Natalie Ng is our Head of PPC and Asia at MediaGroup. She has an MA from the University of Warwick in Electronic Business Management and has worked in digital agencies in London and Hong Kong. She shares her insights on PPC, including strategies she uses to create successful campaigns regardless of location and purpose, and how she sees PPC developing in the coming years. As told to Thomas Mai on Episode 4 of Memorable Marketing, MediaGroup’s podcast on all things marketing (click to listen).
This article has been condensed from the podcast episode and edited for clarity.
What is PPC advertising?
PPC advertising stands for pay-per-click advertising, and it is a way of buying visits to your site. It’s the most common buying model in search engine marketing. It allows advertisers to buy a place on search engine results pages (SERPs) so when people search for relevant keywords they can click on the ads and drive traffic to your website.
As PPC is a more contextual driven marketing channel, global advertisers need to understand local perspectives and behaviours. The best practice will be done by those who understand local buying models and consumer behaviours.
Each market is different because it has different languages and different competition for different keywords.
Why do PPC advertising?
PPC advertising gives speedy results. After set-up, you can start driving traffic to your site and urge people to convert.
You also have a lot of control over PPC campaigns. You highlight what you want to tell your audience and get to the point by writing your own tags and calls to action in your ad copies. You can geo-target more precisely, down to the granular level to zip code or a specific radius around something.
Additionally, you can set your own target audience and retarget to optimise your campaigns if you notice it is not quite right and they aren’t making any conversions.
PPC or SEO?
I’ve been asked a lot by my clients if they should do PPC or SEO. I would say you need both.
SEO is one of those good and reliable sources that can provide long-term and stable traffic to your website, and it’s free. PPC provides short-term but quick results which can drive initial traffic to your website.
I recommend having both PPC and SEO running together. Even if you have good organic traffic, you can pay Google to drive them higher. You also pay because you don’t want your competitors ranking above you for the same search query. If you don’t have your ads showing at the top, you stand to lose 60% of your traffic even if you’re on SERPs organically.
In this case, PPC can be used as good support for SEO efforts. In fact, often, the two departments–PPC and SEO–can also help each other out. PPC can supply SEO with good keywords for content creation, and SEO can make sure PPC campaign tags and ad copies are optimised.
Setting up campaigns for different markets
To set up and optimise your PPC campaign for different countries around the world, there are factors you have to take into consideration.
Firstly, you have keyword selection.
When running PPC ads in a country where English is not the dominant language, you always need knowledge of the local language to create a successful campaign. My team uses English keywords as the benchmark when we do localised keyword research, but we never use direct translations of keywords from English.
We also work closely with the local expertise and specialists to understand the different session behaviours of our target audience. Having this knowledge will impact our first factor, keyword selection.
For example, in Asia, we witness shorter buying sessions because people like to rely on mobile shopping and love to use voice search. Using voice search will create different queries that will affect the keyword selections in the campaign.
In Europe, people like to compare products before they make a transaction, so the session behaviour may be different in that the search period may be a bit longer. So keyword selection requires research not only based on the company in the local market but also its competitors.
PPC results end up quite different not only because of different countries or cultures but also because of the different local channels used.
There are more than four search engines in China, including Baidu, Haosou, Sogou, and Shenma, to name a few. Each of them has different formats, different regulations, and naturally, people behave differently and interact with these channels differently.
Some of these channels are more for brand awareness, and some are more conversion-driven. So we need to analyse and understand which channels can cater the best to the client’s needs. Then we come up with a plan and see how the budget allocates across different countries and channels.
Rolling out campaigns
How much research we do before we roll out a campaign depends on its scale and objective. Nevertheless, it’s a complex procedure that contains a few steps.
1. Understand the campaign objective
First, we need to consider the main product or service the client is delivering and understand the campaign objective, whether it’s to boost brand awareness, drive traffic, or urge people to make conversions. We also look at their landing page to see if it’s PPC-friendly.
A PPC-friendly landing page tends to have fewer exit points. So we want people to land on their page, maybe there’s a contact form on the right side where they can lift their contacts, and that’s it. We don’t want them spending too much time browsing the entire website because it distracts them.
