Online Advertising in the Age of Agility

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is not at all like a Ronco Grill! If you just set it and forget it you can also kiss your money goodbye. We have been telling clients this for the last several years. So I was fascinated by the research my friend Larry Kim, founder of WordStream, shared with me from the data his free AdWords Performance Grader had accumulated.

The key findings that WordStream is seeing through thousands of accounts grading profiles are very low account activity levels in terms of actually trying out new things in the accounts. For example:

  • Very low number of keywords or negative keywords added in the last 90 days.
  • Very low number of ad groups and ad text added/edited or deleted in the last 90 days.
  • Very low number of campaigns added/edited or deleted in the last 90 days.

Most advertisers aren’t really taking advantage of even the most basic AdWords account optimization tools, like conversion tracking, geo-targeting, or ad extensions.

Furthermore:

  • More than 50 percent of them don’t even check their accounts once per month.
  • Almost 25 percent haven’t done anything to their account in the last 90 days.
  • More than 20 percent of them have yet to use a negative keyword and less than 50 percent have used at least one negative keyword in the last 90 days.

You may think this only applies to small advertisers, not enterprise-sized ones, yet shockingly, the large accounts, including those managed by agencies, do almost as bad. And agencies and advertisers appear to be equally guilty. We have seen similar results in accounts where we have performed PPC audits. These audits were performed for clients whose spend was at least $15,000 a month, but at least one was well over $1 million a month. Although, in the bigger accounts we have certainly seen a lot more automated bid management occurring.

David Greenbaum, CEO of BoostCTR, shared: “Ad copy optimization is one of the most straightforward paths to increasing conversions and reducing cost-per-acquisition (CPA). However, this is often an afterthought for advertisers. Typically, we see that clients are optimizing only 1 percent of their active ad groups representing 5 percent of their spend. As an extreme example, I have seen an account that spends upwards of $2 million per month and who hasn’t written a single new piece of ad copy in 3 years.”

There are many reasons to be testing your ads, adding negative keywords, and doing overall account maintenance. I won’t go through all the benefits here but my big question is: why do so many people neglect their accounts? Why do they give Google, MSN, and others their money every month and yet don’t regularly optimize their account?

So many advertisers we speak with tell us that it takes more and more effort just to keep their accounts producing the same level of results quarter after quarter. No effort at all must be producing negative results. Is it lack of knowledge, lack of motivation, too much complexity, the fact that it is truly hard to scale it, or do they just not prioritize the resources to do it?

It Isn’t Just PPC Ads

ReTargeter posted an interesting analysis on “The Importance of Rotating Creatives” on retargeted ads, which showed how keeping the same ad creative led to declining click-through rates (CTRs) over time; we’ve seen this similar research for PPC ads.

With “The Law of Shitty Clickthroughs” from Andrew Chen, he states you can keep extending the lifecycle of your campaigns by tweaking them but ultimately you need to keep finding new untapped marketing channels to take advantage of it, and this also makes your existing ones suffer from neglect in most cases.

Social media grabbed everyone’s time and attention and of course marketers followed. Yet many marketers find this channel even more difficult to achieve the kind of results that are necessary. It may be because Facebook advertising is even more difficult to do well than PPC ads, that social media isn’t like normal media, and of course ads have higher fatigue levels.

Marketers Must Become Agile

Our job as marketers is to find the next new shiny object, but we often become overly fascinated with it at the expense of optimizing what we have. We’re always looking for the next great idea as opposed to tweaking our message and campaign propositions to make them more effective.

When our campaigns aren’t pruned and tweaked they become bloated, accumulate a bunch of bloated campaigns, and they affect your whole account based on how Google’s and Bing’s quality score components work.

Oftentimes it’s our organizations’ poor corporate metabolisms that are to blame for not reaching the optimum potential of our marketing efforts.

In order for marketers to ensure future success they must get better at prioritizing and using resources for execution and they must realize that agility is a critical skill for marketing teams.

We are happy to share with you the secret behind successful PPC advertising, but it’s up to you to get good at testing and tweaking your account. It’s no wonder why so many people aren’t testing their landing pages when it is still almost impossible for most of them to test the 95 characters that make up a PPC ad.

The only way to ultimately become successful in online advertising is to continuously test and tweak!

photo by: cote
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