We constantly sharpen our PPC skills -  by speaking at national search marketing conferences, writing helpful "how-to" blogs for other search marketers,  and consuming daily blogs and news to stay abreast of everthing that this crazy industry throws at us! It's unlikely that your in-house employee(s) can achieve the level of focus and commitment of PPC-Strategies.
They differ in many aspects, from gender to age; from organic to paid; from 1024×768 to 320×480 and onwards. More significantly though, people arrive to your site from across the world: from different countries and languages, different currencies and climates, and a whole assortment of cultural expectations. Hence, even if you have a “.com” English only site, you may very well be an international business by default.
Use the search intent of a keyword to help determine what sort of page it should be used on. Informational keywords should be used on pages optimized for a branding campaign with content such as how to guides or product comparison articles. Avoid using these pages to target more specific in-market keywords. Those searchers have no use for a how-to guide or product comparisons. Use those to target your product pages that include specs, reviews, options and, most importantly, price and the "buy now" button. Of course, the “buy now” button could also be the email sign-up page or contact information form, depending on the type of goals you’re targeting.
With a clear understanding of our objectives and audience, we can now determine how we want to target our prospects across the AdWords network. There are multiple targeting options available, from location to demographics and display ads to video ads. The trick is to tailor your adverts to deliver the best results based on how your users browse the web. This chapter provides you with the primary elements required to accurately target your campaign.

Another way to do this is to analyze the keywords that are driving traffic to your site and match the user intent to the right page of your site. In the figure below, you can see a typical buy cycle for a new searcher. They will start off using broad keywords to get a general idea of what content is out there. Searchers who use these broad terms would infer that they’re in the information gathering stage of their search. So ask yourself, which page on your site is best suited to help them gather the information they’re seeking? Do you have an article, how-to, or comparison page you can lead them to that helps them get the information they need?
Protecting your company with one of the core barriers is smart. Nailing down two barriers is even better. Slack is a great example of a company that has a network effect, having successfully created widespread demand through word-of-mouth referrals and a highly engaging product. It has also invested in building strong relationships with developers. Slack’s developer platform roadmap and its commitment to transparency for developers has helped the company build a strong ecosystem around its product.
Once your ad is displayed, it’s likely to be clicked by only a tiny percentage of people who search for such a broad term, making it less likely to be displayed in the future. And even if you create an ad that’s broad enough for those searchers to reliably click, they’re unlikely to find exactly what they’re looking for on your landing page. You’re paying a lot for poor-quality traffic.
For both teams, first reactions from people were often strongly negative. I cringe to think what focus groups would have done with these ideas. But, Chesky and Gebbia, and Hyman and Fleiss, were undeterred. To these founders, their ideas were obvious and they set out to find investors and employees who got the vision when most everyone else did not.
The assumptions that a competitor's managers hold about their firm and their industry help to define the moves that they will consider. For example, if in the past the industry introduced a new type of product that failed, the industry executives may assume that there is no market for the product. Such assumptions are not always accurate and if incorrect may present opportunities. For example, new entrants may have the opportunity to introduce a product similar to a previously unsuccessful one without retaliation because incumbant firms may not take their threat seriously. Honda was able to enter the U.S. motorcycle market with a small motorbike because U.S. manufacturers had assumed that there was no market for small bikes based on their past experience.
Typically, VCs make just one bet in a product category to avoid cannibalizing their investments. You are either an Uber or Lyft investor. This is a commonly accepted view in the Valley. If you see a VC’s name missing from the category you’re competing in, they might be a good candidate to approach for fundraising. They missed the chance to invest in your competitor, but now they have the opportunity to work with you.
"Cloaking" via IP delivery works differently from cloaking via "user agent". While IP address spoofing is harder than user-agent spoofing and more reliable, it is also harder to keep the list of IP addresses used by search engines for their crawlers up-to-date. An outdated list with active crawler IP addresses missing enables the search engines to detect the cloaking and may result in a removal of the site from the search engine's index.

