by Justin Brooke
Do you need thousands of low cost, highly targeted, cheap clicks?
Our cold traffic playbook will give you an action plan to scale your monthly visitors and leverage new cutting edge digital advertising options. The best part is most of this will get you clicks below $0.20 CPC!
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Man, I just wish I knew what works,” then this blog post is going to be the best blog post you read all year.
It starts with Google Display Network [GDN], Yahoo Gemini [AB], And then Taboola [TB].
These three networks are commonly used by top media buyers because they provide massive traffic at a great CPC with precise targeting.
Next, is the hottest new trend in retargeting, video retargeting.
By using Google Remarketing lists and Facebook’s website custom audiences you can use Youtube ads and Facebook video ads to retarget your landing page visitors with short videos.
We’re seeing double the conversion rates with video ads.
Even when sending clicks to the same pages that other ads are driving visitors to. Use video retargeting as a way to recycle those bulk clicks into even more traffic.
Finally, just like you would use email follow up sequences to push people through your sales funnel, you can use retargeting ads to help push your visitors through your sales funnel.
Just like email follow up, you can use retargeting ads to help push your visitors through your sales funnel
We discovered these best practices while working with 25 of the top direct response marketing companies.
We also use competitive intelligence tools AdBeat, SEMRush, SimilarWeb (etc) to analyze your trends and competitors.
Based on all of our experience and the data that we saw last year, we believe this playbook is the strongest media plan for modern direct response marketers.
To make sure you don’t think we’re just making this up, below we’ve included screenshots showing ad spend by network for a few of the world’s largest digital advertisers…
Did you notice that Google and AdBlade are the only two that all 3 companies had in common?
Listen, we’re not making this shit up. We have access to an overwhelming amount of data that shows this strategy is a collection of “cream of the crop” digital ad strategies. The best part is, it doesn’t matter if you’re a one man shop or you have a team of internal media buyers, anyone can drive millions of clicks profitably with this strategy (providing you have a decent sales funnel).
Obviously, some customization might be needed based on individual needs, but we felt this is a good template for companies to start with.
With Google Display Network you can use aggressive style direct response banner ads while targeting your ideal audience. For example, if you’re selling muscle building supplements you can target pages by keyword (Benchpress, Deadlift, Powerlifting, etc) then also layer demographic data on top to ensure it’s highly targeted traffic. Your landing page will still have to be Google compliant, but they tend to be more lax on their display side than with their search ads.
These were all running on Google at the time of writing this article. Things may change over time, the Internet is good at that. You should always read the Google advertising guidelines yourself and frequently as they do tend to change.
[GEM]: Yahoo Gemini
Gemini is friendly to aggressive direct response marketers. All the top CPA offers are using Gemini because their ad units look great and get high CTR’s. They used to be a 2nd tier ad network mostly used by rookie CPA marketers looking for cheap clicks, but recent changes in their ad unit design (NewsBullets) and inventory is quickly making them a 1st tier for those in the know. Gemini is a high volume network with great targeting options including geographic, psychographic, and of course demographic.
EDIT: I’ve swapped out AdBlade for Yahoo Gemini. The two are very similar, but Yahoo has much higher quality traffic. My clients are also seeing FAR more conversions with Yahoo Gemini, than they were with AdBlade.
Taboola is a native advertising network and is the new dog in an aggressive direct response marketers yard. They allow you to put teaser ads for your advertorial/editorial content on their vast publisher network of sites like Forbes, Time, TMZ, and many other 2nd tier media sites. The CTR’s these ad units get are much higher than the CTR’s of banners or text ads and CPC’s below $0.50. ShareThrough.com, a leading native advertising data source, says that native ads are showing an 18% lift in purchase intent. Also, very little compliance issues. You can read their guidelines here.
2012 – 2014 everyone was buzzing about retargeting. Which for the first time in history gave advertisers the ability to follow the eyeballs after they left the site (without needing to opt-in for anything). In 2015 the hot new twist on retargeting is video retargeting. Following those eyeballs into Facebook and Youtube with short teaser videos or testimonial videos for your products.
[YT]: Youtube Ads
By using Google’s remarketing lists feature you can target your Youtube ads to visitors who landed on your landing page from other means. This is POWERFUL! Visitors to your landing page will be shown a short video teasing the benefits of your product when they log onto Youtube. This re-engages them and we’ve seen conversions double after clicking to the page from video ads. Same compliance issues as Google Display, light, but strict. Not nearly as bad as Facebook.
Here’s how to set it up…
Side Note: If you’re looking for a really good course on Youtube ads, I highly recommend InstreamTrafficSystem [aff link] by Tommie Powers. When it comes to video advertising, he’s the top dude right now. I also wouldn’t be a great marketer if I didn’t mention that I have one also here: Bulletproof Youtube Ads
[FB]: Facebook Video Ads
While Facebook is not friendly to aggressive direct response marketing, they do have arguably the best traffic retargeting options with their custom and lookalike audiences. By using their website custom audience pixel you can create an audience from all your landing page visitors and then serve them short video ads later on while they are on Facebook. Use one of your Google compliant pages here, try not to attract too much attention to yourself, and you should be fine.
