Avoid the One Size Fits All Mentality! PPC Search Engines Are Not Created Equal

When I read the Different Engines, Different Tactics article from the MSN adCenter blog, I literally felt a slap on my face. This topic zeroed in on one of my PPC weaknesses and everyone in my office could hear my painful cry of “D’oh!” I’m guilty. I’ve been caught red-handed. I am exactly who this article was written for.

Some advertisers optimize their pay per click campaigns for other engines and then export them with little change to adCenter. This may save time, but it doesn’t always optimize for the distinctly different character of Microsoft’s traffic. In other words, you may be leaving a pile of money on the table.

I’m so much smarter than this. Why did I think it was ok to copy my AdWords account, upload it into adCenter and then walk away from the table? Well, the truth of the matter is, it’s the easy way out. It’s also a matter of priority, too. Google and Yahoo! drive 90% of traffic and conversions for all of my clients, which in turn means they receive 90% of my account management attention. Taking the easy way out fits nicely in that 10%.

Where the problem lies in this is that despite the varying differences in traffic, there is always room for improvement. Not to mention that in a few cases, adCenter carries with it a significantly higher conversion rate. This article in particular focused on bidding strategies in relation to the long tail of keywords. To counter-act the lower traffic level, concentrate on a select few keywords that are closer to the head (more general terms).

Interestingly, there are a myriad of other reasons why copying and pasting your AdWords campaigns into adCenter, or even Yahoo!, is not the best idea. That is assuming you copy/paste and “let ‘er fly” without further changes. Here is a short list:

  • Character Limits: This directly applies to Yahoo!, where your headline is allowed 40 characters. AdWords and adCenter only allow 25. You should do your best to maximize the space given to you in Yahoo!. I typically feel that I write much more convincing and effective headlines with those extra 15 characters. Just think of the extra keywords you can fit in that space!
  • Keyword Bids: Beyond merely making bid decisions based on the long tail of keywords, you should make those decisions based on the search engine you’re working in. The bid you have set in AdWords is based on Google’s traffic and competitive landscape. Those factors are altogether different when dealing with Microsoft and Yahoo!. All three of these search engines offer their own unique bid forecasting tools for a reason. In a perfectly optimized world, a single keyword will have a different bid in each account.
  • DKI, Keyword Insertion, Dynamic Text: Each of the search engines takes a slightly different approach to DKI. While Google and Yahoo!’s systems are nearly identical, there are vast differences when Microsoft is thrown into the mix. In adCenter, you can dynamically insert the keyword, but also have the ability to set multiple parameters per keyword which can be inserted into your ad texts automatically. Taking the time to learn the ins and outs of these tools is important and can directly benefit your CTR!
  • Match Types and Negative Keywords: When you copy and paste your campaigns from one search engine to another, you will likely erase your negative keyword lists. And your match types will be eradicated when copying into Yahoo! (no exact, phrase or broad matching!). Negative keywords and match types are such a vital part of the PPC arsenal and should not be forgotten. Take the time to research the right negative keywords and match types for each search engine and implement them accordingly.

There are countless other factoids and nuances that could trip you up when going from one search engine to another. But suffice it to say that the PPC search engines are not created equally! Avoid the one size fits all mentality and take the time and effort to manage each account accordingly. For myself, I will do my best to remove the idea of adCenter being the red-headed step child of the search marketing family. Count this as a lesson learned and rest assured that my painful “D’oh!” has turned into a sheepish “Duh!”