PPC advertising, when managed well, can be one of the most cost-effective tools for reaching your audience. For one, it’s hugely scalable, allowing businesses with budgets ranging from under $100 to tens of thousands of dollars to put their ads in front of qualified audiences. It also gives you an excellent level of control over who sees your ad and what you pay for that exposure.
However, with all of the advantages PPC advertising provides, it is easy to allow budgets to bloat out of control. And often, PPC advertisers worry about whether they are getting enough for their money. The fears are often well-founded — it’s estimated that 25 cents out of every dollar spent on PPC advertising was wasted because of poorly managed campaigns. While it can be upsetting to learn that you are spending money on clicks that are not benefiting your brand, the good news is that every change you make that your competitors miss puts you ahead. By carefully going over this list and correcting any errors, you can reduce valueless clicks, ensure that the right people see your ad and that qualified prospects are enticed to click and buy.
1. Identify the right prospects for this campaign.
By either not targeting, or leaving every campaign wide open, you’ll likely be left with a lot of wasted impressions and clicks. Each campaign should be carefully targeted to the people who are most likely to convert. Google Ads allows you to do a very high level of filtering so that you are putting every PPC ad directly in front of the right people.
However, targeting does not end by creating a campaign on your advertising network. The ad copy and your landing page should also be customized for this audience, as most people are more likely to respond to a message that speaks directly to them. By using the same language as your targeted audience, while focusing on their specific wants and needs, your PPC ads can more effective, which in turn, means a better ROI.
2. Create custom landing pages for your ads
Clicks that send prospects to your homepage are wasted clicks. Why? Your homepage typically has too many choices for prospects and none of them are clearly marked. Instead, a specially-created landing page should be made or updated for every campaign.
These landing pages should have just the right information that your prospects need to make a decision. The design should be clear, with limited copy and a compelling call to action. By upping your quality here, you can get ahead of the competition.
Test different landing page designs and content to see which combinations work best with various audiences. Experiment with Call to Action (CTA) placement both above and below the fold. Try different wording. Over time, you’ll hone the correct message for each audience and make your ads work harder for you.
3. Find the keywords your prospects use to search and bid on those.
The keywords that you think best describe your product or service may not be the ones that your prospects are most likely to search. To get yourself in front of the eyes of people who are ready to buy, you need to be able to think more like them.
How do you identify the right keywords? This will take some research into your historical performance. Look at ones with high click-through rates, Quality Scores and conversions. Look at your Search Terms Reports in Adwords to find new keywords to add to your program. If you have a keyword that is getting three or four times as many clicks as other ones, it could make sense to create a specific ad targeted to that keyword. It could be that specific keyword captures what people are most likely to want when they come to your site. By creating an ad that focuses tightly on a high-performing keyword, you are more likely to create ads and landing pages that address what your current and prospective clients are looking for.
4. Test different price points.
Do you typically include price in your ads? Testing the performance of different price points can help you get a much better return on your investment. While many sellers are hesitant to drop profits by dropping prices, it is a strategy that could pay off well in the long term. For example, if you drop a sale price by $2 per unit, but double your conversions as a result, in the end, you will get a far better ROI.
Do people respond better to $20 or to $19.99? How about the difference between price points over $20 and those under? Don’t necessarily assume that cheaper is always going to perform better. In some cases, consumers will decide that the higher priced item is naturally better quality. By playing with your prices, you can see which price point works best psychologically with your audience.
And don’t just limit your testing to pricing. You can also test the performance of dollar discounts versus percentage discounts. A $4 discount on a $20 product is the same as a 20% discount, but each will have a different impact with your clientele.
5. Save money with automated rules.
While many of the suggestions here are more labor intensive, this one can save you both time and money. Platforms that offer automated rules make it possible to automatically adjust your campaigns based on criteria you set up in advance. You can even automatically run A/B tests. Think of it as cruise control for your PPC advertising. You can schedule ads in advance, adjust bids, pause low-performing keywords or ads and control your overall budget. Automated rules are especially helpful for those times when you may not react as quickly to changes, such as overnight or during long weekends when you are away.
By setting some of these tasks on autopilot, you can ensure that changes are made as soon as the system notices that they are needed, instead of manually adjusting when you have time to get back into the account. Pausing an ad that gets a lot of clicks but few conversions, for instance, can help increase your conversion rate for your PPC advertising as a whole.
6. Keep an eye on your impression share.
Many PPC advertisers do not monitor this metric as closely as they should. Your impression share is the number of impressions your ads receive, divided by the estimated number of impressions for which your ads were eligible. If you are missing out on a large number of impressions, it is a sign that something is out of whack. Maybe your budget is not appropriate for the keywords you are competing on. Or, you have issues with a rank that is not what it should be. Google Ads can tell you what you need to do to get your marketing back on track. Make adjustments to increase your impression share and to get your ads in front of the right audience.
7. Watch your change history report
This report does a lot of your measuring for you. It will tell you, at a glance, which changes you or another team member made that caused your metrics to either improve or fall off. Looking at these can make it easier to tell what is helping your ROI and what is hurting.
