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A Checklist For Essential Year-Round Tasks

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A Checklist For Essential Year-Round Tasks

SEO is a big discipline. Without structure and planning, a lot of time and dollars can be wasted or used inefficiently.

A lot of SEO activities are started and never completed.

Couple that with the fact that SEO is never “done,” and it can be hard to start, finish, and stay on track with prioritized strategic and tactical elements that have a chance to make a real impact.

By breaking SEO down into daily, monthly, quarterly, and annual milestones and process-driven tactics, you can build the right level of planning to keep it on track and efficient.

These activities should be tied to goals and a larger strategy, but offer a great framework for how to make sure SEO is well planned and structured on an annual basis.

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Daily

Educate Yourself

Staying up to date on industry news is a critical aspect of SEO that must be built into any maintenance or ongoing management plan.

This ranges from the mission-critical alerts and updates the search engines announce themselves to keeping tabs on SEO best practices and breaking news from sources like Search Engine Journal.

Big shifts in the industry are hard to miss.

But smaller, more subtle changes can become magnified when you miss them or best practices become outdated.

Don’t fall behind or deploy outdated tactics!

Know Your Current Metrics

Monitoring your key SEO performance metrics in real-time, or at least once per day, is especially necessary for brands and companies that rely on ecommerce transactions or lead volume to feed a sales team.

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Knowing how your website is performing in search through top-level metrics is important for recognizing any red flags. These could include:

  • A specific or aggregate positioning drop.
  • An organic traffic drop.
  • A decrease in sales or lead volume.

Being able to recognize problems as soon as they happen is key.

You need to be able to diagnose issues and reverse any negative trends before they impact your overall marketing and business goals.

By keeping tabs on actual performance, you can compare to benchmarks and baselines to make sure that you fully understand cause and effect with your metrics and not have an issue happen for too long before you can intervene.

You can monitor less critical KPIs (any that don’t necessitate an immediate reaction) on a weekly basis.

Make Progress On Tactics

A solid SEO plan or campaign must have goals, a strategy, and specific tactics outlined.

Without a plan, process, or defined approach, you can waste a lot of time chasing specific SEO aspects that might be low impact and low priority.

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The daily process should include specific tasks, milestones, and achievable actions that work toward the bigger picture.

The tactics can include things being done for the first time in a phased approach or action items that are more in a rinse and repeat methodology.

Regardless, the list of specific technical, on-page, and off-page action items should be defined for the year, broken out into months, and further into tactics and progress that can be made on a daily basis to stay on track.

SEO requires both big picture thinking and the ability to tackle daily tasks and action items.

Monthly

Report On Performance

Beyond the daily or weekly KPI monitoring, it’s often important to use monthly cycles to more broadly report on performance.

The focus of monthly checkpoints allows for dedicated time to compare a larger sample size of data and see trends.

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Monthly performance reporting should include year-over-year comparisons of the completed month plus any available year-to-date stats.

Find meaningful intervals to measure and be consistent. Looking at bigger ranges of time helps to see trends that are hard to decipher in small sample sizes.

Any stories of the what and why for deviations in goal, celebrations for exceeding goals, and metrics that warrant possible changes to the plan are critical to the surface and prioritize through a dashboard or snapshot report of the performance data.

Recap Completed & Continuing Action Items

This is a chance to evaluate the tactics and execution in the previous month against the plan.

  • Was everything completed?
  • Were there deviations?
  • What obstacles or roadblocks were in the way or overcome?

Looking at the past helps shape the future.

When you combine the action items and tactics with the performance data, you should get an overall picture of the reality of what is driving SEO performance.

Plan Next Month’s Action Items & Evaluate The Plan

Monthly intervals are great for ensuring accountability for the completion of tasks.

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Even when the year is planned out, things change in SEO, and performance isn’t always what we expect after doing something the first time.

Taking a monthly planning approach, adjustments can be made to the plan like doubling down on a specific tactic or adjusting the overall strategy to recalibrate.

By being agile enough to monthly evaluate performance and tactics, you can avoid overthinking things and reacting too swiftly, but also not let too much time pass and lose footing with trends toward goals.

Having a good balance of planned tactics and actions versus the need for agile methods to pivot when needed is often the best approach to stay current and proactive.

Quarterly

Technical Issues Auditing

Assuming you have covered technical issues at the beginning of your SEO focus and are also watching for any that trigger red flags in daily and weekly monitoring, it is important to take a broader look through an audit each quarter.

This audit should include a review of reported issues in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

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Plus, comparison to benchmarks and standards for site speed, mobile usability, validation of structured data, and the aspects that aren’t often looked at on a more frequent basis.

