7 Proven Ways To Improve Your PPC Campaign Performance


Often times when we start working on a PPC account or campaign it comes with a history.

Whether it is because we inherited it or because we have been asked to perform an audit, the goal is always the same: to look at it with fresh eyes, by using our hard-earned expertise and skills.

We need to make sense of it to solve problems and improve performance.

In this article, you will learn about seven key areas to optimize in order to improve the performance of PPC campaigns. Even an account you’ve been working on for a while can benefit from intentionally checking out these important opportunities.

Seven key areas to improve the performance of PPC campaigns

  1. Performance by location.
  2. Performance by device.
  3. Performance by network (Research vs. Research Network Partners vs. Display Network).
  4. Audience performances.
  5. Negatives and negative lists.
  6. Features available (and applicable to the account / campaign) on the platform.
  7. Conversion tracking.

1. Performance by location

An often overlooked but obvious way to segment performance by audience is to look at where your existing and potential customers are.

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You will likely see patterns for different states, regions, and even zip codes.

This seems pretty obvious when you consider that the demographics can be entirely different from place to place.

For example, users in the so-called affluent suburbs might see higher transaction values, or LTVs (lifetime values) which would therefore justify an increase in the amount we are willing to spend on acquiring these customers (CPA).

Google Ads screenshot, October 2021

Strong differences in performance by placement may even suggest dividing campaigns and structuring them so that the ads and ad text can be aligned and tailored accordingly.

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2. Performance by device

It’s an offer. Despite the increasing convergence between experiences on different platforms and devices, user behavior is still (most often) significantly different.

It’s not just a question of screen size and resolution, but also of context and why we are using one device (i.e. mobile) instead of another (i.e. i.e. a desktop computer).

Knowing our users and customers and how they convert means it’s unlikely to be surprising that one device outperforms the other. But the numbers never lie, so it’s easy to see and raise or lower our bids to adjust the strategy.

3. Performance by network (Search Network vs Search Network Partners vs Display Network)

Every now and then, we still see PPC campaigns that target all networks (Search, Search Partners and Display).

Performance distributed by network.Google Ads screenshot, October 2021

We could discuss at length the quality of impressions and clicks from partner sites. But most of the time, these only generate such a small amount of traffic that in the larger context of an account, the expense can be really negligible.

And since there is no way to target only search partners, whether or not we maintain search partners is another matter.

However, that can’t be said for the Display Network: you still need to split campaigns on Search and Display Networks.

To begin with, research is a pulled advertising medium, while display is an advertising medium. Even when highly targeted, display ads are a form of user experience disruption, so we should always recognize this in our designs and messaging.

Additionally, it’s likely that we should be using both networks to target customers and prospects at different stages of their user journey, having different strategies, KPIs, and targets aligned with that.

4. Audience performances

Often times, we find that search generates a significant amount of traffic from existing customers who use the engines to quickly “navigate” to a website to access their account.

These navigation clicks, if proper measures are not in place, can be very costly when they come from PPC ads.

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Add suppression lists to avoid (where possible) incurring additional costs that will not generate additional conversions.

Other logical uses of audience targeting include segmenting the user base into groups defined by behavior (i.e. page visitors) and / or engagement (high content consumption ), and therefore for remarketing purposes.

Are you using audience type targeting?Google Ads screenshot, October 2021

But audiences can also be used for observation rather than targeting, as in the example above.

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Since these will not affect campaign performance, it is highly suggested to add as many relevant audiences as possible.

Once the data is collected, it will provide valuable insight into the most valuable segments and the worst performing audiences. This will allow you to make the right adjustments to bidding and other campaign elements.

5. Negatives and negative lists

Keywords are always the strongest signal. But with the complexity of natural language and the different (often unique) ways people use to search, even with the most sophisticated machine learning, machines can still struggle to fully understand intent.

Therefore, it is more important than ever to reduce the chances of keywords matching unwanted search queries. You must continually review and leverage the available search query data.

Even with the current limitations, search query reports can really help you understand what Google thinks about a website or page.

As such, it can help us reduce the costs of unwanted and less relevant searches, while potentially helping to increase the quality score (QS).

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6. Features available (and applicable to the account / campaign) on the platform

Continuing the point above, one of the reasons to use additional features like ad extensions is the advantage they can have on the Quality Score.

It goes without saying that QS alone should be a convincing enough reason.

Also, since ad listings on search engines can be quite expensive, wouldn’t it make sense to try to always maximize real estate on the page?

If we’re paying a large amount of money to be there, we want to make sure it’s worth it. Moreover, the more space we can take, the less space there will be for competitors and other advertisers!

Additional features also include less used options, such as the ability to download offline conversions (more on that in a moment) or run tests and A / B tests.

7. Conversion tracking

Last but not least – and this is one of my favorites – it’s critical that we track conversions and make sure we’re following the right goals.

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In digital marketing, everything must be measurable and marketers responsible for the performance of their advertising campaigns. Conversion tracking should always be the cornerstone of media buying planning and execution.

However, we often see examples of PPC accounts and campaigns that either completely lack conversion tracking or follow the wrong endpoints.

Provided our conversions are triggered and recorded correctly, here are some expert tips:

  • Use the segmentation option from Google Ads to quickly and easily see a breakdown of the types of conversions by campaign (see example below). In fact, the segmentation view is an extremely useful tool, but massively underestimated!
Example of segmentation by type of conversion.Google Ads screenshot, October 2021
  • Define the right conversion goal (s) for each campaign when using Target CPA or Target ROAS bid strategies.
  • Configure and use custom columns to add the different conversion points and / or performance indicators such as CPA, ROI or ROAS.

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Final considerations

In an ideal world, marketers would have plenty of time to focus on analyzing data and working on fixes.

In fact, we are all often under pressure to deliver results – and quickly.

Therefore, the good and reliable Pareto 80/20 rule should always help in situations where we need to make improvements and show results quickly.

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers, especially when we have to work on hundreds of campaigns, ad groups, ads, and maybe thousands of keywords.

So start where you can make a difference right away. Look for the campaigns and terms that are responsible for the majority of ad spend.

It’s likely that 20% of these represent 80% of your outbound spending.

If those campaigns or keywords are achieving your goals, improving their performance can really help you take it to the next level and become the company’s CFO’s best friend.

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But this is also possible in the event that the 20% does not lead to the expected results.

In this case, focus on solving these campaigns as a priority.

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Featured Image: Sammby / Shutterstock


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