They say that the game of chess takes an hour to learn and a lifetime to master. The same goes for keyword bid optimization.
If you have any kind of PPC advertising strategy in place, it’s likely you have the basics down. You probably have figured out how much money you can spend and determined the CPC range that falls within your budget. You’ve probably identified ads, ad groups and keywords. You’re probably focusing your campaign on ROI and are adjusting your bids accordingly. You probably have decided between manual and automated bidding, and know whether you’re going to channel your efforts on clicks, impressions or conversions. You might even have a well thought out and structured AdWords campaign.
That said, digital advertising is fundamentally different than it was just a few years ago, incorporating image recognition, voice-activation, augmented reality and chat messaging — all of which represent a new direction for the industry, and a myriad of new data that you could potentially leverage to your advantage.
And while you may have a great start in the process, there are likely a host of underrated, yet profitable, ways to conduct bid optimization of keywords that you could be overlooking. While seemingly insignificant, each missed keyword or inaccurate bid represents money left at the table. Over time, that could add up to copious opportunities — and thousands to hundreds of thousands of ad dollars — that are irrevocably lost.
Like anything else, understanding the nuances of bid optimization takes time, effort and a lot of trial and error. In the interest of accelerating the learning curve a bit, here are a few ways you can refine and nuance your bidding process to fully leverage all of the available data to your greatest advantage, maximize your ROI and truly get the most out of every PPC advertising dollar spent.
Bid Optimization Tip 1: Look for keyword intent
When making a bid, it’s often tempting to cast your net wide when targeting search queries, with the expectation that only a small percentage of those consumers, directed through retargeting and other multi-touch attribution points, will actually reach the point of purchase. However, you also risk bidding on search queries that are in close alignment with top-of-funnel marketing activity that may be several steps removed from the moment of sale.
With this in mind, it’s also good to remember that not all keywords are created equal — some keywords indicate that the buyer is doing some reconnaissance while other keyword queries actually signify that the buyer has intentions to purchase an item. For example, a series of keywords such as “Donna Karen summer dresses size 8”” indicates that the consumer may be further along in their buyer journey than someone entering “summer dresses,” and thus, may be closer to making a purchase. Subsequently, marketers can increase the percentage of actual conversions by identifying specific keywords that clearly demonstrate intent — with the confidence to know that they will likely result in conversions.
To that end, it’s sometimes more strategic to bid on specific long-tail keywords. While they have lower search volume, and subsequently less competition, they can also be tightly targeted and ultimately more effective. For example, “shoes” may have millions of searches a month, with stringent competition and a hefty price per click. ”Mens trail-running shoes” may get fewer searches but might cost significantly less per click, while also better honing in on your target audience. Among other things, long-tail bidding allows you to better focus your ad copy and create more relevant headlines, which in turn helps increase your CTR and quality score that can ultimately lower the cost of your bid.
Bid Optimization Tip 2: Eliminate anomalies with early detection
As marketers, we frequently find ourselves in the position of halfway expecting the inevitable fire drill. And with good reason — with countless variables ranging from technical difficulties, like a malfunctioning cookie, to user behavior aberrations, they can result in costly campaigns or outright failure to reach a key audience.
However, implementing intelligent machine learning technologies can detect those anomalies early on in the bidding process — before they evolve into costly mistakes or miscalculations. An AI engine with the ability to identify and remediate a multitude of disaster scenarios as well as make decisions based on all possible outcomes can eliminate a lot of potential roadblocks that range from simple efficiency bottlenecks to detecting major threats to your PPC strategy that could have dire ramifications for your budget or bottom line.
Bid Optimization Tip 3: Understand and analyze granular data
It’s no secret that the more specific the data, the more definitively you can articulate its value to your organization. Thus, learning to accurately navigate and analyze granular data is critical to the success of any campaign.
For one, numerous marketing systems are not necessarily accustomed to identifying trends, relying instead on pre-trained algorithms. Granular data offers a distinct, strategic advantage, enabling companies to uncover opportunities that are unique to their specific customer bases and marketing goals. Rather than using a bid management platform to execute how a campaign should perform, marketers can develop a more opportunistic approach.
Organizations that implement a paid channel advertising platform offering highly granular data, such as geo-location info for customers seeking products near them, as well as multi-channel revenue integration to map new users to their customer funnel, will be able to identify and hone in on the most likely of customers, leading to higher conversions and a significant lift in revenue.
Bid Optimization Tip 4: Employ a Bid Simulator
No one can envision all of the possibilities, both good and bad, that will affect their campaign. What may sound like a reasonable bid, may in fact be exorbitantly overpriced and detract from ROI. Similarly, what may sound reasonable might cost you clicks and conversions. And without possessing informed insight around all the various outcomes, advertisers have little to no time to adequately adjust their campaign strategy.
A bid simulator will provide the answers to an almost endless array of “what if” scenarios. Want to know if you would get more impressions by raising your bid? Or fewer impression if you lowered it? How much do you have to increase your bid to significantly impact your conversion rate?
In addition, a bid simulator can provide handy estimates of the clicks, impressions, conversion value and cost that would have resulted with any given proposed bid. It could also display the same estimates based on a campaign-wide bid, or increase or decrease your campaign-level bid by a certain percentage. In short, it’s an easy way to take the guesswork out of bidding and avoid any sloppy, uninformed or otherwise unnecessary mistakes.
Bid Optimization Tip 5: Track Conversions and Assign Values
It might be surprising but a number of PPC advertisers are either inadequately tracking conversions or aren’t doing so at all. But you can’t improve upon what you can’t measure. And if you aren’t adequately measuring your conversions, tasks like bid optimization will be imprecise at best, and will ultimately suffer because you’ll fail to identify the parts of your campaign that are successful. Thus, to ensure that optimization efforts are truly effective, it’s imperative to leverage a conversion tracking tool that allows you to obtain conversion code and track patterns around metrics for future optimization efforts.
Along the same lines, you can also designate values for various conversions — a critical feature if you have multiple offers on your site. For example, this would allow you to assign one value for a product that was purchased and another value for gated lead gen content download. Among other things, this will enable you to achieve greater insights around the number of conversions sourced to a campaign, while also providing deeper understanding into buying trends and the business value of those conversions.
Bid Optimization Tip 6: Leverage DKI Strategically
At its core, Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) allows the keyword that triggered the ad placed somewhere in the headline, description, or anywhere else within the ad text.
This technique reflects the user’s actual search query in the ad itself, which makes it an especially effective means of bolstering website traffic. For one, your ads will gain relevancy, as they’re now directly relevant to the item being searched. And you’ll likely benefit from higher click-through rates — simply because users are more likely to click on ads that have direct bearing on their interests and searches.
Like anything worthwhile, keyword bidding can be a daunting endeavor. Having a solid keyword strategy in place is a great start — but it’s just a start. As you progress, your campaign strategy will likely adjust as you encounter unanticipated variables and roadblocks along the way.
Bid optimization will give you a financial leg up when encountering unexpected challenges down the road. While it might seem cumbersome and overwhelming, keeping your eyes open for opportunities to optimize at every turn could result in cost savings of thousands to tens of thousands on bids and customer acquisition, all of which add to your bottom line at the end of the quarter or year, while allowing you to realize even more value out your PPC advertising campaign.