Imagine a visitor who was on the fence about your product all of a sudden seeing video testimonials, product demonstrations, or short teasers for days after they leave your site. Surely, you see how this is way more powerful than simple banner retargeting.
[FB]: Facebook Website Custom Audience
You may have noticed we didn’t include Facebook as a primary source of traffic. That’s because over the last year they have proven to be very unstable and unfriendly to direct response marketers. Almost anyone doing $1,000/day or more has had repeated trouble with ad account shut downs. However, I believe using them for smaller ultra targeted campaigns using their website custom audience and lookalike audience features is a sure bet. With website custom audiences you can create an audience of people who landed on your landing page AND also clicked through to your sales page.
These are highly qualified visitors that makes a lot of sense to retarget them with soon-to-expire discounts via FB newsfeed ads. For example, visitor clicks landing page, then clicks through for the product, for some reason doesn’t buy right away, but then see’s a 10% off (expires midnight) newsfeed ad for your product later that night on Facebook. BOOM! Conversion.
You can also create another website custom audience of people who land on your order page but don’t complete their order. These visitors were excited enough to click the order button, but just couldn’t pull the trigger yet. You’d be surprised how much this happens. There are horror stories all over the net of marketers discovering 50% – 80% of their order page traffic abandoning the cart before ordering. Now, you can bring those orders back using Facebook website custom audiences and newsfeed ads which are arguably the most effective ad unit in the world right now.
After you’ve built up a sizeable custom audience for each of these examples, now you can create a lookalike audience and expand your campaign to people that Facebook believes are similar to your visitors. Every Facebook advertiser I know has said that custom and lookalike audiences are the highest ROI campaigns they’ve ever run. With some reports as high as 900% ROI.
[RMG]: Google Remarketing Lists
Using the Google Analytics code that is likely already installed on all your pages you can create remarketing lists based on pages your visitors visit, just like with Facebook website custom audiences. So everything I just described above that you can do with Facebook you can also do with Google. Allowing you to follow your visitors all over the rest of the web instead of just inside Facebook. Plus, Google just released a competitor to lookalike audiences called “similar audiences.” This means you can also create campaigns targeting people who Google believes are similar to the visitors from your remarketing lists.
The trick with Google remarketing and Facebook website custom audiences is ONLY targeting highly qualified visitors. You do not want to just target any visitor, because a majority of web visitors are bounces that were never interested. However, someone who visited your landing page and your sales page is a qualified candidate. Same goes for someone who has visited your sales page and your order page. With Google remarketing lists you can ever create a list of visitors who were on your page for a specified amount of time. This is great if you have a VSL and want to remarket to people who watched more than half of your VSL, but not all the people who left in the first minute.
The best part about the roll out strategy is that it works for a one man shop, or a company with their own team of internal media buyers. It’s simple enough for the amatuer and strong enough for the veteran.
However, if this looks overwhelming to you, or if you don’t have accounts in these networks, or if you don’t have the time to learn how to use each of these networks, then you should let us make it hands-free for you.
Our AdSkills Media Buyers specialize in direct response ad campaigns. We can guide you through the compliance rules and help you scale the campaigns.
What we need from you…
If this is you, fill out our matchmaker form and we’ll pair you with an AdSkills certified media buyer that fits your budget. For everyone else, I read every comment so if you have questions leave a comment below. Also, if you found the information in this article useful, sharing it on Facebook or Twitter really helps us keep producing more content like this. Without the shares, we just couldn’t afford to keep producing free content like this.
Thanks for reading.
We searched 50 companies that made millions online with digital ads. Then packaged all their landing pages and ads in a neat file for you. Download it now and have an instant swipe file for your own inspiration.
by Justin Brooke
Does your website have lots of tracking/retargeting/conversion codes these days?
In recent years, tags and tag management have transformed the way marketers controlled their analytics tags.
To help make things even easier and simpler for marketers, Google launched their own tag management system in 2012 called Google Tag Manager (GTM) with the goal of freeing marketers from waiting for days for site codes to be updated, allowing them to launch new tags with just a few clicks, and letting them focus on marketing instead of coding.
Despite the fact that there are some marketers who are now enjoying the benefits of being able to own, collect, and act on their data in real time, there are still those who are new to this idea. With that in mind, this article will talk about tags, tag management, and most especially Google Tag Manager to help you get started on reaping the rewards of incorporating these in your marketing toolbox.
First things first, what are tags? To the uninitiated, it can be deceptively easy to associate tags with keywords and blog posts. However, in the realm of digital marketing, tags take on a different meaning.
A tag, in this context, is a snippet of website code that
lets you measure traffic and visitor behavior, understand the impact of online advertising and social channels, use remarketing and audience targeting, test and improve your site, and more.
Typically, tags are added to the source code of a website and are designed to send information from a website to a third party. Tags fire or execute when a page loads or in response to user interaction on a page.
