Pay per click campaigns are a valuable way to earn the coveted top spot on search results and get in front of potential customers.
But you can't just throw money at PPC ads and expect instant results.
You need a solid campaign strategy and smart optimisation if you are going to get the best performance from your search engine marketing.
If your PPC campaigns aren't performing as well as they could be, what do you do?
The good news is there are some proven strategies to optimize your PPC campaigns to drive more traffic to your website and boost sales while getting the maximum return on your investment.
Before we dive into the PPC campaign optimization tips, this article will look at:
What is PPC?
Pay per click (PPC) is a form of search engine marketing where marketers place ads on an advertising platform, such as Google or Bing, and pay every time their ad is clicked by a user.
The goal of PPC ads is to lead the target audience to click through to a landing page on the advertiser’s website or app, where that visitor can complete an action, such as purchasing a product or downloading an ebook.
Search engines are extremely popular advertising platforms for PPC as they allow you to display ads that are relevant to what users are searching for and show up on search engine result pages (SERPs) precisely when the user is looking for what you are selling.
Advertising platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads operate using real-time bidding (RTB), which means advertising inventory (aka "ad space") is sold in an automated auction using real-time data.
Done right, PPC can earn you quality leads because it gets you in front of a more targeted audience for rapid results.
Benefits of a PPC campaign
There are lots of reasons to use PPC search engine marketing campaigns as part of your digital marketing mix.
PPC ads deliver fast results
If you need conversions right now, a well-planned PPC campaign will deliver the goods.
One of the top benefits of PPC ad campaigns is that they are proven to instantly help improve brand visibility.
You can literally launch from zero web presence to first page search engine dominance for your target audience in a matter of hours.
PPC delivers you targeted traffic in a matter of hours.
If you have a promotion or seasonal offer with an expiration date, pay per click advertising helps you get the word out online fast.
PPC helps you reach people who are ready to buy
Check out these statistics:
75% of people say paid ads make it easier to find what they need. (WebFX)
PPC visitors are 50% more likely to buy than organic search visitors. (WebFX)
This means if your PPC campaign is targeted precisely to consumers with a strong likelihood of making a purchase, a high proportion of those clicks will translate into actual sales.
For example, if they are searching in the later stages of the funnel.
PPC ads reach highly targeted traffic.
PPC advertising can be highly targeted when you do it well. Google Ads (previously Google Adwords) lets you narrow down your audience based on a whole range of criteria, using remarketing lists, life events, interest categories, demographics and more.
This makes PPC advertising a powerful way of reaching the niche group of people who need exactly what you are selling.
You have total control over your campaign
You have control over a wide range of options for how you reach potential customers with your paid ads - from keywords to placements, who you choose to target and how restrictive you want to be.
You also control your budget. Set your own ad budget and bids, and limit what you want to spend. Then, if you’re seeing positive results, you can scale up. And if you want to take a break or don't have anything you want to promote this month, you can always pause and stop your ad spend immediately.
Of course, the flip side of this is that Google’s Ad auction and the algorithm ultimately has the final say on where your ads will be positioned in the search results, and what you’ll spend compared to competitors. But there are steps you can take to optimize this and get the best results - more on that later.
Results are easy to measure
There's no mystery when it comes to your PPC campaign performance.
Advertising platforms, like Google Ads, let you see high-level ad performance details including impressions, clicks, and conversions based on your defined business goals.
So you can see how your campaigns are performing and the kind of traffic and results they are driving for your marketing budget.
For example, Google Ads lets you measure conversions using a snippet of code that is placed into the source code of the conversion page (the page reached after conversion, like a thank you page) to collect conversion data.
Why you should optimize your PPC Campaign
Done right, the power of PPC advertising can be phenomenal. But you can't realise the true potential of that power unless you continually optimise your campaigns.
Here are four incredibly powerful reasons you should optimize your PPC campaigns:
Reduce Cost per Click - Every click comes at a price, so make sure you are driving a lower CPC for your campaigns and not wasting a cent of your budget.
Get a higher Click Through Rate - The more targeted clicks you are getting on your landing pages, the better chances you will convert visitors into paying customers.
Better Quality Score (which leads to a lower CPC)
Improve campaign ROI - After all, the ultimate goal of PPC is to drive sales. The higher your return on investment, the better for your bottom line.
6 ways to optimize your PPC Campaign
1. Build a strong account structure
Is your Google Ads account structure working in the best way possible?
It all comes down to your Ad Groups.
Your Ad Groups create the structure of each campaign and control the association between your keywords and ads.
Take a good look at your Ad Groups:
How many keywords are in each ad group
How many ads are in each ad group
How relevant are keywords to each other and to the ads within each group
Google generally rewards advertisers with tightly structured ad groups. Give each group a tight theme, and ensure every keyword is hyper-relevant to the Ad Group.
Think about your keywords in terms of topic clusters for SEO. They are a way to organise your content.
Can you see a keyword that deviates from the theme?
Create a specific group for it.
Your goal is to only deliver an ad that’s relevant to the keyword used. This will help improve your Quality Score, and that's key to maximizing your campaign success.
As a rule of thumb, aim for:
Maximum of 10 Ad Groups per campaign
Less than 20 keywords per Ad Group
2-3 ads per group
2. Understand your goals and which KPI’s are important to you
There are lots of metrics you can focus on to drive better campaign results. If you know which KPI you want to zone in on, it will help you target your resources and activities to reach your goals.
Here are three top KPIs to consider:
Click-through rate (CTR) is important to advertisers. Put simply, it is the percentage of impressions that resulted in a click.
