Paid search ads are essential to any online retailer. However, it's easy to get carried away with all of the offers, keywords and opportunities you are bombarded with every day. The best way to keep your marketing focused and avoid spending more than is prudent is to create and stick to a budget for your paid search ad campaigns and measure your success carefully. How do you do that? We'll help map the way for you.

Know your goals

Like any marketing campaign, it's important to know what you hope to accomplish with your paid search ads. Are you looking to generate leads, sell merchandise, encourage people to sign up for your newsletter or download your white paper, or perhaps attend a seminar or other event? You need a specific, written goal so that you can refer back to it and make sure each new paid search ad campaign supports that goal.

It's also helpful to add to your written goals just who you are targeting with your ads. Do you hope to reach you main demographic or are you looking to grow your business to increase other groups that haven't traditionally been your customers? What sites do these groups typically frequent? What type of content do you need to produce to interest them? For example, videos and interactive media tend to be more successful with younger consumers.

Know your industry

It's not enough to know your target and your customers. You also need to know what's going on in your industry and what your competitors are doing. You don't want to mimic your competitors so closely that you confuse your customers. However, if a competing company is having great success with a particular placement, keyword or demographic, you'll want to take a closer look and see how you can use their experience to help make your paid search ads successful.

Do you know what keywords and searches are most valuable? While it may be tempting to choose the most affordable keywords, there's usually a reason these are less expensive. It's probably better to use fewer campaigns and opt for high value keywords.

Look for "high intent" keywords. These are words that indicate the searcher is ready to complete a transaction (that is buy something, download something or attend a workshop). These are keywords like "get a home insurance quote" , "order pizza online", "subscribe to an ecommerce newsletter".

Costs per click vary dramatically among different industries and different marketing channels. The cost per click (CPC) is the amount that you'll be billed each time a web searcher clicks on your particular ad. This cost is incurred whether the searcher ends up purchasing a product (or completing a transaction) or not. A good rule of thumb is to aim at generating five times more revenue than you spend on your paid search ads. Over time, your data will tell you how much you're spending to obtain a new customer. If that cost is significantly more than 20 percent, it's time to look closely at your keywords and your ad copy to see where you can tighten this ratio.

Keep in mind that seasonality can be a factor when analyzing your data. For example, do you have a product that's aimed at the holiday gift-giving season or something that appeals to fishermen, campers or skiers. It's likely that your CPC will be much different in your "selling" season than in your off-season.

Know Your KPIs

Knowing your key performance indicators (KPIs) can help you measure the success of your paid ad search campaigns. KPIs are the quantifiable measures that you use to measure the success of your business over time. These are things like total sales per period, sales per ad campaign or number of new customers per ad campaign.

Knowing your KPIs allows you to set specific goals for your ad campaigns, such as increasing sales by 20 percent. It's important to make your goals as specific as possible and to make sure that they are attainable. Every company would like to double their revenue in the next 12 months, but in most cases, that's not a realistic goal.

Know Your Paid Media Options

Explore all of your advertising options, in addition to paid search. Display ads work very well for some products and have the benefit of a fixed cost. Consider remarketing, that's reaching out to customers and potential customers that you once had a relationship with, but who have fallen off of your radar for some reason. This marketing avenue often yields better than average results, since the person you're reaching out to is already familiar with your company and your products.

Other online marketing avenues to consider include social media marketing, email marketing and content marketing. While paid search ads are, arguably, the most successful of these avenues, a multi-faceted, well-coordinated campaign is often very effective.

Always Fine Tune & Optimize

It's not an exaggeration to say that the only thing that remains static in eCommerce marketing is change. For that reason, it's vital that you continually monitor your paid ad search campaigns and tweaks them based on your growing data and on new opportunities for keywords and channels. Setting up your campaigns and forgetting about them will likely yield you diminishing results as the market, your marketing options and your customers continue to evolve.

Don't ignore your negative keyword list. These are the polar opposites of your prime keywords. They are words you want to make sure do not generate your ad in search results. You can find these using one of many online negative keyword generators. Leveraging these negative keywords helps to make sure that you aren't wasting your money on ad clicks that will never result in a transaction.

Need help finding your budgets?

Making the most of your paid search ad budget is an art and a science. It's something that takes practice and refinement, so don't be discouraged if your first results are less than you'd hoped for. Just keep working on your campaigns until you get the results you desire, whether that's an increase in sales, more subscribers or more downloads. To learn more about making the most of your paid search ad campaigns, learn more about our paid media services or shoot us a message - we'd love to hear from you!