Users expect to find exactly what they are looking for within the top few results, and Google wants to (and does) deliver. This shift begins a new era in both search engine optimisation and pay-per-click advertising. PPC Specialists are required to completely change the way we approach PPC campaigns, from the research phase right through to campaign management. This new approach is AEO – Answer Engine Optimisation.
Historically, PPC campaigns have always been keyword driven. Keyword research formed the basis of any successful Google Ads (formerly AdWords) campaign, which allows online advertisers to bid on keywords that are highly relevant to their business in an effort to drive more traffic to their website, be found in search engine results pages above their competitors, increase conversions to the website by means of effective ad copy and landing page relevance. Whilst this approach is still the practice of the majority of PPC Specialists and can still provide a decent return on investment, it is now the audience, not only the keywords, that is important.
Now, I know what you may be thinking. We have always focussed on the audience, we know that Google prioritises the audience over the advertiser, we already speak to our audience and our landing pages are already geared towards answering the audience’s search query. So, what’s different? The key difference is in our approach.
The original PPC campaign approach:
With the help of PPC tools to assist the research phase of a PPC campaign, such as Google’s own keyword planner, the research phase of the campaign would typically involve a number of steps geared towards being found at the top of the results for search queries relevant to the business.
Keyword research – To determine all of the keywords that potential customers would use to find your website online. This would involve researching historical keyword data such as the average monthly search volume, expected cost per click, the keywords that your competitors are using and keywords that your current web content is optimised for.
Competitor research – Competitor analysis is an important step to determine the keywords your competitors are bidding on, the traffic that this is generating to their website (if you have access to some decent research tools), their tone, their voice, their messaging, their ad schedule, their landing page copy and more.
Analytics insights – Most websites will already have data that has accumulated in Google Analytics over a period of time. Depending on the business’ goals and objectives for the PPC campaign, some insights can be drawn from this data to determine which pages will drive the most conversions, whether new landing pages should be created to target priority key terms, queries that are leading to organic clicks to the website, what level of traffic the site already gets and where the users are from.
The new approach to Google Ads:
As we’ve already determined, Google puts the user first. In many ways, it has been drilled into us how we should be writing relevant, useful content using keywords strategically within the content to optimise it for search. Rankings move up in search results and traffic is increased organically with this improved visibility. Pages that rank well organically often work well in paid advertising since the content is already optimised. This is still a great strategy and one that works well, however, Answer Engine Optimisation includes another crucial step – thinking about your audience.
Assumptions are not your friend. The assumption that the core audience you are targeting are professionals within their field who are interested in the field and who only think about the specifics of what you are offering, is a dangerous one. You’re talking to their work persona only, not who they are as individuals. It’s time to make the data work for you.
Your audience – Google Analytics becomes your most valuable asset here. Reviewing data over a significant period of time, it’s time to review the data. In particular:
- Demographics – the majority gender and age range of visitors to your website.
- Interests – this is split up into three segments, depending on where the user is in their buying journey. Affinity categories show the interests, hobbies and lifestyles of users in the informational stage of their journey. In-market segments show the interests of users in the final phase of the process. They’ve already done their research and they’re ready to make the deal. Other categories show users who don’t fall into either of the other two categories.
- Geolocation – where are your visitors from? Are they city based? Rural? Are they located in one area or spread out over the country? Multiple countries? This data is crucial when planning who to target within the PPC campaign.
When reviewing the audience data in Google Analytics, it is a good idea to review each individual page, not just the traffic overall. There may be a difference!
Sales funnel – Once you get a better understanding of your audience, it is important to create content that meets the user’s intent. Users who are higher up the funnel are looking for information based content. Users lower down the funnel are in the decision-making phase, ready to complete the transaction or sign up for a service. Fact-based content that answers any questions the user has, with calls to action that encourage the user to take the required action is much more likely to convert.
Typical research – Now it’s time for keyword research, competitor research, analytics insights and other original research methods typically used to create a successful PPC campaign.
Content – Consider the content! Armed with everything you now know, you want to create or optimise content that speaks directly to your specific audience. For example, an audience of females aged between 35-44 who are business professionals that enjoy sports and nature would respond to imagery that shows a woman who looks like her, dresses like her, thinks like her in a natural environment. The content should match her tone, use language she’s familiar with and include calls to action she’ll follow.
The research phase of a PPC campaign isn’t performed at the beginning of the campaign. It should be a continual part of your campaign management. Effective research will essentially ensure your campaign is focussed, targeted and relevant. You’ll target the audience at the right stage of the conversion funnel and your ad will take them to the right page for their intent. They’ll be more likely to perform the action on the page that you want them to take. Your budget will be used wisely, your average cost per click will reduce, your quality score will increase. Overall, you will see a great return on investment!