On-Page Issues Auditing

Without an audit process and even with frequent monitoring, things happen on websites.

A code update, database update, a plugin/extension update, or publishing content can cause duplicate tags, duplicate content, or even missing on-page elements.

A quarterly audit of on-page issues that can be conducted using a wide range of free and subscription third-party tools is important.

There are tools that will even send alerts and factor into the daily process if something changes like a meta description being wiped out.

Regardless, having a solid tools stack and process for quarterly evaluation and comparison to the previous audit is important to ensure that the results of the audit and any fixes needed are noted and make it into the tactical plan.

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Link Profile Auditing

The SEO plan overall likely includes some form of link building.

Whether that is through attracting links with engaging content or a more focused plan of research and outreach, it is likely a part of the ongoing tactics (or should be considered, if it isn’t).

The investment of time and effort into the tactics makes it important to have visibility of the overall link profile and progress.

This might be a performance metric tracked in the monthly reporting phase, but quarterly should be audited in a deeper sense.

Evaluating the quality of links, the number of links, diversity of sources, relevancy of linked content, comparisons to competitors, comparisons to benchmarks, and period-over-period comparisons are all important aspects to ensure that the plan is performing as intended in the area of backlinks.

Plus, if not caught through daily or monthly efforts, any spammy links or negative SEO attempts can be caught here and addressed through the disavow process.

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Local Listings Audit

Once local listings management is in maintenance mode, there won’t be a frequent need for major changes with NAP (name, address, phone) data or inconsistencies in listing data.

However, that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen and that it can be “set it and forget it.”

An audit using third-party tools to ensure accuracy and consistency of data is strongly advised at least quarterly.

This audit can identify issues that can be addressed on a one-off basis as well as provide guidance on performance and any needed changes to the content, reviews, and other aspects of the listings themselves beyond the basic NAP data.

If any third-party data sources or listings were missed, Google Business Profile data can be overwritten with inaccurate listing info.

Even if nothing changes with your management of listings, data can change and needs to be monitored at a minimum.

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Yearly

Measure Performance

When running annual plans for SEO – and even when not on annual agreements or evaluation cycles – taking an entire year of data and evaluating it is helpful to advise strategy and find measurable ROI calculations.

SEO is a long-term process to achieve the most competitive positioning possible in search engines. It is a valuable investment of time to look at performance data over 12-month spans, compare it to previous periods, look at benchmarks, and celebrate successes.

Even if you don’t have annual budgets or agreements with outside partners/providers, taking an annual step back and looking at performance and the effort like an investment rather than an expense is important.

Planning Strategy & Tactics

In addition to reviewing yearly performance data, you should also be planning out your goals, strategy, and tactics for the next year.

Even though the plan could change a week into maintenance, having a plan, and setting a target is a key to measuring progress.

Without a plan and using past learnings and a realistic view of the resources being invested in the coming year, there can be a gap between expectations and reality.

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It is best to sort this out before getting months down the road.

Conclusion

We all have goals and specific outcomes we want to achieve from our SEO investments and efforts.

Rather than reacting and getting pulled into things that scream the loudest, having a structure and organization to how the work is done can keep your time and investment focused.

Whether it is technical factors, on-page, content, or backlinks, by having a set cadence and structure in your approach you can balance both planned activities and maintain the agility needed to react at the moment.

And make sure that progress is made and priorities for SEO work don’t get out of balance.

More Resources:

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Reddit Post Ranks On Google In 5 Minutes

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Google apparently ranks Reddit posts within minutes

Google’s Danny Sullivan disputed the assertions made in a Reddit discussion that Google is showing a preference for Reddit in the search results. But a Redditor’s example proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten of the search results within minutes and to actually improve rankings to position #2 a week later.

Discussion About Google Showing Preference To Reddit

A Redditor (gronetwork) complained that Google is sending so many visitors to Reddit that the server is struggling with the load and shared an example that proved that it can only take minutes for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten.

That post was part of a 79 post Reddit thread where many in the r/SEO subreddit were complaining about Google allegedly giving too much preference to Reddit over legit sites.

The person who did the test (gronetwork) wrote:

“…The website is already cracking (server down, double posts, comments not showing) because there are too many visitors.

…It only takes few minutes (you can test it) for a post on Reddit to appear in the top ten results of Google with keywords related to the post’s title… (while I have to wait months for an article on my site to be referenced). Do the math, the whole world is going to spam here. The loop is completed.”

