a company selling lead pipes will be in search results with all kinds of pipes).

Research the keywords you want to use, and find the right tools (i.e. AdWords Keyword tool or Google Insights) to only select exact match phrases.  It takes longer to figure out these keywords and phrases as you have to take into account several different versions of a phrase and its misspellings, but once you do, your site will be found with only those phrases that you want it to be searched for.

Searches of generic phrases are less likely to result in conversions and can often be more expensive than the highly specific phrases. When your ad copy is displayed for a generic keyword or phrase it will appear less relevant than a phrase that is specific to your product and service.

Picking generic, loosely relevant keywords and phrases will result in a low click through rate and poor quality score. If a phrase has a click through rate of less than 1% it is probably too generic and should be switched off!

3) Budget wisely

The problem with putting a small budget behind PPC ad Google will do one of two things with your ad: a. show the ad intermittently throughout the day or b. spend your entire budget in the morning.  The problem with this is that it makes it hard for your users to come back and find your ad if it only shows intermittently or in the morning.

If you are allocating too much of your budget to non-specific, highly competitive keywords and phrases they can at times consume your entire budget and result in no conversions.  To figure out what you should bid on a particular keyword or phrase you can use the PPC estimator tool.

The PPC estimator tool will help you to better figure out your cost per acquisition (CPA), and once you have done that you will be able to set monthly budgets that are effective and not draining the bank.

4) Choose the right landing page

Any internet marketer will tell you that thelanding page you choose for your PPC ad is extremely important.  A common mistake in PPC ads for a specific product or service, is that when users click on the ad they are directed to your homepage, instead of to the specific page that the product/service is listed on.

As soon as user clicks on your ad and is directed to your site you have paid for that traffic.  That is why it is so crucial that you are directing them to the pages they are looking for.  If you are sending them to the homepage or some other page where they have to navigate their way around to find what they want, they will most likely hit the “Back” button, leaving your page without any conversions.

Once a customer carries out a conversion they should land on a “thank you” page where you can add tracking code for your PPC search engine.  By doing this you will feed the data back to your PPC account so you can see which keyphrases result in conversions and the average conversion rate (and delete keywords and phrases with low ROIs).

5) Optimize your PPC account

Make sure that you are always keeping on top of your PPC account so that you do not continue to bid on low click-through phrases and so you can continue to perfect your keywords and keyphrases.  Not keeping on top of this information can end in you paying a higher cost per click.

YourGoogle quality score is based on the relevancy of the ad copy and landing page for each keyphrase. They are able to figure that out a few different ways: One of these is to examine the click through rate of the individual keyphrase (by match type) and the CTR of the account as a whole.

6) Make sure ads are being shown in the right geographical location

When your ad is being displayed in the wrong city, state, country (perhaps even in a different language), you are failing to effectively geo-target the audience you want.  Do not ignore the geo-targeting options in your AdWords account, and make sure that your campaign is reaching the right audience.

Now if you aren’t just alocal business trying to reach local customers, but instead are trying to run a national ad campaign you can use the geo-targeting settings to target different markets with different budgets and messages.

If you are trying to run an international ad campaign then you need to make sure that your ads are showing for relevant searches in the appropriate language for the audience.  This will also require you to research keywords and phrases in other languages so that you may more effectively communicate with your customers.

7) Don’t schedule your ads to turn off

When companies try to guess when their customers are going to be searching they sometimes choose to have their ads turned off during what they assume to be “low search times.”  However, this attempt to reduce costs, also known as “dayparting” is flawed because high search traffic doesn’t automatically translate into high conversion rates.

If you want to reduce costs by not having your ads run 24/7 you may try scheduling your ads to turn off at certain times but make sure you are turning those ads off at times based on research you’ve done.  Do not look to have your ads just run during high search times, but instead during high conversion times.

Even though you have the PPC schedule tool available to you, you should consider keeping your ads running 24/7.  And because other competitors will be turning their ads off to save money, your ads should always being running due to the lower level of competition.

8) Integrate your PPC ad campaign with your SEO marketing techniques

Pay per click ads are a good way to drive traffic to a new website or a website that is buried in Google search results, however PPC ads shouldn’t be your only attempt at SEO.  In order to drive the most traffic and get higher conversion rates you must integrate your PPC ad campaign with your other SEO marketing techniques.

If your site has clear SEO techniques you will have all of the keyword and phrase research you need in order to create your PPC ad campaigns.  However, if you decide to go ahead and run a PPC ad campaign before you have a clear SEO plan in place, design PPC ad campaigns that are relevant to content, products, and services that will be on your site.  This will make it easier to integrate the two tactics down the line.

Those are our 8 key steps to managing a successful pay per click advertising campaign!  Did we miss any?  Did we mention any you hadn’t thought of before?

Eric Layland

Author Eric Layland

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