Top 8 Ideas to Optimize Your PPC Performance

PPC optimizations are essential to sustain or improve your paid search advertising campaigns’ performance and reach organizational goals.

Sometimes it can be overwhelming – where should you start?

There are several components of a PPC account that can help move the needle in your desired direction.

This post provides some ideas to optimize your PPC performance, but certainly isn’t an all-encompassing list.

Here are some suggestions to get you started or spark new ideas.

1. Keywords

Keywords drive ads on the search network. If keywords are inefficient, this can lead to a lot of wasted ad spend.

Double check to ensure the keywords have a very tight connection. Limit keywords to around 15-20 per ad group. This enables you to create customized ads (with the keyword in the ad copy) that can get a higher CTR, ad rank, and quality score while decreasing CPC.

2. Search Terms & Negative Keywords

Due to broad matching and close variant matching keywords to the actual query, some unusual searches can trigger your ads. This is a very important optimization in any PPC account.

Find the search terms from the keyword tab in any given campaign or ad group.

Review the search terms triggering ads for the match type and keyword. Look for specific keywords as well as for overarching themes.

For example, say your company has an employee login from your main website. You notice employees searching for the employee login are clicking on ads to reach it. You will want to use that “login” theme to create negatives on possible searches that may occur to avoid spending PPC budget on employee searches.

Likewise, look for themes around parts/accessories, job hunting, products/service you don’t offer, and competitors’ names you don’t want to show up for.

Use the new negative keyword list to take your PPC optimizations to the next level by creating a shared list to apply to similar campaigns as a proactive measure. This list can easily be updated moving forward and all campaigns sharing the list will be updated automatically.

3. Google Display Network Negative Keywords

Several experts believe you shouldn’t use negative keywords for ads on the Google Display Network (GDN).

Negative keywords tell AdWords, “Don’t show my ad on any pages that contain any of these words.” This can cause limited reach because many relevant pages may contain those words.

However, a great case for using negatives on the GDN is negative PR, topics, or social commentary. While certain racy topics can be excluded from serving, it may not cover them all.

Consider a news items where an automobile recall has caused a tragic accident. You definitely don’t want to advertise a vehicle on those pages. In that case, you should create negative keywords surrounding “accident”, “death”, “crash”, etc.

In our unpredictable political environment, it may also be a good idea to review topics you don’t want your company associated with to avoid the risk of ads served on controversial content topics.

4. Ads Per Ad Group

There are several schools of thought on the number of ads that should be used per ad group.

  • Use two ads – 1 Control ad, 1 Test ad, develop an ad testing strategy.
  • Use two or three ads, and let Google optimize the best performer. Remove and replace poorest performer. Repeat.
  • Google recommends: “Create three to four ads for each ad group, and use different messages for each to see which does the best. AdWords rotates ads automatically to show the best-performing ads more often.”

Depending on your business goals, you should come to a conclusion on how you define “success.” Two options for picking winners:

  • Use a third-party testing tool with detailed insights to recommend best performers.
  • Manually judge winners by your KPIs. For example:
    • Highest conversion rate
    • Lowest cost per conversion
    • Highest CTR

5. Ads on Mobile Apps/Games

Ads on the GDN serving on mobile apps and games can be a perpetual budget waster and should be reviewed as a starting point.

Ads will frequently appear on mobile apps and games. But this traffic usually doesn’t convert, except for advertisers of B2C broad-appeal products/services (e.g., sweepstakes and other B2C lead-gen).

If you think about it, in most cases someone playing a game is unlikely to stop game play to click on an ad and convert via mobile (unless the ad is for another mobile game). There are many cases where ads are accidentally clicked on based on their placement in relationship to game play navigation.

Easy solution: exclude the placement if this is a problem.

6. Geotargeting

Serving ads to the incorrect geolocation is another waste of PPC budget. Check by looking at Settings > Location > View location reports:

If you see clicks from outside the geotargeted location, adjust the location settings in one or more of the following ways:

  • Narrow down the current geotarget.
  • Use Settings > Location options (advanced) > People in my targeted location.
  • Exclude locations as appropriate.

7. Conversion Actions

Have you audited your conversion actions lately? Some things to look for:

  • Is the conversion tracking working?
  • Is the primary conversion still your business’s primary KPI?
  • Is the conversion tag on the correct page or is the Google Analytics goal still the correct page/action?
  • Are you tracking too many conversions?

Consider if you have too many or disparate conversion actions. For example, tracking purchases, email signups, and whitepaper downloads. A concern with this is that each action has a different value; therefore the rolled-up view of conversions gives a distorted picture of true return on ad spend (ROAS).

Track one or two primary conversions with AdWords, and secondary or micro conversions with Google Analytics.

8. Budgets

In many cases, PPC budgets should be allocated to the better performing campaigns. While this is a good basic rule of thumb, it isn’t always the case.

This may not apply in cases where branding/awareness or certain display campaigns don’t show many last-click conversions. Also, company brand names may convert higher but don’t need more budget.

Bing Ads has added the ability to use a tool for conversion estimates based on budget that should be a great time saver in your budget optimizations.

Final Thoughts

Because people never stop searching, there are always opportunities to improve an account through frequent and consistent PPC optimizations. If this post generated some new optimization ideas for you, add them to your strategy and test them out today.