Generally, tags can perform a number of tasks which can help facilitate digital marketing and analytics including instructing web browsers to collect data; setting cookies; extending audiences between multiple websites; integrating third-party content like social media widgets, video players, and ads into a website; and run things like Google Analytics and other digital marketing services.
Tags can perform a number of tasks which can help facilitate digital marketing and analytics including instructing web browsers to collect data; setting cookies; extending audiences between multiple websites; integrating third-party content like social media widgets, video players, and ads into a website; and run things like Google Analytics and other digital marketing services.
Tags can gather different kinds of data including user context (information like the IP address od a mobile phone, the type of mobile browser being used by a site visitor, and how a visitor was referred to the site); user profile (data stored in cookies like unique Profile IDs or targeting criteria); and user behavior (the products, content, or ads viewed by a visitor, links clicked, time spent on a page, and more).
Despite the apparent practicality of using tags to aid the digital marketing process, there are still concerns and issues that arise from using these pieces of code. A few of these pain points include:
The good news is that there is a way to address these problems related to using tags in the form of tag management.
Tag management allows marketers to address issues pertaining to agile marketing measurement and accuracy of tracking. There are systems available that allows for third-party tracking, analysis, reporting, remarketing, conversion tracking, optimization, and more.
In a study conducted by EConsultancy, 73 percent of content management system users reported tag management expense and 45 percent of users described it as significantly less expensive than manually updating tags.
Google released its own free tag management system (TMS) on October 1, 2012 called Google Tag Manager (GTM). As a TMS, it promised marketers the capacity to launch new tags with just a few clicks. This results in faster and tighter control over digital marketing and analytics programs. Since its release, is regarded as one of the most widely used systems in the market.
GTM uses a container tag or a small snippet of code that allows marketers to insert tags into their websites. This container tag acts as a bucket to hold other types of tags that a marketer might need to install on a website including Google AdWords tags, Google Analytics tags, DoubleClick Floodlight tags and many non-Google third-party tags
The best part about GTM is that marketers no longer need to edit their website’s source code. Instead, tags are added using a simple web interface thereby reducing errors, eliminating the need to involve a webmaster, and quickly deploying tags on a site.
Moreover, GTM keeps track of a set of tags and tag-firing triggers that define when those tags should be made available on your site. When a user visits the site, the most up-to-date tag configuration is sent over to the end-user’s browser with instructions for which tags should fire.
Users can use one GTM account to administer tags from one or more websites or mobile apps. Although you can set up multiple accounts from a single Google account, you’ll typically only need one GTM account per company or organization.
GTM comes in a wide variety of features that will help marketers at the enterprise level. These features ensure the best experience for users without compromising the integrity of a website. Among its long list of attributes include:
Google Tag Manager also offers its users benefits that will make digital marketing that much easier. This includes:
Setup and installation of Google Tag Manager is nothing but simple. To get started managing your tags using Google Tag Manager:
You’re then ready to add tags (such as Google Analytics and AdWords Conversion Tracking tags) to your site via the Google Tag Manager user interface.
Many tag management operations can be achieved by just doing the basic code installation, but if you’d like to have finer grain control over tag events or data, you may want to use some customization using our asynchronous methods.
Take note that the Google Tag Manager snippet must be placed directly in the page that you intend on tracking. Placing it in a hidden iframe or deploying it within another tag management system will prevent certain tags from accurately tracking the parent page.
You’ll need to add tags to your new container. Begin by replacing any tags you removed from the site in the previous step. For example, if you deleted an AdWords Conversion Tracking tag, add it back in Google Tag Manager. Once a container has been created and the container tag has been added to the site, you’re ready to add and update all tags from the Tags page.
A Tag Manager variable is a configured name-value pair for which the value is populated during runtime. Tag Manager has many built-in variables, and you may configure custom variables as well.
For example, the predefined variable “url” always contains the URL of the currently loaded page. If you want a tag to fire only on the page example.com/purchase/receipt.html, you would define a trigger that looks like this:
You can define variables to suit your needs, each containing some piece of information that needs to be available at runtime. You can then use these variables in trigger conditions, or to pass information to tags. For example, you might define a variable that contains the price of an item that the user is viewing. Or, you might define a variable to contain a constant value such as your Google Analytics account id string.
As previously explained, GTM supports tag templates that makes digital marketer simple and practically fuss-free for its users.
These tags can be added to the tag container by following the steps indicated above.
Tags are excellent tools for digital marketing campaigns and Google Tag Manager helps marketers focus more on their work rather than fidgeting with site codes or waiting for webmasters to finish updating website tags.
GTM allows for easy testing, it plays well with Google and non-Google measurement and marketing tags, it is IT-friendly, it is rule-driven, and it has a robust feature list that takes the pain out of tags and tag management.
We searched 50 companies that made millions online with digital ads. Then packaged all their landing pages and ads in a neat file for you. Download it now and have an instant swipe file for your own inspiration.
by Justin Brooke
Online advertising has evolved since its humble beginnings as a static image that pops up at the top of a website. Now, there are a wide variety of advertising types you could use – we’ve listed the seven top types here (and tried to give you the quick definition for it).
