How Football Shaped My Philosophy Regarding PPC

By Jeff Baum | @jeffbaum71 | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

PPC to me is a lot like football. Building successful paid search accounts requires a well-defined philosophy for approaching account work, a strong game plan, and solid execution of the plan you spent all that time creating.


Football coaches subscribe to either an offensive or defensive philosophy. Offensive minded coaches believe in high scoring teams with a defense that’s just good enough to win. Defensive minded coaches believe in defenses that give up very few points and scoring just enough points to win.


How does the football metaphor translate to PPC? Accounts are either ‘on offense’, meaning chasing volume and willing to sacrifice maximum profit or ‘on defense’, meaning chasing profit and willing to sacrifice achieving maximum volume.


Today I’m going to lay out some strategies I use when I’m on offense and need volume and when I’m on defense and need maximum cost efficiency and profit.


“Yeah let’s just keep matriculatin’ the ball down the field, boys!” – Hank Stram


How Do We Stay on Offense and Drive Conversions?


Get More Players on the Field: I equate keywords to football players. PPC accounts in growth mode win by putting more players on the field (ie: keywords). So how do we ‘draft’ these players onto our team? One way to do this is use tools like Google’s keyword tool, Spy Fu, or Keyword Spy to identify new keywords that can be added to your account. Another way to build out a keyword list is download a search query report and add keywords based off queries generated by your account’s keyword list.


Another way to increase exposure and drive conversion is implementing shopping feeds. Feeds are lists of products that contain images, descriptions, and attributes that increase exposure on search engines beyond conventional text ads.


Put Players in a Position to Win: Bidding for optimal ad position places ads in the best location to drive volume. Analyze keyword performance by individual ad position and use the data to determine what maximum bids should be set at in order to achieve an average position that best leads to reaching an account’s growth goals.


Ad Copy: I equate ad copy to an account’s running and passing game. We put players on the field in form of keywords and shopping feeds. We then set bids to put ads in the best possible position to convert.


However, if you want to score touchdowns, (ie: driving conversions) ads must be compelling so a high percentage of users click on them and highly relevant so that traffic from these ads ultimately becomes either a lead or sale. Weak ad copy leads to wasted spend and not reaching the ultimate goal of driving volume, which in football terms equates to ‘being stopped short of the goal line’, which means not scoring!


How Do We Defend The Goal Line and Drive Profit and Strong CPA’s?


“You got one guy going boom, one guy going whack, and one guy not getting in the endzone.”? John Madden


Having a strong plan for driving conversions is extremely important. However, it’s equally important to have a defensive game plan in place that drives profit and cost efficiency. Let’s discuss ways to drive profit and maximize cost per acquisition in a PPC account.


Remarketing: This tactic could actually be placed in the offense category because remarketing helps grow volume by marketing back to prospects who have already visited your landing pages. I choose to place remarketing in the defense category because of its ability to convert clicks that could be previously considered wasted and turn them into a low cost conversion. Remarketing is a great hedge against non-converting traffic.


CPA Bidding: Another tactic I employ to maximize efficiency is CPA bidding. This can be done through Google’s automated bidding feature known as conversion optimizer. Conversion Optimizer allows you to define a target or average CPA. Accounts that are focused on growth normally to bid for top positions, knowing they will pay more but receive more traffic and conversion. CPA bidding provides the ability to get leads and sales only at a price you can afford. Volume will be lower but profit will be higher as a result of employing this defensive tactic.


Long Tail Keywords: A defensive version of keyword expansion is to shift the focus away from broader, more general keywords and focus on keywords with very specific intent. Instead of loading up the keyword list with keywords such as ‘Hyundai cars’, a long tail keyword would be ‘Red Hyundai Tuscon Dealerships in Indiana’. The intent of this long tail keyword is so precise, chances are it won’t generate a lot of traffic because of its preciseness; it’ll most likely generate a very high conversion rate. Also, because there isn’t a lot of traffic behind this kind of keyword string, the price will be cheaper. Use this keyword strategy when the focus is on profit and cost efficiency.




PPC is a never-ending series of analysis otherwise known in football speak as ‘reviewing the game film’, altering or creating new game plans, and adjusting tactics to achieve goals.


There will be times when profit is more important than growth and other times when growth is essential, even at the cost of reduced profit margins.


Make sure philosophies and plans are flexible and adaptable to the ever-changing business conditions that affect overall account performance!