Posted: Tue 5th May 2020
Henry Marshall has worked in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising since 2012. He managed an annual budget of over £13 million at House of Fraser, before leaving to set up his own agency, Silvertip Digital.
Henry joined our Lunch and Learn webinar to explain the basics of PPC and how small businesses can get the most from their budgets.
What is PPC?
PPC is a method of online advertising which is used to drive traffic to your website. You only have to pay a fee when a user clicks on your advert, hence the term "pay per click".
To set up a PPC campaign, you need to choose a number of keywords relevant to your business that you want to bid on. This means you want your adverts to appear when someone types that keyword into a search engine like Google.
What does "bidding" mean?
When you build your list of keywords, you can assign a bid to each. As Henry explains, you're essentially saying, "Google, this is how much I'm willing to pay for a click on that keyword".
"If you're bidding on yoga studios in London, you might be able to afford to pay £1 per click for everyone who searches for that keyword and clicks to come through to your website. You use your bid to control how much you're spending per keyword."
When you're setting bids, think about your total budget and how much traffic you need to acquire from each keyword to make it worthwhile.
Your bid also influences where your advert will appear. When you search for something on Google, there are usually four adverts at the top of the search page. Your bid determines where you'll appear in those results.
"Around 45% to 50% of traffic goes to the top spot. The drop off from first to fourth is huge. It's sometimes better to bid more to appear higher and get the traffic you require. But remember it's a tipping point - if you find yourself top and loads of people start clicking, it's going to cost you."
What's an average or normal bid per word?
The amount you can expect to bid depends on the market you're operating in. Henry gives the example of the insurance market, where a keyword can cost up to £40 per click. "PPC London" is such an expensive keyword that Henry doesn't bother bidding on it.
"When I set up new accounts, my benchmark is 50p. Just because you bid 50p doesn't mean you'll spend 50p, but it's a good starting point. From there, you can work out how many clicks you'll get, the cost per click, how much revenue you'll get and whether it'll be profitable for your business."
How do I know which search terms to use?
There are a number of different tools that can point you in the right direction, but Henry recommends using Google's Keyword Planner tool. Input the URL of your site or page, and it will display some potentially relevant terms.
"It's important to review those keywords and make sure they're things you want. There are times that Google will suggest things that are irrelevant. If you bid on them, it might not provide a return."
Think about how potential customers might search for your product too. Henry recommends being as granular as possible with your keywords, but trying to cover off a number of different angles at the start.
"The best thing is to try and cast the net as wide as possible. Keep them at quite a low bid so you're not spending too much money. Once you see which ones are driving sales and traffic, you can focus more budget on those keywords."
How much experience do you need to run a successful PPC campaign?
Henry urges business owners to not feel discouraged at the prospect of PPC. While he's learnt a few tricks along the way, he jokes that it's "not magic".
If you don't have the time to fully get your head around PPC, Henry recommends taking these two steps to minimise the risk of wasting your budget.
1. Understand match types
Make sure you have control over what traffic you're sending through to your website. As Henry explains, new business PPC accounts aren't always set up in the most efficient way. The different keyword match types determine how loose a query could be before it triggers the keyword.
For example, if your keyword is "yoga studio in London" on exact match, then "yoga studio in London" would need to be typed in full before your advert was triggered. With the same keyword on broad match, however, you're effectively letting Google match any search queries that it deems relevant to yoga studios in London.
"You can get some absolutely bizarre matches. It might be online classes or it might not even be in the same city. Potentially irrelevant queries can trigger your broad match, which means users might click on your ad but they won't be relevant to you."
2. Check your budget frequently
Henry advises business owners to check their budget and spend every couple of days or as often as possible. Assigning a daily budget cap (stopping your adverts from being displayed once you hit, say, £10) gives you the flexibility to adapt your ads based on what's performing best.
Have you competed against a larger company that can outbid you when you have the same products?
Many large companies manage a vast number of keywords. Henry recalls working at House of Fraser, where a team of five managed three and a half million keywords. There were over 1,300 brands at the company, which made it difficult to be agile and properly optimise each ad.
"For a smaller company, you can have greater success with focusing on a smaller number of keywords and being super targeted about what traffic is coming to your site. You can give each of the components and products way more love and make sure your ads are on point."
There's also the opportunity for small businesses to build on changing consumer preferences. Henry cites the recent shift of customers choosing local independents over big corporates.
"Try to harness that 'shop local' way of thinking. It's something that small businesses can capitalise on."
What are your top tips for making ads that stand out and convert users into buyers?
Consistency is important. Make sure there isn't too much difference to what someone is searching for and the keyword you're bidding on.
Henry emphasises that ad copy needs to be relevant to the keyword.
"For the keyword 'yoga studio in London', your ad copy might want to include the phrase 'yoga studio in London'. It immediately creates a connection to what people want."
Don't forget your landing page either. If people see a relevant ad that's tailored to the search term, then hit a landing page that's irrelevant, they're going to be turned off.
"You need to maintain the relevancy from start to finish in the journey. Whatever they type in has to match the relevant landing page. That feeds through into a better conversion rate."
Enterprise Nation members can connect with Henry through his Enterprise Nation profile.