Living In The PPC Past? 10 Signs Your Search Strategies Got Stuck in 2003

The world of paid search has changed dramatically over the past 3-5 years. The PPC management techniques that were appropriate a few years ago are woefully inadequate now. But not everybody is living and working in 2009. Are you stuck in the past somewhere? Here are 10 signs a paid search strategy is stuck somewhere around 2003-2005:

  1. Keyword-Centric Mindset Keywords have long been seen as the center of the paid search universe. But keywords only exist to attract search queries – the words and phrases searchers actually type. You should be more worried about your query list than your keyword list.
  2. Large Ad-Groups Every keyword related to a single subject used to get lumped together in one large ad group. But a far better strategy is to create small keyword groups which focus on matching searchers to relevant text ads.
  3. Categorical Campaigns Campaigns have long been used to organize ad groups and keyword by category – often mirroring the navigation of the target website. But broad and deep campaigns provide roll-up numbers that are devoid of meaning. It’s far better to organize campaigns around topical AND performance similarities so the reported metrics really mean something.
  4. Minimal Ad Testing Have two or three text-ads per ad group that have been there untouched for months? Testing better text ads can improve click-through-rates by 2x, 3x, even 5x.
  5. Lots’a Broad-Match Broad Match makes it easy to connect with everybody who might be interested in your keywords. Except many of these folks have little or no value to you. Use Broad Match as research and shift your money and keywords to Phrase and Exact Match as much as possible.
  6. Very Few Negative Keywords Zero negative keywords? Less than 5 or 10 negative keywords per ad group. You are a generous person who helps the economy by paying for clicks every day that have no chance of ever making you any money.
  7. Never Check Impression Share Your ads aren’t showing for the keywords you’re bidding on, and you don’t even know it. Keeping a close eye on all four Impression Share metrics should drive many opportunities and priorities.
  8. Brand Terms Everywhere Your brand terms are intermingled throughout your ad groups and campaigns. Since you don’t separate the keywords (and use negatives to equally isolate the queries) all of the reporting numbers in your ad groups and campaigns are compromised.
  9. Irrational Faith in Bid Management Your software provider or search engine has ‘bid automation’ which you count on to handle bidding. You’re not worried about problems with revenue attribution, sparse data,  offline conversions, multiple success events, etc.
  10. ROAS-based Targets You measure performance and make decisions based on the ROAS, not the ROI of your ad groups and keywords. By ignoring the realities of cost-of-goods everything seems better than it is and decisions aren’t based on actual implications.

The list above represents a ‘low resolution’ view of the world that just isn’t accurate or adequate anymore. What do you do if this describes you or someone you know? Clearly there are things to learn and better decisions to be made on each point. But more broadly, I think it requires a new level of technical understanding, a new operating philosophy, and in many cases better management and reporting tools. Many of these topics have been discussed in greater detail in earlier posts. In the next few weeks I’ll be releasing an e-book called ‘High Resolution PPC’ with a new framework for managing and understanding paid search in 2009.  (Reserve your copy now)  It has many goals, but one is to help everyone get out of 2003.



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