Metricless PPC Management

"'Now don't try for a home run baby...If you can get the job done with a hit."
...Bruce Springsteen, My Best Was Never Good Enough

I recently took on the challenge of optimizing Cari McGees (Matt McGees wife) AdWords account with the implied assumption that I would use it as a guideline for how a small business should setup and manage their own AdWords efforts. I might end up writing that post and some point in the futurehowever, I think there is a more compelling post to write based upon my experiences this account and other accounts Ive worked with recently.

Cari is a real estate agent in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. Most people who land on her website and are interested in using her professional services contact her via telephone, though Im sure she gets a smattering of email & web form submissions. Pretty much every small local service-oriented business operates the same way as Cari doesthe website being a vehicle for the initiation of person contact with any sales taking place offline. The metrics that I use to judge the performance of my big client sites (cost per lead / cost per sale / return on ad spend) are pretty irrelevant to Cari and the idea to setup a phone-tracking system to measure the effectiveness of the website for lead generation, given the low relative volume of inquiry and high expense, is totally ludicrous.

Instead, we need to judge the success of Caris PPC efforts with the fuzzy, imprecise metrics such as feeling that the phone is ringing more often with better leads since the campaign started or hearing more new prospects are mentioning the web as a lead source (the prospects not being likely not being able to distinguish between natural and paid search results). From a paid search management perspective, the only solid way to judge the success of the campaign is whether the search terms that brought people to the website are relevant to Caris business.

The AdWords novice who put all their relevant keywords into the campaign might think that they have this dialed-in already. However, the keywords bid on and the keywords that generated clicks to the account might be totally different animals (especially if the keywords in the account are primarily using broad match).

How do you find what keywords the campaign has served?

Click on the Keywords tab, choose See Search Terms, and select All:

You will then see examples of the actual terms previously served in the account.

All these terms are totally relevant to Carihowever, there were plenty that weren't. First, I came up with an easy list of obvious irrelevant match terms that Cari unfortunately paid for the past and received no value from (note the photo comes from AdWords Editor).

Unfortunately, even though Cari selected relevant broad match terms around her chosen profession (real estate, homes for sale, etc.), Google broad matched them to search queries related to apartment / house rental which clearly wasted her money. Thats why in most smart PPC management campaigns, I wouldnt recommend using broad match at all, but instead use modified broad match. In the small business context, it isnt too difficult to go through your entire list of actual queries and decide whether they are relevant or not. If they are irrelevant, its easy to negate them so they dont appear in your campaign again.

Once you click on the Add As Negative Keyword button, youll see the following:

In the small business context, its likely that youll want to negate the keyword at the campaign level since any irrelevant keyword will always be irrelevant. Do this on a regular basis and youll greatly decrease the percentage of irrelevant queries that you are paying for.

Picking keywords smartly and running them on modified broad match should insure that the percentage of targeted website visitors is high. Unfortunately for Cari, the ability to track and measure these visitors with rigorous specificity ends once they click on the AdWords and end up on her site. Id love to precisely show the value of my PPC efforts to Cari and other similarly situated business people with very precise metrics. Unfortunately, I cant.

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