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Reddit Post Ranked Within Minutes

Another Redditor asked if they had tested if it takes “a few minutes” to rank in the top ten and gronetwork answered that they had tested it with a post titled, Google SGE Review.

gronetwork posted:

“Yes, I have created for example a post named “Google SGE Review” previously. After less than 5 minutes it was ranked 8th for Google SGE Review (no quotes). Just after Washingtonpost.com, 6 authoritative SEO websites and Google.com’s overview page for SGE (Search Generative Experience). It is ranked third for SGE Review.”

It’s true, not only does that specific post (Google SGE Review) rank in the top 10, the post started out in position 8 and it actually improved ranking, currently listed beneath the number one result for the search query “SGE Review”.

Screenshot Of Reddit Post That Ranked Within Minutes

Anecdotes Versus Anecdotes

Okay, the above is just one anecdote. But it’s a heck of an anecdote because it proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank within minutes and get stuck in the top of the search results over other possibly more authoritative websites.

hankschrader79 shared that Reddit posts outrank Toyota Tacoma forums for a phrase related to mods for that truck.

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Google’s Danny Sullivan responded to that post and the entire discussion to dispute that Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums.

Danny wrote:

“Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums. [super vhs to mac adapter] I did this week, it goes Apple Support Community, MacRumors Forum and further down, there’s Reddit. I also did [kumo cloud not working setup 5ghz] recently (it’s a nightmare) and it was the Netgear community, the SmartThings Community, GreenBuildingAdvisor before Reddit. Related to that was [disable 5g airport] which has Apple Support Community above Reddit. [how to open an 8 track tape] — really, it was the YouTube videos that helped me most, but it’s the Tapeheads community that comes before Reddit.

In your example for [toyota tacoma], I don’t even get Reddit in the top results. I get Toyota, Car & Driver, Wikipedia, Toyota again, three YouTube videos from different creators (not Toyota), Edmunds, a Top Stories unit. No Reddit, which doesn’t really support the notion of always wanting to drive traffic just to Reddit.

If I guess at the more specific query you might have done, maybe [overland mods for toyota tacoma], I get a YouTube video first, then Reddit, then Tacoma World at third — not near the bottom. So yes, Reddit is higher for that query — but it’s not first. It’s also not always first. And sometimes, it’s not even showing at all.”

hankschrader79 conceded that they were generalizing when they wrote that Google always prioritized Reddit. But they also insisted that that didn’t diminish what they said is a fact that Google’s “prioritization” forum content has benefitted Reddit more than actual forums.

Why Is The Reddit Post Ranked So High?

It’s possible that Google “tested” that Reddit post in position 8 within minutes and that user interaction signals indicated to Google’s algorithms that users prefer to see that Reddit post. If that’s the case then it’s not a matter of Google showing preference to Reddit post but rather it’s users that are showing the preference and the algorithm is responding to those preferences.

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Nevertheless, an argument can be made that user preferences for Reddit can be a manifestation of Familiarity Bias. Familiarity Bias is when people show a preference for things that are familiar to them. If a person is familiar with a brand because of all the advertising they were exposed to then they may show a bias for the brand products over unfamiliar brands.

Users who are familiar with Reddit may choose Reddit because they don’t know the other sites in the search results or because they have a bias that Google ranks spammy and optimized websites and feel safer reading Reddit.

Google may be picking up on those user interaction signals that indicate a preference and satisfaction with the Reddit results but those results may simply be biases and not an indication that Reddit is trustworthy and authoritative.

Is Reddit Benefiting From A Self-Reinforcing Feedback Loop?

It may very well be that Google’s decision to prioritize user generated content may have started a self-reinforcing pattern that draws users in to Reddit through the search results and because the answers seem plausible those users start to prefer Reddit results. When they’re exposed to more Reddit posts their familiarity bias kicks in and they start to show a preference for Reddit. So what could be happening is that the users and Google’s algorithm are creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

Is it possible that Google’s decision to show more user generated content has kicked off a cycle where more users are exposed to Reddit which then feeds back into Google’s algorithm which in turn increases Reddit visibility, regardless of lack of expertise and authoritativeness?

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Kues

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WordPress Releases A Performance Plugin For “Near-Instant Load Times”

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WordPress speculative loading plugin

WordPress released an official plugin that adds support for a cutting edge technology called speculative loading that can help boost site performance and improve the user experience for site visitors.

Speculative Loading

Rendering means constructing the entire webpage so that it instantly displays (rendering). When your browser downloads the HTML, images, and other resources and puts it together into a webpage, that’s rendering. Prerendering is putting that webpage together (rendering it) in the background.

What this plugin does is to enable the browser to prerender the entire webpage that a user might navigate to next. The plugin does that by anticipating which webpage the user might navigate to based on where they are hovering.

