Investing in paid search and paid social can be an incredible growth lever–or it can be an unfortunate waste of dollars. The difference is execution, communication, and iterating based on data insights. In this article, we’ll cover elements of a paid media marketing campaign, including platform selection, ad spend allocation, campaign builds, and adjusting lead quality post-launch.
What is a paid media marketing campaign?
The term “campaign” is used in different ways by different marketers. It is not uncommon to hear an in-house marketing team refer to a complex cross-channel effort as a single campaign. But most paid media managers use the term a bit more literally: in marketing speak, a campaign is a set of ad groups (or ad sets) that share a budget, location targeting, audience targeting, and other settings. The components of a campaign vary by platform, but that’s the gist.
Elements of a paid media marketing campaign
Visual elements are one of the key drivers of performance. It is not uncommon to see drastically different performance between two ads which vary only by creative. Taking the time to perfect your creative assets may delay your campaign launch, but can move the needle to a significant degree. Developing creative strategies is often a collaborative process when we work with clients here at Silverback.
Showing your audience the right message on the right platform at the right time is of utmost importance if your campaign is to succeed. Campaigns crumble inwards with poor copy implementation. For example, serving a “buy now” call to action to someone who has never heard of your brand is not likely to perform well. Marketers should analyze copy on a regular basis. You can learn a lot by measuring how prospects react to various copy elements, such as headlines, meta descriptions, and calls-to-action. If you work with an agency, there must be an agile process for drafting and reviewing copy. Otherwise, it can throw off the balance between brand vs performance.
After approval of creative and copy elements, marketers must build the campaigns. Creative, copy, audience targeting, budgeting, and UTM parameters must be properly layered into each new campaign to ensure that all the meticulous thought behind the strategy does not get wasted. Then, marketers must select audiences for targeting, or create lookalike audiences to extend reach. Build times vary.
Campaign mapping ensures that the valuable lead information collected by each campaign is properly organized. Often, marketing campaigns leverage lead generation forms to collect information about prospects. Typical form fields include: First Name, Last Name, Email, Company, Job Title, Phone Number. However, form fields vary widely by campaign. This data is typically mapped to a CRM to aid in lead nurture down the line.
This step rarely takes more than an hour or two. But it is crucial and requires deep focus, especially when working with a large set of campaigns. A fresh set of eyes is best to conduct Quality Assurance. This final pass needs to be meticulous. All details of each campaign are considered in isolation. The smallest clerical error (a space in a URL field, for instance) can have a detrimental impact on the effectiveness of the initiative.
The quickest and most important step. Launching a campaign takes minutes or seconds, but there’s no going back. Post-launch, marketers must monitor campaigns closely to be sure impressions, clicks and conversions come through properly.
When a campaign has done its job or underperformed for one reason or another, it will be paused. Occasionally, campaigns that are performing beautifully will need to be paused if the sales team nurturing the leads the campaign is generating can’t handle any more. We experienced this when we helped Long Roofing enter a new geographic market. Read the full case study.
How to select a platform for paid media
Performance marketing gives marketing leaders a way to reliably forecast revenue growth. Paid media can capture existing demand, but It can also be a powerful learning tool to build the data-backed strategies.
Getting the platform mix exactly right is difficult. Even when you finally do strike an optimal balance between platform mix and strategy, peak performance won’t last long. Seasonality, ad fatigue, and landing page experience are constant impeding factors.
These are the main ad platform categories and their payment models:
In the world of Paid Search advertising, you don’t pay until someone clicks your ad. That’s why marketers still refer to it as pay-per-click (PPC). First, you select a keyword you want to bid for. When someone searches for a query that matches one of your target keywords, your ad has a chance to show up in the search results. The only time you are charged is when a user clicks on your ad. The key takeaway here is that there is a cap to the amount you can spend on paid search. There are only so many clicks to earn. Therefore, competition can be fierce in the PPC arena. Since click volume is limited, bidding wars can intensify quickly for top keywords within an industry.
On Paid Social platforms, auctions determine which ads users see, a practice known as “Auction-Based Bidding“. Your ads bid against other ads which target similar audiences or individuals. If your bid wins, your ad will be served.
On Facebook alone, billions of auctions take place every day. Facebook uses a mixture of factors to determine which ad wins each of these auctions. Your manual bid amount and the rate at which Facebook anticipates users will engage with your ad are key factors which help determine the success of your ad.
A key distinction between Paid Search and Display is that Display campaigns can more easily spend the budget you allocate to them. Impression share and available clicks can limit paid search campaigns. Display ads share more similarities with Paid Social, but are not synonymous. They incorporate visual elements, as well as copy, and appear on websites within the Google Display Network. Display ads, therefore, can appear before someone searches for what your business offers. For this reason, Display campaigns are key drivers of awareness. Most full-funnel marketing strategies incorporate Display campaigns.
