Interview with Chris Schwarz on PPC Advertising

I recently caught up with Chris Schwarz from The Search Guys to talk about Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. Chris struck me as someone who really knows his stuff and he was able to give me really great answers to all my questions. [my questions are in bold]

What is PPC advertising?

  • Form of online advertising with a cost model of an advertiser paying per click and directing traffic to a website
How is PPC different from other forms of advertising?
  • It’s more targeted
  • The Pay Per Click cost model is unique
What are it's advantages and disadvantages?
  • Advantages: Highly targeted, super quick results
  • Disadvantages: Can be expensive, can have a lower ROI (than SEO), easy to set up but difficult to master
Is Adwords the only PPC provider you need to worry about?
  • No, I'm sure there’s hundreds of PPC networks out there. Adwords is 100 times larger than all of them combined though.
Who else offers PPC? How do they differ from Adwords?
  • Both Facebook and Linkedin offer PPC which are content targeted ads as opposed to keyword targeted. This usually results in a lower click through rate relative to Adwords.
  • Search advertising is direct response marketing (deleted bit about facebook being branding, it can be direct response as well. The Adwords display network is about branding)
  • Facebook ads work better for social advertising, for example gaining likes to a Fan Page rather than directing people to a website, then those people can be marketed to later from the fan page
Can every business benefit from PPC advertising?
  • Not right for every business.
  • Products that have low margins are difficult
  • Competitive markets are difficult because the market is saturated. In these markets it comes down to being more intelligent and innovative than your competitors. We’ve seen businesses change their whole business model just so they can get that extra 1% margin and nudge out their competitors.
Which types of businesses does it suit most?
  • Higher margin business will generally have better success than low margin business (all else being equal)
  • Business who are not afraid to try new marketing strategies
Is it difficult to manage an Adwords account? Could the average small business owner do it successfully?
  • It varies greatly.
  • A large E-commerce store with hundreds of products is much more difficult than a small business with only a few products.
  • Small businesses owner’s can take over the PPC account once set up with some training. Handing over a bigger account is much more difficult.
What aspect of managing an account takes the most time?
  • Structuring the campaign, creating the ads and selecting the right keywords
  • Testing and optimisation is also ongoing
How much should a business expect to pay to have their account managed by someone else?
  • $300-$400 / month for a small account (typically 50-100 keywords)
  • Lead generation websites are generally cheaper, while E-commerce site are more expensive. There’s no upper limit if it works.
  • Adwords has a large number of ‘products’ such as the display network and remarketing, a large account manager can continually test and optimise these other Google Adword products making them have a higher management fee
What benefits can an Adwords professional deliver that a regular business owner can't?
  • Better campaigns.
  • Years of research and experience.
  • There’s much more trial and error for the small business owner.
  • We’ve found that most business owners will set up their campaigns from a ‘one-dimensional’ approach and not really understanding the Adwords platform as a multi-dimensional marketing tool. They always miss the simple settings as well (turn of display network in your search campaigns!)
  • There’s lots of information out there for those who want to learn, Google offers lots of support too
Is there a minimum ad spend recommended?
  • $25/day at least ($750- $1000/month)- less makes results take longer to come back.
  • Adwords advertising is entirely a data driven problem. You want to get data back as soon as possible so you can improve your ads and campaigns.
  • The same numbers apply if someone was doing it themselves.
What is 'Quality Score?' What is it used for?
  • Quality score is a measure from 1-10 of the quality of a keyword in relation to the rest of a campaign.
  • The purpose of quality score is to make the ad experience better for the user.
  • Quality Score is the most important part of an Adwords campaign.
  • Business owners don't tend to know what quality score is and will overlook this very important variable
Why is it important to have a good 'Quality Score?'
  • Google will reward you for a high Quality Score with lower costs per click and higher as positions
  • If you have a higher quality score than a competitor, you can effectively have a higher ad position AND be paying less per click
How can you improve your Quality Score?
  • Improve the click through rate
  • Improve the relevance of the keyword to the ad and the landing page
  • Structure your entire Adwords account more logically to be mirror your website structure.
  • Everything affects quality score. Campaign and landing page relevance and keywords are the most important.
What's the difference between Google's display network and their regular search results ads?
  • Search results are displayed on Google's SERPs and their partner’s websites e.g. Hotfrog.
  • The Display Network allows advertisers to deliver text ads, image ads and video ads to third party websites which have elected to be a part of the network.
  • Google delivers most of its ads through the display network
  • For example, ads popping up over Youtube videos are ads on the display network
  • There’s also mobile ads which are shorter text ads and they can be shown in various different place including in games
Do the two mediums require a different strategy?
  • Yes. User intents differ so our strategies must differ. Search is more targeted so you can target your ad to their intent.
  • Ads on the display network are targeted by the content of the page. They generally have a lower click through rate. These ads are generally more useful for a branding strategy- similar to Facebook and Linkedin.