Chrome lists a preference for only prerendering when there is an at least 80% probability of a user navigating to another webpage. The official Chrome support page for prerendering explains:

“Pages should only be prerendered when there is a high probability the page will be loaded by the user. This is why the Chrome address bar prerendering options only happen when there is such a high probability (greater than 80% of the time).

There is also a caveat in that same developer page that prerendering may not happen based on user settings, memory usage and other scenarios (more details below about how analytics handles prerendering).

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The Speculative Loading API solves a problem that previous solutions could not because in the past they were simply prefetching resources like JavaScript and CSS but not actually prerendering the entire webpage.

The official WordPress announcement explains it like this:

Introducing the Speculation Rules API
The Speculation Rules API is a new web API that solves the above problems. It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation. This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them.”

The official WordPress page about this new functionality describes it:

“The Speculation Rules API is a new web API… It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation.

This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them. Also, with the Speculation Rules API, “prerender” actually means to prerender the entire page, including running JavaScript. This can lead to near-instant load times once the user clicks on the link as the page would have most likely already been loaded in its entirety. However that is only one of the possible configurations.”

The new WordPress plugin adds support for the Speculation Rules API. The Mozilla developer pages, a great resource for HTML technical understanding describes it like this:

“The Speculation Rules API is designed to improve performance for future navigations. It targets document URLs rather than specific resource files, and so makes sense for multi-page applications (MPAs) rather than single-page applications (SPAs).

The Speculation Rules API provides an alternative to the widely-available <link rel=”prefetch”> feature and is designed to supersede the Chrome-only deprecated <link rel=”prerender”> feature. It provides many improvements over these technologies, along with a more expressive, configurable syntax for specifying which documents should be prefetched or prerendered.”

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See also: Are Websites Getting Faster? New Data Reveals Mixed Results

Performance Lab Plugin

The new plugin was developed by the official WordPress performance team which occasionally rolls out new plugins for users to test ahead of possible inclusion into the actual WordPress core. So it’s a good opportunity to be first to try out new performance technologies.

The new WordPress plugin is by default set to prerender “WordPress frontend URLs” which are pages, posts, and archive pages. How it works can be fine-tuned under the settings:

Settings > Reading > Speculative Loading

Browser Compatibility

The Speculative API is supported by Chrome 108 however the specific rules used by the new plugin require Chrome 121 or higher. Chrome 121 was released in early 2024.

Browsers that do not support will simply ignore the plugin and will have no effect on the user experience.

Check out the new Speculative Loading WordPress plugin developed by the official core WordPress performance team.

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How Analytics Handles Prerendering

A WordPress developer commented with a question asking how Analytics would handle prerendering and someone else answered that it’s up to the Analytics provider to detect a prerender and not count it as a page load or site visit.

Fortunately both Google Analytics and Google Publisher Tags (GPT) both are able to handle prerenders. The Chrome developers support page has a note about how analytics handles prerendering:

“Google Analytics handles prerender by delaying until activation by default as of September 2023, and Google Publisher Tag (GPT) made a similar change to delay triggering advertisements until activation as of November 2023.”

Possible Conflict With Ad Blocker Extensions

There are a couple things to be aware of about this plugin, aside from the fact that it’s an experimental feature that requires Chrome 121 or higher.

A comment by a WordPress plugin developer that this feature may not work with browsers that are using the uBlock Origin ad blocking browser extension.

Download the plugin:
Speculative Loading Plugin by the WordPress Performance Team

Read the announcement at WordPress
Speculative Loading in WordPress

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See also: WordPress, Wix & Squarespace Show Best CWV Rate Of Improvement

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Whether you are new to paid media or reevaluating your efforts, it’s critical to review your performance and best practices for your overall PPC marketing program, accounts, and campaigns.

Revisiting your paid media plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with your current goals.

Reviewing best practices for pay-per-click is also a great way to keep up with trends and improve performance with newly released ad technologies.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

Here are 10 PPC best practices to help you adjust and plan for the months ahead.

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1. Goals

When planning, it is best practice to define goals for the overall marketing program, ad platforms, and at the campaign level.

Defining primary and secondary goals guides the entire PPC program. For example, your primary conversion may be to generate leads from your ads.

You’ll also want to look at secondary goals, such as brand awareness that is higher in the sales funnel and can drive interest to ultimately get the sales lead-in.

2. Budget Review & Optimization

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their paid media budgets.

