Is PPC an Art or a Science?

by Michael Madew

At first glance of an Adwords PPC campaign you would be forgiven for thinking that PPC is a science rather than an art. You'd only be partially correct though. Pay per click marketing is every bit as much an art as a science - even more so in my opinion.

That there are scientific elements to PPC there can be no doubt. Scientists acquire knowledge by testing, changing variables, testing again. This is also true of your average PPC manager. They may spend the day split-testing different ads to see which brings the highest click-through-rate (CTR). They may use sophisticated bid management software to work out which time of day results in the cheapest clicks, to analyse the bidding and placement patterns of their competition, or to see which match types result in the best conversion rate from impression to click, or click to goal (or sale). Google Analytics is staggeringly complex to the uninitiated and it can seem like you need a degree in rocket science to get started.

PPC is actually pretty simple if you strip it down to the bare bones. It's about spending less on clicks than you're making in profit from sales which are directly related to your PPC campaign. Which seems like a scientific formula in itself. So where does the 'PPC is an art' phrase come into play?

The 'art' bit is the most important part of your PPC campaign by a country mile. It's researching and inventing keywords that convert for your business. It's writing killer ad copy that attracts exactly the right type of person to your website. It's designing and producing content for your website or landing page with the kind of flair and panache that results in as many people as possible taking that next step and turning that click into a sale or application for your business. It's thinking outside the box when all your competitors will be using the Google Keyword Planner to get the same keyword lists and push each other's bids up, when you're cleaning up with the keywords that they simply haven't thought of.

A PPC campaign is only as good as the website it points to. Meaning that if your website isn't good enough to convert visitors into customers for your business, a PPC campaign is doomed to failure from the very start. You can have the most targeted keywords and ads in the world but if that visitor doesn't like your site they won't continue to buy or apply. Website design and content creation for conversion is an art form. It's about subtly convincing visitors to take action without pushing the hard-sell, maintaining a consistent and smooth customer journey throughout.

The same goes for ad copy. Your job is to create something which resonates, is subtly appealing to those who view your ads. You don't want to go in with a 'Click here for instant riches' approach as doing so will result in wasted clicks from curious people. Your ad should stand out, but only to those people who want what you are selling. Getting this right is also an art form.

Finally keyword research - you can go about this in a purely scientific way if you like, using tools which give you all the stats you need about huge numbers of keywords which may be related to your business. But this is what all your competitors are doing, and it creates a crowded marketplace. To become truly successful with PPC you need to think outside the box. This means putting yourself into your customer's shoes and thinking 'if I wanted to buy from my company, what would I be searching for?'

Here's an example. I work with many financial services companies, some of who provide loans. Type 'loans' Google Keyword Planner and it will give you over 600 keywords related to loans. But what if the potential customer searches for finance in a different way. For example they may search for 'how can I consolidate my credit card debts', or 'cheapest way to borrow money', or 'most reputable finance company'. You get the idea. None of these will appear on the suggested keyword list for 'loans'.  Thinking about keywords in this way is more art than science.

While you can not deny the scientific, statistical elements of Adwords and other PPC platforms, the key to a successful, profitable PPC campaign is to get the artistic bits right from the very beginning. Otherwise you'll be constantly trying to scientifically analyse why you're losing so much money.

 

 

 

photo credit: solofotones via photopin cc

About The Author

Michael Madew

PPC expert with over 10 years' experience in creating and managing highly profitable PPC campaigns on Google Adwords, Bing Ads and other paid search platforms.

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