Search Advertising Tactics: Traffic vs. Ad Budget Checklist for New Topics

This post is about a geeky — but important and often overlooked — tactical aspect of PPC management.

Rarely do advertisers have unlimited ad budgets, even if they get a very high return on their ad spend, or great cash flow. Rather, most businesses have a fixed, planned maximum budget. And even if their business model and budgets are somewhat scalable, their business may run into limits on personnel, supplies, inventory, etc.

Yet, fairly often we get questions from clients about advertising a new topic, keyword or in a new geographic area. When we receive such a request, our agency repeats a step that we do while designing and building a new PPC account and related settings such as campaigns, keywords, demographic filters, etc. That step:

We calculate whether there is more search traffic than ad budget, or the reverse of that. Usually, the answer is “more traffic than budget”. In a running search ad campaign, the amount of traffic not reached due to budget is called Search Lost Impression Share Budget (Search Lost I.S. Budget).

Big picture: when there is more traffic than budget

When asked, most advertisers will answer that they want to spend their ad budget on the most productive topics — the ones that most efficiently convert traffic and ad budget to leads and purchases. A couple of key concepts: (1) set up campaigns so that topics of similar value compete for budget, and (2) like the old adage for stock accounts – let the winners run, and get rid of the low performers.

Big picture: when there is more budget than traffic

Unlike most types of advertising, in search ad campaigns it is possible to have more available daily  budget than traffic for lower search volume topics. Often the keywords or topics with the most precise customer intent (thus highest value) are limited in search volume. This is especially true for businesses that are local or regional in geographic coverage. For that reasons, we will often assign a dedicated campaign (thus search budget) to the most precise or highest value search topics.  When there more budget than search traffic (or optimized search traffic for some types of bidding tactics) then funds not needed simply don’t get used.

Now back to requests / ideas for new topics

In a scenario where the account budget is fixed and all being used, and traffic for new topic, or geographic territory is added, budget will be diverted from the previous keywords or geographic territory to “feed” the new one.  And, while it is true that well-designed testing of settings is a best practice, often we have data, or can forecast that the new topic may not work as well as the others that are already running. One of the more frequent reasons for this: the new topic or keyword being requested is either not present, or not well developed on the advertiser’s website. Getting on to action points, we’ll close this post with the following list:

TopSide’s Quick 5-point checklist when considering new search topics or keywords:

  • Does the topic or keyword being considered get enough search volume in the geographic area covered by your business to make a positive impact?
  • If the answer to #1 is Yes, is that topic present in text and well developed on your business website? If No, are you willing to add / have it added to the website?
  • Is there a clear call-to-action and well-designed “conversion path” for the new topic on its page?
  • Is the topic a new ongoing one, or a short-lived event? (The minimum traffic and run time needed to optimize for results is often months, not weeks or days.)
  • Is there more traffic than current budget for your ad account? If Yes, are you willing to give up some of your current leads or online orders to test the new topic? If not, consider assigning an additional, dedicated budget for the new topic.

Comments or questions on this topic are welcome.