In 2017, seven million advertisers spent $10.1 billion on Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads, and we expect that number to rise when the 2018 numbers come in. Why are brands investing so much in PPC advertising? Simply put, it works. Consider these statistics.

  • Search ads can boost brand awareness by as much as 80 percent
  • 65 percent of all clicks made by users who intend to make a purchase go to paid ads. 
  • 76 percent of people searching for a business nearby on a smartphone will visit that business within one day.
  • Nearly 70 percent of searchers on mobile will call a business using a link from the search.

A strategically planned PPC campaign will increase traffic, generate leads and attract new clients, almost immediately. While organic SEO campaigns are important too, firms usually must wait months for them to gain traction. PPC ads allow law firms to take advantage of the fact that 86 percent of consumers use the internet to search for local businesses that match a particular need. Potential clients typically search for information about their legal issue first, then search for a lawyer, giving you ample opportunity to be in the right place at the right time. However, setting up a successful PPC campaign is not as easy as it sounds. Even though 34 percent of marketers think paid search is one of their most effective tactics, 28 percent say it’s one of the most difficult strategies to implement. 

How can you ensure your PPC campaign is positioned for success? It’s no mystery. Metrics tell you everything you need to know. Tracking the right data allows you to make real-time adjustments and see immediate results. What should you be tracking?

How to Launch a Successful PPC Campaign?

A successful PPC campaign begins before it even starts. Metrics are important. However, if your campaign is ineffectively crafted, you’re going to end up with metrics that just show a poor-performing campaign, while you are left wondering where your instant results are. Lay the right foundation for your PPC campaign, then monitor metrics to tweak it. Here are five steps to include in your PPC strategy.

Launch your PPC strategy with these actionable steps.
  • Identify your goals. Know what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to measure it before you get started. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish?” Do you want to drive more traffic to your website, get more subscribers to your blog, generate more leads or raise awareness about your firm in the community? The goal of your PPC campaign must be matched to specific Key Performance Indicators (KPI) so that you can strategically gauge your progress. Revisit the goals regularly since they will evolve over time. 
  • Research your clients. What are your potential clients looking for? How are they searching the internet for it? What keywords are they using? If you just dive right in without research, you might end up selecting keywords and phrases that your target audience isn’t even using. The wrong keywords will lead to low conversions, plummeting your ROI. For example, a family law firm might decide that “family law” is not their most effective keyword phrase. Instead, phrases like “How do I adopt a child?” or “alimony calculator” might generate more results. 
  • Verify your keywords. Google makes it pretty easy to identify effective keywords. Once you’ve brainstormed your long list, use Google AdWords Keyword Planner to view data and trends on the average monthly search volume, estimated cost-per-click (CPC) and the competition for your keywords. Google will also make suggestions based on your original list of keywords. Keywords that are highly competitive tend to have a greater CPC. Note that “lawyer” and “attorney” are in the top 10 most expensive keywords, another reason to be sure you don’t skip the planning phase of your PPC campaign. 
  • Organize your keywords. Once you have your list of keywords, you’ll need to organize them into targeted groups. The better you are at grouping your keywords, the easier it is going to be to measure keyword performance. Let’s use the example of a family law firm again. They may want to group keywords by user need, dividing keywords between divorce, child custody, adoption or whatever groups of topics their potential clients search for. 
  • Test your workflow. Include a process that checks relevancy to ensure your ad copy is compelling. Looking at the right metrics is the best way to do this. Read on to learn about which metrics are most critical to a successful PPC campaign. 

Key PPC Metrics to Track

The good news is that we live in a data-driven society. We can find data on which to base a decision on just about any topic. Developing your PPC campaign is no different. The bad news is, however, that there is so much data it’s sometimes hard to know what to pay attention to. What metrics give you the best picture of the health of your PPC campaign? We’ve narrowed it down to five. 

