Making Your Search Campaigns Work Harder During The Economic Downturn, Part Two

As economic uncertainty continues, smart search marketers are on the lookout for ways to wring better results out of existing campaigns. In this post, I’ll look at how to make even your worst-performing creatives work better.

Don’t scrap your worst-performing creatives altogether; update them with ideas from best-performing creatives. To find your top creatives, you can rely on traditional tools such as AdWords Editor, as well as the search engine ad centers. Focus on the creatives with enough clicks to ensure the data set is statistically significant. As a rule of thumb, if your conversion rate is 5%, you should consider a minimum of 50 clicks as the baseline. If your conversion rate is less than 2%, the relevance threshold curve below shows the minimum number of clicks you should capture.

Now that you have screened the creatives for statistical relevance, you need to pass them through one more filter. Separate your ad-groups into categories and analyze them together; for example, brand and non-brand ads may perform differently. Now that you have logical groups of creatives, you can use different metrics to evaluate creative performance such as click-through rate (CTR%), revenue and profit dollars.

Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of the approaches in the context of the example in the table below.


Click-through rate. Creative A is the winner for click-through. Search engines try to maximize CTR. Since they get paid by the click, maximizing clicks (cost-per-click being equal) will maximize their revenues. Google, for example, will prioritize position for an ad just because it has a higher CTR (even if the bids are the same).

Optimizing creatives for CTR maximizes exposure of landing pages and may improve revenue, like it does in this example. However, it rarely maximizes conversions or profit dollars. For example, if you ran the keyword “asics running shoes” you may find the best copy for optimizing CTR is “cheapest price anywhere.” Unfortunately, you may also notice that the bargain hunters clicking on these ads rarely convert and you’ll quickly burn through your SEM budget.

Revenue. Creative B is the revenue-maximizing creative, and for certain companies at certain times, this can be the best creative. However, most companies these days are more concerned about the bottom line: profit dollars.

Profit dollars. Creative C maximizes profit dollars and profits per impression (PPI). These two metrics are closely linked in the above table, as we hold CPC and impressions static to simplify our example. In a world of Quality Score, different creatives on the same keyword can see variance on impressions and CPC. With those variables in play, PPI should be maximized. PPI encompasses all variables influencing profitability and a customer’s purchase/conversion decision. These variables include:

  • Inventory on SERP
  • Quality Score
  • Conversion value chain – Creative, landing page & conversion

Now that you’ve identified your top-performing creatives, what are some common elements you might pull from those best performers?

  • Offer type: best price, unique value proposition, call-to-action
  • Display URL semantics
  • Using dynamic insertion parameters
  • Not using dynamic insertions parameters and handcrafting each creative

Find the common elements of your best-performing creatives, and apply those to your worst-performing creatives to see if it makes a difference. Here’s an example of two specific recommendations regarding offer types:

Recommendation 1: Use keyword insertion where possible. Our data found that copy with {KeyWord: __} delivered a 25% lift in profit dollars with a 67% statistical confidence.

Recommendation 2: Test the results of different terms that you think say the same thing. For example, our data showed that the use of “Photos” in copy provided a 72% lift in profit dollars, while using “Pics” reduced profit dollars by 25%. Therefore, simply replacing “Pics” with “Photos” may improve your profit significantly.

By identifying top performing creatives using CTR, revenue or profit as your metric, and then applying the findings from those creatives to your worst-performing creatives, you will maximize the overall performance of your campaign.

In Installment 3 of this series, I will discuss how to leverage rules and portfolio based bidding approaches to maximize towards profit and/or revenue.

Note: Part 1 of this article is Making Your Search Campaigns Work Harder During The Economic Downturn.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Features: Analysis | How To: PPC | Search Ads: General


About The Author: is Director, Product Marketing for Marin Software, responsible for driving market positioning and strategy. You can contact Chris at

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  • sydneynetwork

    Hi Chris,

    I thought of similar approaches to optimize ppc creatives in a structured and iterative way, although not as detailed as yours. I have written about it here:

    Some elements that I propose testing are Headlines, Offers, Call-to-Action and Display URL.

    I suppose these can only be undertaken if the clients account are of significant size in terms of budget to make it worthwhile. Otherwise the effort expended far outweighs the benefits gained. (For eg. creating an uplift of 2-3% in CTR and therefore reducing CPA by 5-10% might seem like a significant improvement, but if the client’s budget is only several thousands per month, then the increase in profits
    in terms of absolute amount might not seem to be that much).

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