With shorter days and fall foliage among us, now is the time when all businesses start planning budgets for the coming year. As an integral mix in most marketing efforts, experienced PPC professionals know this time of year can be one of both excitement and reflection, as it provides the opportunity look ahead at your growth potential and evaluate performance trends from previous months.
At a broad level, PPC budget planning looks at existing opportunities in your current program and evaluating expansion into new channels and/or strategies.
Current Account Expansion
The most obvious place to start when considering expanding the budget is your current SEM efforts. If you feel like you are capping out due to budget restrictions in some campaigns, look at year-over-year/quarter-over-quarter and/or month-over-month data by campaign—paying mind to KPIs (CPAs/CPC). If available or known, keep in mind seasonal trends, as not all timeframes can be fairly compared. For many e-commerce businesses, Q1 to Q2 isn’t an ideal comparison, so in this case, use YoY data.
Once you’ve settled on an impartial time range, take a look at what campaigns are budget-capped that have been consistently hitting or exceeding your target KPIs and see where you can expand. Both Google and Bing offer built-in functionality that allows you to view traffic potential increases based on daily budget increases. If you’re looking at keyword expansions, utilizing the keyword planner tools can give you traffic and cost-per-click estimates to project cost ranges by keyword. Other factors to consider include overall industry and audience growth trends. Using annual estimates from a source such as Forrester Research can also be helpful in gauging a rough estimate, as sources like this provide yearly projection growth trends.
With the increasing array of targeting options and reach available on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, expansion into social can make sense for many advertisers and is often overlooked. While paid search has been a proven method of capturing user intent, feeding the top-funnel of your marketing mix can also be an important part of your program by targeting potential users before they’ve started searching online. With how social networks accrue massive amounts of user information compared to other channels, social can expand well beyond the standard demographic and geodata with behavioral, interest and lookalike targeting. Pairing search and social can result in a powerful mix that hits both sides of the funnel.
If you have clients that regularly have a presence at trade shows, conferences, etc., then advertising around these events can be an effective way to increase awareness for your brand. While traffic estimates can vary by event, competitor presence, etc., setting a budget range with the expectation that costs will steadily rise as the event draws closer is a solid start. Consider a strategy generating awareness (display/social) further out from the show and getting more targeted (paid search/remarketing) as time draws closer to the event.
As yearly expansion strategies are evaluated, keep in mind that budget forecasts—based on historical performance or projections—should be taken as estimates only. The digital marketing landscape is constantly changing with factors out of our control, including everything from search engine result page changes (think right-rail removal and numerous algorithmic updates within the last year!), competitors entering or leaving the space, and so on. With that, planning for the coming year provides a great opportunity to fine-tune your account by taking a critical look at both past performance and potential growth opportunities.