How do you know when it’s time to raise your PPC budget? Or when to lower it? Most people don’t have a crystal ball, so how do you make the decision?
The answer is simple: Excel.
Using its powerful functions, you can easily create budget projections and compare them against your actual spending. Plus, it’s easier to manage your PPC budget when all your data is in one place.
We’ve talked about PPC account structure and strategies before, but now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of budget management.
We’ll start by sharing some thoughts on our budget philosophy and best practices for PPC budgeting.
We’ll then give you a step-by-step guide to managing your PPC budget in Excel.
And lastly, we’ll provide some advice on how to use the data you gather to make better future decisions about your PPC budget.
Ready? Let’s get into it:
Out 4-Point Approach to PPC Budget Management
At the heart of any good PPC budget management strategy is a 4-step approach:
PPC Campaigns Are Only Eligible to Deliver a Finite Number of Impressions
That means if you’re not budgeting correctly, you may be leaving money on the table.
You need to calculate how many impressions each campaign is eligible for and then budget accordingly.
This will allow you to maximize your reach, ensuring that as many people see your ads as possible.
Spreading Your Budget Evenly will Result in Better Cost-efficiency than Increasing your Spending During a Short, Concentrated Period
It’s tempting to throw all your money into a short period, but that often backfires. By spreading your budget over a more extended period, you get the chance to adjust and optimize as you go along.
Unless your budget is constrained, it’s always better to spread it over a more extended period. That means you’ll have to enable less effective or non-profitable campaigns that can optimize over time.
Think about how conversion-focused automation works and how it takes most campaigns several weeks to reach their full potential.
We know it’s tempting to prioritize your ad delivery towards users who are more likely to convert, but it’s usually counter-productive.
By spreading your budget, you’ll get the chance to test different ad types and audiences, increasing your efficiency.
Plan Your PPC Strategy Before Launching Any New Campaigns
It’s always better to plan ahead when it comes to PPC. That way, you’ll know exactly how much budget you need and how to allocate your funds effectively. You also won’t find yourself in a situation where you’re likely to overspend due to mismanagement.
One approach you can use is straight-line budgeting. The method allows you to spread your budget evenly throughout the entire period, ensuring consistent performance and cost efficiency.
For example, if you want to spend $1,000 over two months, you should divide that budget between the two months evenly.
Monitor Your Pacing Tracker Closely, Daily, Even If It’s for a Few Minutes
Finally, you need to monitor your pacing tracker closely. Mistakes happen. Budgets get miscalculated. Campaigns run out of budget too quickly. But the only way to catch any issues is by monitoring your pacing tracker daily, if not more often.
It may only take a few minutes each day, but it can save you from disaster in the long run.
Plus, it’ll help you detect areas where you can improve your budget allocation or adjust it to suit better-changing market conditions.
And with that, you have our four-point approach to PPC budget management in Excel. Now let’s look at the step-by-step guide.
Step-By-Step Guide to Managing Your PPC Budget In Excel
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for managing your PPC budget in Excel. Every business is different, and you may need to customize your approach depending on your needs.
Take the ideas we present here as a starting point and adjust them to your situation.
Think of these ideas as a framework that you can use to create the perfect budget management strategy for your business.
Our advice is to tackle one step at a time. Next to each step, I’ll estimate how long it should take you to complete it.
Step #1: Raw Platform Data (30 to 60 Minutes)
A key part of managing your PPC budget in Excel is getting the raw data from your platform(s). It includes all sorts of metrics like impressions, clicks, cost per click, etc.
The idea is to keep it simple yet granular. That should help you understand your performance and determine what works best for your budget.
You can design a simple dataset with three columns — Date, Campaign, and Spend.
You want to associate each campaign with a budget and a date. That will make it easier to allocate the budget over time and track its spending.
Once your dataset is ready, you can start importing data from your platform(s) into Excel. Most platforms allow for easy exporting of data, so this shouldn’t take too long.
The most interesting conversation isn’t about the data you’re importing but how the data gets there.
You have many options for bringing the data into Excel: Scheduling Reports, Web Links, and Query Connections.
Scheduling Reports: Most PPC platforms have a report scheduling feature. You can set the parameters, and the platform will automatically send you the reports at scheduled times.
This is a great place to start if you’re new to pacing automation.
The idea is to set the platform so you’ll always have the previous day’s data in your inbox. Then you can quickly insert the data into Excel and look at how it compares to past performance.
Web Links: Some platforms, such as Search Ads 360, allow you to create web links for your reports. That way, you can directly pull the reports into your Excel workbook.
That eliminates the need for manual data entry and saves you time.
Query Connections: If you need real-time performance data, query connections are your best bet.
They allow you to connect directly to the platform’s database, which means that your data is always up-to-date.
You can update and refresh your data in real time, so no more waiting for scheduled reports.
Once you’ve decided on your data source, it’s time to move on to the next step.