The original form of online advertising, these are visual ads that appear on third party websites (usually ones that are related to your content or service in some way).
Display ads have evolved from the basic form of banner ads. Nowadays, display ads come as:
Display ads are usually very affordable. If you contact the third party site directly, their rates will vary from site to site. If you go through a marketing site, they will charge you a base rate.
Some third party sites, like the Google Display Network, allow for demographic, geographic, contextual and/or behavioral targeting – all of which help you target the audience that would be most likely to be interested in your product or service.
In 2015, Social Media commerce totaled $30 billion in the US. It’s a marketing arena that is not only efficient but effective. Very similar to Display Ads, Social Media ads can be anything from a simple banner or image to an auto-play video.
Social Media advertising is great because you can target your audience perfectly. For example, Facebook’s targeting options include age, region, interests, educational background and more.
Social Media advertising is great because you can target your audience perfectly. In Facebook, it has targeting options like age, region, interests, educational background and more.
Here are two types of Social Media advertisements:
The best platforms to target are:
Other platforms to hit up if you have the budget for it:
You can prepare your Social Media campaigns yourself or you can work with a marketing agency to prepare your campaign.
The most dependable form of online paid advertising (and also the most common). SEM works based on keywords – you and other businesses like yours bid on keywords through search engines in an effort to get your website up higher on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
All SEM ads that appear in Google, Bing and other search engines are text ads. They’re listed at the top or sides of the SERP.
Paid ads can either be Pay Per Click (PPC) or Cost Per Thousand (CPM).
You can also use SEM in the unpaid form by optimizing your website for keywords (also known as SEO). Search engines list the unpaid results based on relevance so improving the SEO of your site means you’ll be able to get more hits for free if you improve your site’s SEO.
The best platforms for SEM are Google AdWords, which allow you to create highly targeted campaigns; to make the most of your Google AdWords campaigns. Another platform that’s great for SEM is Bing, which has less competition than AdWords.
Native advertising is those sponsored listings at the end of blog posts, appearing on your Facebook feeds and posted to other Social Media.
These pieces of content are integrated and camouflaged into the platform on which they appear. You can promote and post your Native Advertising through networks like Adblade, Adsonar, Outbrain and Taboola.
There are several forms of Native Advertising:
The best way to market to people who already know about your product and service is to remarket to them. Or retarget. Depends on who you’re talking to.
When people visit your site, you drop a cookie on them so that, as they travel around the web, your ads will appear over and over to remind them about your product or service.
This form of advertising is inexpensive and, if done right, can be more effective than PPC. It increases conversions because it reminds people of you who already know who you are.
You can try to set this up yourself on Facebook Remarketing, Google Remarketing and more. Or, you can use a third-party platform or provider to set up your remarketing campaigns – read our Retargeting Cagematch for the 4-1-1 on all of the available platforms you could use… and which are best.
While YouTube ads are the most popular and well known of video ads, there are actually several different formats, types and content options.
You can go the route of educational/informative. Or maybe you want to post a how-to. Try to pull on the emotional strings of your viewers by creating a visual story. Ideal for branding, especially if you have a product or service that is best demonstrated visually.
Whatever you choose, Video Ads are gaining in popularity because they avoid blatant advertising while also attracting the limited attention span of many YouTubers.
Once you’ve created your video, you can post to:
YouTube also have the fun little Pre-Roll ads (those short… sometimes long… ads that appear before the video you actually want to watch starts).
Hanging out with Display Ads back near the start of online advertising, Email Marketing is a cheaper, faster and effective form of advertising.
It’s a great way to build customer loyalty and boost sales; when you use an email campaign manager (see the list below) to prepare and send your emails, you can easily track how well they do and monitor your ROI.
Email Campaign Managers:
In order to succeed at email marketing, you first need to build a list of email addresses. You can do so by using quizzes, or you can put a simple Newsletter sign-up on your site.
Then, you can send email campaigns that focus on promotions, discounts, features or content you’ve posted to your blog. Most emails are short, sweet and to the point. A concise message makes it easy to get your point across and increase conversions.
Just don’t forget to check your region/country’s spam rules.
We searched 50 companies that made millions online with digital ads. Then packaged all their landing pages and ads in a neat file for you. Download it now and have an instant swipe file for your own inspiration.
by Justin Brooke
Introducing the contenders for retargeting platform of the year: Google AdWords, AdRoll, Facebook Adverts and Perfect Audience.
Today, I’m going to explain the difference between each one and hopefully help you find the one that’s right for you.
In 2014, AdRoll was the king of retargeting. Now, it’s Google. Here’s why:
They’ve perfected the art of following people around. Being the biggest search engine on the market has its perks – people use Google for everything.
A retargeting campaign through Google hits all sites and apps in Google’s Display Network, one of the biggest networks out there.
You can retarget people differently depending on which page of your site they were on – so people who viewed that Awesome Thing will receive one retargeting campaign, and those who visited your cart (but didn’t checkout) could receive a different retargeting campaign.