If your PPC ad had 1,000 impressions and 1o clicks, that’s a 1 per cent CTR.
Why does this matter?
Because it tells you how relevant searchers are finding your ad, and therefore how well your campaign is performing.
The goal of any PPC campaign is to get more relevant, qualified visitors to your website so they perform a desired action.
A higher CTR means you are improving your ad’s relevancy and generating more of those actions.
You can use your Ads account to see your expected CTR for a campaign:
Sign in to your Google Ads account
Select the campaign you want to check.
Click on Columns > Modify Columns
Click the Quality Score section
Check the Expected CTR
Quality Score is a metric Google uses to determine how relevant and useful your ad is to the user.
The score is worked out using CTR, relevance and landing page.
The higher your Quality Score, the more chance Google will show your ads for search terms you’re targeting, therefore, the stronger your Google Ads campaign performance. The best CPC bid x Quality Score wins the best position on the search engine results pages.
Also, if you have a high Quality Score, you can end up paying less for a higher position than other advertisers who have a lower quality score.
According to Wordstream, advertisers with Quality Scores around 8, 9, and 10 will gain an average of 37%-50% discount on their CPCs.
That's why it’s critical to focus on improving your Quality Score to get the best from your ad campaigns.
To find out your score, follow the steps above and look at the Quality Score section.
Getting people to your landing page is one thing. But enticing them to become customers is the important part- and that's what we're talking about with your conversion rate.
To set your conversion benchmark, you need to know what a conversion is for your business. For example, for an eCommerce site, a conversion is a purchase.
If you know you want to increase conversions, you can focus on specific bidding strategies to optimise conversions. For example, you can use Google's Smart Bidding strategy: Maximise Conversions.
This is where Google takes the maximum daily budget that you set and automatically runs your bidding for you to get the maximum conversions for your dollars.
The important thing to remember is this:
Don't select this bidding strategy until you’ve set your daily budget amount at whatever you are comfortable spending.
3. Focus on High-Performance PPC Keywords
To optimize your PPC campaigns, check the performance of your keywords. Think of your keywords as the building blocks of all PPC campaigns - if they're not performing well, neither will your campaigns.
Your high-performing keywords are the ones that bring more traffic and conversions for you, so you should focus on these keywords.
Once you know what metrics are important to you, you can see what keywords are high performing.
For example, if CTR and conversions are important metrics, look at which keywords have the highest CTRs and conversion rates. Quality Score is also a key indicator of your keyword performance.
When you find a keyword that's performing exceptionally well, one thing you can do is create an entire ad group around that keyword.
This will enable you to focus on the keyword and drive even more traffic and conversions from it. You can then add variations of the keyword to create some relevant ads.
Remember - just because some keywords are performing well does not mean that you should leave them alone.
Continuously adapt and monitor your bidding strategy for these keywords, so you can work out the optimal bid for each keyword.
4. Build out negative keyword lists
Negative keywords help save your ad budget by preventing your ads from getting triggered by irrelevant search queries.
They help you make sure that your ads appear only for those who are actually looking for your products or services.
Continuously building out and monitoring your negative keyword list will help significantly reduce costs and improve results. This is particularly useful if you are prioritising broader keyword bidding strategies.
It can be easy to waste tons of money on searches that aren’t related to your business if negative keywords lists are not set up properly.
How do you do it?
Look at what people are typing into Google to make your ads appear.
There are tools that can help, like QueryStream (part of WordStream). The tool serves up actual search query data that can be used to identify and set up single word or multiple word negatives.
5. Pause keywords with poor performance
There's nothing worse than wasting money on keywords that aren't performing.
Also, if keywords are getting lots of impressions, but very few or no clicks, it can hurt your click-through rate and Quality Score. That's when you need to pause them.
So, how do you know if a keyword has poor performance?
You need to make sure you have enough data to tell. Wait more than a few days to gather enough insights.
Then, consider the following reasons for poor performance in order to make a decision:
The keyword’s bid is not high enough. Up your bids to see if you will get more traffic.
The keyword has low search volume. The keyword may be too long-tailed or a phrase that users are not searching for. Pausing these keywords will help de-clutter your account.
The match type is too broad or too restrictive. When the search volume is high, but the CTR and conversions are low on a broad keyword, it's time to press pause. Now, add the keyword with a more restrictive match type to increase the relevancy. If the keyword is on exact or phrase, and isn't getting much traffic, open it up to a large volume by adding it as a modified broad or broad match.
6. Optimise Ad Text
If your keywords have great search volume but you're still not getting enough clicks, it could be down to your ad text.
Writing great copy for PPC ads is trickier than marketers might think.
You don't have much space to grab the audience's attention!
How do you create distinctive ad copy?
Create attention-grabbing headlines. Make sure it describes your offer and unique selling point in the most captivating way.
Make your ad specific and relevant.
Be concise and get to the point. You don't have many characters to spare, so use them wisely.
Include an urgent call-to-action. Tell people what you want them to do. Avoid generic phrases like "click here". Good ads include a CTA in your ad’s headline, and another in the description too (space allowing).
Here are some of the best (and worse) performing words for your CTA:
According to Wordstream’s analysis of top ads, none of the best performers used “click” in their CTAs.
Remember, your landing page content should also match the search query, keywords and ad text.
PPC requires constant tweaking, testing and monitoring to get the best possible results. Herein lies the beauty of SEM campaigns - you can see every part of where your campaign budget is going and exactly how it is performing for you.
At the end of the day, every click does at a price - so optimizing the number of clicks that turn into sales is critical.
That's where we come in. Find out how our Gurus can help you fine-tune your campaigns for profit and performance, so you spend less and earn more.