Allocating paid media budget by channel
Forecasting ad spend and the expected returns on each platform is necessary, and one of the biggest elements of a paid media marketing campaign. Budgeting for these investments can also be a pain point for marketing heads. There are several important factors to consider when determining ad spend by platform:
- Strategy. Marketing objectives should roll up to your overall business goals. Campaigns constructed to help grow revenue will differ from campaigns constructed to increase profitability. You should also consider your digital marketing team structure. Overarching strategy also informs thresholds for return on ad spend and other key performance indicators.
- Good data and analysis. Show what’s working and what’s not. Set up monthly reporting and analysis at the channel, campaign, ad set or ad group, and ad level. Also consider key factors like audience attributes. If a campaign has excellent performance metrics, but is only reaching individuals with job titles which aren’t ideal to target, adjustments will need to be made.
- Effective communication. When companies work with agencies, trust and effective communication are critical to performance. All parties should be as transparent, responsive, and honest as possible, and ask questions of one another. As spend by channel can be refined remarkably over time, especially when return on ad spend and lead quality are consistent topics of conversation.
Determining ad spend on Google Ads
On paid search, spend recommendations are based in part on projected click volume. The Keyword Planner tool in Google Ads is useful when making these volume projections. In Keyword Planner, you can assess expected click volume for any given keyword. Toss Keyword Planner a list of keywords, and it will estimate click volume for that list. Keyword Planner also gives some indication as to what the competition level might be for a keyword in a typical month.
Google will only spend what it can. If there aren’t many clicks, a campaign’s spend can be limited. Over time, we learn what the available volume is for brand and non-brand terms, and dial in the strategy. Some campaigns constructed by Silverback are so efficient that they practically run themselves. But this level of precision takes time to achieve.
Determining ad spend on social media
Tools available in-platform can help determine spend recommendations for paid social campaigns.
On LinkedIn, for example, we typically make a draft campaign, set up the audience parameters, and see what the projected daily spend can be. From there, we determine a budget proposal based on the client’s overall budget and the portion of that budget allocated to paid social.
Paid social platforms eagerly gobble up money, so here it’s especially important to have your audiences dialed in. Paid media teams need to find the sweet spot where click volume and lead quality coincide.
Set realistic timelines to build paid media marketing campaigns
It could take about a week to build a single campaign from scratch, or it could take a month. It depends on the complexity of the campaign and the responsiveness of the key collaborators. Typically, Silverback can turn around a simple campaign build in 3-4 business days once ad copy and creative assets have been approved.
However, many marketing strategies call for a set of campaigns. This is common on channels like LinkedIn and Facebook. The best way to break out multiple audiences is to build multiple campaigns. This can extend your build time by weeks.
Let’s run with building a set of campaigns to promote a webinar as an example. Those ads will likely need to run on LinkedIn and Facebook, and perhaps on the Google Display Network in the form of Responsive Display Ads. On LinkedIn and Facebook, a handful of audiences will need to be targeted. Within each campaign, multiple ad variants will need to be made to ensure that different images and copy angles can be incorporated into the strategy.
You can see how the amount of work required to complete a build can begin to snowball. At this point, it’s critical to implement proper tracking with careful attention to syntactical details. If marketers can’t glean insights from a campaign, they can’t make tactical adjustments to improve performance for the next one.
Setting clear expectations about campaign build timelines mitigates unnecessary pressure to rush through the build process. When agencies and clients are able to establish an agreeable launch routine, launches are consistent. Performance insights lead to campaign optimizations and efficiencies. Lead quality and lead volume improve.
Monitor lead quality after paid media marketing campaigns are live
Not all leads are equal. In our experience, poor lead quality in paid media typically comes down to a few common errors:
- Targeting too broad of an audience
- Weak or misleading calls-to-action
- Poor use of form fields to screen for quality
The good news is you can adjust these with the right feedback loops. Marketing and sales teams should have a process for reviewing and communicating lead quality. This way, marketers can adjust campaigns to reach more of the right buyers.
Depending on the length of the sales cycle, this process can take time to have an effect. Discussing lead quality is impossible without the implementation of detailed tracking.
Work with a new kind of agency
Paid media marketing has always been about generating revenue. But the best way to do it is constantly changing. That’s why it’s so important to understand the platforms well enough to run a successful campaign in conjunction with your broader strategy.
Silverback embeds a team of specialists around you based on your business model. As your marketing needs evolve and grow, you’ll have access to familiar faces that know your business. Creative and paid media teams work closely together to test creative, analyze results, iterate and adjust.
Recognized by Ad Age, Inc. Magazine, and Washington Post as a best place to work, Silverback is a destination for top marketing talent in the nation. Our cultural focus on team health and a direct, honest communication style helps build more meaningful relationships with clients and deliver better results.