Do they have separate marketing messages for different segments? Sometimes, you might see a stark difference between how your competitor markets their business for one type of customer versus how they present themselves to another type of customer. For example, if you're trying to sell services as a math tutor to high school students who are struggling to pass their math subjects, you'll be making a completely different pitch than you would to those students who need additional help with their SAT math so that they could get into prestigious universities. Your message to the struggling students might be closer to "I'll help you finally pass your math tests!" While your message to the other market will be similar to "I'll help you get into the school of your dreams!" Also, be sure to note if your competitor does something similar with their own customer segments. 
Conduct Research Professional marketing research, such as focus groups and questionnaires, can provide you with valuable information about your competition. While a marketing research firm can save you time and legwork, it can be quite expensive and simply not a possibility for new and growing businesses. Much of the information you need in order to profile your competitors is readily available to all business owners. As your business grows and expands, you should consider supplementing your own research efforts with some formal research conducted for you by an outside firm. Before you begin seeking out the sources listed below, keep in mind that you need to obtain answers to the following questions:

Say our real estate marketing business really starts to blow up. We make a few new hires and start to divide Manhattan up into regions, with each new employee responsible for a new section. Each one is responsible for marketing within their region. We can easily carve out an “excluded” area within any local awareness region to, for example, exclude a particular zip code that we’re not responsible for from our ad’s targeting. That lets us save money by not targeting customers that we don’t really want to be attracting:
Think about what else is around you. Don’t just think about where you are; think about what’s around you. Are you a restaurant near a stadium or an airport? Encourage people to stop by after the big game, before that Ed Sheeran concert, or for a graduation celebration in your ad copy. If you’re a boutique fitness studio, advertise to people who are health-conscious and attending the farmer’s market nearby. Put these suggestions into your copy to increase in-store events.
Are they targeting low, middle, or high income customers? Look at their pricing information, including how they phrase it. If they use words like discounts, sale, affordable, or cheap, then they aren’t targeting the high income crowd. Also look at the marketing materials themselves, whether it’s a brochure or online banner. Are they attention-grabbing or elegant?
Why make the same mistakes your competitors have made when you can learn from them? As its name implies, SpyFu is a great way to spy on the competition so you can learn from their failures and more importantly, their successes. When you type in a competitor's URL, you'll be able to see how many keywords they are ranking for organically and even the ad value of those keywords. It also offers good analytics on backlinks driving the most traffic to your competitors' sites so you can see where you might want to  publish guest blogs or be listed. If they are running any paid advertising campaigns, you can even see what campaigns they're running and how much they're spending.  
For example, say you run your own B2B marketing agency. If you’re advertising high-level digital marketing services, you want to make sure that the traffic you get from PPC campaigns only includes quality leads. Using negative keywords like “free” and “cheap” will help you avoid people who are not looking to pay for marketing services. If you only work with clients in the United States, you could also use location-based negative keywords. For example, to avoid keywords like “B2B marketing services in Russia” you could add “Russia” as a negative keyword.
It’s good for searchers – Research indicates that searchers click on paid search ads more often than any other form of digital advertising. This means that people really don’t mind being advertised to, provided that the products and services advertised actually fit the searcher’s needs. And because we use search engines when we’re looking for products and services, the results, including the ads, are generally highly relevant to what we’re looking for. Plus, Google has developed an excellent formula for ensuring that PPC ads meet the user’s needs.
Surprisingly, you can mine a lot of useful intelligence from employee reviews on Glassdoor. Because employees leave anonymous feedback, they don’t hold back on what they love (and don’t love) about their employer. You can often uncover cultural aspects of the organization by reading how employees perceive senior leadership and whether or not they enjoy working there.
Do they have separate marketing messages for different segments? Sometimes, you might see a stark difference between how your competitor markets their business for one type of customer versus how they present themselves to another type of customer. For example, if you're trying to sell services as a math tutor to high school students who are struggling to pass their math subjects, you'll be making a completely different pitch than you would to those students who need additional help with their SAT math so that they could get into prestigious universities. Your message to the struggling students might be closer to "I'll help you finally pass your math tests!" While your message to the other market will be similar to "I'll help you get into the school of your dreams!" Also, be sure to note if your competitor does something similar with their own customer segments. 

