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Top 6 Essentials of a Successful Paid Media Strategy

Top 6 Essentials of a Successful Paid Media Strategy

Top 6 Essentials of a Successful Paid Media Strategy

A paid media strategy is like any recipe. You are free to customize the different ingredients to your liking, but forget one key ingredient and the whole result will suffer…

In this article, if you want to avoid failure, I’ll cover the six essential elements you need for a paid media strategy this year.

They include:  

  • View and reset baselines
  • Establish the first-party-first strategy
  • Master advanced tracking technology
  • Test more paid media channels
  • Be an automated housekeeper
  • Mastering Responsive Search Ads

Top 6 elements of a strong paid media strategy

If 2020 is the eternal beginning of “unprecedented times” and 2021 is the year of great change, it’s not clear what will happen in 2022. But based on marketing trends so far, here are the six elements we know you need.

  1. Review and rebase

Of course, the best practice is to regularly review benchmarks and set goals. But now is the time to go beyond the repetitive analysis we often do to monitor campaign performance and do it at a macro level.

As I mentioned above, 2020 seems to be the beginning of an endless stream of “unprecedented times” as most things haven’t fully returned to normal.

Most of us have found a “new normal” where, to use another cliché, advertisers have struggled, but buying trends for many businesses have shifted over the past few years.

With the addition of new variants, we may see another unique year, or we may see similar trends to previous years, whether in 2021 or the pre-COVID era.

The reality is that most of us don’t yet know what to expect, so we take advantage of the data we have and revisit it often.

This year, advertisers need to look for stronger, more established trends. This will be the year to revisit what we think we know versus what we’ve seen in 2020 and 2021 while adding external annotations to try and predict what to expect in the future.

How to do it

Conduct quarterly reviews. That doesn’t mean you can get away with weekly PPC reports. You should do the same. But at the end of each quarter, you should look at the broader trends that have occurred with your performance and identify anything that needs to be improved, leveraged, or eliminated in the coming quarter.  

Visualize your data. Tools like Google Data Studio can help you better understand your performance and be more actionable. Google Data Studio offers a selection of pre-made templates, you can find more information in our roundup of free Google Ads tools.

Use benchmarks. In addition to comparing against your benchmarks, check your performance against industry benchmarks to ensure you remain competitive.

  1. Establish a first-party priority strategy

The goal of eliminating third-party cookies across all browsers is clear, so big tracking and targeting changes are coming. So there is no doubt that the premium for first-party data is high.

How to do it

To collect more first-party data from your audience, follow these tips:  

Create lead magnets. Offer free guides, free tools, and free consultations on your website—anything of value, and your relevant visitors will fill out forms.

Run lead form ads. Try the Facebook Lead Ads or Google Lead Form extension. You can also customize your questions to gather the information you need.  

Develop a content strategy. Not only can useful content be repurposed for various lead magnets (guides, webinars, checklists, etc.), but being always the go-to resource for your audience builds trust, and the more trusted you are, the more information your audience members will be willing to engage with. You share yourself.

  1. Master advanced tracking technology

For similar reasons, you must also increase your investment in tracking technology — technology that gives you access to the data you need to drive your advertising strategy and report on its effectiveness, but also protects the privacy of your target prospects.

Facebook has announced that it will invest in a multi-year program focused on privacy-enhancing technologies (PET) in partnership with other organizations including the Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media (PRAM), the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA).

One such technology is private lift measurement, which it has been testing and plans to roll out to advertisers this year.

Facebook called on the industry to work together, noting that it only works if there is a set of shared standards. It has open-sourced its private computing framework to allow any developer to create privacy-focused measurement products.

I tend to agree with Facebook that having a shared set of standards would probably benefit most parties compared to the vast number of different tracking mechanisms and standards across different devices, browsers, and ad platforms.

The intersection with these three areas can quickly become confusing — not to mention geographically distinct legislation.

Of course, Facebook isn’t the only major company doing due diligence. We’ve also seen this in Google’s Topics API and Microsoft’s Parakeet.

I expect other companies to do their testing as well. It will be very interesting to see what is in store for us in this regard.

How to do it

Unless you’re a Facebook or Google developer, there’s not much you can do other than stay informed about what’s being built. However, you can get started with the tools we already provide.  

Implementing the Facebook Conversions API: The Facebook Pixel is waning. Get started with Facebook CAPI today to minimize gaps in your reports.  

Import your offline conversions: Google’s OCI Helper will walk you through the process of importing offline conversions into Google Ads so you can find similar, high-quality leads. Provide your information and it will put together a customized implementation plan with a progress dashboard and everything.

Set up Google Ads Enhanced Conversions: This is Google’s way of providing cross-device conversion tracking without the use of cookies. You can use Google Tag Manager or a site-wide tag, or set it manually via the API. Find out how it works in our coverage here.

