Unwritten Rules of PPC Advertising

A Pitcher's Mound

Image Credit: Durapitchmound.com

On April 22, 2010 Alex Rodriguez ran across the pitcher’s mound on his way back to first base after a foul ball.  He should have known that he had just broken one of the unwritten rules of baseball.  Only the pitcher should touch the pitcher’s mound during play.  I’m sure sports fans remember the rant that Oakland pitcher Dallas Braden directed towards A-rod afterwards.  This got me thinking.  There are unwritten rules for just about everything.  Cell phones: Don’t text while having a face-to-face conversation.  Driving: Turn off your high beams for oncoming traffic.  Dating: never go out with a friend’s ex.  The list can go on and on.  As I thought more and more about it, I eventually applied the theory to work and began to think about the top few unwritten rules of PPC.

Broad Match Keywords have Little Relevancy

Ever since Google updated Adwords with the modified broad match option, broad matched keywords really shouldn’t be a part of any campaign.  Every campaign I manage uses modified broad matched keywords instead of regular broad matched keywords.  The reasoning is simple.  Broad matched keywords, while increasing web traffic, doesn’t bring good traffic.  While some goals are just that, bring traffic to the site, the traffic itself often doesn’t convert.  This is a waste of a click, and therefore a waste of money.  As James Svoboda, from WebRanking said, “You’ll just end up tricking yourself into thinking you’re getting targeted traffic and by the time you figure out that you’re not, your budget will be spent & conversion rates will be low…”

Always be in the Process of Testing Ads

I see it time and time again.  In practically every account we review here at DragonSearch the original account administrators only have one ad running in every ad group.  An account manager must improve ads as time progresses.  By having two ads running in every ad group, a manager can determine whether or not an ad is successful by comparing it to the other ad.  The metric I use to determine success is CTR.  Once I reach 200 impressions or so, the ad with the lesser CTR gets changed and the test starts over.  This is a proven way to increase CTR, and a great method to keep up with current search trends.

PPC Advertising Evolves, Keep up with the Changes

EvolutionThere are a ton of PPC blogs and articles out there.  Many websites are dedicated to the art of PPC.  The breadth and scope of information available to account managers is almost obscene.  Why?  This industry is constantly changing.  Google makes updates regularly.  Search trends change.  New sites pop up capable of displaying ads.  An account manager must make time to keep up with these updates and changes to study them.  I dedicate at least a half an hour a day to keep myself current.  It’s like Michelle Morgan, a PPC manager at VA Mortgage in Columbia, MO said, “You’re never done learning. The industry changes every day. Whether once a day or week. You NEED to spend time learning & keeping up with it.”

Homepages are not Landing Pages

Another unwritten rule rookie PPCers may not be aware of is simply directing traffic to the homepage of their website and to nowhere else is an error.  Melissa Mackey of Fluency Media summed it up best, “Use deep landing pages, and don’t send all your traffic to the homepage.”  While it’s fine to direct traffic to your homepage from a branded campaign, sending someone who wants to buy a two bedroom apartment to a homepage about all apartments (i.e. studios, one bedrooms, penthouses) instead of the page displaying available two bedroom apartments is a mistake.  Don’t make the user surf your site to get where they need to go, just send them where they need to be!

Don’t Fully Trust Google’s Numbers

2+2=17.6A while back I blogged about inconsistencies in the numbers that Google gives out.  Adwords often displays numbers that don’t fully make sense.  There is a common theme among the erroneous numbers too.  If you raise your bid, the inconsistencies seem to be less.  This only leads professionals to believe that Google will fudge the numbers in order to get higher bids, and hence, more money in its coffers.  I work around this by trusting the numbers that don’t compel higher bids, and this strategy has been working for me.  In other words, if Google says your keyword’s bid is too low to show on the first page, but the average position is 2.3, then believe that the 2.3 is true and that it is showing on the first page.

Negative Keywords are an Account Manager’s Friend

This is an important one.  Negative keywords are, in part, responsible for qualifying traffic.  If you own a store that sells foot apparel in Boston, making “sox” a negative keyword will keep Red Sox hooligans from surfing your site looking for the next David Ortiz quote.  Without negative keywords websites would be inundated with irrelevant traffic.  I’ll quote James Svoboda again.  He simply puts it as, “Negative keywords are not optional, but rather, vital.”

Consequences of Breaking Unwritten Rules

Some unwritten rules have severe consequences while others have virtually none.  A-rod was lambasted in the media and his stunt was referred to as “bush league,” but there were no fines or penalties, and his team mates fully supported him.  When one blinds oncoming traffic with his high beams, one risks a head-on collision, but it almost never happens.  However, when one starts dating one’s best friend’s ex, one can expect to lose said best friend.  If one is texting during a face-to-face conversation, one can be expected to be called out for the rudeness.  The severity of consequences for breaking the unwritten rules of PPC lies somewhere in between.  Still, an account manager is guaranteed to be more successful in his PPC efforts if he doesn’t ignore the unwritten rules.  Have I forgotten any?  Let me know if you think of any that I haven’t.

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2 comments on “Unwritten Rules of PPC Advertising

Cleofe Betancourt

Great Article, Johnny! I am going to re-tweet this as well as share it on our fb page.

Another unwritten rule that many novice marketers seem to overlook? Analytics are a must! You would be shocked at the number of individuals jumping into affiliate marketing campaigns with little knowledge about, or inclination to use, separate analytics to monitor their paid search activity. Trusting the stats of your offer provider? Bananas…


John Lavin

Well put Cleofe! Not linking an adwords account to analytics is a great unwritten rule. That and not setting up conversion tracking were two rules that got bumped. I think I will have to write a part II and include those two. Thanks a lot for reading and commenting, and have a great day.