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It sure feels like those dazzling days of spring are just around the corner. More daylight and warmer temperatures are starting to tease nature back to life from the slumber of winter. It’s hard to ignore all the energy and buzz in the air.
This time of year is all about renewal and fresh starts. It’s also the time that many of us tackle the annual spring cleaning. Closets exploding with heavy sweaters, scarfs and wool socks are pruned and turned over in favor of T-shirts, shorts and sandals.
Out with the old, in with the new. But mostly, out with the old… As pop culture’s celebrated organization icon Marie Kondo professes, tidying up can have immense benefits. That goes for all sorts of things, not just your closet.
In the world of digital marketing, tidying up can result in real money savings. At the very least, optimizing your paid search campaigns can ensure that you’re spending your advertising dollars wisely.
Keywords, extensions and ad copy can all outlive their usefulness, just like that awesome jacket that hasn’t fit for three seasons. The difference is, while all that jacket is doing is wasting space in your closet, your outdated ads are potentially wasting your budget.
To be a good steward of your advertising budget, it’s best to undertake a quarterly review of all of your long-running PPC campaigns. And, guess what? Spring blooms when the sun sets on Q1.
To help you tackle your annual Sping Clean PPC review, our Beacon paid search experts have come up with the below must-do’s.
Keyword List Pruning and Management
Every PPC campaign starts off with an optimized list of keywords. Normally, the list grows as you test out different terms. But, with this growth comes keyword bloat. Not every term you test is a winner. It’s important to identify the ones that work, and stop spending on those that don’t.
Committing to a quarterly keyword list pruning will keep campaigns from overspending on non-essential terms. A quarterly time frame gives you enough time and information to determine how your keywords are performing. Those giving you no impressions, clicks and conversions should be cut from your list (or paused in order to keep historical data). A shorter, more focused keyword list will aid in improving your keyword quality score, click-through rate (CTR) and conversions.
Search Term Report Usage
While the keywords that survived the pruning might convert, you could miss out on more profitable variations. How do you know if the exact terms you’ve selected are the ones your target audience is search for?
The best way to figure this out is with a search term report. This report will provide you with every variation of a keyword or phrase, as well as the impressions, clicks, CTR and average cost for each. Use this report to further optimize your keyword list by identifying additional strategic, high-value terms.
For example, let’s say your school offers an MBA program. You’re already bidding on keywords such as “mba program” and “mba courses.” The search term report allows you to see what variations of these terms prospective students are actually searching for. You might find that “mba programs online” and “accredited online mba programs” are two additional terms that are heavily used in search queries. As a result, you might add these two terms to your list, or replace two other, lower-priority keywords.
The report is also useful in identifying related terms that do not correspond with your campaign goals. You can “black list” these terms so that your ads don’t show for these queries.
Actionable insights gleaned from the Search Term Report can help free up anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of your budget by keeping your list tight and specific.
Ad Copy Updates
Now that you’re firing on all cylinders behind the scenes, make sure you whip your ads into shape to further boost conversions. The purpose of an ad is to catch the attention of prospective students, summarize the program and invite a click. Updating the ad copy and cleaning up the extensions will help drive impressions and increase goal completions.
When making changes, keep in mind that adjustments should be made on a case-by-case basis. Not every ad will need changes. You should only review the ads that have the lowest conversion and click-through rates for editing.
Once you have narrowed down the ads that are struggling, tweak them in the Google Ads interface. Be patient during this step because finding the sweet spot requires trial and error. Creating multiple ads and letting them compete against each other in an A/B test is a great way to find out what works best. However, if after numerous changes the ad still isn’t getting any heat, it is time to consider using keyword insertion or other dynamic ad copy to improve results.
For ads with images, the changes are more straightforward. A good first step is changing out the headline copy. Try for a more captivating call-to-action to draw in your prospective students. If that change doesn’t seem to make a difference, consider updating your imagery. Use images with light text on some ads and people focused imagery on others, and track which performs best.
Extension and Sitelink Cleanup
In the whirlwind of excitement to update, do not overlook your extensions. Extensions are trust-building terms within your ad that offer searchers useful information, like phone numbers or sitelinks (relevant links from your site).
It is important to note that extensions come with your Google Ads advertising options and you are paying for that space whether you use it or not. So don’t be afraid to take up space. Create multiple callouts, sitelinks and structured snippets that highlight the unique aspects of your institution that prospective students may find appealing.
The goal is to create a comprehensive ad experience that encourage users to click through to other useful pages on your site and ultimately apply to your institution.
You Did It
The first pass is always the hardest. But look at all you’ve accomplished. Cutting all that dead weight and making relevant updates should have your PPC account running more efficiently than ever. With each quarter, this process should get progressively easier and quicker to do. These are tasks that any good agency or manager should do regularly to make sure your institution is spending money wisely.
Beacon Knows PPC
Want to know if your PPC efforts are getting the most bang for your buck? Request an audit from our experienced paid search experts. We’ll be happy to help finetune your PPC campaigns for optimal performance.