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I recently had the privilege of hearing what Larry Kim noted might be his final speaking appearance ever on the topic of PPC due to a career move into a different space. He has been an incredibly engaging and informational speaker and and even more importantly, very influential in the SEM industry over the years through is founding of Wordstream and current company–MobileMonkey. His talk at SEJ Summit in Chicago in May was aptly titled “How to be a PPC Unicorn.”

The concept of being a “unicorn” at anything in digital marketing is important to me as so many marketing channels are being commoditized in ad agencies, marketing firms, and pretty much any other business that feels like they can “throw in” some SEO or PPC with a deal. It still amazes me how many AdWords accounts I see that are poorly structured and don’t even meet the basics of 101-level management. All of that aside, I wanted to share the highlights from what might be Larry’s very last PPC presentation.

To start with, we can take comfort in the fact that the bar is seemingly pretty low here. All of the stats in this post are from the huge set of data that Wordstream has at its disposal and when looking at the whole base of AdWords accounts, 97% of all accounts are donkeys and not unicorns.

While we’re seemingly constantly being told by Google not to worry about and focus on quality scores, Larry noted that it is more important than ever. Due to a number of factors including the decline of desktop traffic overall by 1% per month and the right rail update that resulted in a reduction in the number of ad slots, we’re seeing impression share at a much more competitive level. A single quality score point improvement is an 18% increase in impression share. The problem with low quality scores is that if they take up too much of the account and are less likely to show, then we need to adjust our strategy. That includes deleting the bottom 25-33% of the account and putting that budget focus into things elsewhere like Facebook, etc.

Click through rate is an important component of quality score and is often overlooked. The top percentile of accounts has a 9.5% CTR. Knowing that and taking a look at where our account(s) are currently performing, we can take some steps to improve by:

  • Eliminate obvious CTAs from the headline and move them into sitelinks
  • Blow up dynamic keyword insertion as it doesn’t allow for differentiation of the ad from others as they all say the same thing
  • Leverage emotional triggers
  • Write ad headline copy from perspective of one of four personas that relate to emotion
  • Remember that content and CTAs that work well in social should play well in PPC as well

Unicorn ads are the top 10% of your account in terms of performance and we have to audition a lot of ads through testing to get there. Over time we can try 10 different headlines with emotional hooks and work our way toward going from donkey to unicorn.

Some important notes from Larry’s stats and data sharing is that half of accounts they have access to (which is a TON) didn’t add a single negative keyword in the past 30 days and/or didn’t have conversion tracking turned on. He is adamant (as noted earlier) that the way to change conversion rates is largely tied to changing the offer and not focused on many of the niche and specific strategies and techniques preached elsewhere. Also, we have to always keep in mind that as much as we think we’re rockstars in the digital marketing community, the overall brand and brand affinity is what makes or breaks campaigns. The impact on performance is 2-3x for repeat visitors and that’s the same for conversion rates regarding those that have heard of our brand versus those that haven’t yet. In cases where you have a holy grail search term with tons of search volume, yet you have a low quality score, Larry recommends stopping text search for it and adding it to RLSA so you just capitalize on people that know your brand and still take advantage of the 2-3x benefit.

In conclusion, his take is that overall, negative matching is the best return per time spent. As with pretty much all of my past experiences hearing Larry Kim speak, this presentation was packed with compelling stats, strategic and tactical insights, and just plain common sense in an industry where we are hit with way too many details to absorb every day. I’m thankful for the investment and contributions he has made to the search community and will continue to work for my own clients to become a unicorn and avoid the donkey status and hope you’ll join me!


Image Credit: https://www.mojo-jojo.com

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