Aug 5, 2010 at 6:00am ET by Josh Dreller
The big day has finally arrived. You, my friend, have put in the hard work to get to this point. Launch day. Congratulations! Hopefully, you haven’t pushed this off too far and are ready to go live with your PPC accounts.
Before you launch, however, let’s make sure that you have everything in place. You’ve focused on detail, made sure that your campaigns are grouped well, your keyword list is comprehensive, and your ads are pure poetry ready to increase purchase intent upon any who dare to read them. Remember, search marketing is all about analyzing performance and then optimizing for efficiency, so you don’t have to fully nail it on day one. You’ll have plenty of time to make changes throughout the life of the campaign. However, what you don’t want to do is to waste budget needlessly or mistakenly muddle your data.
Here is a pre-launch checklist of important things to run through to ensure success from the start.
Double check your goals and budget. It may have been weeks or months since this account fell into your lap and things may have changed on the advertiser side since then. There may even be someone new at the top that has their own ideas on where their PPC dollars should be focused. Before you launch, touch base with your boss (or your client) and make sure that you’re still shooting for the right target and that your budget hasn’t changed.
Do some fresh research. Once again, it may have been many months since you started this project. Especially if the advertiser is in a fast-paced industry, there may be many new things to consider if their market has changed. Have new competitors entered the keyword landscape? New products launched? It might be helpful to spend a half hour sifting through some of your research tools or simply typing in some of your most important keywords into the engines to make sure you’re still on solid ground with the account you’ve created.
Get sign-off on keywords and creative. You should really get approval to run the account from whoever is paying the bill for everything. Most likely, you’ll be dealing with someone with no search marketing experience at all, so their idea about this account actually may be slightly skewed from reality. Give them a day or two to look through the ads and keywords so that they understand exactly what they’ll be engaged with. This also might be an opportunity to catch any last-minute mistakes or even add in some new ideas weren’t uncovered in the initial research phase.
Is your campaign really ready to be activated? When you initially loaded your accounts, you may have created campaigns, ad groups or ads that weren’t necessarily supposed to run—for example, experimenting with high-volume, general terms (such as car, insurance, computer, real estate, etc). Many times, search marketers will generate and load some of these campaigns with the intention of keeping them paused on start and then slowly add them into the account if the lower-hanging fruit such as branded keywords or product terms aren’t able to spend the budget. Go through your account one last time and make sure you’ve paused what needs to be paused.
Go through your settings one more time. I can’t stress just how important this is. One of the big ones is the location targeting settings. If you’re a regional advertiser, just know that the default geotargeting settings in the U.S. are for national targeting. So, if you’re just trying to reach the greater Chicago area, your budgets may cap out every day and never reach someone in that area if you’re accidently targeting the entire country. That’s a PPC sin! Another important setting is your daily budget. You may want to start slowly and spend about half of what you normally will be spending to make sure everything’s working properly before going full out. There are dozen or so key settings that you’ll want to double check before launch.
Check that your ads have been approved by Google. This has tripped up even the best search marketing pros so that’s why I’m including it here. Once ads are loaded into the system, they go through editorial filters. It’s very possible that your ads are declined for various reasons (see my previous post, The Left Brain Of Paid Search Ads: Parameters & Limitations, for more information on why that might happen). It’s possible that you may not realize that your ads aren’t running, but you’ll notice pretty soon when you launch your account and it doesn’t spend a dime. To avoid this, go through your campaigns and make sure you have active ads in each ad group.
Ensure your tracking is in place and working. In last week’s article, An Introduction to Paid Search Conversion Tracking,I discussed why it’s so important to the success of a campaign to measure your performance. Although conversion tracking is a fairly straight forward process, chances are you will not be implementing the code yourself on the website. So, you’ll need to go through those pages, view the source code (easily found in the browser menu), and double check that everything was implemented properly. Sometimes, I’ll unpause the least expensive term in my account, click it and convert on the engines where I’m running, and then pause it again immediately. This way I can see if a conversion shows up in the engine platforms. If it does, I’m good to go. If not, there’s still work to be done.
Be sure your third party tools are set up and ready to go. Although we haven’t really covered much regarding third party tools in this column, if you’re using one, make sure that everything is kosher before launch. For example, you can link your Google Analytics with your Google AdWords. If that’s something you want done, do it before you start, not after. There are also plenty of bid management tools out there. If you’re using one, take advantage of their support systems and have them give you the green light when everything’s ready.