Simple Tips To Make Miracles Happen In Your PPC Campaigns

Last week, millions of Americans flocked to buy a Mega Millions lottery ticket or ten, each hoping for their own personal miracle. This strategy worked for all of three people.

Yesterday, in their annual homage to the April 1st prankster’s holiday, Google announced the miracle of a new ad technology, the AdWords Click-to-Teleport Ad Extensions which enables searchers to transport themselves across time and space and “shortens the online-offline conversion funnel.”  They pretended this was an April Fool’s joke, but I know what Google is capable of, and so I’ve put a call into my rep to get in on the beta.

Today, tomorrow and every working day that follows, (a.k.a. every day) PPC managers struggle to make miracles happen inside their PPC campaigns – to find the perfect keyword, to write the perfect ad, or to implement a new ad targeting feature that beat all previous campaign performance records.

In reality, of course, the ‘miracles’ we wring out of mature campaigns day by day are much more mundane. The gains we make are usually more of the “three yards and a cloud of dust” variety, born of hard work, cleverness and meticulous attention to details.

So, in the true spirit of praying for miracles while we rely on more probable and practical solutions, we’ll take a look at a few tips that can help almost any campaign gain yardage this week.

Yes, Use Ad Sitelinks

Implementing Sitelinks ad extensions is as close to a sure thing as you will find to a minor miracle in paid search campaign optimization. They are easy to implement and almost always going to improve your click-through rates.

Take a look at the very clever way that Scott’s uses Sitelinks. First, notice how they use the links in ads for their brand term, Miracle Gro®. These ads add much more depth and breadth to the basic ad text, which makes the ad more interesting to more people.

Notice, too, how much real estate this one ad covers at the top of the SERP. How could their click-through rate not be better on these ads?

AdWords Sitelinks - Miracle Gro

Excellent use of Sitelinks - Scotts Miracle Gro®

Sitelinks work very well for non-brand terms, too. Take a look at how Scott’s uses different types of sitelinks for the non-branded search query “best grass seed”:

AdWords Sitelinks Scotts

Slight, but effective change in Sitelinks for the query, 'best grass seed'

In this case, Scott’s includes clear and unambiguous links to landing pages with Tips, Videos & Articles, which is what information hungry consumers are probably looking for.

In the regular part of their text ad, Scott’s effectively promotes their brand authority and brand recall by using the word Scott’s four times in the ad.

Sitelinks can perform minor miracles on your CTRs, but they can still suffer from a surprising case of under-engineering which we hope some upcoming AdWords releases will address (speaking of minor miracles).

While Sitelinks can be a powerful CTR stimulant, there’s no way to know exactly what is working and why, since Sitelinks are disconnected from most of the keyword and ad-level tracking and reporting you’ve come to rely on. Another glaring Sitelinks need is to have it available at the ad group level, not the campaign level where it is now controlled.

Add Punctuation, Fix Capitalization

Here’s a simple and proven miracle cure for your existing ads on any network. Take a good look at how your ads actually look online and fix them! You will be amazed at how many opportunities you’ve got sitting right in front of you.

For example, since last February, Google has been presenting longer ad headlines for ads in the top positions by either inserting your display URL or your first line of ad copy. Not as many advertisers as you would expect are taking advantage of this feature, even though this can dramatically alter the CTR performance of the ads.

One simple change to your ad text – adding a period at the end of ad description line 1, gives you control how your ad actually displays in the top spots.

When Google detects a period or exclamation mark at the end of your first description line, they will insert that first description line into the headline of your ad. In some cases, Google will insert the first description line even without punctuation, but the only way to ensure you have control is to include the proper punctuation yourself.

To see what your ads look like top positions, look at the Edit Ads screen within the AdWords online interface. This feature is currently only available in the online AdWords system, not in AdWords Editor.

Here’s how it works. Without proper punctuation, your ad will have probably have a standard headline when it appear in the top positions as shown below:

Top Position Ad for Blue Widgets

Without punctuation, top postion ad uses only ad headline

However, if you simply add a period (or exclamation mark, though that won’t show in the ad) at the end of the first copy line, your ad will display a longer headline, which will stand out more and probably grabs more clicks.

Blue Widgets Top Position Ad with headline

Ad with proper punctuation displays longer headline

Once you’ve fixed the punctuation issue, you may see some additional optimization tests to run.

For example, you may consider swapping description line 2 with description line 1 to give a free shipping offer more prominence.

This is an additional ad copy test that you wouldn’t have even imagined unless you first took notice of the differences between top and side position ad displays. Best of all, you don’t have to write any new copy – just make the copy you have work more effectively with a simple bit of punctuation.

Blue Widgets AdWords Top Position Ad

Take advantage of top ad position to test offers.

Update Your Microsoft adCenter Campaigns

Many advertisers who ported their campaigns over to adCenter a few years ago directly from AdWords had to deal with trade-offs in handling ad copy, negative keywords and keyword match type differences when they first launched their adCenter campaigns.

Since that time, however, Microsoft has made many significant changes to the way that ads and keywords fundamentally operate. If you have not been keeping up with these changes, then taking time to revisit your adCenter campaigns now is likely to have a very positive, and possibly miraculous, impact on your adCenter campaign performance.

For example, adCenter now allows 71 characters in text ads, which makes it possible to import in AdWords ads which use all 70 characters – without revision.

Microsoft has also modified the way it handles negative keywords and other match types, which makes it possible to use more advanced matching logic structures inside your campaigns. They have also announced that they are working on a broad match modifier implementation that will allow your broad match modifier keywords to be ported in directly from AdWords.

