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Everything You Need to Know about PPC

An Interview with Spectrum Search Marketing Founder, Bryan Larkin

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By Tatiana Ceresa

As many small business owners know, it's hard to stay on top of the current digital marketing trends because they are constantly changing! Google releases new crawlers to better sort information and it's sometimes impossible to keep your website in line with them. So, I had the opportunity to ask search marketing expert, Bryan Larkin, a few questions about search marketing, and specifically, pay per click (ppc) marketing. Here is his advice: 

What's your best piece of advice for a business owner starting out with PPC?

Do your research.  We see advertisers both large and small come and go from every conceivable vertical.  Those who can sustain it over the long haul generally fall in to one of two categories of advertisers.  The first have huge budgets and are essentially running branding campaigns with some very loose direct response metrics.  The second are advertisers who know their own space from top to bottom and have specific goals. 

The easiest way for business owners who want to dip a toe is to first identify competitors and see what they're up to.  There are some easy to use (and free) tools available to gain some insight on budgets, keywords, ads and landing pages to help inform their own future campaigns.  A few of these include,, While the data isn't always super accurate, as long as you take it with a grain of salt the bulk of the elements are (keywords, ads, etc.).  By seeing who has been in the space and how long they've been business owners, they can start to realistically understand successful campaign elements, contextualize goals and budget accordingly.

What's the best strategy for identifying target keywords?

There are two great ways to start down the keyword research road.  As I mentioned above, the competitive insight tools can't be underestimated.  The second is for advertisers to mine their own internal data.  Before Google took away organic keyword data within analytics this was an easy way to grab potential keywords.  While there are now tools that can start providing that data, once again the key is actually found within identifying the pages that people most visit and/or take action from once they arrive at a site. Then just brainstorm.  Sprinkle in any available CRM data and use word clouds to help narrow down the list.  Finally, put the list of terms into Google's Keyword Planner to get additional keyword ideas as well as potential cost, volume and competitive insights. 

One last word of advice when it comes to keywords for new advertisers (or old for that matter) is stay away from traditional broad match terms when first starting out.  Stick to exact, phrase and broad match modified keywords.  That will limit your impressions on terms you truly want and not those Google finds "relevant".  Finally (ok two last words), make sure to add negative keywords to your account.  They are just as important as explicit keywords you want to advertise for and can help improve click through rates (CTR) and keep costs to a minimum.  

Where do you think PPC is going in the next 12 months?

Now that we've talked how to best target keywords it's only appropriate that one of the biggest trends we'll continue to see in the space is away from actual keywords.  Google already has a number of tools available to advertisers that do not allow for specific keyword targeting (Dynamic Search Ads, Google Shopping Feeds, etc.) but still do allow for negative keywords.  Explicit keyword targeting in search campaigns won't necessarily go away in the next year but there will be additional mechanisms Google will release which will continue the move away from those more "traditional" campaigns those of us who have been in the space for awhile have come to know.  In some cases this will be good, especially for lowering the barriers of entry for newer advertisers. 

What are the current PPC trends?

The biggest trend continues to be mobile.  More and more traffic is being attributed to mobile sources and advertisers need to adapt.  However, for those advertisers just starting out, I would caution against mobile and zero out mobile targeting with any search provider.  Mobile clicks tend to help create awareness and some interest but are very difficult to convert into leads or paying customers.  By and large, desktops/laptops are still the champion for capturing demand through paid search.  Tablets are a whole other story.  It's a source of great frustration but Google requires advertisers to target tablets alongside desktops/laptops.  A quick plug for Bing is that they do not require table targeting so you can opt out just like mobile devices.  In any event, the challenge of mobile continues for the vast majority of advertisers.  However, for more advanced advertisers who identify the relationships between different devices and touch points along the conversion path mobile can be more profitable.  But, for business owners just starting out staying out of the mobile game will help mitigate risk and save budget for devices that will deliver results.

What are the biggest reasons to invest in PPC? 

Accountability.  I fell in love with PPC because it was relatively easy to connect the dots and determine cause and effect.  While the game has changed and become much more complicated, that initial principle remains.  Advertisers determine their own risk tolerance and can adhere to those limits.  And for those who put in the time (or contract with an agency or consultant) they have more control than ever to determine not only how much they're willing to pay per click but more importantly what ad someone sees, why they see it and when they see it.  You can even target specific groups of visitors to your site with retargeting through Google (Google Remarketing) or through third party providers (AdRoll, Perfect Audience, etc).  But at the end of the day the ability to be accountable to the penny of what you've spent and returned for that investment continues to be the biggest reason to get started in PPC.     


About Bryan Larkin: 

I’m Bryan Larkin, founder of Spectrum Search Marketing.  Through my many years of agency experience and while working with a wide range of businesses along the way, I’ve seen the absolute void in the marketplace for top shelf, cost efficient PPC services for the smaller advertiser.  To this point you’ve been forced to make difficult tradeoffs and sacrifice service for lower fees or conversely you’ve cut into your bottom line while taking a leap of faith with a high cost vender.  I created Spectrum Search Marketing specifically to help advertisers to avoid those concessions.  With streamlined processes and limited overhead Spectrum Search Marketing is here to deliver bottom line paid search services to a select group of small business advertisers. 


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