PPC Testing Part 2: Optimization Cheat Sheet

If you’ve been reading this column this year, you know that I have repeatedly pushed you to regard your campaigns as being in a continuous testing environment. Frankly, if you just load up some keywords and put down your credit card there’s a good chance you might just waste your money. Successful paid search requires a very systematic approach to evaluating your accounts, strategic bidding and a research mindset. But first, you need to have a clear understanding of what optimizations are even available to you to try.

This all might be a bit intimidating those of you who are new to paid search. You may not know where to begin, what kinds of tests you can try or how to interpret the results. Next week, I’ll take you step by step into three common optimizations and how you can test them on your accounts. This week, however, it’s important for you to understand the correlation between your actions and how they will affect the account. For example, if you want more clicks, you can simply raise your budget. Or, if you want to lower your costs, you can lower your maximum bids on the keywords in your campaigns. These are just a few (rather blunt) tactics at your disposal.

I compiled the following list of optimization options a couple of years ago in my In the Trenches column here on SearchEngineLand.com and it’s still something that I print and cut out for new people on my team. It’s still completely valid and I was able to even add a few new things to the mix.

Hope it helps!

To increase click thru rate

  • Pause low CTR ads/keywords
  • Increase max bids to get higher positions—historically, the higher the position, the higher the CTR
  • Use phrase or exact match instead of broad match (which casts too wide of a net to users that aren’t interested in your ad)
  • Improve creative by using dynamic keyword insertion, catchier headlines, etc.
  • Find trends on the ads that are performing well and add new creative with those insights
  • Tighter geotargeting to areas that have high CTRs
  • Tighter dayparting to times of the day/week that have high CTRs
  • Take steps to increase your quality scores, which will raise your position rankings (and thus higher CTRs)
  • Turn off content targeting
  • Use negative words to be sure your ads aren’t shown to the “wrong people,” even though the keywords seem viable. The classic example is “cruise”—you may be selling tickets to a cruise ship but your ad is appearing every time a user searches for “Tom Cruise”
  • Split ad groups up into tighter keyword groups so you can use more specific ads

To lower CPCs

  • Lower your max bids on your keywords
  • Increase your quality scores which lowers costs
  • Use more tail terms vs. general terms: “buy used cars” and “buy cars online” will be cheaper than “cars”
  • Build out separate campaigns for geotargeting. If you’re running nationally, you may be paying too much in some markets. By building out separate campaigns, you can control your bids better
  • Daypart during times of the day/week when competition is lower, such as at night when other advertisers are on pause because they’ve hit their daily caps
  • Gap surf—find position changes that don’t move you down too far in position but have huge cost savings. Try lowering your bids by a couple cents every day to find these opportunities.

To increase traffic

  • Increase bids
  • Increase budget
  • Use more broad match to create a “wider net”
  • Wider geotargeting, dayparting, etc
  • Expand your keywords. How about topics similar to yours but not specific to you? For example, if you’re selling surfing gear, what about bidding on “Hawaii travel” or “beach vacations”
  • Raise your CTRs on your ads to get the most clicks from the available impressions (see above on raising CTRS)
  • Take out negative words (when it makes sense to do so)
  • More general ads vs. specific to appeal to a wider audience but don’t kill your quality scores by doing so

Increase your conversions/return on investment (ROI)

  • Lower CPCs to get the most clicks as you can for your budget—twice the traffic could mean twice the orders (see above on lowering CPCS)
  • Pause poor performing keywords. Be careful! Sometimes it’s easy to look at the general words that aren’t generating conversions and your instinct is to pause them. However, it’s very possible that users are finding you on general terms during their research phase and then coming back to buy.
  • Test creative/keyword combos to find the highest converting matches. Ads with the highest CTRs are not necessarily the ones with the highest conversion rates
  • Find the highest performing geotargeting, dayparting, etc and put more of your budget into those segments
  • Use negative words to filter our poor performing topics
  • Better landing pages can always help

PPC Academy is a comprehensive, one-year search advertising course from beginning to end. Starting with the basics, PPC Academy progressively explores all of the varied facets of paid search, and the tactics needed to succeed and become an advanced paid search marketer.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | PPC Academy

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About The Author: has been a search marketer since 2003 with a focus on SEM technology. As a media technologist fluent in the use of leading industry systems, Josh stays abreast of cutting edge digital marketing and measurement tools to maximize the effect of digital media on business goals. He has a deep passion to monitor the constantly evolving intersection between marketing and technology. You can follow him on Twitter at @mediatechguy.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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