  • Cost Per Click (CPC) is the amount it costs you each time someone clicks on your ad. You can calculate it by dividing the cost of the campaign by the number of times an ad was clicked on. There are several factors that contribute to your CPC, including the ad rank of other advertisers that are bidding on the same keyword, your maximum bid and your quality score (we’ll talk about that below). CPC is important because it helps you see exactly how much the campaign is costing you. If it’s too high, your ROI is going to be low, and the campaign just isn’t sustainable. 
  • Average Conversion Rate (CVR) tells you how well a certain ad is performing. It tracks the amount of conversions by ad. If you’re seeing a lot of clicks from your ads, but not a lot of conversions, that’s a good indicator that your keywords are a little off. People are clicking your ad, then realizing it’s not really what they want. You can reverse this trend by using negative keywords, which prevent your ad from showing up for certain keywords. For example, if you do not want to attract people looking for a defense attorney, include “defense” as a negative keyword. This will prevent you from paying for a “click” only to have the user bounce back when they realize you aren’t the kind of attorney they need. 
  • Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) is the amount you pay each time an action is performed involving your ad. This might be filling out a contact form, registering for your newsletter or even picking up the phone. Yes, you should also include offline actions like phone calls. Especially in the legal industry, it’s not uncommon for potential clients to search online, click your ad, then pick up the phone. Have a process in place that ensures your staff asks how they heard about you. If the caller dials you directly from the ad, Google has a way to track it. Read about that here. Every PPC campaign must have a CPA goal that you can compare as the campaign progresses. Even if you get a lot of conversions, you must make sure they are driven to you at a cost that is still profitable. CPA will help you determine that. 
  • Quality Score is Google’s rating of the relevance of your keywords and your PPC ads. It’s critical to PPC campaigns because it determines your CPC rate. How is it calculated? Only Google knows the exact algorithm, but factors they look at include: Click-through rate (CTR), the relevance of each keyword to its ad group, landing page quality, the relevance of your ad text and your historical AdWords account performance. When your quality score is higher, Google gives you higher ad rankings and lower costs, two big factors that affect the ROI of your PPC campaign. How can you improve your quality score? It’s all about relevancy, and we’ve touched on tactics already. Keyword research in the planning stage is critical to discovering highly relevant keywords. Similarly, organizing your keywords into groups will help Google tie them to individual campaigns. Test out and refine your ad copy to ensure they are effective. Optimize your landing pages so there is a cohesive experience from keyword search to conversion. Lastly, use negative keywords to eliminate irrelevant keywords.
  • Page Views aren’t the first metric that comes to mind when we think of PPC campaigns.However, they help you determine how relevant your website content is, which is one key factor in determining your quality score. Page views reports the number of pages on your website loaded by the user’s browser. Compare this number to “sessions,” which is the number of unique users that interacted with your website. If the number of sessions and page views are close or the same, users are getting to your site but are not finding content they need. They are starting a session, but not clicking beyond your homepage. This indicates your PPC campaign might not be finding the right people. You’re wasting clicks on people who are not interested in your services and might be missing those that are. If so, it’s time to re-evaluate your keywords and negative keywords.
Tracking your PPC metrics is an important part of any PPC strategy.

“Not-So-Important” PPC Metrics

Not all metrics are created equal. While some metrics are important indicators of the effectiveness of your digital strategy as a whole and can provide context for your PPC efforts, they are less important to gauging the success of your PPC campaign. Here are three examples.  

  • Impressions and Reach are terms used to describe how many people view your ad. Impressions represent the total number of times your ad was displayed, while reach represents the total number of unique users that saw your ad. For example, if three unique users see your ad three different times through their social media or Internet searches, your reach will only be three and your impressions will be nine (3 people x 3 views). These metrics give you some idea of the size of the audience viewing your ads, but they really don’t help you gauge the effectiveness of your content and placement. In a PPC campaign, the size of your audience isn’t really the important factor. Conversions are the goal. If they don’t need your services, you’re just wasting your money. Remember “quality score” is based on relevance. If your impressions and reach are high, but your CVR is low, you’re not putting out relevant content. In turn, your ROI will drop and Google will reduce your quality score. 
  • Click-through rate (CTR) reports the average number of times your ad receives clicks. It’s calculated by dividing total clicks by total impressions. As discussed in the last section, it plays a role in determining your quality score with Google. Beyond that, however, it has little value to your PPC campaign. A high CTR is often a sought after goal. However, if you’re not converting those clicks, you’re generating a lot of ad spend without the payoff. Looking at your CPC in relation to your CTR will help you determine if your CTR is not benefiting you. Remember, conversions are the goal, not clicks. 
  • Average position tells you how Google is positioning your ad. For example, you might be in position one on the search engine results page (SERP) one day and position three the next day. Average position tells where you were most of the time in a given period. Google uses ad rank, which is based on your quality score and the maximum cost per impression, to determine position. So, why would you not care about this? It’s an interesting metric to know and could alert you to a bad quality score, but you shouldn’t get caught up in being number one. If you are on a tight budget or trying to bring down your CPC, the third or fourth position will accomplish that and still generate leads. “Bidding to position” your ad will have a negative impact on your overall ROI. 

PPC campaigns are an effective way to bring in new clients. In fact, research shows PPC ads bring in 50 percent more lead conversions than organic web traffic. However, monitoring the right metrics is key to tweaking your PPC campaign so that you can maximize your ROI. Plan. Set goals. Track your metrics.