Like anything in life, and as Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” and search marketing campaigns are no different.

Here are the steps that you should take before launching your paid search (PPC) campaign(s):

Step 1. Know your objectives, targets and competition

Before even starting a PPC campaign you need to consider your objectives and set some targets. Are you creating the campaigns as a brand awareness exercise or do you need to achieve a predefined ROI figure?

Do you know the lifetime value of a customer and therefore know how much you can afford to pay per lead/sale?

What is your competition like? Are a lot of them using paid search? How does your service/product and pricing compare to theirs?

If a lot of your competitors are appearing for the terms that you would want to appear for then that could mean that clicks could be expensive. On the flip side, if no-one else or very few competitors are appearing, then it could be the perfect opportunity to fill that gap and reap the rewards.

Step 2. Keyword research

Once you know your objectives and targets, you should have a better idea of the services/products that you would like to advertise – the ones that are most likely to achieve that ROI target or increase awareness for your brand.

Once you know the products/services you would like to cover then you can start to do some keyword research to get an idea of how many people are searching for those terms on the major search engines, what they deem the competition to be (high, low etc) and the estimated click costs. (NB. Keyword planners/research tools are there to give an estimate, please do not take these figures as gospel, they can be wildly inaccurate.)

Start segmenting the keywords into natural groupings. Closely related keywords should start coming together to form ad groups – these will be used later!

Step 3. Budget

How much can you afford to spend on click costs per month? Without running a campaign at all you only have the estimated click costs and search volumes to go on, which isn’t ideal. I’d therefore suggest setting a test budget to begin with to see how many clicks and conversions you can achieve for that budget and scale up or down accordingly.

Step 4. Campaign structure

Once you know your budget and have a list of keywords from the keyword research you can now start building the campaigns and the structure is important.

Are you targeting different countries and/or languages? If so these should go in separate campaigns.

Are you covering different services/product areas that have differing importance/objectives within your business? If so these should be separated into their own campaigns, so budget can be assigned to each, accordingly.

PPC Campaign Template

Step 5. Build the campaigns

Once the campaigns are planned – you’ve made lists of keywords and have written the different ad copy for each ad group – then you can start building your campaigns. This can be done within AdWords Editor or Bing Ads Editor, depending on what platform you are using, or online in the platforms themselves.

Step 6. Test

Once all your campaigns are built, and the billing details are all in place, check any conversion tracking is active and that your account is linked to your Analytics account. Then  you can set your campaigns live and see if the estimates were at all accurate.

Make sure you set your daily budget to the amount you are willing to spend and CPC bids to a sensible amount, then you can be sure that you won’t spend more than you were intending.

Do keep checking on the campaigns daily (at least), but don’t tweak too soon, it will take them a little while to bed in and find their place.

Step 7. Optimise

After the campaigns have been running for a little while, and have received some impressions and clicks, you can get an idea of what click costs, competition and performance is like.

Are click costs what you expected? What position are you achieving for those CPCs? What is your click through rate (CTR)? Should you increase bids to try and increase positions and improve CTR? Or should you decrease bids to try and lower your position and get more clicks per day?

Have there been any conversions? What are the on-page metrics like? Are people bouncing straight away or looking around and engaging with the site when they arrive from an ad?

See here for more ways to determine if your campaigns are working for you.

Once you know these things you can tweak your campaigns accordingly to try and improve overall performance.

Step 8. Keep testing and optimising

This is an ongoing process throughout the lifespan of your campaigns. In order to continue to be successful, they should not be set up and then just left alone, ticking over. By regularly dipping into the analytics, and checking the numbers, you can keep tweaking and testing ad copy, bids and keywords to make the most out of the money you are spending on these clicks.

Sounds difficult? If so, let us help. Contact us today and we can do the planning, testing and optimising for you.