Just be aware of the one website rule… I’ve included it at the bottom of this post so you can take a look.
Their ad types are flexible and customizable. They’ve got text ads, image ads, rich media ads and video ads. This means you can market your brand however you want.
They put Google Analytics to use for your ads. They have every piece of data you could want to use to narrow down your retargeting campaign so that you’re hitting the right people at the right time.
You can even select targets based on which page of your site they’re visiting. That’s what makes it so powerful.
Another great retargeting tool is the ability to target people who have submitted their email for one reason or another – past customers, leads, e-newsletter recipients.
You upload your email or customer lists and create “Similar Audiences” (custom and lookalike audiences)to remarket to – so you can upsell people who bought a product, or advertise to leads.
And, since you can target people who are already in your audience, it has the least compliance issues. Google doesn’t hit them with the ad out of the blue – the ads are shown only to people who have visited your site and are still on Google’s Display Network.
Not a lot has changed with AdRoll since the first review.
They’re still one of the better known retargeting providers.
They can still advertise on Facebook and other social networks.
They’re still very restrictive. While that keeps their network clean, their rules put a damper on the quality of their service.
For example, in normal retargeting, you cookie everyone on your website and serve them ads about your different product line.
The way AdRoll does it, if you’re retargeting people for the Awesome Thing, you can’t retarget them for a different product, like That Other Thing. It’s not allowed. Well, you can, but you have to get creative with it.
Since I still don’t like rules, this has turned me off of AdRoll.
But, for people who like having help close by, they’re a good service. Their “experts” are on hand to help out, if you get stuck in your retargeting campaign creation.
Also, while they don’t have the same lookalike campaign function as Google (and other platforms), they do have a feature called CRM data onboarding, that allows you to upload your customer email list (past and present) so that you can retarget them.
So, in conclusion, AdRoll is still very good. They’re still very popular and reputable. But they’re still not quite that great at aggressive marketing.
Google, AdRoll and PerfectAudience are great for retargeting outside of Facebook but when it comes to Zuckerberg’s creation, using the social media platform’s retargeting ads is the way to go.
As an ad network, they do have some of the best options. You can retarget to the newsfeed or you can post ads to the sidebar or they can be an Instagram. You can set your retargeting so it’s only picking people from certain pages.
If you have multiple products, you can retarget people differently who landed on different pages of your site. Facebook and Google are the only two companies that do this.
Facebook gives you lots of options and control over who sees your retargeting campaign. Setting it up through the social media platform’s backend creates a stronger campaign than if you were to use a third-party retargeting software.
Why, you may ask? Well, that’s because Facebook doesn’t give third-party software as many options.
If you try to use AdRoll, for example, they’re connecting to Facebook through Facebook Exchange, an API connection (backdoor) that doesn’t include all the options you would have with Facebook’s Power Editor – different bidding selections, bidding types and placements.
Everything you can do natively in Facebook’s Power Editor, you won’t be able to do with a third-party retargeting software.
Like Google’s Similar Audiences, Facebook allows you to create Custom Audiences by uploading emails from customers and leads.
Fact of life: everyone is on Facebook. It’s true for the personal and for business. Because you have to use it, it’s probably best to retarget through the platform where you get the most options.
Fact of life: everyone is on Facebook for personal and for business means. Because you have to use it, it’s probably best to retarget through the platform where you get the most options.
Congratulations Zuck, you win.
A clone of AdRoll. Still. Well, sort of.
At least they changed their website so they at least look different now.
A smaller company, they do have their own unique features in comparison to the others – different ways of pixeling and tracking that make them useful.
They give you a little bit more control over where you can place your pixels and where you can’t.
User interface is easy to use. The quality of traffic is the same as AdRoll (even though AdRoll is a larger company).
They can advertise inside Facebook. Though, like AdRoll and really any third-party retargeting platform, you will have different guidelines and more restrictions on ad types.
The rules have changed – but they’re still less restrictive than AdRoll.
And, like AdRoll, if you run into issues, you can contact their support team and get help from an actual person.
Yes, Twitter still exists. Whether people think it’s successful or not, they still have 100s of millions of users.
For some markets, it’s still good for some markets: author market, the celebrity market, gaming market and B2B markets, for example.
It’s extremely similar to Facebook in that they have their own version of retargeting specifically for their platform.
Like Google and Facebook, you can upload email lists from customers or leads to create what Twitter calls Tailored Audiences – which are the exact same concept as the Similar Audiences and Custom Audiences of the other two sites.
So, if you want to have the most powerful retargeting Twitter campaign possible, you should set up your retargeting campaign on their platform directly instead of using a third-party retargeting provider.
If you’re not a DIYer, there are managed marketing networks out there that you can use. Take a look at these guys:
Be ready, though – if you use one of these companies, you’ll need at least a $25,000/month Ad Budget.
We’re not lawyers, we’re marketers. This is how we understand the retargeting law:
You can’t drop a cookie on Google.com and then send them a message about AirBNB.com – that’s technically illegal.
