What’s the State of Your Paid Search Campaign?

This article was originally published on ClickZ.com on April 10, 2009. But it remains as current today as the day I wrote it, because the need to keep one’s PPC search campaigns organized is constant.

If your paid search campaigns are in a state of disarray, then the profit levels on your paid search spending are clearly not all they could be.

I got thinking about the state of most search marketers’ campaigns while reviewing the latest Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) State of the Market Survey.

Google Ad Campaigns

When new clients come on board every year, I expect the campaigns my team and I will see will be more “together” than those in prior years. Interestingly, the opposite has occurred. Accounts within Google are usually the most disorganized because they’ve evolved over the years.

Every time a new idea comes along with regard to products and their associated keywords, a new campaign or Google Ad Group gets glued onto an existing account. Then someone decides to try new ad creative or landing pages. Staff turnover occurs and, unless the agency or in-house team has a knowledge-transfer process in use, often no one has a good idea of what’s running and whether it’s optimal.

It’s amazing how much performance enhancement can come from a campaign reorganization and tuning. The economy may be in bad shape, but that’s no reason why your search campaign should be.

Search engines prefer certain structures from a “quality score” relevance perspective. Also, a logical account structure provides a team, and even a campaign management technology, with a strong foundation around which to improve bidding and creative strategies.

Nearly every paid search marketer starts cleaning up, organizing, tuning, and optimizing their Google AdWords campaign, and I certainly can’t argue with that. Google represents the biggest opportunity for volume of leads and sales, assuming you can find ways to afford the positions you need to deliver volume profitably. If you don’t know where to start, my 300+ prior ClickZ columns can certainly provide a basis for some ideas.

Yahoo, Microsoft adCenter Campaigns

When you finish reorganizing, tuning, and optimizing your Google account, Yahoo and Microsoft are logical next steps. Both engines have made it easier to import Google accounts into their systems.

I hope Yahoo moves to a consistent form of match type similar to Google and Microsoft, and abandons its Standard/Advanced match types. This would put Yahoo in line with the de facto industry standard and also make transportability of campaigns much easier.

Most importantly, advertisers would have more confidence that the import of campaign data had been appropriately mapped. The current system requires a lot of manual checking to determine if the most appropriate match types are selected after an import.

Microsoft adCenter probably deserves a second look or, for many of you, a first look. While Microsoft continues to lag as the number-three player with respect to both its own traffic and a syndication network that an adCenter account covers, it’s still large enough to be a worthy addition to nearly any size search marketing effort for a variety of reasons. AdCenter imports Google accounts fairly smoothly, and its traffic quality is great, in part because it lacks a dispersed syndication network.

It’s amazing how many campaigns, even those spending more than $100,000 a month on Google, either aren’t running on Yahoo (not as frequent) or Microsoft’s adCenter platform.

That’s why when I was looking for a special offer to bundle in with my latest book, “The Truth About Pay-Per-Click Search Advertising,” I decided to take Microsoft up on its generous offer to bundle in $200 in adCenter advertising credits for new U.S. adCenter advertisers. I figured my readers would be more likely not to have an adCenter account than any other mainstream engine. If you don’t have an adCenter account, I’ve given you the perfect excuse to open one now.

SEMPO State of the Market Survey

The SEMPO survey responses provide evidence that we’re in the midst of an evolution of the boundaries of what marketers consider to be “search marketing.” Clearly, some purists never considered keyword-targeted contextual advertising to be search, but most marketers do.

Similarly, there’s a high level of interest and desire for mobile search, video search, and retargeting of searchers using display media and behavioral targeting. Some of those options might not have been considered to be search marketing in the past.

Social media advertising and initiatives are also often included in search marketing for the purposes of budgeting and vendor selection. If the definition of “search” is broadening, the industry will grow within the old-school areas and in entirely new directions.

Also, if you haven’t gone to the bigger conferences such as Search Engine Strategies (where I speak frequently) due to the time or travel cost commitments required, you may want to consider attending the Online Marketing Summit Whistle Stop Tour hosted by ClickZ. I’ll be speaking at most of the East Coast and some Midwest events, and giving away copies of my new book to those who participate in my sessions by asking questions.