Behind the Scenes: Optimizing a Campaign for Success

optimizing a campaign
October 24, 2022

With just a click of a button, your paid media campaign will go live for everyone to see. It’s that simple, right? Well, not quite

What you and your target audience see is a tailored, well-designed message about your product, service or brand. However, what you don’t see is the extensive work behind the strategy, creation, development, and ongoing optimizations of that campaign. That’s why we’re here to give you a little behind-the-scenes look at a crucial part of your campaign’s success: optimizing a campaign.

“When Will I See Results From My Ad Campaign?”

The campaign optimization process is extensive and offers an infinite number of possibilities for improvement. Enough to write a book about! To keep things succinct for the purposes of this article, we’ll only be walking through some of the key optimization steps for a Google campaign. We hope by the end of this explanation, you’ll have a better understanding as to why a campaign:

  1. Needs an appropriate budget allocated
  2. Needs time to “learn” your audience

Below are five key factors Xponent21’s strategists keep an ongoing eye on to ensure your campaign is running smoothly and efficiently to generate the desired results.

Audience Targeting

Unsurprisingly, who you’re talking to is important when looking at the success of a campaign. When a campaign is in the strategy phase and you’re reaching a completely new audience, we’ll typically recommend targeting broadly. It’s more effective to show your ad to more people and narrow down the audience to those who are most receptive to your message, than to “guess” who the right people are and risk missing a portion of your intended audience.

Typically for Google Display and Video Campaigns, we’ll use a combination of demographic1, affinity2, and in-market3 audience segments (although there are more options). On a regular basis, we’ll look at these segments to see which audiences have the best and worst click-through-rate (CTR)4 and conversion rate (CPA).5 If we see a low CTR and CPA it means we’re spending money on a particular audience for very little or no return. As a result, we’ll stop targeting this segment and reallocate that budget more effectively. 

What’s the catch with audience targeting? It takes time. Prematurely turning off an audience could result in lost opportunity. That’s why we always recommend running a campaign for at least 2-3 months to gather sufficient data so it can be optimized correctly. 

optimizing a campaign

Location or Geo-Targeting

Optimizing for a location is very similar to audience targeting, especially when dealing with a geographically wide-spread campaign. Sometimes we won’t even touch the geography if it’s extremely narrow; for example, advertising a storefront using a driving-distance radius.  

However, regional and nationwide campaigns can consist of multiple locations that have varying degrees of competition and costs associated with them. As a result, even if your product or service reaches both New York City and Sedona, the performance of the same ad will be different in these markets. 

How to combat this? Just like the audience segments, Xponent21 strategist will look at the lowest CTRs and CPAs by location and recommend not advertising in those poor-performing markets. In addition, the geos that perform well but need more budget due to dense population (such as NYC vs. Sedona), will be assigned a bid adjustment.6 The bid adjustment allows Google to dynamically spend more money in that location if it results in a higher chance of a user taking an action. 

optimizing a campaign

Keyword Targeting

Keyword targeting mainly applies to search campaigns, and while this campaign type typically has the highest return on investment, it can also be the most challenging to optimize. The idea is to compile a list of relevant keywords7 that your target audience might use to find your product or service when searching the internet. 

The challenges with keyword targeting are the following:

  1. There are an infinite number of keyword combinations
  2. Some keywords are more competitive than others
  3. Some keywords are more expensive than others
  4. Some keywords have higher search volume than others

We know how it sounds, impossible! How does one find the perfect combination of keywords to bid on? Well, if you love digital marketing as we do, this becomes one of the most exciting parts of paid media.

As mentioned previously, we usually recommend starting broadly. We’ll choose a large list of keywords that are an equal mix of expensive vs. inexpensive, high vs. low volume, and competitive vs. noncompetitive. This allows us to find that perfect combination; making sure we’re staying competitive amongst other brands but also reaching a less expensive, niche audience. 

optimizing a campaign

Ad Performance

What if we found the audience you want in your target location, but they’re still not clicking the ad? We don’t pull our hair out just yet! At this point, we look at the ad messaging to see if it’s resonating. 

If we’re conducting an experiment with two or more ad variants, we will look at the CTRs of each ad to see which one is bringing in the most traffic to your website or landing page. Turning off any underperforming ad variants will force your audience to see only the most effective ad, in turn, improving your results.

If there’s only one ad variant, or we’re running responsive ads, we will look at the different components. For example, we may look at the various headlines, descriptions, and images used in the ad. Google will often tell an advertiser which components of the ad are underperforming, that way we know what creative needs to be rewritten or swapped out. 

The Budget

Even if your targeting and messaging strategy are on-point, the campaign still won’t run successfully if it’s hindered by the budget. At the end of the day, you need to be spending enough money to outbid your competitors and reach your desired audience. Who and where you are targeting can greatly affect the budget, as well as seasonality changes. In light of this, strategists may recommend an increase or decrease in ad budget depending on how the performance is changing overtime. 

Specifically in Google Ads, the platform notifies the advertiser when their campaign is “Limited by budget,” and provides a recommended spend increase to achieve better results. We won’t always recommend increasing the budget just because Google tells us to. However, if your Xponent21 strategist does bring it to your attention, it’s with good reason and it’s important you take their advisement seriously. 

optimizing a campaign
Google Ad’s budget recommendation simulator.

Trust Your Team

This is just the tip of the iceberg for optimizing a campaign. While we’re not recommending launching your own campaign just yet, we hope this gives you some insight into what goes on behind-the-scenes. So that when you’re working with, or choose to work with, Xponent21 you’ll feel confident knowing your campaigns are in good hands. And we’re not afraid of questions! Ask your account strategist or contact us if you have any concerns or curiosity around our digital marketing and campaign development process. 

1Demographic is statistical data relating to the population and particular groups within it.

2Affinity audience is a group of potential customers that share similar interests or qualities.

3In-Market targeting allows you to find customers who are researching products or services and actively considering buying something like what you offer as they browse pages across the web.

4CTR is the number of clicks that your ad receives divided by the number of times your ad is shown.

5CPA refers to the fee a company will pay for an advertisement that results in a sale.

6Bid adjustments let you increase or decrease your bids for certain targeting methods such as location or device. This helps you gain more control over where and when your ad is shown.

7Keyword is a term used to describe a word or a group of words an Internet user uses to perform a search in a search engine or search bar.

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