Shifting from Low To High Resolution PPC

by Craig Danuloff

Since the dawn of time, paid search has been conceived of and managed based on four key components and common perceptions of their roles:

  1. Keywords. Keywords define when your ads run. Choose keywords and phrases that people looking for your product or service would use.
  2. Bids. Bids define how much you’re willing to pay when your ad appears for any particular keyword. Higher bids can help position your ads higher on the page and appear more frequently.
  3. Text-Ads. Text-ads give you a headline and two lines of copy to attract and persuade searches to click and view your website.
  4. Click/Conversion Reports. Basic reporting tells you how each keyword is doing, both individually and within campaigns, and ad-groups, in terms of clicks, conversion rates, and ROAS.

These four items remain important aspects of paid search today, but they’re not the most important variables, nor the best way to think about PPC.

We’re not operating in the same technical, competitive, or business environment as four or five years ago:

  • In a world where changing definitions for match-type determine which queries cause your ads to run, worrying solely about keywords is inadequate.
  • In a world where quality score has such a huge impact on where your ads run and how much you pay for them, worrying largely about bids is inadequate.
  • In a world where a majority of your buyers visit your site multiple times before purchasing, text-ads remain important but must be considered in context of all user touchpoints.
  • In a world where profitability is the real goal, then measuring intermediate metrics while ignoring the one that really matters – ROI – is illogical.

We’ve got a name for this old ‘keywords & bids’ view of the paid search world: ‘Low Resolution PPC’.

It was fine five or six years ago when the engines were simpler and the budgets smaller. It’s not fine anymore.

  • Today you have to think about your user targeting based on the interaction of keywords, match types, and search queries.
  • Today you have to think about your costs based on how quality scores and bids interact with match type keyword traps and negative keywords.
  • Today you have to think about persuasion and conversion as a chain of events that starts with your text ad and continues through your landing page, your site, and the experience users have in your shopping cart.
  • Today you have to think about analytics as a way to understand all of these variables and more.

It’s a high-def world, even in paid search marketing.

Introducing High Resolution PPC
But there’s more to High Resolution PPC than just a deeper consideration of the core mechanics of paid search.

We also want to shift the focus away from the mechanics of running paid ads and onto our relationship with the people to whom we’re advertising and how we manage that relationship.

We want to know who the people are conducting these searches, clarify why we want to talk to them, understand what will get their attention, and make sure to learn from our interactions with them so we can perform better in the future.

The Cornerstones of High Resolution PPC
In High Resolution PPC we manage our campaigns by using the options and controls in paid search to move clients through the marketing acquisition cycle.

Accordingly, we no longer think of search in terms of the four old cornerstones of paid search – keywords, bids, text ads, and operating reports – but instead in terms of the four stages of customer acquisition and management:

  1. Target - To begin you define the focus of your efforts, using campaigns, ad-groups, and keywords to target specific groups of people who are asking the kinds of questions you want to answer with your paid search ads.
  2. Value - Next you refine this focus within your target groups, using bids and match types and keyword negatives to properly value the different people who you want to attract to your website or landing pages.
  3. Satisfy - With clearly targeted and properly valued searchers identified, the goal becomes delivering text ads, landing pages, and offers which satisfy user desires and advance them toward and through conversion.
  4. Understand - Throughout this process we capture, analyze, and present meaningful and actionable information about each specific phase and the overall. Here you’ll apply improved reporting standards and metrics.

Each of these corresponds to specific tasks in the management of your paid search campaign, certain options that control your campaigns, and reports that provide metrics which guide the way or measure progress. (Watch future posts for details.)

Why the Change
The driving factor in moving to a High Resolution PPC approach is a desire for better returns on our investment of both time and money.

As with any other investment, we control risk by increasing the depth of our visibility and understanding, and then manipulating the options we have at our disposal.

With a High Resolution PPC approach, you regain control over your paid search campaigns, both in terms of having vastly better visibility into what is happening but also by understanding why specific results occur and how you can fix or improve them.

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