To best utilize budgets, consider the following:

  • Reconcile your planned vs. spend for each account or campaign on a regular basis. Depending on the budget size, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually will work as long as you can hit budget numbers.
  • Determine if there are any campaigns that should be eliminated at this time to free up the budget for other campaigns.
  • Is there additional traffic available to capture and grow results for successful campaigns? The ad platforms often include a tool that will provide an estimated daily budget with clicks and costs. This is just an estimate to show more click potential if you are interested.
  • If other paid media channels perform mediocrely, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search and paid social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

3. Consider New Ad Platforms

If you can shift or increase your budgets, why not test out a new ad platform? Knowing your audience and where they spend time online will help inform your decision when choosing ad platforms.

Go beyond your comfort zone in Google, Microsoft, and Meta Ads.

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Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • TikTok: Younger Gen Z audience (16 to 24), video.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, and consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information and even more ideas? Read more about the 5 Best Google Ads Alternatives.

4. Top Topics in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Recently, trends in search and social ad platforms have presented opportunities to connect with prospects more precisely, creatively, and effectively.

Don’t overlook newer targeting and campaign types you may not have tried yet.

  • Video: Incorporating video into your PPC accounts takes some planning for the goals, ad creative, targeting, and ad types. There is a lot of opportunity here as you can simply include video in responsive display ads or get in-depth in YouTube targeting.
  • Performance Max: This automated campaign type serves across all of Google’s ad inventory. Microsoft Ads recently released PMAX so you can plan for consistency in campaign types across platforms. Do you want to allocate budget to PMax campaigns? Learn more about how PMax compares to search.
  • Automation: While AI can’t replace human strategy and creativity, it can help manage your campaigns more easily. During planning, identify which elements you want to automate, such as automatically created assets and/or how to successfully guide the AI in the Performance Max campaigns.

While exploring new features, check out some hidden PPC features you probably don’t know about.

5. Revisit Keywords

The role of keywords has evolved over the past several years with match types being less precise and loosening up to consider searcher intent.

For example, [exact match] keywords previously would literally match with the exact keyword search query. Now, ads can be triggered by search queries with the same meaning or intent.

A great planning exercise is to lay out keyword groups and evaluate if they are still accurately representing your brand and product/service.

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Review search term queries triggering ads to discover trends and behavior you may not have considered. It’s possible this has impacted performance and conversions over time.

Critical to your strategy:

  • Review the current keyword rules and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume.
  • Brush up on how keywords work in each platform because the differences really matter!
  • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

6. Revisit Your Audiences

Review the audiences you selected in the past, especially given so many campaign types that are intent-driven.

Automated features that expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for performance metrics and behavior on-site post-click.

Remember, an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are a few opportunities to explore and test:

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  • LinkedIn user targeting: Besides LinkedIn, this can be found exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors, interactions with ads, and video/ YouTube.

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Organize Data Sources

You will likely be running campaigns on different platforms with combinations of search, display, video, etc.

Looking back at your goals, what is the important data, and which platforms will you use to review and report? Can you get the majority of data in one analytics platform to compare and share?

Millions of companies use Google Analytics, which is a good option for centralized viewing of advertising performance, website behavior, and conversions.

8. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data to your reports.

There are two great resources to kick off this exercise:

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Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data? Is it still relevant?
  • Is the data we are viewing actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about?
  • How often do we need to see this data?
  • Do the stakeholders receiving the report understand what they are looking at (aka data visualization)?

Adding new data should be purposeful, actionable, and helpful in making decisions for the marketing plan. It’s also helpful to decide what type of data is good to see as “deep dives” as needed.

9. Consider Using Scripts

The current ad platforms have plenty of AI recommendations and automated rules, and there is no shortage of third-party tools that can help with optimizations.

Scripts is another method for advertisers with large accounts or some scripting skills to automate report generation and repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts.

Navigating the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal that provides use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science — there are plenty of resources online with free or templated scripts.

10. Seek Collaboration

Another effective planning tactic is to seek out friendly resources and second opinions.

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Much of the skill and science of PPC management is unique to the individual or agency, so there is no shortage of ideas to share between you.

You can visit the Paid Search Association, a resource for paid ad managers worldwide, to make new connections and find industry events.

Preparing For Paid Media Success

Strategies should be based on clear and measurable business goals. Then, you can evaluate the current status of your campaigns based on those new targets.

Your paid media strategy should also be built with an eye for both past performance and future opportunities. Look backward and reevaluate your existing assumptions and systems while investigating new platforms, topics, audiences, and technologies.

Also, stay current with trends and keep learning. Check out ebooks, social media experts, and industry publications for resources and motivational tips.

More resources: 

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Featured Image: Vanatchanan/Shutterstock

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