As an SEO manager, I conduct many audits of Google AdWords pay-per-click (PPV) campaigns across a variety of niches. The question clients ask is the same each time: “Why are our campaigns failing?” The answer can mean tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted or gained each month. The solution to this problem, as it turns out, is usually very simple and grounded in some standard marketing practices.
It’s absolutely incredible that the vast majority of campaigns that I audit do not have conversion tracking set up. Imagine a scenario where you give $100 each to five people. These five people go into a dark room and then come out with $600 to give you. Who was responsible for your $100 ROI? Did each of them contribute equally? Was it just one person? You probably wouldn’t be giving each of those people $100 if you found out that four out of the five people wasted their $100 while just one of them turned their $100 into the $600 you receive. This is essentially what happens when you bid on keywords in a PPC campaign without tracking conversions. If you track conversions on a keyword-by-keyword basis, then you will be able to get rid of poorly-performing keywords and spend more money on keywords that are succeeding.
Google AdWords makes it very easy to split test ad copy, yet most people do not take advantage of this feature. You should always be testing two versions of an ad. Always. As soon as you find that one ad is converting better than the other, drop the one that isn’t converting as well and create a new test . You should always be trying to squeeze as much as possible out of your ads. It’s surprising how click-through rates can be affected by simply swapping two words in an ad’s header. And even if the payback is relatively small, the experienced marketer will know that a one percent increase in conversions can be game changing.
Landing Page Optimization
Google AdWords isn’t just a game of who can bid the most money for a keyword. If this were the case, then the little guy would never be able to compete. Instead, your position within search engine response pages (SERP) is determined by your AdRank, which is a combination of your cost-per-click (CPC) bid and your ad's Quality Score. The Quality Score is vital to your campaign’s success. If you can achieve a high Quality Score, then your ad will be positioned in higher spots than competitors who are bidding 2x, 3x, or even 4x the amount you are. One of the biggest determining factors of Quality Score is your landing page relevancy. This is an often-overlooked part of CPC. Many campaigns I see simply send clicks to the home page. This is a mistake for two reasons:
- If you don’t craft a unique landing page that is relevant to your ad, then you will receive a lower Quality Score. Every ad in your campaign should have a keyword-optimized landing page that caters precisely to the needs of the person clicking on your ad.
- You only have a few seconds to catch your potential customer’s attention. If they don’t see exactly what they want, then they will leave. This will not only result in you losing your lead, but will end up giving you a lower Quality Score because your bounce rate will increase. If Google notices that people click on your ad and then immediately bounce, then over time you will be penalized for it. The Lower your Quality Score falls, the more you will have to bid in order to achieve top positions within the ad space on Google.
"I’ve done all of the above and am starting to see some positive movement with my campaigns, now what?"
Now it’s time to do the numbers. The AdWords platform provides a plethora of data for you to explore. Here are a few common areas where you can easily optimize your campaign.
Paying attention to where you spend your money is essential to optimizing a PPC campaign to the fullest. I worked on a campaign where costs per conversion in the U.S. seemed very high. Upon closer inspection, I found that the culprit was Texas, where the cost per conversion was nine times higher than the average of the other states. I simply paused ad spending in Texas and saw cost per conversion stabilize in the U.S.
Always spend money where you make money. You can adjust bids higher or lower based on whether people are viewing your ads on smart phones, tablets or browsers. If you find that you are obtaining more conversions on mobile devices, then decrease the maximum bid amount for desktops and increase bid amounts for mobile devices.
If you own a shop that operates only Mon-Fri, then it may not make sense to run ads on the weekends. If you analyze your data and find that there are no conversions or fewer ad clicks that occur on weekends, then it’s safe to say that you should pause ad spend during the weekends. Also, if you see certain days of the week where more conversions occur, then it may be feasible to increase ad spend on those days.
If you find a keyword that consistently lands you high quality traffic that converts, then nurture it as much as possible. Increasing your max CPC bids for such keywords is the easiest way to achieve higher ad positions and drive more converting traffic to your site.
Google AdWords should be a profit center for your business. You should be able to put $1 in and get $2. I have yet to encounter a campaign where this was not possible. By following standard marketing best practices and using a little bit of common sense, you too should be able to transform your AdWords account into a profit center for your business.