When setting up conversion experiments that test different page elements, it may be valuable to make a prior segmentation that is location-based. Testing different ideas and approaches when location is taken into account, usually creates very interesting insights. What will work better for your funnel – showing your traffic from Spain pages in Spanish or English? Will you quote Euro or Dollar?
b) Compare to your competitors pages and devise a plan to beat them. Sort of–I may want to write a follow up piece to this checklist with what comes next! It may not be realistic for you to go toe-to-toe with Amazon, for instance, if they have more linking root domains than your site does. However, if it's clear that you've got a very poor backlinks profile and your competitors outperform you here across the board, that means it's probably time to start discussing creative link building strategies, or content marketing plans.
Every company has those dreaded competitors they cannot stand, no matter what you do they are always using your ideas and taking your potential customers. Whether you are a local, national, or international company there is probably someone in your company, specifically the sales and marketing teams, that can quickly rattle off your top competitors as well as what differentiates them from you.

This is another great way to position yourself as a “go to” for information within a community. Surround your campaigns or newsletters around what’s going on in a specific area. If a town that you have a lot of subscribers from holds an antique fair once a year, use it in your marketing campaign. In your newsletter for that area, include tips and tricks on how to bargain prices, articles about the best booths from the year before and sales surrounding your own products that would speak to that target audience.

Every business can benefit from attracting higher value customers. Whether you’re a real estate company looking for high net worth individuals looking to buy property or a B2B SaaS company looking for a higher average revenue per user (ARPU), attracting customers who will pay you more than others is a powerful way to amplify the growth of your business.
IT is more cost-effective to target already existing demand to increase your market share for more qualified leads. For more tips on how to prioritize your keyword strategy and your comprehensive search campaigns, check out Directive’s Complete Guide to B2B Marketing and Demand Generation. And be sure to subscribe to our blog for weekly updates on the most innovative industry-leading tactics!
Trade AssociationsMost professional trade associations compile and publish industry statistics and report on industry news and leaders through trade association magazines and newsletters. Most trade associations also sponsor trade shows and other professional meetings. This is an opportunity to see first-hand what your competition is producing. It also provides the opportunity to discover new players who may soon become your competition.  

Reason: When a visitor sticks around on your site for a minute or less, you can consider their stay to be negligible. When a visit exceeds that amount of time, the visitor has more potential for becoming a client and an increased chance of converting on your calls-to-action. If a visitor spends a considerable amount of time on your website, they are likely to come back or to take action on conversion areas you have included in your site (call-to-actions, downloads, contact forms, etc.).
Once you know your target audience, you can easily aim your advertisements towards areas where your target audience would be. Bonobos, an online male clothing store, did a great job of this when they were launching their Guide Shops pop-ups. The “store” would serve purely as a try on and styling area. Once you ordered clothes, they’d be sent to your house directly.
Geotargeting is a practice frequently deployed by such restaurants and brick-and-mortar businesses looking to drive local foot traffic, but it isn’t exclusively the province of these verticals. Even sports teams have gotten in on the action, targeting fans that are at (or have been to) a particular stadium or event in order to drive ticket sales, app downloads, and more.
Your costs can be lower when you stay away from national campaigns that take a more shotgun approach to your social media advertising efforts. Instead, geotargeting will enable you to conduct regional-, state- and city-level campaigns that will improve your results. That’s because this approach helps to tighten your campaign’s boundaries around your company’s physical location.
2. Voice Search Comes into Its Own: It’s time to start optimizing your ads for voice search: The ease of use and prevalence of virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, as well as Google’s Voice Search (“OK Google…”) make using vocal search utterly quick and convenient. Voice search accounted for 20 percent of mobile searches in 2016, according to a Kleiner Perkins study quoted by CNN. Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home are on many Christmas Wish Lists this year. Grab the voice searcher’s attention by using the first person question format in your ads and content. Most voice searches are geographically specific, so use correct and popular names for your local neighborhood(s), city, county, and region in your PPC ads.
It’s all about repeated exposure—while your previous site visitors browse other websites, your retargeting provider will show them ads for your services and products. Using retargeting, you can entice visitors back to your website and effectively convert these digital window shoppers into customers for your business. In fact, potential customers who are retargeted with display ads are 70 percent more likely to convert. Now, doesn’t that sound nice?
Like most advertising techniques, geo-targeting predates the internet. Local papers, radio and television programs have long been used to reach customers in a particular region with ads. These advertisements were customized for the local audiences where possible, a process that we now call optimization. Digital technology has simply made this practice more widespread. The major innovation that has increased the effectiveness of geo-targeting is the addition of other data points beyond simple location.
One way to get a good idea of how your target market might view your industry is to just ask them. Using focus groups, questionnaires, and surveys can help you can gather information on popular businesses with products similar to your own. You’ll also get first-hand information of how customers feel about the products that are already on the market.