Side Note: It doesn’t matter how you add data to your excel spreadsheet, but it is crucial to ensure the data is comprehensive and accurate. Adding the extra data can help you create a more detailed picture of your PPC budget.
The time saved using a more automatic data collection method, such as Scheduling Reports or Web Links, will be well worth it in the long run.
The difference is in how you eliminate the potential for human error in the data entry process.
After collecting the data in your workbook, the only manipulation you’ll need is to create a join. Next, use the unique identifier you’ll reference to VLOOKUP your data into a detailed budget tracker.
That said, here are the considerations to keep in mind while creating a join:
- Your Date Column Should be Part of the Data You Concatenate: You’ll want to join the date column with other columns (e.g., campaign name, spend). That way, you can clearly see how long each campaign has been running and its total spending over time.
- The Nomenclature You Use for Your Budget Names Must be Consistent: You don’t want to have different versions of the same campaign name. That will lead to confusion and make it harder to track performance.
Here’s an example of how this concatenate could look like:
Step #2: Create a Detailed Budget Tracker (1 to 2 Hours)
These tabs are the core of your Excel budget management system. They marry together your spending plan with actual performance data.
You want one detailed budget tracker for every budget you’re tracking.
It might sound redundant, but once you’ve built the formula, you can duplicate it and apply it to other budgets.
The key is to create a simple, intuitive system that makes it easy to track and compare performance data over time.
Here’s a snapshot of a detailed budget tracker and an overview of how to automate the whole process in Excel:
The budget tracker should include columns for Summary Table, Spend Plan, Daily Spend
Plan, Actual Spend, and Calculations.
The summary table is a great place to start.
It provides an overview of your total budget and how much you’ve spent to date.
Each budget is only hardcoded in one cell, and all other calculations are based on this number.
That makes the Summary Table incredibly easy to update and maintain.
You can do the hard coding on “executive summary” and set the remaining budget as calculations, so they update dynamically.
The Spend plan is a critical element that needs to be customized based on your business needs, budget duration, and your understanding of consumer behaviour.
The idea is to lean on historical data as much as possible and leave room for flexibility if needed.
One small tip: Look at the numeral list next to the day of the week. That’s for the VLOOKUP calculations.
It enables you to use the weekday function to automate VLOOKUP references.
Daily Spend Plan
Here’s where you map out your daily spending.
Sounds daunting, right?
But with the right automation, it’s much easier than you think.
You can use the VLOOKUP function and some little bit of calculations to make this easy and dynamic.
Here’s an equation you can use:
Daily Spend = [Target Spend for Week] * [Target Percentage Spend by Day of the Week]
You want to write a VLOOKUP for each component referencing the details you compiled in the spend plan.
The result of the equation should give you an approximate daily spend.
The total spend column aggregates daily spend over time.
The easiest way to do this is to add [Today’s Target Spent] and [Yesterday’s Total Target Spent].
You can see that the total spent for each day is the sum of what was budgeted for that day and what has been spent to date.
This tab tracks actual performance data for each campaign.
It’s critical to accurately track this info, so you can compare it with your daily spend plan and adjust your budget accordingly.
This column consists of two columns, actual spend, and total actual spend.
The actual spend column should be populated with performance data from your PPC platform.
Total Actual Spend is the sum of all daily spends up to that point in time.
The calculations should be based on the Target and Actual Spends columns.
You can use a simple formula to calculate the variance between the two and compare it with your budget.
When calculating Delta, you want to use the Total Spend and Total Actual Spend columns.
The equation is simple: Delta = (Total Target Spent – Total Actual Spent)/Total Target Spent *100
You can use this equation to track performance over time, and easily spot patterns and anomalies.
It’s also an excellent way to gauge how effective your budget management system is performing.
Step #3: The Delta Graph
We’re doing all this to create a simple view of how your campaigns are pacing against your budget.
We’ll do this in a graph, so you can easily spot trends over time.
In a perfect world, your budget will have a 0% deviation from your plan, meaning you never over or under-spent.
But in reality, it’s almost impossible to stick to the budget numbers perfectly.
You can measure performance and make adjustments as needed by tracking the Delta column with a graph.
Creating a delta graph is the easiest part because you have already done all the hard work.
Simply select your delta column, click “Insert,” and choose the graph type you want to use.
Remember, 0% is the ideal target here.
The closer you are to 0%, the more your budget plans align with your spending.
If your audience isn’t data-centric, you can add some visuals and make the graph more visual-friendly.
Keep the vertical axis range set at -1 to 1. And as you approach the end of the month, you want to zoom in by adjusting it from -0.5 to 0.5.
Step #4: The Execution/Summary View (30 to 90 Minutes)
The last step is to create an execution/summary view.
This is the perfect time to review your hard work and better understand how the budgeting system works.
You can use this summary view to review how you’re pacing against your budget over time and adjust it where necessary.
We’re doing this step to get the big picture of how your budgeting system works.
To create this view, you’ll need all the pertinent data from each tab and compile them into one table.
This data also complements the delta graph with a bit more context and some key data points.