  • The display network targets ads either by keywords on the page or by choosing a ‘theme’ of website to target. Website themes are assigned by Google.
  • Trial and error to decide which is best.
  • It’s important to test - measure everything. If a website is not delivering well you choose to not have your ads display there
  • You can also use ‘negative keywords’ or 'negative sites' to identify websites you don’t want to have your ads appear on.
  • There are three keyword targeting options, ‘broad,’ ‘phrase’ and ‘exact’ match. We never use the traditional broad match for our keywords, there's plenty of neat tricks you can use by combining keyword targeting options.
What kind of businesses/ads are best targeted to mobile internet devices?
  • Local businesses.
  • If you are going to send traffic to a website on a mobile device then it should be mobile optimised.
Is location an important targeting factor to consider? How can location targeting be used to improve a campaign?
  • Yes, very much so. There are four targeting settings- location, language, device and network
  • You should target the area where your audience is
  • You also might use different strategies for different regions, e.g. different capital cities. Maybe Melbourne has an event coming up that you can incorporate into your ads.
  • Location targeting is ultra specific, you can go down to the suburb and even the street level
  • Location targeting is a good way to get more highly targeted leads as well as a higher click through rate (CTR) and higher quality score which leads to a lower cost per click (CPC)
Is it easy to track PPC performance?
  • Yes. Very easy to track everything.
  • Tracking codes can sometimes be difficult for E-commerce sites.
  • Third party payment systems, such as Paypal, make it difficult to track the user throughout the payment process
  • Tracking is available within your Adwords account which can also be hooked into Google Analytics for more comprehensive data
  • You should analyse your data regularly, we analyse ours weekly
In competitive markets, which aspects of PPC advertising become more difficult to manage successfully?
  • Adwords is a hugely complex, multi level and multi variable optimisation problem
  • In competitive markets it becomes important to optimise every aspect of a campaign to get the highest return for the lowest cost.
  • Its more mathematical
Are landing pages important for improving PPC performance?
  • Yes.
  • There are two parts to the equation, the website side and ad side
  • Many things can be done on both sides to improve the ROI of the campaign
  • On the website side its all about conversion rate.
  • You should always send traffic to a specific landing page rather than the home page. This could be a product or category page or a sales page. I prefer to use a simple landing page and stay away from long form sales pages.
  • You can also do split testing to test different ads against each other, you can use third party software for this
  • Google also has a service called Google website optimiser which allows you to send traffic to two different variations of a page and determine which page produced the best conversion rate
How should your website be set up to maximise performance?
  • Goals should be clearly defined
  • Make sure the message on the website matches the ad
What can you do to reduce competition?
  • Research your competitor’s offers and their ad copy
  • Focus on improving your quality score
What are five things small business owners can do to best take advantage of PPC advertising?
  1. Compelling offer and call to cation
  2. Landing page the replicates the message
  3. Conversion tracking setup
  4. Keyword research using a keyword tool and/or competitive research software
  5. Give it a shot! It's costing you more money not to try Adwords.
How does PPC relate to SEO?
  • PPC is much more of an exact science. SEO is more weaved, more of an art form
  • Google makes 80% of its revenue from Adwords
How do they complement each other?
  • Keywords research. You can assess the profitability of keywords quickly using PPC then target them using SEO
  • With both PPC and SEO success you can dominate a market
  • They can steal profit from each other, i.e. someone can click on a paid ad even if you’re ranking well organically
  • Having said that, I still think its a good idea to bid on brand keywords because they’re very cheap
  • 'Ad Extensions' for Adwords allow you to get extra information into, and take up more space in the SERPs than you can get with an organic result. This can double your PPC CTR. There are four types:
    • Site links to navigate to deeper pages from the results
    • Google places linking
    • Phone numbers
    • Google shopping integration to give images of products in the search results
How do PPC and SEO costs and returns compare?
  • It varies
  • PPC has tighter margins and returns. It gets results quickly and is easy to measure.
  • SEO is harder to measure but if you can do it well it results in much higher returns
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
  • Re-marketing is an interesting feature that allows you to re-market to people who have already been to your website. This generally results in a higher conversion rate because they people are pre-qualified.
  • Mobile ads can also include click-to-call phone numbers which are easy to track. One thing that can be more difficult to track is when people see your phone number in an ad or on your website and then call you, giving you no indication where they got your number from. It’s possible to get a dedicated phone number in order to track these types of leads. A separate number costs around $50 a month plus call costs from our experience, for lead generation, phone calls leads from Adwords can be up to 50% of total leads.
End Interview

Thanks again to Chris for his generous donation of time and knowledge and thanks to The Search Guys for having me at their office. You can read more about The Search Guys' services at their company profile in our Internet Marketing Business Directory.

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