It would be unreasonable to run a full technical audit of each competitor, but take into account your own site’s technical SEO performance if you know there are outstanding technical issues to be addressed. In addition to the previous checklist items, I also like to use these Chrome extensions from Ayima: Page Insights and Redirect Path. These can provide quick checks for common technical SEO errors.
Ad text plays an important role in the success of your ads. It is the form of marketing communication that advertisers can use to promote their product or service on search platforms. An effective ad text consists at least one of your core keyword, attractive discounts and promotion and a call to action. The quality score of your ad depends on multiple factors and your ad text is one of them. Your ad text should be unique and appealing. Include discount amount in your ad copy and also add a strong call to action that can compel searchers to click on your ads. Use action words like buy now, order now, resister today or sign up here. Include one of your keyword in your ad text and match your ad to your landing page.

A quality ad account in 2018, according to Google, is an “autopiloted” account; the more options that are delegated to Google Ads, the better. However, even if Google is now able to decide on its own which banner size will fit best on a particular website, it is still your responsibility to provide catchy text, relevant images, and the right keywords.


“The sales cycle is an average of 9-12 months. When a qualified lead enters the funnel, the revenue generated from that lead is an unknown variable that will not be fully identified until several months into the cycle. In order to increase the probability of a PPC lead turning into a viable source of revenue we need to generate leads at a ratio of high ratio of sales quality leads to conversions (roughly 65%). We will continue to test new targeting in order to reach our 20% YoY growth goal at a reasonable average CPA in order to continually grow the account and keep the sales funnel full every month.”
Exhaustive – Your keyword research should include not only the most popular and frequently searched terms in your niche, but also extend to the long tail of search. Long-tail keywords are more specific and less common, but they add up to account for the majority of search-driven traffic. In addition, they are less competitive, and therefore less expensive.
The metrics you provide here will depend on the depth of your research. Be sure to keep it consistent by including criteria that can be answered for all competitors. Providing specific, additional information for just one competitor will give your document a bias. As far as gathering publicly available information, here are the first places to look. For company size, LinkedIn is a great resource for discovering the approximate number of employees. Financial details? Check Yahoo Finance and Wikipedia for relevant information. Want to get an idea of their website’s traffic and ranking score? Search on Alexa. More Free Resources: AngelList, Crunchbase
Another way to do this is to analyze the keywords that are driving traffic to your site and match the user intent to the right page of your site. In the figure below, you can see a typical buy cycle for a new searcher. They will start off using broad keywords to get a general idea of what content is out there. Searchers who use these broad terms would infer that they’re in the information gathering stage of their search. So ask yourself, which page on your site is best suited to help them gather the information they’re seeking? Do you have an article, how-to, or comparison page you can lead them to that helps them get the information they need?

Brands love to be front and center and who can blame them? Essential to becoming a well known brand is achieving awareness and name recognition, and well branded companies tend to do well at drawing in new customers. In the world of search, the best way to build your brand is by showing up in the top position of search results. Preferably you can do this for both organic and paid results, but at the very least you can often buy your way to the top of search results with a high enough Maximum CPC bid. You will also want to enhance your brand even further by adding Sitelinks to your account to showcase the depth of products and services you offer and occupy even more real estate in search results.

GREAT suggestions, Nicholas! I've definitely customized this checklist for clients' various needs too (some care about having an "email signup form" as something to check, while others are international and we'd need to make sure their href lang tags were correct). Please keep the recs coming–this checklist will only get better as we make it work for different scenarios :)
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