Excel Tips for PPC Ad Campaigns

If you use the AdWords interface to set up your pay-per-click marketing campaigns, you know that it accomplishes certain tasks quite well, but is somewhat less than helpful with others. Fortunately, Microsoft Excel lets you use certain tricks to get your PPC campaigns on track and properly optimized.

Let me give credit where it's due: John Lynch, writing for Search Engine Watch described these and other Excel-based techniques for streamlining an AdWords campaign. You may want to read his article as well, especially if you run a lot of PPC campaigns to promote your website. I admit that I don't exactly have a great deal of experience in this area, but even I can see how much time a marketer can save using these methods.

Okay, let's look at building those PPC ads first. Excel works well for that, except for one issue. Search ads must meet character limits for headlines, descriptions, and display URLs. You can't tell just by looking at an Excel cell whether you're under or over the character limit. Fortunately, you can make Excel tell you how many characters you're dealing with before you try to load your ads.

When you build your Excel spreadsheet for ads, you'll include a column for the various different headlines you hope to utilize. Insert a column directly adjacent to your headline column (in Lynch's image, this column is right next to the one that contains the headlines). Now take advantage of the length function in Excel to give you a count of the number of characters in each headline. As Lynch explains, “If your headline is in cell c2, simply enter the function =len(C2) in the adjacent row.”

That give you your character count, but you still need to make it eye-catching. Looking at numbers helps, but it's too easy to miss a number that's too big or too small. Wouldn't it be great to get some bright color in there to tell you when you're on target or over the limit?

Fortunately, that trick isn't difficult either. To accomplish it, you'll need to use Excel's conditional formatting. For the first condition, tell Excel to highlight the cell in red if the character count is greater than 25. Use a second condition to highlight the cell in green if it's less than or equal to 25. What you'll see are red and green cells next to each headline, and each one will contain a white number. This way, you'll not only know that you're over or under 25 characters in each headline you're thinking of using, but you'll know by exactly how much. And you'll be able to take it in with a single glance.

Ads aren't made up of just headlines, of course; typically, you get two lines of description. That's okay. Build columns for description lines one and two, and add that extra column for counting next to each one. This time, of course, the search engines generously give you more characters to play with, so increase your count to 35. Like magic, you'll never have to worry about problems submitting and loading your ads into the AdWords or adCenter platforms because you've exceeded character limits.

Are you having a problem coming up with headlines? Excel functions come to the rescue once again. This time, we're going to use concatenate. As Lynch explains, the function simply lets you combine two or more cells of data. So start with the column for your ad group label. Create a new column and fill its cells with positive adjectives: time-saving, powerful, versatile, best, etc. Now, in a headline cell, use the concatenate formula to combine an ad group field with an adjective field to create your headline. You can even use this technique with the character limit field.

The concatenate function itself is actually not difficult to form: =CONCATENATE(first cell,” “,second cell). So if you wanted to join the name of an ad group in cell C5 with the name of an adjective in cell E5, the function you'd put into the headline cell is =CONCATENATE(C5,” “,E5) and then await the result. If you just wanted to put the cells together as if they were one word, you could simply type =CONCATENATE(C5, E5) but you want them to be separate words and phrases. That's why this form of the function includes the quotation marks and a space.

There are more tricks you can employ with Excel to speed up ad creation, but these should get you off to a good start marketing your website. Good luck!


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