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PPC Tactics For Large Enterprises: Search Network Targeting

At SMX West last month, I spoke at length about what it means to manage PPC programs at large companies.  One of the topics I covered at some depth was using the various search engines’ targeting options to break keywords down into smaller bits of data to optimize them individually.

This type of tactic can turn the ‘head’ of your portfolio into more of a ‘tail’ and makes it work more efficiently for you. But if you’re like us, and you have super-sized SEM programs, how do you tackle this in a manageable way that will drive incremental profit to your group or company, and make you look like the PPC Superhero you’ve always dreamt of being?

Channel Your Inner Superhero

Today I’m going to focus on search network targeting as an example. This is one of the simpler targeting options to leverage, and if you can master this one, the others won’t pose too difficult a task.

First, let’s define the target. On both AdWords (for Google) and adCenter (for Bing & Yahoo!), you can, with some degree of accuracy, split out your search traffic from so-called “Owned and Operated’ (O&O) sources and syndicated sites (third-party sites whose search functionality is powered by the big engines).

For example on AdWords, for a given campaign, you can choose to have your keyword ads displayed on Google search only, or on Google search + search partners such as AOL, Ask, etc.

On Microsoft’s adCenter, the target is set at the ad group level, and there are three options: a)Yahoo & Bing b)syndicated sites only, or c)Yahoo & Bing and syndicated sites.

Either way, in order to take advantage of this, you’re going to want to duplicate parts of your portfolio. So where should you start, and where do you want to put the duplicates?

Digging In

As far as where to start, you’ll want to first hit the campaigns and ad groups that have your highest volume keywords in them. Reason being, once you start breaking up keywords, your data thins out pretty quickly. Also, duplication and the ensuing management takes a fair amount of work, so you’ll want to apply these efforts where they’ll bear the most fruit.

There’s the work involved in building out these duplicates, managing them, and added stress on APIs in bidding on duplicates. In our case, these desirable head keywords are spread throughout our portfolio, so in some instances we may duplicate entire accounts, rather than sifting through them to find the right combination of ad groups and campaigns.

Also, because these programs are very large, the duplicates will often live in new, separate accounts.

Going Once, Going Twice

Next, you’ll need some notion of how to bid these duplicates. On Google this is particularly important, because these two targeting options actually overlap (see above). But even on adCenter, you may want to make some assumptions about the relative value of each of the targets.

Hint: Sometimes core search performs better than syndicated search. Pick a percentage lift and apply it appropriately.

For our risk-averse friends who are feeling a bit queasy about changing bids too radically, start slowly (a few ad groups or campaigns) and get a feel for the relative difference in performance – then change your tactics accordingly.

Creating Synergy

Remember that the goal here is to separate out the traffic sources and optimize them individually. Once you’ve done so, and you’ve reached a stable state with each of the keyword instances, roll them back up and see what your metrics look like.

If you’re lucky, you’ve achieved some combination of efficiency and lift, and you’re better off than you were before. For example, if the profit/roi/revenue driven by the sum of both of the keyword instances is greater than the single instance was, congratulations!

Keep moving through your keyword portfolio from the head toward the tail, until the returns you see no longer justify the effort.

Once you’ve reached this point of diminished returns, you’ll want to turn your attention to one of the many other targeting options offered by the search engines. Match type, geo-target, day part, etc. Just take it from the top, rinse, and repeat!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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