  1. Test more paid media channels

Events in 2020 and 2021 have created instances where certain platforms underperformed or exceeded most benchmarks.

When these opportunities or issues arise, the advertisers who are prepared to take control of their situation are those that have proactively tested multiple channels.

On the other hand, a single-platform advertiser, or an advertiser who puts most of its eggs in one bucket, has a hard time staying agile. If the platform doesn’t perform as well as it used to, it’s hard to reinvest significantly elsewhere until you have a chance to test and collect data.

Likewise, if another platform is suddenly performing extremely well, it can be difficult for advertisers to take full advantage of it without knowing exactly which targeting options are performing well.

For example, as many advertisers shrink their budgets post-COVID 2020 while social usage increases, CPMs have dropped significantly for advertisers who stayed the course (how to fight rising CPMs).

For advertisers without a previous social presence, it can be difficult to determine whether they should switch budgets or stay with existing channels because they have no benchmarks.

Having a diverse media mix makes advertisers more nimble and harder to disrupt, even after major changes.

How to do it

Here’s how to create a powerful cross-channel marketing strategy.  

Always testing new marketing channels. You don’t have to invest heavily in them, but make sure you know how they work for your business, which products perform best on them, and what your benchmarks are, so if you need to rely on them, you won’t go without a fight countercurrent.

Use a combination of paid and organic strategies. Head over to our list of the 19 Best Marketing Strategies for 2022 and you should be covered.  

Don’t advertise the same offer on every channel. This is one of our cross-channel marketing mistakes. Find out which offers are performing best on which channel, and use that for your strategy.

  1. Be the steward of automation

Unlike tracking changes, there have been efforts to make advertisers more automated. The introduction of Performance Max, the continued push to automate bidding, and Google and Bing’s push to automatically apply account changes are evidence of this, and the platform will be updated automatically—unless advertisers are opt-out.

Not to mention the change in Google’s partner standards, which requires major partners to achieve at least a 70% optimization score, a well-meaning but mostly meaningless score that measures whether you’ve blindly implemented Google (often self-service) is recommended. Originally scheduled for 2020, this change was delayed during COVID and is now officially slated for 2022.

How to do it  

Test. I’ve seen success using automated bid strategies and Performance Max campaigns in the right situation and at the right time. You have to test them and give them time because they don’t always work right from the start.

    Be the steward of automation. Sometimes automation feels like a power struggle. Also, the lack of visibility makes it hard to believe that something is working optimally.

But in many cases, it can be helpful. Find things that automation can do well and use it there to free up time for things you need to manage manually.  

Educate yourself. Of course, if you’re new to Google Ads automation, check it out! You can learn about the pros and cons of each automated bidding strategy on Google here.

    Try artificial intelligence. Automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence go hand in hand. Check out these practical examples of AI in marketing to see where you can start.  

Becoming an automated steward still takes less time than a fully manual implementation and can lead to better results in many cases. It’s not man (or woman) and machine, it’s man and machine!

  1. Mastering Responsive Search Advertising (RSA)

Last but not least, the Google Ads section of your paid media strategy needs to include RSA. While advertisers can continue to use existing expanded text ads (ETAs), including pausing and reactivating existing ETAs, new ETAs cannot be created after June 2022.

Many advertisers noticed that Google was prioritizing RSA over ETA in the 2021 auction, so most weren’t surprised when Google announced that RSA would be the only option for new ads going forward.

It also goes hand-in-hand with the 2021 trend towards more automation (especially at Google). Some advertisers noted that they found RSA to perform poorly, so it’s no surprise that some advertisers have delayed going into RSA entirely.

At this point, though, a transition is inevitable, so it’s beneficial for advertisers to focus on creating and improving RSAs to ensure they’re getting the most out of it.

How to do it:

Of course, start creating RSA! Use our Responsive Search Ads guidelines and follow these tips: 

Benchmark RSA now: RSA tends to have higher CTR than ETA, but conversion performance varies. Activate RSA in each ad group now so you can have a clear expectation of performance beyond 6 months.  

Diversify your copy: Each title and description should be different so Google can mix and match. At least two titles should contain keywords and at least three should not contain keywords.

   Don’t give up on ETA! Your existing ETA will still work after June 30, 2022, you just won’t be able to edit it. So test and create an ETA now, and you can pause or unpause in the future.

Future-Proof Paid Media Strategies

If you’ve been following these paid media trends for the past year or two, these trends should come as no surprise. Then again, surprises themselves seem to be a trend, so stay alert!

Finally, let’s review the six essential elements of a successful paid media strategy:  

  • View and reset baselines
  • Establish the first-party-first strategy
  • Master advanced tracking technology
  • Test more paid media channels.
  • Be an automated housekeeper
  • Mastering Responsive Search Ads