2. Look into the industry and competitors’ behaviours
Next, we try to understand what the client’s competitors are doing.
PPC advertising is an auction that is based on a quality score. This score depends on the relevancy between your keywords and your ads and landing page, plus the maximum number of bids you are willing to pay for certain keywords. If your competitors place higher bets on keywords and pay more for them, their ads can override yours.
Because of this, we try to understand the client’s competitors’ behaviour and patterns, such as what time they’re bidding and their budget allowance. We also consider the devices people are searching on, as it will be helpful for keyword selection.
3. Select keywords
To select the best keywords, we should make sure they fulfil three criteria. Chosen keywords should be:
When people search for something on Google, they’re looking for solutions, and the chosen keywords should be relevant and provide solutions.
The keywords should cover different pain points. They should have different variations and synonyms so you can ‘catch’ more people.
A good PPC campaign lies in its continuous optimisation, so the structure of the keyword sets needs to be both expansive and expandable.
Overall, it’s difficult to say how long it’ll take to optimise a PPC campaign, especially for a big project across regions. Of course, we have lots of resources and tools to make campaigns smarter, but it does require quite extensive research and monitoring.
Changes in the PPC landscape over the years
The PPC landscape has changed quite a lot from when I started marketing in London. I foresee it will only become more diversified in the future, due to various reasons.
Increased popularity of mobile search
The first is that mobile search has gotten really popular.
Three or four years ago, especially in the Asia Pacific region, which is a little bit behind Europe in terms of PPC campaigns, around 40% of people were using mobile search. At that time, in Europe, there were already 60 to 70% of people using mobile search.
But in recent years, the reliance on mobile search in mainland China has increased, and now up to 80% of people there use it.
This is due to an interesting local phenomenon, which is that everyone is using mobile payment. Shops and restaurants don’t accept cash anymore. If you are in a restaurant without a mobile payment app, you may need to call your friend for help because they only accept electronic payments.
Increased popularity of voice search
This reliance on mobile devices is so integrated into people’s daily lives, not only in China but everywhere, that more and more people are using voice search now. How that affects PPC is that we are receiving conversational search queries instead of proper tags, which affects the keywords we select as most valuable in ad campaigns.
Introduction of AI to PPC
Another thing that comes to mind is AI in the PPC market. The system is smart and collects a lot of data based on your behaviour, habits, browsing history and duration. They know which ad copies have a high tendency for each individual to click or land on, and they even know how much clients should ask for advertisers to pay for certain ad placements. This changes things.
But though PPC is getting smarter thanks to AI, we as advertisers shouldn’t rely only on automation. We still need some emotional touch for ad copies, and we want to build human relationships and long-term loyalty instead of only getting instant purchases. As AI grows, we should also have human expertise to understand its behaviour and note its efforts to bring profit to businesses.
Keeping up to date with the industry
As algorithms change all the time, one of the best ways to stay ahead within the industry is by having close relationships with search engines and their platforms.
We are a certified Google and Microsoft partner here at MediaGroup. We have dedicated representatives from these companies who can assist the team with advertising on these platforms and give us regular updates. This gives us a step forward compared to other advertisers and competitors.
We also attend different forums and webinars hosted by different associations, through which we get industrial updates, and of course, we read posts online about what’s going on within the business. Simple things like this can really help.
For PPC advertisers, I would strongly advise that once you have a nice campaign structure set up, to not just leave it alone and let it run by itself. Optimise and test regularly. Also, look into search terms carefully and consider their length and relevance because they give insight into session behaviour.
Everything changes all the time in PPC advertising – what worked last year may not work next year. You don’t want to be left behind.
Working in PPC, when I understand different types of browsing behaviours across countries and cultures and begin to know what is best for local users, I really do have this ‘wow’ feeling, and it is very satisfying.
Natalie Ng is the Head of PPC and Asia at MediaGroup. This article is based on snippets from an episode of MediaGroup’s Memorable Marketing podcast, discussing all things marketing.
Check out the full episode here and all our episodes here. For business queries on PPC, please feel free to reach out to moc.w1653754505wpuor1653754505gaide1653754505m@cpp1653754505. For queries on the podcast, you can reach out to our host Thomas Mai at firstname.lastname@example.org.