Keyword aficionados Matt Van Wagner and Tim Ash had a few key words of their own at the Search Engine Strategies Conference about creating an effective pay-per-click campaign. The keywords of their delivery: slow down, organize, track, evaluate, and adjust.

Organize Campaigns Around Keyword Themes

Many people don’t put enough thought into how they organize and manage their words and end up costing themselves as a result. In fact, the words that are chosen often seem almost random.

Creating a campaign framework is very important as it provides a great platform for keyword choices. Van Wagner suggests using “keyword buckets” to logically group the words for your campaign. Thinking in clusters of words will help pull associated terms out of the ether and into your campaign, quite possibly ones you haven’t thought of. While some PPC providers make creating hierarchical lists of words very simple, others require a bit of creativity on your part.

Tracking Trends

Your PPC campaign should be carefully developed. It isn’t a matter of just snagging a list of keywords. First it should be realized that deciding what metrics are most important for you and your business is key in establishing the success or failure of any PPC program. So before creating an entire PPC campaign, define the metrics to track and create a reporting structure.

Using Excel spreadsheets with graphs is a good way to track trends. This will enable you to maintain a log of changes made to your campaign. You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.

Be sure you carefully document all changes/tweaks you make to your PPC program as well as to your site. When you notice a change in your results you want to be able to look back through your spreadsheet, identify when change began, and thus be able to isolate the reason for that change.

Guesswork is a killer in PPC programs. Always ask what changed, when, and why.

When starting a new PPC campaign, you first want to observe, look for errors, and begin refining your keyword list. This is not a task that can be rushed. Refining an effective PPC program takes time, so don’t rush in with guns blazing and make rash mistakes. Ease your way into your campaign, keeping conscientious documentation of changes. This way you’re not just slinging money around hoping for results.

Evaluating Performance

Click rates aren’t nearly as important as conversion rates. Ads most frequently clicked are not always the best performing ads. And it is important to know which ones are the most effective. Otherwise you’re shelling out money for an ad that catches everyone’s eye, but doesn’t convert to a sale.

The same goes for keyword selection and evaluation. Epic Sky’s Tim Ash suggested, that on the keyword level, it is not about cost-per-click or even ROI, but ultimately it is about the profit.

Though you may be happy with a keyword campaign that earns you $5,000 a month on a $10,000 investment, the profit margin may be higher than you realize if you evaluate the strength of the keywords. A close analysis of you keyword campaign can often reveal some words are vastly outperforming others in terms of clicks or conversions. Common senses say you should adjust and focus more the words that have a history of performing.

But Ash says the bottom line is the bottom line and keywords should be sorted by profit, not by CPC or ROI. Focus on the winners and dump the losers.

Ash presented a formula for determining the overall value of any given keyword.


Adjusting Bids

The “hold your horses” theme continues. Don’t adjust your bids without enough data (which all of the previous verbiage should guide you into having). Also, don’t alter keywords after only 5 clicks. You need a sufficient number of clicks along with other information to identify trends.

“Just because you can turn the knob, doesn’t mean you’re doing anything,” said Ash.

Once all the information is in, adjust your keywords accordingly. Adjust your bids to the bottom of the keyword’s value using the formula provided.

In a nutshell, the steps to optimizing your campaign are as follows:

1. Set up a web analytics package
2. Tag all inbound traffic
3. Consider only high traffic keywords
4. Sort by profit, not CPC, or ROI
5. Concentrate on winners and losers
6. Properly handle uncertainty (take into account the amount of data you have per word)
7. Adjust your bids to the bottom of keyword value

**Infromation compiled and written according to the notes of Mike McDonald, who is present at the SES Conference.