Today I want to walk through the steps we use to launch and profitably scale pay per click (PPC) campaigns.  This is going to be a lot of info and I’ll try my best to stay high level without digging too deep into the complexities of PPC management.

We recently used this exact approach to launch a new product for one of our clients on June 4, 2011.  It’s been almost a month and we’re on track to do about 130 sales at about $30 profit per sale.  So this works and we’ve only just begun to start scaling.


Step 1: Start With Adwords Search

We recommend starting with an Adwords Search campaign targeting the obvious buyer intent keywords.  The reasons are fairly obvious:

  1. More Targeted: People searching for a solution in a search engine are typically your best prospects.  The alternative to Search is display advertising where your ads are displayed on other websites.  We prefer to test with Search ads because we have more control over who is clicking on our ads and we’re more likely to target prospects ready to buy now vs. later.
  2. Test Faster: Google is the leader in search market share at about 60 – 70% so you’ll be able to test faster in Adwords vs. Bing/Yahoo.  It’s much better to fail fast and quickly change direction than to slowly bleed money and lose time testing a bad campaign.


Keyword research and ad campaign structure are huge topics so I won’t go into all of the details in this article.  However, it’s important to have the basics in place when you start.  So here’s a very brief overview for how to organize your campaigns:

  • Identify the most targeted keywords for your product.  Think about what a buyer would type into Google before making a purchase and stay away from research focused keywords.
  • Organize your keywords into groups with similar phrases.  For example, if you have a lot of “how to” keywords then group them together.
  • Create 3 different ad text variations and try to match your ad text to the group phrases.  For example, if you have a “how to” group then your ad should say “How to XYZ”
  • Do NOT start with broad match keywords.  We recommend phrase match to start so that your ads are targeted, but you’re not limited by exact match.
  • Turn Display Network OFF.  We only want to target search traffic
  • Block mobile phone traffic.  People typically do not make purchases from their mobile phones so it’s best to start your campaigns by targeting Desktop computers only.
  • Set up conversion tracking with revenue.  This is critical so you can see revenue per sale and compare it with cost per sale data in Adwords.
  • Determine and set an appropriate budget.  We recommend at least 100 – 200 clicks per keyword before you declare a keyword a “loser.”  Therefore, make sure you have a sufficient budget to allow you to test all of your keywords.  If you don’t, then take out any questionable keywords.


So that is step 1.  Next, activate your campaigns and start driving traffic to your sales page(s).  If after your initial test budget you have no sales, then you need to re-evaluate the keywords, ad text, sales page, and the offer to determine how to improve.

The good news is you now know what does not work so make sure you take notes and don’t make the same mistakes next time.

If after your initial test, you have made some sales, then it’s time to move on to step 2.


Step 2: Target & Optimize Converting Keywords

As soon as you start to generate sales, you need to determine the exact keywords your customers are using.  Luckily, Google gives you the ability to run Query reports to find this data.  Simply go to the Keywords tab in Adwords and then click on the button that says, “See Search Terms.”

In the Query report you’ll want to sort by conversions to find all of the keyword phrases customers typed into Google before purchasing your product.  Copy all of these keywords.

While you’re in the Query report, search for any irrelevant keyword phrases.  If you find any, then add those as negative match keywords in your campaign.

Next, it’s time to use Perry Marshall’s peel and stick method to create our “High Quality” search campaign.  This is the campaign where we’ll put all of our top keywords and we’ll keep our original campaign to “fish” for more profitable keywords.

If you’re familiar with Adwords Quality Score, then you know the importance of maintaining overall campaign quality.  We want to move all of our high performing keywords to one campaign so they are not negatively affected by any low quality keywords we’re still testing.

Here’s how to create your “High Quality” campaign:

  1. Take all of your top performing keywords and complete the same process we used in Step 1 to create the first test campaign.
  2. Bid slightly higher in this new campaign and let it run until you get a few more sales.
  3. Add negative match keywords to the old test campaign to make sure all of the ad impressions go to the “High Quality” campaign


That’s it.  Now you have your test search campaign and your “High Quality” search campaign running at the same time.  Your test campaign will continue to generate sales and periodically (weekly or monthly) you’ll want to peel and stick the top performers over to the “High Quality” campaign.

At this point you’ll want to continue to test new ad text and optimize your bids for your target ROI.  Plus, you’ll want to expand your reach, which brings us to step 3.