Microsoft has been rolling out adCenter enhancements at an impressive and accelerating pace and now is the time to take a fresh look at your adCenter ‘classic’ campaigns. We’ll cover a more comprehensive analysis what’s changed in adCenter in an upcoming column.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Paid Search Column


About The Author: is President and founder of Find Me Faster a search engine marketing firm based in Nashua, NH. He is a member of SEMNE (Search Engine Marketing New England), and SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization as a member and contributing courseware developer for the SEMPO Institute. Matt writes occasionally on internet, search engines and technology topics for IMedia, The NH Business Review and other publications.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • Michael Lowe

    i have thought about PPC when business has started to show sign of slowing down.
    It does look a mine field and most of our work is locally based so PPC would not be needed.

  • Stephen Hall

    Nice article, Matt. We actually implemented some of the suggestions Lunametrics made in this blog post [] to help us track our sitelinks in Analytics. So far it’s worked very well!

  • Miroslav Varga

    Hi Matt,

    nice article. Always like to read your posts. Keep going!

    @Michael Lowe – you’re so very wrong. PPC for local campaigns, especially mobile location based advertising (LBA) is the best you can wish for!
    @google-b44973ed6527b86e8a7e34b843155833:disqus Please try some LBA for your business:

  • Matt Van Wagner

    Thanks, Stephen.   We are tracking sitelinks, too, in a slightly different way.  My larger point is that  site links are really ad-level functions and so they should be reported out by ad, ad group and even by keyword just as headlines, ad text, display and destination URLS are reported.  In my opinion, we should not have to cobble together reports from different systems in order to get useful insights from Sitelinks. 
    Even with the clever work around you are using, it is still not possible to figure out what combination of keyword, ad and ad extension combinations were the most effective together.   If you are doing a/b testing of your ads in any adgroup, how can you tell know what influence Sitelinks had one the ad test, for example?  How do  you which sitelinks presented against which ad when all you have is aggregated ad group data?

  • Luis Hernandez Jr

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for posting such a great article, especially the detailed Sitelinks information.
    Very useful stuff.

  • cathydunham

    Really great details and PPC strategies. These could make a big difference in CTRs. Gonna try these out tomorrow am… thanks bunches.

  • Matt Van Wagner

    Glad  you like them Cathy – good luck. Let me know how it goes for you.

  • Matt Van Wagner

    Luis – you are most welcome.  Thank you for the feedback!

  • Matt Van Wagner

    Miroslav – always good to hear from you!  I concur with you that PPC is valuable for small campaigns and hope Michael finds a way to leverage them for his business.

  • Stephen Hall

    Hi Matt — You’re absolutely right about the lack of complete (ad/keyword) level tracking with Sitelinks in the Lunametrics workaround…..we’re able to see which keywords fired the sitelinks, but can’t tie that data back to which Sitelinks were actually clicked. 
    Now that Google has implemented Sitelink conversion tracking data into the AdWords interface, my hope is that we’ll eventually be given the level of tracking sophistication we’re looking in the not-so-distant future.

  • Brandon Paddock

    Matt- In your third ad example under “Add Punctuation, Fix Capitalization,” you have an exclamation point at the end of both description lines. Did Google change their best practices? I was under the impression you could only use one in an ad.

  • Matt Van Wagner

    Hey Brandon – good eye! 

    No, you can’t have two exclamation points.  What you see is a screen grab of me playing around with the interface to illustrate the concept of using punctuation that enables Google to insert the desc1 line into the headline.  This ad did not go through editorial – and it would have flunked.
    Interestingly, when you add a period (.) or a question mark (?) at the end of desc1 line,  the period or question mark will display in the ad when it appears in top positions.

    If you use an exlamation mark (!) at the end of desc1 line, Google will insert the desc1 into the headline – but it knows enough to drop the exclamation mark, since that would also violate editorial policy. Instead, they insert desc1 into the headline without any ending punctuation mark.

    Thanks for picking up on that point!   I had forgotten to add this additional information about the desc1 insertion.

  • Mary Kay Lofurno

    Thanks Matt- Nice article. I get tagged alot for using punctuation.  Guess its just working it out with the big G.

    Best Regards, Mary Kay

  • Matt Van Wagner

    Thank you, Mary Kay!  It’s amazing how something so tiny, like a period, can make such a big  impact on ad copy performance!

  • steppppoS

    Lots of fluff in this article. Got any solid data to back up your claims of ‘miraculous’ improvements in CTR’s? All I see are a bunch of suggestions that may or may not lead to improvements. Prove me wrong.

  • Matt Van Wagner

    Hello steppppo$.  Something tells me you wouldn’t believe solid data if it walked up to you and shook your hand, but that’s beside the point.  I’ve got a counter proposal for you. Try the tactics and prove yourself right. Hope it works out for you.  I am quite sure it will.

  • steppppoS

    Uhh, no, I’m quite comfortable reading and analyzing solid data. It’s actually the coin of the realm in SEM. Let us know when you’re ready to back your claims with something other than ‘Trust me.’ If not, maybe you should go back to selling used cars.

  • Matt Van Wagner

    Thank you for your comments, Steppppos. If you do decide to try these tactics, please let us know how it goes for you.   

  • john paul richards

    Nice Idea! Here’s one of the easiest ways on how to make money online.
    Visit this for free gifts.
    I tried, this might also help you on how to work easily in the idustry. It’s hassle-free!


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide