Those outside the world of marketing are often quick to assume that a pay-per-click (PPC) strategy is a case of ‘one size fits all’, but so much more goes into building a successful and efficient account.
Perhaps the key component when building your strategy is the individual at the heart of your marketing campaign: the customer. PPC is completely and utterly subjective to the user who may or may not click on your ad depending on the relationship you establish between them.
Discussions of the customer journey often focus almost exclusively on what potential customers do once they’re already on your site, but realistically this is only part of the journey. Online advertising is often the very first point of engagement that site visitors have with your brand - and are therefore a critical decision point. Will they click, won’t they click?
A more expansive view of the customer journey is required.
Understanding multiple customer audiences to craft online experiences that result in a seamless user journey (and increased sales) is a big part of how the best digital agencies craft advertising strategy - and you should too.
1. Customer insight and PPC ad targeting
Too often advertising marketers are targeting ads based on guesswork, instinct and ‘industry best practice’ rather than real customer insight.
Google advertising channels from AdWords and the Google Display Network through to Youtube and Shopping feeds all have increasingly sophisticated ad-targeting options.
Broadly speaking there are two main ways to target ads on Google.
Ad-targeting based on user-submitted data
The first is to use the ever-expanding range of options to target based on demographic profile information that Google holds on logged-in users, such as gender, devices used, locations and more.
This approach also applies to the ever-expanding array of social media advertising options. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and more now hoover up an astonishing range of user data.
If you know your ideal customer is aged between 18 and 35, has a strong interest in the Game of Thrones series and a love of travel - you can target that persona extremely effectively with your (for example) Croatia holiday offers - including tours of Kings Landing of course.
Ad-targeting based on need, intent and search term usage
On Google and Bing the second and still most important targeting method is to anticipate the keywords and search terms customers will use when looking for products and services like yours, and show ads based on these.
The more you know about your customers, the greater scope there is to make sure your ads are shown to the right people with a likelihood of making a purchase - and prevented from being shown to those who you know are the wrong people.
It’s time for customer experience and insight professionals to work more closely with marketing teams and external agencies to apply customer insight to ad targeting. This can take many forms.
For example, if your data is telling you that busy commuters in the South East of England are your best buyers, consider geo-targeting ads, focused on mobile devices.
If your data tells you that your most enthusiastic customers are avid video game fans, consider showing ads across Youtube gaming channels.
Targeting is only part of the solution - once your ads are being shown to the right people, the next challenge is to ensure that the ad in front of them is compelling, prompts action and (crucially) is backed up by the experience and journey you offer when they click through to your site.
There is also value to be found in utilising targeting as learning platform. Not only does targeting allow you to tailor your reach, it also allows you to learn more about your potential customers; what are they searching for? What are they interested in? At the core of it all - who are they?
2. Customer insight and ad copy + design
To engage potential customers at this crucial first step is where many in-house and agency marketers fail.
Targeting is not enough to actually encourage potential customers to click and spend the milliseconds of their lives required to evaluate your brand, products and offers.
Crafting expertly written copy - or producing similarly resonant video ads - is where customer insight makes a powerful difference.
It’s a straightforward point- if people don’t click - they can’t buy.
There are some key steps to follow to create ad copy that earns a click:
- Anticipate needs and write in the tone of voice for your different audiences through segmented ads.
- Give the information that you know your customers find most important up-front - are you local? Can they call you? Do you deliver to their area?
- What happens when they click? Let them know- are they going to see a product page? A sign-up form? More information?
Following these three steps will make sure that your well-targeted ads have the greatest chance to earn an informed click.
From a competitive standpoint, the more resonant your ads are and the more you think of advertising as just an extended but crucial aspect of the online customer journey, the more successful you will be.
3. Landing pages, user experience and visitor tracking
Once a potential customer has clicked we’re more firmly in the realms of traditional customer journey analysis - but there are some aspects of pay-per-click best practice that customer experience professionals should take on board.
The landing page must fulfil the promise of the ad that the visitor has just clicked - if there’s a mismatch, the tone of voice is wrong or the customer’s next step isn’t clear then there is a high risk that the customer will be lost.
This is bad enough under normal circumstances, but when you’re paying for clicks every lost customer is particularly painful.
To optimise the transition from ad to site, we recommend the following steps:
- Prioritise site speed. The ‘mobile moment’ in most industries has passed - the majority of your traffic will likely now be from mobile devices, so your site must load as speedily as possible following an ad click to prevent visitors from hitting the back button.
- Optimise for multiple devices. Related to the above, the journey you take visitors on must be straightforward and instinctive, whether they arrive on your site via mobile, tablet or desktop. Even better - have a specific journey for mobile visitors who click a mobile ad to drive conversions. There’s a lot of great insight here on MyCustomer about usability, basket optimisation and making life easy for customers so I won’t tackle that here but of course - keeping customers engaged and focused on the best path to making a purchase or enquiry is essential in getting the value from your PPC advertising campaigns.
- Track the user journey. Google Analytics is under-used even by many major brands - ensuring you truly understand where visitors engage or fall away is essential to making sure that you’re creating a customer journey with no weak links. Linking your learnings from Analytics with your predetermined targeting knowledge only furthers your insight into the true nature of your customer demographic. Use Tag Manager, set Goals, measure Conversions and put a financial value on visitor activity wherever possible and realistic.
PPC and customer journey optimisation
The start and end points of a customer journey are always going to be debatable. Does the journey ultimately start when they see one of your brand’s adverts years ago...does it end after they’ve bought their last product from you in their 80s?
As marketers and customer experience professionals, we need to draw the line somewhere, and one of the clearest opportunities for improvement (with a direct and measurable financial impact) is optimising the user journey from PPC advertising through to landing page, on-site journey and ultimately sale.
Martin Calvert is marketing director of Blueclaw.
About Martin Calvert
I'm Marketing Director at Blueclaw, a UK-based digital marketing agency that's defined by three things - creativity, data-driven strategy and commercial results. I'm interested in all things customer.