Step 3: Expand to the Display Network

If you have ever been on a website and noticed “Ads by Google” underneath a block of text ads or a big image ad, then you’ve seen the Google Display Network in action.  The display network allows you to advertise on Google Finance, Gmail, Google Maps, Blogger, as well as over one million Web, video, gaming, Display Network partners, and mobile display partners.

So obviously the display network allows you to dramatically expand your ad reach. Plus, you can start to use creative image ads so you’re no longer restricted by the character limitations of text ads.

Here’s our recommended strategy for testing and expanding on the display network:

  1. Start with Text Ads.  Text ads are faster and easier to set up to get your first campaign live.  Optimize your text ads and then leverage that information to launch your Image ads.
  2. Start with keyword based adgroups.   Adwords will read all of your keywords and determine appropriate websites to display your ads.  This allows you to find websites that you may never have heard about.
  3. Create a placement targeted campaign for all of the websites that convert.  This is similar to the “peel and stick” search search strategy, but instead of pulling out keywords, we’re pulling out websites that convert.
  4. Convert your best text ad into every Image format and then create a separate Image ad campaign.  This works very well because image ads crowd out all of your competitor text ads.  Ad blocks in the display network will typically show 2 – 4 different text ads, but only ONE image ad will take up the entire ad block.  So prospects will only see your ad and since it’s the best text ad you know it will generate a high click through rate.
  5. Repeat #3 above for the Image ad campaign.


So after all of that you’ll have 4 display campaigns: keyword based text ads, placement targeted text ads, keyword based image ads, and placement targeted image ads.

For all of you who read my last post, you’re probably wondering how Remarketing fits into all this…


Step 3A: Remarketing

If you’re not familiar with Remarketing or Retargeting, then check out my previous post, “How to Bring Your Website Visitors Back Using Google Remarketing

Here’s my advice on when to set this up.

I strongly recommend adding the “Audience” tags to your website as soon as you start Step 2 above.  You’ll want to create two tags and one custom audience to start:

  1. tag every visitor to your sales page or maybe even your entire website if it makes sense
  2. tag every buyer
  3. custom audience that includes all the visitors and excludes all the buyers.  This is the audience you’ll target because it includes all your non-buyers


If you set that up in Step 2, then your pool of Remarketing prospects will be growing as you’re testing Search ads.  The problem with Remarketing is that you need a large enough pool of prospects or else it’s just not worth the effort to set up the campaigns.

As soon as you have more than 500 prospects in your Remarketing custom audience, then you could set up your campaign.  I recommend setting up a text and an image campaign like we did in Step 3 to get the most ad reach.


Step 4: Expand to More Ad Outlets

So far we’ve only been talking about Google Adwords.   I highly recommend you start with Adwords, but once you complete the 3 and a half steps above, then it’s time to expand to more ad outlets.

Leverage the search keyword data to create your MSN Adcenter campaigns.  Then if you have any demographic information about your buyers (i.e. highest converting gender, age range, location, etc) then use it to target on Facebook.  I’ll warn you that Facebook is a completely different beast so it’s going to take work to optimize.

There are many other ad outlets and I recommend systematically testing them all to try to find what works for your product.  Here’s a list of some networks that I’ve tried with varied success:

  • Adknowledge – this is interesting because you can advertise within emails.  Therefore, you are 100% sure your ad is getting clicked on by people who read and click on offers in emails.  I recommend a poaching strategy where you offer something for free to collect email addresses rather than sending direct to a paid offer.  Therefore, you’ll build a list of active email readers who are likely to click on your offers.
  • TrafficVance – this is another interesting network that allows you to serve up pop-under ads after people search for a keyword or visit a particular URL.  For example, if your prospect searches one of your keywords or visits a related website, then you can pop up your sales page or squeeze page automatically.
  • AdBlade – display ads
  • AdBrite – display ads
  • BuySellAds – media buy display ads
  • AOL Adsonar – display ads on top AOL websites


So that’s it.  Those are the 4 steps we use to profitably scale PPC campaigns.

I tried to simplify this as much as possible, but I’m sure there are some points that need to be clarified so post your questions as comments below.  Also, if you’re having success with another strategy or another ad outlet that I did not mention, then please let me know.  I love to hear what’s working for other marketers.


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