I don’t think cops are going to show up at anybody’s house. But it’s part of privacy laws.
The following ultimate guide was provided for republishing courtesy of WordStream.
Budgeting is a chore. Always. Whether you’re pinching pennies to pay rent for an overpriced studio overlooking a dingy alley, or paving the road to internet moguldom, or both, simultaneously, it drives the average red blooded American up the wall.
There are ways to mitigate the insanity. There is, however, no way to completely avoid budgeting properly without hamstringing yourself down the road. This is especially true in AdWords, where every single click represents either business growth or your hard earned cash becoming kindling.
Unfortunately, resources that take an all-encompassing approach to PPC budgeting are scant. There’s no free app. No extreme couponing. You just have to figure it out.
To help you learn proper AdWords budgeting strategy from the ground up, we’ve put together the following guide. It’s broken into 3 easy-to-digest sections:
Does your hatred for the necessary extend past budgeting and into reading? Fret not. We’ve distilled each section into a handful of tweet-length bullets.
You’ve forked over your credit card information and funded your account. You’ve just downloaded AdWords Editor (hopefully steam hasn’t started spewing from your machine yet). Now what?
You need to determine how much money you want to spend in your first quarter. Month. Week. Day. Hour. No. Your first click.
There are four key questions you need to ask yourself when determining your initial AdWords budget:
Once answered, you’ll be ready to dive into campaign types, optimization, and eventually, expansion. With that in mind, let’s jump into those questions.
If your business is a staple of the local community or has a well-established online presence (you’re a thought leader driving organic traffic to your site with great SEO and even better content), there’s a good chance leads will show up at your doorstep ready to buy. Conversely, a fledgling business with its finger on the pulse of its target audience can achieve something similar through a rabid social following. Other than time and the salaries of whomever spearheads these efforts, this organic traffic is “free.”
Consider also the other marketing channels you employ in an effort to grow your business. Billboards. Ephemera. Purchased leads. Radio spots. Bench ads. Commercials. Events. Branded urinal cakes?
List out each marketing channel you use and riddle me this: Is the goal of your AdWords account to support existing efforts (to give people a way to use the giveaway code) or supplant them?
Google your company’s name. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Now, what do you see at the top of the SERP?
If you’re not new to AdWords, the answer better be “my optimized-to-the-gills branded ad.” If you’re a neophyte, a betting man would wager the screen’s packed with your competitors.
Outside of your branded keywords, you can use a tool like the Keyword Planner or SEMRush (I wouldn’t pay any mind to the qualitative information available, but the keyword lists and sample ads can be valuable) to get an idea of where your competitors are spending their AdWords budgets.
Armed with this information, you can develop strategies to unseat their ads from the SERP, and find (cheaper) keywords nobody was smart enough to bid on before you came along.
Those tools I just touched on? Bust ‘em out again.
The most rudimentary way to determine a budget is to consider the cost of the keywords you’re bidding on. Should this be the only information you use to establish a budget? Absolutely not. But it’s a nice starting point.
Go to the AdWords Keyword Planner and enter one of your landing pages into the interface on the left. Adjust the remaining parameters accordingly (industry, location, terms to avoid, etc.) and prepare to scroll through pages of prospective keywords along with their relative popularity and advertiser competition.
Now try the same thing with the page that corresponds to each of the products or services you offer. This will no doubt uncover undervalued search terms for you to bid on. Ideally, you want to seek out as many high-traffic, low-competition terms (that also convey commercial intent) as you possibly can. That’s your sweet spot.
We’ll get more in depth on this in a little while, but it boils down to this: Keywords that indicate urgency or familiarity are more likely to convert than ones that don’t. A branded keyword conveys more intent than a competitor keyword. “Limo from Logan to Nashua midnight” is a heck of a lot more urgent (and therefore valuable) than “limo service,” even if the search volume is significantly lower.
Keywords that indicate urgency or familiarity are more likely to convert than ones that don’t.
We’ve saved the most important question for last. A KPI is a measurable value that lets a business or individual gauge performance. Not every business cares about the same thing.
For some, CPA is the be-all-end-all. I cannot tell you how many kickoff calls begin with a cost per acquisition plucked from thin air. If you’re sure this is the KPI for your business, set a goal grounded in logic. If something more concrete is your style, you can figure out how many conversions (RIP converted clicks) tracked through AdWords it takes on-average to result in a bona fide client and determine your actual CPA. You can also leverage your existing CPA from other channels, make that your goal for paid search, and ratchet up or down accordingly once you’ve got more account data to work from.
There are many other KPIs businesses use as barometers for successful AdWords campaigns. If you’re unsure of which is best for your business, here are some resources on performance indicators to get you started:
Once you’ve answered these four key questions take a look at your findings. To determine your ideal budget, you’re going to want to think about the KPI(s) that you’re going to judge performance on and the number of sales or leads you’re looking to garner from AdWords. Look at the other marketing channels you’re using and try to apply any relevant goals you’ve established as your AdWords starting point. Finally, consider the cost of keywords you’re likely to bid on by examining the ones your competitors have already chosen (and the ones they haven’t).
