Information Architecture For Your PPC Account - By Hero Conf Speaker Shawn Livengood

This week we had the pleasure of hearing from Shawn Livengood, Online Marketing Manager at and author of the blog PPC Without Pity.  Shawn will be speaking about Account Structure at Hero Conf (April 16-17, 2012, Indianapolis, IN).  In the following article, Shawn discusses how his degree in Information Architecture has helped him in PPC Management.  Remember if you register for Hero Conf, not only will you hear more from Shawn and other paid search experts in Indianapolis, you will also receive a white paper about the Display Network if you sign up before January 16.

Hero Conf’s paid search content allows you to focus on PPC without sorting through the clutter of other digital marketing tactics.  Learn from the industry leaders, meet the experts behind PPC Hero, network with other paid search specialists, and accelerate your professional skills at Hero Conf.  Hero Conf includes an extended agenda with exclusive content, offering you the chance to learn new strategies and foster valuable relationships that will help you grow your business, as well as your bottom line.


Information Architecture For Your PPC Account

Written by Shawn Livengood

I’m really excited about attending Hero Conf, since I’ll get to meet a lot of people in our industry who come from different backgrounds.  Since PPC is such a relatively new profession, there’s no such thing as someone with a college degree in pay per click marketing.  Instead, our industry is a motley crew of English majors, web developers, sales guys, and a lot of people who might like the internet a little too much.  I’m no exception (although I do probably fall into that last category).  My own educational background is in Information Architecture, and I’ve found that my training has provided valuable insights into my professional work.

Peter Morville, in his book Information Architecture For The World Wide Web, defines information architecture as:

1. The combination of organization, labeling, and navigation schemes within an information system.

2. The structural design of an information space to facilitate task completion and intuitive access to content.

3. The art and science of structuring and classifying web sites and intranets to help people find and manage information.

These concepts fit seamlessly into PPC.  Paid search is all about navigation within an information system (Google, Bing, or any other search engine) and helping people find information.  When we create PPC accounts, we organize and label information (by campaign and ad group names) and create navigational schemes (ads triggered by specific search keywords).  I would also argue that the ideal PPC account should use definition point #2 as a guideline: structure your account to facilitate task completion (conversions), and make sure the access to your content (landing pages) is as intuitive and seamless as possible.

That’s a lot of fancy academic talk, but how do we apply these concepts to real-world PPC management?  I like to start with search intent.  My guiding principle for PPC marketing is fulfilling a user’s information needs.  We’re not so much marketers as intermediaries connecting people to the information that they’re requesting.  That’s why search marketing is so much more effective than more traditional forms of untargeted advertising like print ads and TV commercials.  Whenever someone types in a query to a search engine, they’re practically begging someone to give them the information they want.  If Google’s algorithm can’t provide it via organic search results, it’s up to us PPC marketers to do the job.

To estimate search intent, just look for certain words that appear in popular queries related to your product.  Query phrases that contain words like “definition” indicate someone is conducting their initial research into a product they’re not familiar with.  Words like “review” might indicate that they’re starting their comparison shopping.  Once people start using words like “buy,” they’re ready to purchase.  Using clues like these, you can segment your keywords into ad groups based on user intent, and tailor your ads to your searcher’s specific information needs.  For example, people who use “cheap” in their queries are probably a little more price-sensitive than your average searcher.  For customers like this, you might include a higher discount percentage or a special coupon code to meet their information need for a good deal.  By using a little bit of information architecture based on user search intent at the outset of your campaign creation, you can ensure conversion success for years to come.

But labeling and task completion doesn’t end with your internal account structure.  You need to make sure that the structure is communicated to your end users as well.  You can do this by ensuring that your customers get signals at each step of their task that indicate they’re on the way to getting what they asked for.  If I type in “buy organic dog food” into Google, I’m making my intentions pretty clear.  If I see an ad with the title “Buy Organic Dog Food” in the headline, then I’m likely to click on it since the ad seems to provide exactly the information I requested.  But if I click through the ad and get a cluttered product page with a wide variety of pet products, my information scent is gone.  Having your target keyword (or a similar enough variation of it) appear in the user’s query, text ad, and every page on your site that is in your conversion funnel will signal to your users that they are making continual progress in completing their task.  And since a user’s task completion is often one of your conversion events, offering these subtle signals will help you increase your conversion rate.

If I’ve piqued your interest, be sure to check out the Account Structure panel I’ll be participating in during Hero Conf.  You can also read more about my thoughts on search marketing on my PPC marketing blog, PPC Without Pity.

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas.  He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click accounts at an agency and as an  in-house PPC strategist.  He currently works as the Online Marketing Manager for <>  and blogs about pay per click  advertising at <> .

Shawn received his master’s degree in Information Studies from the University of  Texas at Austin in May 2011.


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