Stop Paying Top Dollar, and Make the Most Value of your PPC Budget

Is your AdWords campaign underperforming? Here’s how you can improve its performance…

Set up tracking to monitor close rates

There’s an old adage that says, “you can’t improve what you don’t measure” and this is definitely the case with pay-per-click advertising. You simply have to know what value you are getting from your ad spend and what is wasted effort.

In your AdWords account, setting up different campaigns allows you to easily track success on different campaigns. Tracking success on lead generation is a little bit harder as not all leads are created equal. Sometimes the cheapest leads i.e. lowest cost per action do not equal the highest converting (in dollar value) leads but nonetheless tracking is always the first step to get the most out of your PPC budget.

Trim the fat!

Once you know what’s working and what’s not, start cutting out the money-wasters. If you go into the new AdWords interface and look under Predefined Reports, you should be able to identify:

  • Locations that are underperforming
  • Keywords that are underperforming
  • Timeframes where no conversions are happening

This leads into my next three points:

Exclude certain geographic locations

Find out how many people visit your site by state or country. Any states or countries which don’t perform well or are not relevant to your business should be excluded by changing your settings from “People in, or who show interest in, my targeted location” to “People in my targeted location”. Any online businesses that don’t ship to certain parts of the country should ensure that they remove locations where they don’t ship too. Not only will that save you ad budget, but it will prevent frustrated customers who leave negative online reviews.

Pause keywords that are underperforming

One high-performing and high-converting keyword is sometimes more effective than 20 different keywords that are only minimally successful. So pause underperforming keywords or adjust your bids at keyword level to start yielding better profits.

Look at your Search Terms Report to see what users are searching for in Google before they click on your ads. This report will also display your Match type column which shows how closely related your ad keywords are to the terms people enter into Google.

Adjust the timing of your ads

Some keywords are affected by seasonality. For example, tissue manufacturers would expect a high uptake of ad clicks just prior to and throughout the winter months. Similarly, barbecue manufacturers could expect spring and summer to have better uptake. If your company is affected by strong seasonal purchasing patterns, pause your ads in the quieter months. You’ll save some ad spend and make it easy to re-enable them when you’re ready (as opposed to having to create a whole new ad if you cancelled the ad completely).

Timeframes do not solely relate to seasons though. Internet usage patterns also change at different points during the day. For example, lunch breaks and evenings typically have higher search volume than traditional work hours. Access your hourly segment report in AdWords to see when your highest performing periods are. Then increase your bids during these higher periods and reduce them during the quieter periods to make your campaign more efficient and find your sweet spot!

Segment your campaign by device

I tend to find that splitting conversion data by device type (e.g. mobile versus desktop) allows for better results. This is because often desktop and mobile users have different needs and expectations. For instance, a mobile user is likely out and about on the go and needing to make a quick decision. Compare this to someone on a desktop device who may not be at the point of wanting to make a purchase yet and is still conducting research. If you split your conversion data and notice a low number of converted clicks on one type of device (versus a much higher percentage of converted clicks on a different device type) then you can add a negative bid adjustment on the low-performing device and save yourself money.

Get the right data

When evaluating the success of a PCC campaign, it’s important to use a relevant date range. If you use too large a date range the results may not be meaningful as you might have changed ad copy, keywords and landing pages in that time. However, picking a short date range such as a couple of weeks is not necessarily long enough to draw a valid picture. Generally speaking, it’s best to look at the last 90 days of account history data.

Don’t look at just impressions or clicks when you’re reviewing the success of your ads. Follow those impressions or clicks all the way through to see what percentage actually lead to a sale (and calculate the dollar values of those sales). If you’re spending $20,000 annually on PPC advertising and getting 5 million clicks that sounds great. But what if those 5 million clicks only lead to $13,000 in sales. In that case you would be making a loss on your investment.

Understand content network ads

Content network ads perform slightly differently to regular pay-per-click ads and have modified best practices. Content networks (such as Google Display Network) allow your ads to reach people through other means that Google Search. For example, people could be exposed to your ad while they’re browsing their favorite websites, showing a friend a YouTube video, checking their Gmail account, or using mobile devices and apps. Read more about targeting on Google Display Network.

Tweak your landing page

Sometimes it is not your ad settings that are the problem but your landing page! If the majority of your poor-performing ads point to the same landing page, it may be that you need to remedy the copy (words, call-to-action etc) on that page.

Conclusion

All these tweaks might seem very minor, but you can be surprised what a huge difference they can make. The recipe for success will differ for each type of business, but the key is to know your data and continue to test and tweak until you get the results you desire.

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