Generally speaking, each of your AdWords search campaigns is going to fall into one the following five categories: research, branded, competitor, high intent, and top performers. Each of these designations is malleable; a few are downright fluid.
Logic dictates that the majority of your budget should be funneled to your top-performing keywords, but what to do with the rest?
More often than not, someone new to paid search is going to build campaigns targeting top of funnel terms. An entrepreneurial yet woefully under-informed personal injury lawyer, for example, will bid on “personal injury lawyer.” Makes sense, right?
Unfortunately, in most industries these types of keywords cost an arm and a leg. For the term above, Google recommends a bid of just over $97. And that’s per click. Yikes. Obviously I chose this keyword to make a point. Is your vertical rife with sky-high CPCs? Maybe. But the biggest issue with these kinds of keywords isn’t even cost: it’s intent.
To illustrate, let’s pretend we’re a scrappy upstart in the highly competitive business card industry. Take a look at these search terms:
Obviously “business cards” has the most average monthly searches. But consider the searchers themselves: Wantrepreneurs who’ll never complete an order. The occasional tween in Cincinnati or Fayetteville working on a project. At a suggested $8.75 per click, I’ll pass. I’d rather spend that $8 on search queries that convey intent (like “buy business cards” or the slightly pricier but more commercial “order business cards”).
Now, this isn’t to say that top of funnel keywords are all overpriced or useless. They’re a great way to build awareness and add prospects to your remarketing lists, but if you bid on them, do so intelligently. Spend $1.33 per click on a query like “free business cards” and remarket the heck out of your prospects. When the time comes for them to take their startup from a Panera Bread to a three floor operation in an iconic Boston landmark, guess who’ll be in the back of their mind?
For some incomprehensible reason the use of branded terms is often contested. That’s poppycock.
Even though your website should be the first thing that show up in the organic results when someone searches for your business, there’s a big old chunk of real estate above the organic listings that your competitors are welcome to claim, if you don’t.
Here’s a real-life example. Earlier this week, after watching the Panthers and Broncos play the first game of NFL season (somewhere in Alabama Harvey Updyke is smiling after all those hits Cam Newton took) I decided I was going to win a big pile of internet money playing daily fantasy football. I searched for DraftKings (whose ads were inescapable in Boston last year) and clicked the first thing I saw:
I was shocked to be greeted by something other than a garish Hulk-green typeface. So shocked, in fact, that I gave DraftKings some free advice:
If my testimonial isn’t enough to convince you, consider this. Competitors are forced to pay a premium to bid on your brand, but the CPCs you’ll see for the same terms will be considerably cheaper. Your domain and landing page copy will be hyper-relevant to the keywords, resulting in maxed out Quality Scores and lower costs.
In short, while branded terms should by no means be the only ones you’re bidding on, allocating spend to ensure SERP domination is a must.
Remember everything I said about branded terms? When it comes to bidding on your competitors the opposite holds true. Just as you did with the top-of-funnel terms, you’re going to want to leverage research and common sense to ensure you’re not blowing budget on search queries that will never convert.
One crucial mistake advertisers make when they start advertising on competitors is bidding on the wrong competitors. As a rule of thumb, when choosing competitors to bid on, make sure you’re choosing companies that you are actually competing against. Choose competitors who you feel you have a competitive advantage over, whether it be better prices, bigger supply, or whatever. In other words: don’t be like fantasydraft.com
If top of the funnel terms are a (costly) wild goose chase, high-intent keywords are golden eggs dropped into your lap.
High-intent keywords come in two flavors: “buy now” and “product.” You’re going to want to ensure the biggest slice of your search budget is being used to bid on keywords that fall into one of these categories (bonus points if you can unearth search terms that live somewhere in between).
“Buy now” keywords are those which, broadly speaking, indicate that a prospect is ready to pull the trigger on your product or service. They’ve done their research (or been referred by a trusted confidant) and now it’s time to buy. Typically, “buy now” keywords are comprised of top of the funnel terms appended with words like:
To illustrate the difference between research and intent-to purchase, take a look at the keyword “candle” followed by buy-now iterations (why candles, you might be wondering? In the time it’s taken to write and edit this guide I’ve burned through an entire warm tobacco pipe scented candle: the lengths I go to for you people):
Now, we’ll address the obvious first: search volume for “candles” is exponentially greater than that of the other keywords combined. But the other keywords show more intent to buy.
It goes without saying, but be sure to address the specific modifier you’re bidding on in your ad copy: if you’re shilling gluten-free soy-based cardamom-scented candles and bidding on “coupons for candles,” use an expanded text ad or employ ad extensions to convey the quality and offer a coupon code in your ad itself.
Product/service keywords include:
This is a much broader category, and not every sort of product keyword is going to become a top-converting term for your business. That being said, the only way to figure out what doesn’t work is to test everything in as calculated a way as you possibly can. If something breaks the bank, pause it. If something converts at a CPA well below the account average, you’ve got a top converter on your hands.