When you identify a change that hurts your return, make a note to put that strategy on the back burner. But, when you discover one that gives you an improvement, figure out what elements can be transferred to other ads and other campaigns. Over time, you can identify the very best practices to consistently get better performance on your PPC ads.
8. Build out your negative keyword lists
Negative keywords are integral to a PPC advertising campaign with a high ROI. However, some advertisers do not bother to build out this list and use it to its full potential. Adding negative keywords helps you keep your ads out of view of people who are not likely to convert to customers.
Just as keywords define what your campaign is about, negative keywords help you exclude the things that it isn’t. For instance, if you run a sushi restaurant, “best sushi” would be relevant while “best sushi recipes” would not.
Finding the best negative keywords for your campaign involves the same process as finding positive ones. When doing keyword research, carefully look at the suggested related keywords in results. Those that do not apply to your business can be safely excluded. Some advertisers also eliminate keywords that are likely to lead to clicks but yield few conversions. For instance, “free” is a commonly chosen negative keyword because many advertisers believe that people looking for free advice or services are unlikely to pull out their wallets when it comes time to purchase.
9. Optimize your ad copy
You only have so many characters in a PPC ad. On Google’s text ads in search, your limit is currently 30 characters for each of three headlines, 90 for each of two descriptions and 15 for each path. Make them all count.
Is there a shorter, punchier word that can be used? Do you need every article and conjunction? Play with your text until it is perfectly optimized for impact.
One of the keys to well-optimized ads is to make it as action-oriented as possible. Ask questions. Suggest actions. The more direct you are and the more on-target your ads, the more likely you are to win clicks and conversions.
10. Don’t chase the top spot
When we are pursuing organic traffic, we’re counseled to get as high up in the rankings as we can. However, going for the top spot all the time may not be the best use of your PPC advertising money. Different spots on the page may give you different results and make it more likely that you are going to catch a customer’s eye and win their business.
The top ad spot may not be the one that has the best conversions for you and your brand. Try altering your bid so that you come in at number 3 or 5, then watch your conversions. If you find that a lower bid actually gives you a better conversion rate, you have a double win. Not only are you getting better conversions; you will be able to lower your spending per click, leading to a significant improvement in your ROI over time.
11. Include a strong CTA
Your call to action is the most important copy in both your ad and landing page. And both need calls to action that are clear, concise and actionable. Decide what you want your prospect to do, then ask them to do it.
Customize each CTA for every ad. Using the same wording that everyone else uses can cause bored consumers’ eyes to glide right over your ads without making an impression. However, if you have a CTA that is a little different from the norm, you may compel someone who normally ignores ads into reading and responding to yours.
Be innovative while always staying within the rules. For instance, you might not be able to say “click,” but you can ask for other actions. “Call now,” “buy” and ” sign up today” are all offers that can compel your reader to take the action you want. If you have a lot of mobile users, you can even use “tap now,” which is both a permitted phrase and a more accurate description of what you want the readers to do when they see your ad.
12. Use HTTPS instead of HTTP and keep your security certificates up to date
Google, Apple and creators of other browsers have been steadily moving toward building a more secure internet. And future precautions include warning visitors when they come to a site with an expired SSL certificate or one that is potentially insecure.
Desktop users are used to navigating past these notices — they’ll typically close them and go on their way, particularly when they are dealing with a familiar site. However, on mobile devices, these warnings are imposing, often taking up the entire page.
When someone comes across a this kind of warning while they are surfing, they may decide that they are not willing to continue to the page. Sometimes it is because they are worried about the harm the page might cause their system. Other times, especially on mobile, it is because they are unable to close the pop-up to see the full page. In either circumstance, their actions will leave you with a wasted click.
Thus, updating your security can result in a dramatic change. In one case study, one small tweak resulted in a 400% increase in conversions without any additional changes.
13. Abandon the rules
It might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes you can get better results by forgetting everything that you know. When we all pursue best practices, such as proper headline capitalization or action-oriented CTAs, all of our ads can start to look the same. Temporarily abandoning the rules can help you stand out.
As an example, try removing all punctuation and capitalization from an ad. Try going for a more wordy, but less detailed description. Look at other things that you regularly do and then try doing something else.
While often a different way of doing something is simply wrong, other times, it’s just different. And different might be what you need to stand out from the digital noise that defines the current online landscape.
If you are nervous about this approach, try doing it with a small budget for a short period of time. You can even A/B test this technique against a more conventional ad that uses the same keywords and budget. In some cases, you will find that the rules are there for a reason and that your rule-breaking ad does not get you the results you want. However, in others, you might find that a rule-breaker is just what you need to shake up your strategy and improve your PPC advertising ROI.
Every action that you take toward a better-managed PPC advertising campaign is an action that gives you an edge on your competition. If you are running tightly managed PPC campaigns while they do the minimum or worse, you can easily spend less on the same advertising exposure while getting better results. What has worked in the past may not be the same strategy that will work in the future, and the business that adjusts is the one that will thrive. Over time, this will mean a better return on every click and a chance to make every penny in each advertising campaign work harder for you.