How to create a paid search media projection
Projections are important because paid search advertising is full of performance reporting after ads run.
The projection is your chance to pause for a moment before launching a new campaign to set goals and expectations based on what you predict will happen.
Traditional media relies on projection reports and at times it can be tempting in the digital world to jump right into a paid search network and start running ads.
Without taking advantage of the market data, business data, and research tools available, the opportunity to predict performance is lost.
I have recently had the opportunity to share this information with clients, search marketing peers, and feel strongly in the impact that can be had by investing some time on the front end of new campaigns and paid search initiatives to define what success looks like and evaluate paid search alongside other digital marketing strategies and tactics.
The end result projection report resulting from initial projection work can be as simple as a single-page document that provides expected campaign performance, specific inputs and outputs, an overview of how and why it was devised, and ties into high-level business goals.
Let’s avoid the awkward moment when we jump into a client or company campaign, get a few months in, and think it is doing well based on our SEM metrics only to then find out that the campaign isn’t profitable when measured by higher level business metrics.
The steps to create a useful projection report include:
- Initial audience research.
- Collect known inputs.
- Research industry inputs.
- Analyze and develop the projection.
1. Initial Audience Research
Using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Display Planner and your favorite third-party research tools, get started by doing some keyword and audience research.
Uncover the keyword terms or display attributes that are necessary to reach your target audience.
From there you can group the terms or targeting options into topics, and capture search volume (impressions) and suggested bid data. These are important inputs you’ll use moving forward in the process.
Document topic/placement groups, impression data, and suggested bid data (or estimated cost per click) to carry through in the process.
2. Collect Known Inputs
Next, you can go to your own business data including Google Analytics, AdWords, and other sources where you have historical and current performance measures.
The goal of this step is to review inputs that are necessary for the projection including click-through rate, cost per click data, conversion rate, and conversion value.
It is OK to not have all of these or to determine that you don’t want to use all of them if you don’t think that other traffic channels should be assumed to perform the same as paid search.
3. Research Industry Inputs
For any inputs not available or not desired for use from known company information, supplementation with industry data will be necessary.
The Google Analytics benchmarks report can be helpful as well as WordStream’s industry benchmarks information, your favorite competition “spy” tools, or other third-party research resources.
The goal of this step is to fill in any gaps you have in click-through rate, cost per click, and conversion rate.
4. Analyze & Develop the Projection
Now it is time to put all of the inputs together and produce outputs from them.
- Suggested Bid
- Cost Per Click
- Click-through Rate
- Conversion Rate
- Conversion Value
- Impression Share*
- Budget (or Cost)
- Total Conversion Value
*Impression share isn’t a true output but is something that needs to be considered, as you won’t want to assume that you can buy all possible impressions. Factor this into your data with a margin of error.
With these inputs and outputs, you can play with the numbers by plugging in possible budgets and doing the math on how many clicks, conversions, and revenue you’ll generate.
This work can be done in a spreadsheet or by hand as you work to find the right combination of ad groups, topics, placements, and targeting to match with budget levels to ensure you’re going to spend enough to drive to conversions.
When you feel like the numbers are in line with what you expect, you can package the information up in a report to present to stakeholders to ensure that projected performance is in line with expectations and requirements.
A useful report will include background information sharing the “what” and “why” of the projection process.
It will also show your work with your inputs and outputs so it is clear what your conclusions are as to what a specific ad budget will yield in performance.
The key to making the report useful for stakeholders who are not as well versed in SEM metrics is to call out the expected business metrics as the end result in leads, sales, or other broader values that the campaign is expected to drive.
Having a solid projection report before you spend a dime can help reinforce expectations of performance from paid search.
This can also force conversations about what it can and can’t do for the bottom line of the business before hundreds or thousands of dollars are spent in media.
Additionally, you can use the projection report as a sales tool or factor into a larger marketing strategy and planning process.
Keep in mind that this is a projection and not a promise. Paid search performance will never exactly hit on the numbers projected.
However, the more practice you have and sophistication you build into the process, the closer you’ll land over time. Regardless, projection reports are powerful tools to help ensure success and goal alignment for all stakeholders on the front-end of a paid search engagement.
Ultimately, this isn’t rocket science and we aren’t talking about advanced statistics. Our limitations in the projection process are tracking down data and getting to a comfort level with it.
by Corey Morris