Once you’ve been running your AdWords account for at least 30 days, you’ll have an idea of which keywords are worth your money and which aren’t. The middling terms—ones that your ads show for consistently but never seem to earn clicks—represent opportunity. Focus you efforts on writing great ad copy for these keywords. Make changes to your landing page. Triple-check your ad extensions. If, after a few weeks you’re still not seeing any clicks (or worse, you’re seeing clicks but no conversions), put ‘em on the chopping block.
By moving your top performing keywords into their own campaign(s) you afford yourself more control over how much of your budget is spent on keywords that have, historically, done well. The advantage? No longer is the single converting keyword in an ad group lumped in with twelve other terms that do nothing but syphon your budget away.
A word of warning, though: by moving a keyword out of its original ad group, you lose. Since in the scenario I’m describing above the account is relatively new, it makes more sense to move underperforming keywords into new campaigns.
So, the million-dollar question: how do we actually split up the budget among these different campaigns?
If we were to visualize search campaign budget breakdown, it’d look something like this:
The numbers you see in the pie chart above are completely superfluous, but the relative distribution of spend between campaign types is certainly not.
As you can see, the majority of your budget should be spent on the keywords that have the greatest chance of converting. The exception is branded. While branded keywords represent intent (read: familiarity), they’ve got a low ceiling and don’t necessarily represent “net-new” customers. So while it’s important to dominate your competition when it comes to your branded terms, by virtue of comparatively low volume and maxed out quality scores (thanks to inimitable relevance), your budget should be most heavily concentrated on those “buy now” and product-centric high-intent keywords.
And remember: these categories are fluid. High-intent keywords should be your top performers, but in some instances that isn’t the case. I’ve seen accounts where a competitor’s brand name had better conversion volume and CPA than any other keyword bid on. Every niche, every account, is different.When in doubt, pay close attention to the wealth of data available to you and adjust accordingly.
Search is the backbone of most AdWords accounts, but the platform gives advertisers a few other options, too: display and remarketing (usually through display, though remarketing on search can also be effective). Of course, there’s also shopping, but that’s a post unto itself.
Depending on your vertical, these alternatives can complement or completely replace traditional search advertising. Either way, they can drastically impact the way you spend money on AdWords. Let’s take a closer look.
The clicks are cheaper than they are on traditional search, but with the significant drop off in direct conversions, is the Google Display Network really worth it?
The short answer is yes. A thousand times yes.
Remember our old pal intent? Well, when you use the GDN, the people seeing your ads don’t really have much of it. Display is closer to traditional advertising (think billboards) than search, with the added benefits of better targeting and on-demand analytics.
Outside of remarketing, the Display Network has three main functions—brand awareness, showcasing your product, and helping a lengthy sales process along—and puts a plethora of targeting options at your disposal. There’s got to be a catch, right?
The lack of conversions directly attributable to the GDN can make it hard to justify, especially for small businesses with limited budgets. That being said, there are ways to dip your toes in display without lighting money on fire.
When I work with clients looking to give Display a go, I recommend they start with managed placements or In-Market audiences. Without going into too much detail, this gives you the ability to show banner creative on specific websites or to people whose browsing history indicates that their interests align with what you offer.
If you have success here, check out some of these other strategies and grow your Display budget to create the perfect complementary network strategy.
Let me begin with the following: if you run an ecommerce business and dynamic remarketing (remarketing ads that show site visitors the product or products they actually looked at on your website) isn’t set up, take the rest of your day to follow this guide. Future you will thank me from atop a pile of greenbacks.
Really though. Remarketing is an essential component of AdWords. Every business in every vertical can gain from its use.
An easy way to determine your initial remarketing budget is to calculate the percentage of conversions that come from returning site visitors and then allocate that same percentage of your spend to remarketing. Too abstract? Let’s look at an example.
Say your online candle store garnered 1,000 clicks last week and sold 100 of the finest non-GMO, wood-wick artisan candles last week on AdWords, and 10 of them were purchased by returning visitors. Assigning 10% of your search budget to remarketing gives you the chance to bring the 900 non-converters back to your website.
Some account managers are opposed to remarketing because it means you’re paying to bring the same person to your site multiple times. But isn’t that better than said person never converting, or worse still, buying something from your competitor? Plus, repeat visitors are actually more likely to convert!
At long last, your AdWords budgeting bootcamp has drawn to a close!
You’ve determined your starting point. You’ve carefully allocated bread to your search campaigns and begun growing your budget to encompass everything AdWords has to offer. Index finger cramp? Rub some dirt on it. You’re killing it, but you’re not finished.
Outside of perpetual optimization—necessary if you want to maximize your paid search budget—there are other platforms you can expand your efforts to. While Bing Ads is the logical next step, you might find that Facebook advertising (lead ads, anyone?) or LinkedIn (but probably Facebook) provides excellent bang for your buck as well.
What are you waiting for?
Allen is a content marketing specialist and the reigning fantasy football champion at WordStream. He enjoys couth menswear, dank eats, and the dulcet tones of the Wu-Tang Clan. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.