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The Black Jack Check List Before Launching a Paid Search Campaign

Posted: April 5th, 2012 | Author: dslagen | Filed under: Optimization | No Comments »

Paid Search CampaignThe ads were disapproved. The click through URL doesn’t work. The landing page is broken. The tracking code is missing. The client never gave the green light. The campaign spent in a month what it was supposed to spend in a quarter.

Do any of these things sound familiar? The truth is, they happen, and they cause sleepless nights for PPC enthusiasts. At some point or another, every PPC specialist/coordinator/manager/director/VP will hear about one of these types of instances occurring. Whether you’re working on paid search in-house or at an agency, you will inevitably be a part of a launch/program in which something was missed, forgotten or overlooked.

With contributing factors such as client expectations, internal goals and quality score at risk, it’s imperative to mitigate any and all risk to the best of your ability regardless of what your role is within a search team. Often time’s mistakes are made due to lack of communication (PPC employees are notorious for living in their heads), process and understanding.  Implementing a disciplined “process” and having open lines of consistent communication isn’t always easy, however, it will teach best practices to a developing team and furthermore, may save you from losing an account down the road.

Below are the top 21 things to make sure you check off, and have sign off on before launching a campaign:

  1. Goals – What is the purpose of the campaigns? Lead generation? Something else? If it is lead generation, are certain leads more valuable than others? If so, confirm cost per lead goals and make sure you’re starting with the end goal so that you can back into realistic cost per lead estimates.
  2. Management – First of all, is this campaign manageable? As you’re building your campaign, at some point take a step back and make sure that you can manage the campaign. Maybe you’re testing too much at once, too many ad groups or keywords. Don’t impress stakeholders with the size of your campaign launch, impress them with results and then grow the campaign based on data. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your campaign prior to launch, you can be 100% sure you’ll feel overwhelmed post launch and will have trouble truly getting comfortable in the driver’s seat.
  3. Phone number – Is it on the website? Is it the same number on every page? Does it work when you call it? When you call, does the representative know what that the call is coming from a paid search campaign? Is the representative familiar with the website/messaging and properly prepared to handle an inquiry?
  4. Form – Are all necessary fields present and accounted for? Are they all required? Does the form work properly? Does the form submit properly? Does the thank you page properly render?
  5. Keyword approval – Are all keywords approved? Match types? Initial bids? Are all keywords in proper ad groups in appropriate campaigns?
  6. Ads approval – Have all ads been approved? Display URL? Destination URL? Do the ads adhere to brand standards? Is DKI being used? Has Google approved the ads? Are there enough ads per ad group?
  7. Landing page destination approval – Did you confirm the landing page for all keywords, ad groups and campaigns?
  8. Bid strategy – Time of day? Day of week? Optimization timeline? Will you optimize each day, week every other week? CPA goal?
  9. Ads – Have all ads been approved? Spell checked? Caps vs. no caps? DKI? Rotation?
  10. Keyword destination URLs – Test them. A bunch of them. Make SURE your destination URLs are loading properly and are the correct URLs for your campaign.
  11. Landing page (all browsers) – Test all landing pages and all functionality/links/forms/load time/videos…etc. Don’t forget to test in all browsers.
  12. Conversion Tracking (form/phone) – How are you tracking phone calls? Clickpath? Mongoose Metrics? What about form fills? Google tracking code? Atlas? DoubleClick? Bid management tool? Are you just tracking cost per lead or can you see cost per qualified lead or cost per sale. The further down the funnel you can track your keywords the better. After all, keywords that are driving leads may not be driving quality leads and unless you can track all the way through you’ll be optimizing blind.
  13. Analytics – If you don’t at least have Google analytics installed, hold off on your launch until you do. It takes just a minute to install and will provide actionable data for you when making
  14. Keyword/Ad group/Campaign/Ad tracking – Make sure it’s working. Run test leads and do not launch your campaign until you can confirm your tracking is working 100% of the time.  There are few things worse than running a campaign without tracking.
  15. Tracking expectations – Make sure all stakeholders involved understand the tracking capabilities clearly before launching. If you are can’t track keywords to sales, then say it EARLY and often so that it isn’t a surprise once the campaign is live. If you feel that you do not have sufficient tracking speak up before going live. It may not be what people want to hear, but it’s better to address the issue prior to launch rather than midway through a campaign.
  16. Reporting expectations – When will reports be sent? Weekly? Bi-weekly? What will be included? Campaign/Ad Group/Keyword level data? Ad performance? Will data be sorted in your report by most efficient cost per lead or by spend? Make sure you confirm all the minute details so that you don’t waste time discussing how to report on a campaign when you could be spending your time optimizing.
  17. Budget and billing – Confirm daily/weekly/monthly spend. Confirm who is responsible for billing.
  18. Start date/End Date – Simple enough, so make sure you confirm.
  19. Engine selection – Google? Bing/Yahoo? SuperPages? Ask? There are a lot of options, so be sure to confirm the benefits/risks of each before deciding where to run your campaign.
  20. Channel/Device selection – Are your ads running on Google search? Partners? GDN? Tablets? Mobile? Hopefully, you’re breaking out your campaigns to have, for example, a mobile specific campaign or a GDN specific campaign.
  21. Launch – Make sure you have an email that clearly gives you the green light. Once you’ve confirmed approval, go ahead and launch!

Well, that’s all folks. You may have more to add to this list, but you can be sure that checking off these items prior to launch will save you from potential disasters and ensure that your campaign launch goes smoothly. After all, there’s nothing worse than kicking off a new campaign and then finding out an hour later that you need to pause it. The most important part of a successful PPC launch is communication. It’s often helpful to have in person meetings to discuss any and all aspects of a PPC planning project and launch. While nobody loves another meeting, it’s always better to spend some time confirming logistics rather than spend time fixing a post launch problem.

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Dan Slagen is Head of Paid Lead Generation at HubSpot, a marketing software company in Cambridge, MA. You can find him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter @danslagen

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