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What Preliminary Research Should You Undertake Before Running a PPC Campaign?

In order for your PPC campaigns to deliver, you need to do specific competitor and market research.

According to The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries, the initial market research should provide enough information to build the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). It should help identify a specific set of early adopters or evangelizers of your MVP.

So what research demographics should you be looking at?

1. Research Potential Market Segments

Research Potential Market Segments
Researching potential markets starts with defining them by making some assumptions. These assumptions can be based on your own experience, what you’ve read or heard, or they can be based on your hunches. Whatever the basis, you need to be specific.
For example:

a.) Big City busy professionals who don’t have time to cook, and neither have time for it, but looking to eat healthy.

b.) A single woman who would like to lose weight by eating healthy.

c.) A single vegan mother who earns over $100,000 who lives in a big city suburb.

The above is just a sample of some potential early evangelizers for a vegan restaurant and takeaway service.
Nox Edge, a workout supplements manufacturer, was looking to increase their paid search traffic and sales volumes. To do this, they audited brand terms by including additional brand term variations, but also researching and using competitor terms.
They used iSpionage to conduct keyword and competitor research (see below)
workout supplements
The result?
Nox Edge saw increased total conversions of more than 50 percent in their first four months with increased display conversions by 140 percent.

2. Figure Out How to Reach Your Market

Figure Out How to Reach Your Market
The above market segments are only useful if you can reach them reliably and affordably. Services like the Facebook Graph Search enable you to search for interests, pages liked, visited, and much more by simply typing a search phrase such as:
“Favorite interests of people who like vegan healthy foods.”
A search phrase like this one might bring up very interesting interests that you never thought would be on the same page. This will also help you get a more complete picture of your potential customers and understand the needs and emotions of your prospects that will help you better meet their needs.

3. Research Your Measurable Business Goals

Research Your Measurable Business Goals
Before you can even start targeting your audience, you need to determine what you want to achieve at the end of your PPC campaign. Without a concrete business goal, your PCC campaign will be useless.
Your business goals can be set and determined by answering these questions:
• What do I want to fulfill with the PPC campaign?
• What actions do I want the target users to take?
• What is the cost worth of each action to the business?
Only by answering the above questions will you be able to develop a meaningful campaign that delivers measurable results.
Takeaway: Use Facebook Graph Search to see what users have “Liked” to help you develop more targeted campaigns.

4. Research Your Keyword Lists

Research Your Keyword Lists
Having answered the above questions, its time to dig up and identify keywords relating to specific phrases that people are looking for. The Google Keyword Planner is an excellent tool to help you develop keyword lists.
Keyword research helps you get inside the mind of your potential customers. Group potential search terms into logical bundles, each with its own theme, topic, or specific product offering.
Research negative keywords as well. These will help block irrelevant keyword combinations to reduce time on wasted clicks and improve click-through rates, which in turn, helps lower your campaign costs.
You need to determine your campaign structure by logically splitting your keywords into specific ad groups depending on the number of your target audiences, offerings, and website complexity.
HP had a strategic business objective of onboarding new customers, grow their small business segment, and increase visibility of its key product groups. To do this, it did a comprehensive search campaign with thousands of high competitive keywords.
The result?
HP generated millions in sales revenue and refers 500,000 visitors per month to the site.

5. Post-PPC Research

Post PPC Research
Even after your campaign is underway, months or even years later, continued research is essential if you want to keep optimizing your advertising dollars.
Best PPC practice dictates that you should review and reset your campaigns every six months. Periodically reviewing your structure is important if your spend is to keep focused on the most profitable assets and business goals. Reviewing search terms periodically will help you cull out keyword phrases that have become unprofitable over time and help bring in more profitable ones.
Analyzing factors around high and low volume terms will also help identify click fraud, unqualified traffic from search partners, and broad match mapping. Routine query mining, negating, and adding only high volume terms will help you allocate your budget and keep them at prime positions effectively bringing your ads at the forefront of search.
Before running a PPC campaign, research your market, your competitors, your measurable business goals, and keyword listings. These steps need continuous iteration until it makes sense to invest in your MVP and start using PPC to push your products into the market.


Guest Blogger David Gitonga
Guest Blogger David Gitonga
David Gitonga is a full-time Web content creator and strategist working with various companies in developing and executing online marketing campaigns on social networks and search engines. He mostly works with small and medium-sized businesses looking to leverage the Internet to drive sales, innovation, and engagement online. Connect with David on Twitter and Google+ or through his website.