[I’ve set up a campaign, and I have separated keywords into relevant ad groups. But what is the process to optimize the campaign? Is the goal now to determine the highest CTR ad for each ad group? And once I’ve determined that I start split testing landing pages to determine the highest CTR?]
Start With A Goal
The process starts with setting a goal, or goals.
To use an analogy, think of your campaign as a journey across the sea. As a captain of a sailing vessel, you need to set a goal, in the form of a destination port that you would like to arrive at once you complete the next leg of your voyage.
You need that goal to set your heading and to chart your course, without it you will likely end up lost at sea, not knowing where you are heading or when you are likely to reach it.
In marketing you also need to have a goal, without that goal your campaign metrics have little meaning and the direction of adjustments can become ambivalent. You need a goal to measure your progress against and to chart a course to get there.
Your goal needs to be a real value-based goal. Don’t use diagnostic metrics like CTR as a goal. Use something that has bankable value, like sales volume, growth rate, or profits. Those are goals that have real bankable value.
Identify Key Metrics
Your primary metrics will be those that indicate your progress towards a goal. Most other metrics are diagnostic and should not be considered objectives. Use diagnostic metrics to gain a better understanding of what is happening and don’t target a diagnostic metric as a goal for optimization. Your goal should always be something that has bankable value.
Once you have set a meaningful goal you can work backward from there to set objectives for a number of conversions, cost per acquisition, cost, conversion rates, Clicks, CTR, and impressions. Keep in mind these second level of metrics are diagnostic and not actual goals. You can seek to make changes that improve a metric, but it’s only useful if it affects the primary objective of your value-based goal.
The goal of marketing data analysis is to gain insight.
Things like CTR help you understand how people are reacting to whatever changes you made, but what truly matters is why they behave the way they do, and how that insight can be applied to the next round of changes, all in an attempt to move toward your ultimate goal.
Make changes that are designed to impact how your visitors behave. Seek to understand why people behave as they do and use those insights in your next round of adjustments.
There are many things you can adjust to optimize your campaign, but you need to have firmly established goals to know which direction to make adjustments. Too, little, or too much is not optimal, you need to have those goals established to see when you have adjusted too far, or too little.
Now, to the core of your question.
You should be looking at CTRs, but not in a vacuum. There are many things that affect CTR, including your ad position. So by simply raising your bids will improve your ad rank score, which may improve your ad position, which in turn will improve CTR. However, it is possible that none of those things will move you closer to a goal based on real value. It might, or it might not, you need to be measuring the impact of bid adjustments on your value-based goal, not on a diagnostic metric like CTR.
Having said that, once you have isolated variables, like ad position, you will often see a correlation between CTR and ad relevance. So CTR can be quite useful in helping you ascertain which ad message your audience finds more appealing. Making adjustments to your marketing message is one of the areas that tend to have big payoffs in campaign performance.
Test Value Propositions
If you set up your campaign correctly, you should have written ads for at least 2 or more different value propositions and included at least one ad text variant for each value proposition within each ad group to measure the relative difference between those competing for ad variants.
Finding the optimal value proposition for your ads and landing pages is key to a successful campaign.
In addition to testing ad variations, you can also make budget and bid adjustments. You need to make budget and bid adjustments on the most granular level that is practical. Not just at the campaign, or ad group level. You need to adjust down to the individual keyword, or target audience segments. And you need to make adjustments based on the relative impact on achieving progress toward your primary goal.
Here are a few things that you can adjust during the process of optimizing your campaigns:
- Value Propositions
- Max CPC bis Adjustments
- Device Bid Adjustments
- Location bid Adjustments
- Hour Of Day Bid Adjustments
- Day Of Week Bid Adjustments
- And more…
Optimize Search Terms Not Keywords
Keywords are what we use to trigger ads, but it is the actual search terms that we need to identify, review, add to, or exclude from, the campaign so that we can optimize the performance of search terms. not merely the keyword that triggers a group of search terms.
You should be generating a Search terms report on a frequent basis and analyzing that report to discover irrelevant terms to exclude and relevant terms to add to the campaign for more specific targeting.
You cannot make adjustments until you have enough data to be actionable, and you might not have enough time, or data, to make every possible adjustment all at once, so be selective in what you focus on at first. Focus first and foremost on where you are spending the most and where you are likely to have the biggest impact on campaign performance. Save the smaller less important adjustments for later, after you have tackled the ones that will make the biggest impact.
Make sure that your account has been structured to provide the data you need as quickly and efficiently as possible. Things like testing value propositions are so important that you cannot afford to put them off. Make sure that you have granular ad groups, and multiple ads, testing specifically researched value propositions. Focus on finding optimal value propositions right from the beginning, as there is no point in trying to optimize a poor performing value proposition, you won’t get anywhere very fast that way. So start there, find the best value propositions and then get on with the other adjustments.
This should help you get started in the right direction, there is really so much you have to learn, don’t worry about knowing it all at once, just get started.